Tanzania - first trip - many questions.


Oct 26th, 2015, 09:34 AM
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Tanzania - first trip - many questions.

Hi, all:

I'm researching my first African trip and have some questions.

Mid-FEBRUARY, 2017 is our time.

DESTINATION: TANZANIA (and maybe somewhere else?)

ABOUT US: Four 40-50-ish adults.

All adventurous and willing to walk.
We don't need to be pampered.
We'd welcome at least some of our nights be 'Glamping' style, though.
No need for 5-star accommodations, but clean would be nice.

We have about 18 days to leave the Pacific Northwest and be delivered back there. I figure that leaves 13-14 days in

Wildlife is our primary consideration. We'd like to see the Great Migration this time of year in order to see the baby
Wildebeest population.

We'd like to do a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti.

We'd like to have a 'private' tour (The 4 of us and a guide in a vehicle).

I really want to see elephants.

Money is a consideration. We're not going to spend $20k per person because none of us feels like we need 5-star
accommodations along the way.

Is a 9-night or so safari sufficient?
If so/not why?

If 9-night safari, then what should we do for our other 4-5 days?

We'd consider Zanzibar, but we are not beach-sitters. We'd rather see interesting sights/ culture/ cities. Is Zanzibar
worth the time/effort/money to get there when beaches aren't our thing?

What about Nairobi? Most of what I read says Nairobi isn't necessarily worth the trip. Agree? Disagree?

How about just more Safari? Should we instead use our remaining 4-5 days on increasing the safari duration?

Another option would be to have a stopover somewhere. We could do Germany or New York? Iceland? Somewhere
else maybe even in Africa?

I'd rather not spend 3 of the extra days just traveling so I'm sort of hedging toward more safari or Zanzibar if it's

What about accommodations? I see that there are 'Tented Camps', 'lodges', Mobile tented camps, and sometimes
tented camps that you bring with you. We'd be open to ANY of these options or in my mind the best way would be to
have ALL of these options interspersed. A taste of each type of travel. I'd happily sleep on the ground for a few days if
it brought me a new experience especially if that experience was to be closer to, or viewing more, animals in the wild.

Is $10k per person when booking a safari for 4 people too much?
Too little?

I see that there are many. Will most take into account our needs and adjust the lenght of stay and accommodation
types to our needs or are they generally specific itineraries that we need to follow. IE: Can we mix up the
accommodation types? Can we fit a hot air balloon ride into our trip easily through a booking company?

How about visiting local villages? Other activities that are 'must-do' items for a once-in-a-lifetime African safari?

I understand I'm asking many questions. Should I be breaking them up on this site or is this appropriate?


Thank you!
DrToonz is offline  
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Oct 26th, 2015, 04:19 PM
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Seems like with your time and budget parameters you might be able to squeeze in gorilla/chimp trekking in Uganda or Rwanda (instead of Zanzibar)in addition to a Serengeti/Masai Mara safari.

I think a day/night in Nairobi is ok after you land, to acclimatize, if you haven't already spent a night or two in Europe enroute.

For a safari company, I really like ATR (African Travel Resource), but there are several other great agencies.

I'm sure others will soon pitch in with their responses.
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Oct 26th, 2015, 04:25 PM
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Sorry, missed the fact that you've already narrowed the destination down to Tanzania, so forget what I said about the Mara and Nairobi (you could spend the night in DAR if necessary).

Info from ATR: http://www.africatravelresource.com/.../serengeti/sw/
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Oct 26th, 2015, 04:48 PM
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We did a similar sounding trip in February 2010 - we mixed up the accommodation. This was our itinerary:

Arrival Nairobi - one night/transfer to Kilimanjaro airport - pick up by private guide (we would spend the next 10 days with Felix - more about that in a minute).

Drive to Plantation Lodge - 4 nights - day trips to Lake Manyara and the Crater. It's our preference to have longer stays even if it means more driving. You can stay closer to the Crater and for less money.

Drive to Serengeti Safari Camp in the Ndutu area (owned and operated by Nomad Tanzania). This is a mobile camp in that it moves a couple of times a season - but you don't move with it. We loved it - 8 tents(although we were the only guests!) and a sense of being in the middle of nowhere (not fancy but very comfortable). I think Nomad has a more mobile version that you actually move with (it was called Charlie Mobile) but it's more like real camping (with a cook though!). We stayed here 3 nights and spent hours and hours wandering the Serengeti with Felix in the truck - it was magical.

Drive to Loliondo (another Nomad Tanzania Camp) - it's outside the park proper so you can do walking safaris. That was part of the attraction for us (and the Yurts - you'll see in the pics). But in the end the walking safari was fine but not as big a deal as I thought - mainly because the safaris in the truck were so fabulous! Plus the veldt is pretty pocked - I spent the whole time looking down to prevent a broken ankle. We spent 3 nights here

We drove back to Ndutu and flew to Arusha where we spent one night - then we went to Rwanda to see the Gorillas. Another magical experience.

We were very impressed with Nomad - but you can't book directly with them (they have a link to agents on their website)


The biggest bonus for us was our guide Felix - a lovely man who we still correspond with (he sends us texts from the Serengeti with pics - thanks alot Felix!)

The above including the Rwanda portion was about $10K per person (in 2010). You might have a bit of efficiency with 4 people sharing the vehicle versus just the two of us.

Link to my (ridiculously long) trip report -- it has links to blog and pics

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Oct 26th, 2015, 05:34 PM
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I live in Western Canada and find spending a night or 2 in Europe helps break up the long flight plus I prefer not to be jetlagged while on safari. Others prefer to fly staight thru - it's all a personal choice.

9 nights on safari is good especially if you'd like to spend time elsewhere. I did the northern circuit in Tanzania a few years ago in 7 nights - just me, a driver and a vehicle. With an extra 2 nights you can decide on an area you'd like to spend more time in and not have to pack & unpack the duffel bag so often. Plus you really get a better sense for a place the longer you stay. Look for camps offering stay for 3 nights & pay for 2 nights type of deals.

Tarangire would be good for eles and I didn't find Lake Manyara was worth an overnight stay unless absolutely needed - a day drive thru is sufficient.

Ndutu is supposed to be great for lots of newborns in Feb.

I like to mix up the type of accomodations so the budget stretches further.

Have fun planning!
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Oct 26th, 2015, 05:42 PM
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Forgot to add your flight will likely land in Nairobi and it's worth a stay of a day or two to get acclimatized.

Visit the Giraffe Centre and if you're interested in elephants the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage is a must! The mud bath is at 11:00am and if you adopt an ele you can come back around 5:00pm to feed your orphan.

I usually stay at Macushla House in the suburb of Karen where both of these sites are located.

Macushla will organize transport to both places for you.
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Oct 26th, 2015, 09:27 PM
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These are great tips!
There is so much to try to look over it can be overwhelming.

Will most companies customize safaris?
DrToonz is offline  
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Oct 26th, 2015, 11:04 PM
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Customizing your own itinerary is really the best way, especially when there are 4 of you to share cost of the vehicle.

I've never booked thru Africa Travel Resource however their website is a fantastic place for researching accommodations although some tend to be on the higher side.

Research, research, research, then contact 3 or 4 tour operators providing them with your budget and what you'd like to see & do. Ask all of them for the same things so you're comparing apples to apples.

Yes its all overwhelming in the beginning - we've all been there and now we answer questions on this forum.
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Oct 27th, 2015, 05:48 AM
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Agree with KathBC that a custom itinerary is the best - especially for 4 people.
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Oct 27th, 2015, 05:50 AM
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Can't seem to post more than one sentence at a time.
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Oct 27th, 2015, 06:00 AM
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I did my first safari in 2013 in Tanzania, and chose the region we did specifically because that's usually where the wildebeest migration is, and where many are giving birth. My extensive trip report is on here outlining the route we took, click my name to find it. Four of us went together, we had our own guide/driver/vehicle for the entire time and went from landing in Kilimanjaro in TZ to Arusha, Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, Ndutu and finished in the Serengeti, where we flew back to leave from Kilimanjaro airport again. We worked with Access2Tanzania, who I highly recommend for any safaris in TZ.

Tarangire is notable for you for its elephant herds. On one of our game rides we were around a large watering hole with easily 100+ elephants of all ages/sizes. It was just incredible as they passed right by us.

For our first safari, I think the planner we worked with "stepped us down" from permanent lodgings with electricity and running water in Arusha, to permanent tented camps at Maramboi Tented Camps, and finally to mobile tented camps at Ndutu Wilderness Camps and Serengeti Wilderness Camps. While "easing into" the roughing it aspect of safari is a good idea if you're hesitant about roughing it, I've chosen mobile tented camps for my last and next safaris. It's THAT good to be sleeping out in the bush. I've always said "your game ride starts when you leave your tent", no having to drive anywhere to get to the park/bush/game ride.

People differ on this, but I can go to beaches at home and anywhere else in the world. I can only go on game rides in Africa. All three of my safaris I have done whatever it takes to maximize the time I'm out looking for animals. Thus, I don't bother investigating the beach areas you mention.

On my first safari I went with folks from California, and two stopped in Amsterdam for an overnight and the other flew straight through (all connecting in Amsterdam) and no one was any better off than the other jetlag-wise. I like to just get there and get on with it, rather than dilly dally somewhere else (esp somewhere I've been before, like Amsterdam or London, another frequent connecting city). I'll burn my jetlag off in the warm African sun, thank you!

As for your budget, I've done all three safaris for under that, including two solo safaris. They were each in the 10-12 night range. I didn't go super luxe but I wasn't sleeping in sleeping bags on the ground either. I think once you contact some safari planners you'll have a better idea. Just be honest with them about what you all are looking to get out of it, how much time on the ground you have and what your drop dead budget is.

I'm confused why people would point you to go to Nairobi for a safari in Tanzania, especially for our routing which is quite common in February due to the location of the herds, flying directly to Kilimanjaro made the most sense.

My trip report is here: http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...ast-safari.cfm

Hope this helps. Also, safaritalk.net is in my eyes a much more helpful and diverse forum for safari planning and reading others' trip reports. They just have a lot more collective experience. I found my safari planner for Kenya there and she's incredible.
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Oct 27th, 2015, 04:58 PM
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Hi DrToonz!

The Ndutu region of the Serengeti is about where the migration will be at that time of year. Serengeti Under Canvas, one of the AndBeyond properties, would be a prime place to stay for viewing the migration.

If you were to combine your stay with another one or two of their lodges/camps, you would benefit by their long stay discount which is great. Their Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is one option. It's stunning but may be too pricey. There are plenty of options!

Check pricing online because rates can shift lower starting March 1st. Just as an example, Serengeti Under Canvas rates drop 33%. So if your dates are flexible, that would be something to consider.

Your dollars would certainly stretch a lot further in South Africa where the Rand is at a historic low but Tanzania is amazing and you will have an incredible time!

Africa Direct USA
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Oct 27th, 2015, 11:09 PM
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I can highly recommend Bill Given at the Wild Source in Golden CO. Bill and his staff have planned several safaris for me and he also has his own outfitting company in Tanzania, where he has partnered with one of Tanzania's top guides, Deo Magoye. Bill is also a wildlife biologist and their tented camp in the Serengeti is also a wildlife research camp. Bill is great about getting you in the right locations at the right time of year for the best game viewing and at a great price.

Zanzibar is a great place to finish off your trip after the safari. I'm not much of a beach person, either, but there are other activities to do besides the beach. I use Indoma Tours there. One of their owners is Masoud Salim, who has been my guide in Zanzibar several times. I usually stay at Pongwe Beach Resort 2 or 3 days, then stay in Stone Town for a night or two before departing the next day. I'm also in the Pacific Northwest (near Eugene OR) and know it's a looong way to travel, so make sure you have the best safari planner to make the best use of your time and money.
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Oct 28th, 2015, 06:16 AM
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We have been blessed to be able to visit East Africa nine times since 2002 with eight of those trips to Tanzania and seven of those to the northern circuit. A wonderful country worthy of your time. Never been there during the wildebeest birthing season but understand it is a sight to see. And, since much attention is focused on that season you are well to be planning for 2017 as I understand choice lodges/camps fill early.

While rates will probably be higher at that time of the year the budget you mentioned should be fine for ten days or so. For us we are not "beach" people so we focus on inland activities mostly wildlife oriented. And, yes you can enjoy a mix of tented lodges and the more permanent ones at various pricing levels.

We have stayed over in Amsterdam a couple of trips mostly so the wife and daughter could see that part of the world but also have flown direct from eastern US to Amsterdam and then connecting flight same day onward to Kilimanjaro Int airport. An overnite in the Arusha area departing for safari next morning either for a day trip to Arusha NP or to Tarangire NP for start of the northern circuit.

Since we enjoy seeing birds we usually include Lake Manyara NP for a full day. However, if time is more limited many people opt to skip this park as most of the wildlife to be seen there will be in other parks.

For our last four trips we safaried with Roy Safaris based in Arusha as arranged by Sandi of Africa Serendipity out of New York City. We enjoyed working with her given great communications (a phone call away), ability to pay by personal check, and her expertise in East Africa having traveled there several times in particular to check out accommodations.

If you search on rsnyder you will have access to trip reports from our safaris to include links to pictures. By all means consider a private safari where you and your party have exclusive use of the vehicle and guide/driver. Any worthwhile company should be able to accommodate your needs including a wide variety of lodging.

Enjoy the planning. It is an excellent way to build excitement for the trip. Dick from central Pa.
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Nov 18th, 2015, 12:17 PM
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Hi, For Tanzania information you'd be best helped if you looked at Thomson Safaris or Explore East Africa
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Nov 20th, 2015, 03:11 PM
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Come back to this one!
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Nov 22nd, 2015, 07:18 PM
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When we did our Tanzania safari we stopped in Amsterdam first and enjoyed a few days there. We are in San Francisco so were happy to break up our long flight and be over jet lag before we started our safari. Our safari was about a week long which seemed a good length of time for us. Nine nights should give you a great trip.

We did a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti and enjoyed the different view than you get from the ground. I'll never forget seeing a big male lion watching our balloon go by.

We used Africa Serendipity to plan our trip and Sandi was very helpful and easy to work with. We opted for a private trip and liked being able to create our own itinerary, choose our accommodations (several were suggested but we could have opted for others), etc. There are other agents highly recommended on this forum and I would suggest you research some of the message threads here.

We mixed up our accommodations and stayed at two lodges and two tent camps. We opted for "mid range" accommodations and were very happy with where we stayed. The tented camps were particularly fun as we could hear animal noises much of the night.

Africa was amazing. Enjoy your planning!
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Nov 25th, 2015, 07:07 AM
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I will add only a couple of thoughts.
-More time in the bush IMHO is always the best use of time and money.
-The longer you stay in one place (if it's good) the better your sightings.
-Doing the migration will add a significant cost to your trip.
-Migration will also be extremely crowded with sightings more like parking lots than wilderness experiences.
-If you are flying coach, a break in the trip will be welcome. We stopped in Amsterdam. If you can fly Business Class....do it.
-You don't necessarily need your own guide for the entire time. Camps provide guides that are extremely knowledgable about their particular territories. More so than an outside guide. With four, you will most like have your own vehicle and guide in each camp.
-Your budget should be adequate (unless you do migration). We have been to Africa three times and spend $10,000 PP (w/o Intl. air) for 20-22 days on the ground.
-We used ATR for our Tanzania trip. They were quite good.
-However, I recommend that you are fairly set on your needs and wants before contacting an agent for the booking. I have always been very set in my destinations and budget and held firm until we got what we wanted.

Shay Tay is a safarist that I know and I would certainly value her advice above.
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Nov 26th, 2015, 06:06 AM
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Quick comment regarding pricing during the migration. An earlier post said prices would be higher during the migration. Not necessarily the case depending on month. We have thoroughly enjoyed seeing huge concentrations of wildebeest in May, were the only vehicle for miles around yet had lower season prices. Yes, if there in say the calving season, expect to pay more as that is high season regarding birthing or not. Many safari goers are under the wrong impression as to the migration. For much of the year the big herds are in Tanzania but movement is considerable again depending on the season. It is not a once and done movement.
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Nov 29th, 2015, 02:12 PM
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I don't have my notes with me, but can give you an overview of what we did..with details to follow.

We were DIY, no travel agent. Booked flights, hotels, and safari before going. Safari we booked direct with company in TZ

Month of March. Flight to Geneva, the flight to Dar Es Salaam, arriving at night. We stayed at a decent place on the outskirts. Next day, travel to city and did walkabout (mostly seaside, fish market,etc.) Hot and jet-lagged, not a good combo. We used this dya to get tickets on inter-city bus to Moshi.

Long bus ride but got to see country and its people. Cheap too.

We wanted a few days in small town before safari, and chance to see/go to Kilimanjaro. Small town! Our hotel was an oasis ( hawkers!) easy walk to cafe, bus station, resto,etc.. Hotel had a young guy who drove us to Kili (went to lower lodge), a small village market , a coffee plantatation, church,etc.. We took one day to go to Arusha to pay balance of safari fee ($US). We used dalala to go there and back, cheap, frequent, very local,...met our first Masai.

We even arranged for our tour guide to come pick us up in Moshi. We were three plus him.

We did Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro, and Serengeti. Our accomodations were varied 'upscale' camping, hotel, upscale lodge..all were three/room. Within 5 minutes of entering Manyara, we saw elaphants.Overall very happy with safari portion, wise giude, sa all the animals, Masai village, good food,etc..

We then flew from Arusha to Zanzibar. Stone Town is GREAT. Scenic views, winding alleyways (getting lost), good food, toe doors of the buildings, arts,etc.. We also had a good hotel run by a western guy, with funky grand interior. Went to vist Turtle island, then snorkeling off island (wow). Slaving artifacts, Dr Livingstone,etc..

After couple of days we did a spice plantation tour, and headed up the coast to a small resort (10 rooms at most) right on beach. Fantastic food and views, R&R. Locals seaweed farming, fishing, possibility of more diving.

Then drove down to Stone Town airport and flew to DAR and on to Kenya (1 hr) and home via Geneva. We looked at ZAN-DAR ferry but seemed too chaotic.

So..planned on our own, lots of local exposure, private safari, beach time, culture. We did not want a packaged tour - except for the safari and even then we modified it via emails back and forth with the company.
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