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Tanzania North - Migration Feb 2011- in planning. All comments welcome

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Mar 7th, 2010, 02:48 PM
  #1
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Tanzania North - Migration Feb 2011- in planning. All comments welcome

I'm just starting planning our 1st safari.
Myself, my photography mad adult daughter and an old friend of mine - so 3 women.

It has to be in Late Jan/Feb so I've plumped for Tanzania. The migration seems too good to miss and I couldn't see anywhere else in Africa that seemed any better, given the time of year we need to go.

Priority is for photos. Jess had a D90 for Xmas with a new 28-250 lens. I'm thinking of hiring her a 300-400 mm sigma for the trip. Any other suggestions?

My friend Linda is elephant mad which is why I've included 2 nights at Tarangire. I read it's a good ele place.

I'm going to have to save hard for it all year, so whilst I'm happy to splash out for us to have a very memorable,comfortable time, I'm not in the position to pick the most luxurious of everything.

So far I've outlined a starter itinery but am fully open to suggestions.

KLM to KMJ

Night 1. Rivertrees Lodge

2-3 Tarangire : Tarangire Safari Lodge

(4 Lake Manyara : Manyara Tree Lodge) can we just drive through from Tarangire to Ngoro during the day or do we need a night here ?

(4)5-6 Ngorogoro Crater: Ngorongoro Serena Lodge

7-8 Serengeti: Ndutu Safari Lodge

9 Fly Ndutu - Arusha - beach

One big question is how did you all find which outfitters to use ?
Did you email a plan to several and see who came back with a good price?

I would like to have a private 4X4 and guide, I know it will be costly but I gather from many of your trips reports, it's an extremely valuable resource.
Does this influence which outfitters to use or not use ? Any suggestions ?

Jess has psoriasis and dry heat is great for it so I was hoping to kill 2 birds with 1 stone and stop off at the beach and had thought of Zanzibar but gather it's very humid which doesn't help her nearly as much - Anyone know whether it's best to head to the Kenya coast or is Zanzibar ok or anywhere else ?

Tetse fly and assorted flying critters - how prevalant are they in Jan/February ? Every animal picture I see are covered in some sort of fly - just wanted to be prepared !

I really appreciate your input, it's great fun to plan something like this but it's a lot of money so I'd like to be as fully informed as possible and people who have done/planning something similar are just the best help out there.

Many thanks indeed

Meg
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Mar 7th, 2010, 02:55 PM
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I'm sorry - I meant Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge - not Serena.

The access road down to the crater being the best feature of the Sopa - is that right ?

Many thanks
Meg
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Mar 7th, 2010, 03:53 PM
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Meg, you are off to a great start. Sounds like you have done some homework already. Have stayed at most of the lodges/camps you mentioned and enjoyed all. Not been to these parks during late Jan/Feb period but from what I have read you should be in great shape to see much wildlife including hordes of wildebeest.
Know nothing about Zanzibar.
Suggest you read several trip reports on this forum to learn about specific safari companies. Do a search on East Afric Trip Report Index and you will have dozens of ones to read. Our last trip was thru Africa Serendipity and I will certainly consider them again when we return. Since you have a good idea of time period, areas you would like to see, lodges etc and interest provide such to several companies for them to prepare itineraries. By being as specific as one can makes it easy to compare response.
As to cameras I have used primarily a point-n-shoot digital with a 12x zoom. The 250 lens should be fine for most pics but something longer may be great for birds in particular. For many, many of our sightings we were plenty close. From the trip report index I mentioned you will have access to pics also and that is another way to get a feel on what to take. The wife tells me if we can ever go again I should "gear-up" with a digital slr and appropriate lens. I have jumped about a bit on this response. Loads more should be forthcoming from fellow Fodorites well versed in Tanzania travel. I fumble at providing web links even on this forum but if you sort on my name you should also have access to report from our Nov safari. Dick
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Mar 7th, 2010, 04:32 PM
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Thanks Dick,

I've already read and enjoyed your report thanks. It was very helpful. I've had a good read of a few others and intend to go back a few years looking for the Jan/Feb ones particularly.

Jess dearly loves her Canon SX10 IS and often reaches for that in preference to the D90 but we thought that the DSLR would be good practice and better for depth of field stuff.

Thanks for the outfitters, have added it to my list to contact.

Best wishes

Meg
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Mar 8th, 2010, 05:25 AM
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Meg

Someone posted a link to these guys in another discussion. Check out this cool Landcruiser for your photography-mad daughter!
http://www.kiliwarriors.com/Kiliwarrior4seater3.jpg
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Mar 8th, 2010, 06:37 AM
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Meg, I'm with you when you say that the trip planning is fun! I also appreciate that you want to spend your budget wisely. As to some of the specifics you mention...

Although Tarangire is noted for it's elephant populations, the viewing is better at some times of the year over others. The animals tend to migrate out of the park during wet weather, and back into the park when the river and swamps are the few sources of water in the area. The beginning of the year is not as good as during the dry season from mid-June to mid-October. Having said that, Tarangire is one of my favorite parks and you will likely see elephants, just not in the numbers as would be there later in the year.

Which leads me to your comment about expecting dry heat for your friend. Note that although Jan/Feb are hot, they are humid months.

Tarangire Safari Camp is very popular. The reason I've never stayed there (although I've visited the camp) is that the tents are extremely close together. Perhaps that's the price to pay for the lovely views from this camp.

As a beach option, we are headed to Pangani next year. We've never been, but Pangani is known as the "Zanzibar of the Tanzanian mainland". I expect that flying from Arusha to Zanzibar at the end of your safari is logistically easier than trying to get to Mombasa in Kenya. Round trip Arusha-Zanzibar-Arusha is about $360, I believe.

Note that the link posted above by gilsomenni shows a picture that is typical of safari vehicles used by most companies.

Have fun with the planning!
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Mar 8th, 2010, 07:54 AM
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Tarangire will be great, even in February. I've seen over 200 eles in one day in February. Another Fodorite was just there and saw 500 - 1000 eles. Two nights in the Serengeti is a bit short; I'd suggest four. In Zanzibar, I like Pongwe Beach Lodge. It's a beautiful setting on a great beach. It's not air conditioned, though. Make sure that, if you stay there, you get a bungalow right on the beach for the breezes at night. They have ceiling fans, but turn off their power around midnight. Stay in Stone Town your last night and take a morning tour of the place before you leave... really fascinating.
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Mar 8th, 2010, 10:52 AM
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I also thought your Serengeti time was short. Maybe skip Manyara and put that night toward the Serengeti.

Anywhere coastal whether in Kenya or Tanzania will be humid at that time of year. You can't really avoid that if you want beach time.
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Mar 8th, 2010, 01:38 PM
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Thanks Shaytay and Patty, I shall amend and add another day onto the Serengeti. I value your experience.

Calo - cool, she's not expecting more than 20, so don't think any of us will be disappointed, being that it's our first ever safari. Tarangire will stay at 2 days then.

Anyone got any experience of the amount of biting flying critters in Feb ?

Praps I'll just look at the 4 days beach as a snorkelling break rather than even hoping it will do her skin any good.

Many thanks

Meg
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Mar 8th, 2010, 02:10 PM
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Private safari is the way to go. And, it's not much more expensive, if at all, then most group routings. Besides, with private you can select which parks, lodging and for how long.

Day 1 - Rivertrees is lovely.
Days 2-3 - While Taragire is not at peak (best between July/Oct, it still gets darn good reviews for January. However, as posting above, the tents at Tarangire Safari Lodge/Camp are too close together; great views, but I prefer other options. Consider Kikoti or Tarangire River Camps.
Day 4 - Manyara Tree Lodge (way too far to even do a "drive-by" as camp is at farthest end of park that takes 2/hrs driving thru and then back out. I'd pass on Manyara and head straight onto Ngorongoro for afternoon crater tour and o/n.
Day 5 - Ngo - option for a morning crater tour or drive out to Ndutu/Serengeti for balance of your time. Ndutu Lodge or Lk. Masek Camp
Days 6, 7 & 8 - Ndutu/Serengeti (for the migration)
Day 9 - Fly via Arusha to Zanzibar. However, while the mainland will be hot and dry in Jan/Feb the coast will be tropical (humid). Wherever you choose to stay, strongly suggest air conditioning. But realize that many of the restaurants and public space at these properties are open-air.
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Mar 8th, 2010, 04:49 PM
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"would like to have a private 4X4 and guide, I know it will be costly but I gather from many of your trips reports, it's an extremely valuable resource."

Not that much more if there are 2 of you. It's less than some of the big name group trips.
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Mar 9th, 2010, 07:52 PM
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Thanks Sandi, thats a great help. I've altered my plans accordingly.

atravellynn - I'm certainly going to try for a private one.Thanks.
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Mar 10th, 2010, 11:26 AM
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I came back from a custom/private photo safari last month. I intend to go back in 2011 as well.

If you are serious about photography, definitely get a private 4x4 with an experienced(mature) guide. Also do make sure that you have "unlimited" safari rounds (with the option of picnic breakfasts, lunches-whenever you want) and not just post-breakfast safaris and "leisurely lunches" at the lodge and then an evening drive. I have realized that lighting during mid-day could also be great sometimes (cloudy weather, rain,shade) and it's well worth it to be out there all day and have your cameras ready. It can get hectic, but who said wildlife photography is easy ?

I would skip Manyara as well and go straight to the Crater (plan some extra visits here). Trust me, the lighting/colors here can be very unique with some picturesque backdrops. I might just end up spending a week here, next time I go, haha.

Critically Endangered Black Rhinos can be found in the crater...fyi. So can be bull elephants (males only) on the crater floor. Females and calves do hang out around the rim and can be seen from the Sopa access road. Ngo Sopa would be a good choice, plan on going down the crater early in the morning...6am, if interested in photography. If lucky, Leopards can be spotted at the rim (sopa access road).

Definitely add more days to the Ndutu area id you are interested in the migration.

If you want to save money/are on a tight budget, Ndutu Lodge is the best...avoid luxury camps.

My operator was Destination Tanzania Safaris, a small company which operates out of Minnesota/Arusha.

Contact me on [email protected], if interested in contacting them or you need further details.

TP

PS: I am not a Nikonian, so cnanot comment on the lens your daughter has, but that focal length seems useful. Sigma has a 120-300 f/2.8 which you might want to think about...you cn get fairly close to most animals unless you enter Serengeti National Park. You can drive off-road in the NCA (between crater and Ndutu, Masek- the short grass plains etc). It's always good to have 2 camemra bodies with 2 different lenses mounted, my 2 cents.
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Mar 11th, 2010, 06:29 AM
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Thank you Tigerphotog

I was hoping you'd pop back to the forum as you've so recently returned.

Thanks for your ideas. I've approached 2 outfitters so far - both are trying to usher me from the crater within 2 days and neither are wild on Sopa but although it may be unspectacular I thought I'd read that the ease of access was worth it. It's not that bad is it ? I'll stick to my guns...

My friend is an elephant fanatic, which is why I've put in Tarangire/Manyara, glad to hear there will be bulls in the crater - what about on the Serengeti plains ?

Is it too far from Tarangire - pass by Manyara briefly if elephants were in short supply in Tarangire- crater in a day. I'm being suggested stopping off at Gibbs for a night enroute and cannot see the value of this.

How were the flying, biting critters this Feb ?

Any chance of seeing some of your pictures Tigerphotog ?

I couldn't get the links to work in your report.

Many thanks indeed.

Meg
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Mar 11th, 2010, 07:23 AM
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Meg - we're just back from Africa - spent 10 days in Tanzania near the Crater (stayed at Plantation Lodge and visited Manyara and the Crater from there) and then 7 nights in/around Serengeti (at a tented camp near Ndutu Lodge and then just outside the Serengeti)

We used Nomad Tanzania and were very happy with them - mainly because of the private guide we had (I obsess about our guides) I can highly, highly recommend him - if you should choose to book via Nomad Tanzania you can request him, otherwise he does/can work with other operators and/or book hotels on your behalf.

Felix has a great vehicle, speaks idiomatic English, has a great sense of humour and can spot animals in the next country. We had a lot of fun, in addition to seeing a lot of animals.

Just back home now after 2 months so will be posting more in a few days - in the meantime here's a link to the Tanzania portion of our blog so you can see Felix!

http://lizandrichardsa.typepad.com/a...ater-and-area/
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Mar 11th, 2010, 08:57 AM
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Elizabeth, What a fantastic trip you've had.

I've just read all you've posted so far.

I'll add Nomad Tanzania to my list to contact for quotes.

Were there many elephants on the Serengeti plains ?

How prevelant were the flying, biting critters and what did you find worked best to keep them at bay please ?

Thanks for the tip in your blog on 'being caught short' out in the parks I had wondered ..I shall google ..

Many thanks for taking the trouble to post

Best wishes

Meg
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Mar 11th, 2010, 09:22 AM
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Hi Meg - yes it was a fantastic trip! Weird to be home!

Re bugs - we were very surprised at how few bugs we encountered - none in the Serengeti, and only a couple of mozzies in northern Namibia. We had a ton of bug stuff, which we never used.

Re elephants - saw quite a few (i.e. saw them everyday, up to 10 at a time) - and always very close.

Nomad doesn't deal directly with travelers - you have to use one of their agents - I think they have links on their website.
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Mar 11th, 2010, 09:29 AM
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I guess I can add too that we went with just 2 of us women in November; visiting both Uganda and Tanzania. Pictures and blog are posted at http://eastafricanadventure.shutterf...elinitsjournal
Tanzania starts at "09 The Transition...".
You'll love Tanzania North and the chance for pictures are never-ending!
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Mar 11th, 2010, 11:53 AM
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Meg,

---
I've approached 2 outfitters so far - both are trying to usher me from the crater within 2 days and neither are wild on Sopa but although it may be unspectacular I thought I'd read that the ease of access was worth it. It's not that bad is it ? I'll stick to my guns...
---
Answer:
Outfitters try to work within your budget and since every visit to the crater is $200 USD, they try to move you out of there asap. Sopa is not at all unspectacular, the rooms are on the edge of the crater(most have a view), you can view the sunset from outside the bar/restaurant while relaxing on a nice lounge chair sipping your sundowners . You can also get inside the crater in under 15 minutes from there, food is great too ! Fyi, the entire crater can be visited at least 1 time in 1 trip once you are down there. Could get boring for some, not for photographers. Anyway, be sure to tell the outfitters about your requirements (what's more important for you - migration, any specific animal, crater). Depending on that they will give you better suggestions for your itinerary. Adding extra days to the crater means adding $200 for each entry and your budget.

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My friend is an elephant fanatic, which is why I've put in Tarangire/Manyara, glad to hear there will be bulls in the crater - what about on the Serengeti plains ?
----------

I haven't been to Tarangire..so cannot comment. As for Lake Manyara, yes, there are plenty of elephants but we did not see them in one of those scenic ("as seen on tv") backdrops, the vegetation in Manyara is dense and feels like a tropical forest, fyi. This is not the Africa/plains that you might have seen on tv . This is a relatively small park and you could spend a couple hours, just in case, en route to the crater while goin from Arusha, if you want. Crater is 2+ hours from L Manyara.
As for the crater, there's plenty of them, one famous bull in there has tusks that touch the ground. Your friend will go crazy after seeing him...haha.
As for Serengeti...depends where you go. We didn't see a lot of elephants in South Serengeti, saw some near the woodlands and lake masek etc. In this area, ndutu, golini,masek etc is where the migration is/was during that time of the year. We didn't see herds of eles...until we reached Seronera (I stayed at the Serengeti Serena Lodge). My aim was to get Leopards...hence the trip to Central Serengeti. Btw, this area IS what you have seen on tv, the endless waving grass plains of Serengeti with Kopjes (Simba, Moru), just as seen on TV. But, migration won't be there, so it might look a bit empty in jan -feb. If your daughter loves Leopards...and you want to take a chance at finishing the big-5, give it a try. Else, stay in Ndutu area and see the other big cats and the migration.
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Is it too far from Tarangire - pass by Manyara briefly if elephants were in short supply in Tarangire- crater in a day. I'm being suggested stopping off at Gibbs for a night enroute and cannot see the value of this.
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Tarangire is to the south of Manyara (2-3 hours, experts can confirm). Yes, do that..pass by Manyara, check out the eles, move from there into the crater for an afternoon drive and just go to the Sopa Lodge directly. Gibbs is far from the Crater entry point.Adding extra night stays at different locations will increase your cost too. AND, you will waste time in early mornings just trying to get to your actual destination (Gibbs to Crater in this case). Your daughter would not want to miss the early morning light.
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How were the flying, biting critters this Feb ?
---------
Got bit by some TseTse only in Central Serengeti while driving to the Hippo pool. don't worry, the other areas are mostly bug free (crater, ndutu). We took mosquito net etc..but most lodges had provided their own.
---------

Any chance of seeing some of your pictures Tigerphotog ?
--------

Sure, I will create a flickr page and upload some soon for you all to see.

TP
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Mar 13th, 2010, 01:01 AM
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Many thanks Tigerphotog, thats great additional info.

I shall stick to my plans of going directly to Sopa no matter how much I'm told I'm missing at Gibbs..Another $200 will be fine for a 2nd day in the crater.

Good to hear about the flying, biting things. Not nearly as bad as I had envisioned. Good news

Looking forward to those pictures.
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