Tanzania Northern Circuit self drive in feb

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Feb 26th, 2012, 01:56 AM
  #1
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Tanzania Northern Circuit self drive in feb

I finally have the chance to bring my girlfriend along on safari and try to let her catch 'safari fever'
Currently looking into a few options, and one big candidate is a self drive in the northern circuit.

Based on my briefing I got this itinerary (from SafariDrive) for 14 days in february 2013

Day1
Arrival kilimanjaro airport at 20:40
Stay at River trees lodge, Usa River, Arusha

Day2
Morning: get the car + briefing
Afternoon: Arusha NP?
Stay at River trees lodge, Usa River, Arusha

Day 3
Morning: stock up with fuel and food and drive to tarangire
Lunch at Tarangire Safari lodge
Afternoon: Gamedrive, arrival at special campsite
Stay at Tarangire NP, Special Campsite

Day 4
Full day in Tarangire
Stay at Tarangire NP, Special Campsite

Day 5
Morning: Gamedrive towards the gate
Drive to Lake eyasi
Stay at Lake Eyasi Campsite

Day 6
Lake Eyasi ??
Stay at Lake Eyasi Campsite

Day 7
Drive to Ngorongoro crater, game drive on the crater floor
Ngorongoro Crater Public Campsite

Day 8
Drive to Nainokanoka village, meet up with guide for Empakai Rim Bivouac Walking safari
Stay at Empakai Rim Fly camp

Day 9
Full day trekking on the Empakai Rim. Also taken into Ngorogoro crater
Stay at Empakai Rim Fly camp

Day 10
Drive to Naabi Hill Special Campsite + gamedriving
Stay at Naaibi Hill Special Campsite

Day 11
Gamedriving to Lake Ndutu
Stay at Lake Ndutu, Serengeti Special Campsite

Day 12
Gamedriving to Lake Ndutu, NCCA Special Campsite
Stay at Lake Ndutu, NCCA Special Campsite

Day 13
Drive to Karatu
Stay at Gibbs Farm

Day 14
Drive to Arusha, fly home
home…..


I'm mostly wondering about Lake Eyasi, can someone give any comments on that?
I'm thinking I should skip the 2nd night there and drive to Ngorongoro already on day 6 so we can have a full day in the crater (and be there early!) on day 7.

Furthermore, can anyone comment on the empakai crater walk? Sounds like great fun, but curious for some experiences

As for the serengeti/NCCA part, I'm wondering how you judge this; does this make sense?
When I was there before we stayed on the NCCA part and only went into the serengeti for a full day game drive. I'm wondering if this would make sense to do again.

Lastly; Our flight departs at 21:40, so I'm wondering if we could drive from Ndutu area back to the lodge and make the flight, or is this to far? (I remember driving all the way from Piyaya region to Arusha.. think it took 8 or 9 hours..)
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Feb 26th, 2012, 06:52 AM
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My DH and I did a self-drive along the Northern Circuit and into the Mara in August 2009 with a Safari Drive vehicle and had a wonderful time. We are scheduled to complete a similar trip this July.

I am not able to comment on much of your itinerary because we have not done either Ndutu or Eyasi - we visited at a different time of year, so we focused on other areas.

However, regarding Ngorongoro Crater, - if it were me, I would certainly wish to fit two visits into my itinerary if possible. Be aware that the $200 "crater service fee" is for six hours, not all day, although visitors are not monitored, and I suspect that many people stay longer. I would highly recommend you go into the crater as early as allowed (6am) - it is far less busy and the game viewing is excellent.

Here is the link to our photos and trip report in case you have not seen them on the Safari Drive website. Robin

http://bert-and-bin.smugmug.com/Trav...9504315_zcbkVx
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Feb 26th, 2012, 08:16 AM
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While you show last day at Gibb's before heading to Arusha, with reference to your question: "drive time from Ndutu to JRO for 21h40 outbound/home flight"... I wouldn't.

Checkin for international flights is minimum 2/hrs (airline will advise closer 3/hrs)... meaning being at airport by about 18h40. With estimated drive time (Ndutu/Ngo=3/hrs, Ngo/Arusha=4/hrs; Arusha/JRO=1/hr = total 8/hrs), it'll be very tight, hoping there's no mechanical or traffic.

Would suggest you spend last day closer, as Karatu (Gibb's is actually closer to Manyara) and from here to JRO won't be so bad.
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Feb 26th, 2012, 08:24 AM
  #4
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Thx for posting that link robin! that looks like a really great trip!
very nice to see the pictures with you and the car and how that works.

Question about that; how hard is it to 'break up camp' in the morning to go out gamedriving early?


Reading up some more about lake eyasi Im inclined to skip that from the itinerary, and either put in more days in serengeti or throw in manyara after all.
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Feb 26th, 2012, 09:11 AM
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You're most welcome! Safari Drive vehicles are great - very well maintained and stocked.

We can be out of camp in half an hour, but we usually allow 40 minutes, to ensure that we are out as soon as allowed. We don't have breakfast before we leave - it is too difficult and slow in the dark. Instead, we get up, dress, put down the tent, have a quick wash and then we are on our way. We have breakfast after an hour or two - usually at a waterhole or when we find something interesting to sit beside. We have a small, soft-sided cooler box (that we bring in our suitcase) that we keep in the vehicle with the yogurt, milk, peanut butter, bread, jam etc for breakfast, and make certain that the dishes, cutlery, cereal and coffee are within reach. We fill our thermos with hot water the night before, when we are preparing dinner. We keep the thermos in a thick sock, and the water is still hot at breakfast and morning tea.

The tent is very quick to take down - it just flips closed like a book. It is is a bit slower than opening it up because, when folding it up, you have to tuck the canvas in as you go (otherwise the cover won't fit) - but it is still easy and quick. My DH works on the roof, and I stay on the ground and tuck from there (I am height challenged! ). Everything is already in the vehicle the night before because you can't leave anything out or the hyena/baboons are likely to carry it off - we pack the 4x4 up the night before.

Feel free to ask as many questions as you like. CR
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Feb 26th, 2012, 10:35 AM
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wow thats great.. already some really handy practical tips!

I suppose the campsites have restrictions timed to sunset/sunrise? (on when you need to be in and can go out?)
Were you allowed to make fire on all campsites? (seems quite handy if you wanna cook a meal I suppose hehe)

I read that you bought all kinds of maps (paper), is there also navigation on board that will suffice, or do you need the paper maps?

Going over your photo's again I can't believe how lucky you were with your sightings... amazing!
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Feb 27th, 2012, 10:05 PM
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Campsites are restricted to the gate times - same hours as the lodges/tented camps. Camp fires are allowed on all sites. Most of them have a fire pit, although we had a couple where we were asked to hide any evidence of a fire.

The Safari Drive vehicles do come equipped with a GPS and Tracks4Africa. We also carry one of our own, so we have two GPS with us. We do not use the paper maps very often, but they have been vital on at least two occasions when the GPS tried to send us in the wrong direction. When we had to detour via Mababe to get to Khwai, the GPS tried to send us in completely the wrong direction. The information about the new bridge in Mababe was not in Tracks4Africa, hence the confusion. On another occasion, after we crossed the border into Zambia at Sesheke and were headed to Livingstone, the GPS tried to send us back/south across the river at Kazungula. If we had not had a paper map, we might have been rather confused. So, on two occasions, the GPS/Track4Africa were wrong, and it was good to have paper maps to confirm that we were not crazy and that it was the GPS that was wrong, not us.

We do seem to enjoy wonderful sightings. We have concluded that it is because we deliberately set up our self-drive itineraries so that we do not have to travel long distances in a day, and are therefore able to drive very slowly. It seems that we are always the slowest people on the road. Also, we are always out of camp as early as is allowed, and we enjoy many of our best sightings in the first couple of hours after sunrise. Robin
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Mar 1st, 2012, 12:17 AM
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thx robin!

We've decided to skip lake eyasi and manyara as well.
Throw in 1 night more in ngorongoro so we can go into the crater as early as possible and still have 2 days of walking near empakai crater.

Question now is where do we spent the other additional night.
We have 2 nights and 1 full day in tarangire right now, so that's basically 2 days of gamedriving (end of day at day 1, day 2, and morning on day 3)
Seems enough to me.

so it's either one more night at naiibi hill (currently 1 night) or ndutu (currently 2 nights)
or does anyone have an additional option?
Would love to go to piyaya region as well, but for 1 night it seems a bit of a to long drive.
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Mar 2nd, 2012, 04:26 AM
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I think you will be happy to have that extra time in the crater. I am afraid I am not able to offer input on Naabi Hill, Ndutu or Piyaya. CR
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Mar 2nd, 2012, 09:04 AM
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Believe 2/nts at Ngo... more than sufficient, to get in crater tour or other trekking.

If you have to choose what to do with additional days, for Feb travel when the herds are usually 'calving' at Ndutu, this is always a great option. But this past year, the herds were everywhere, and often in the Southern Serengeti, where visitors were paying extra park fees to enter here for a day before returning to their lodge/camp at Ndutu. Something to consider... split your stay with a few days at Ndutu and some in Serengeti.
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May 13th, 2012, 01:30 PM
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I'm joining this thread a bit late, but would anyone know of any other reputable self-drive rental companies apart from Shaw and Safari drive? Both are booked in July. We're a family of four and are looking to rent a vehicle with roof-top tent and make our own itinerary (with a lot of research), starting from Dar Es Salaam or possibly Arusha. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated!
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May 14th, 2012, 01:23 AM
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Did you try asking Safari Drive for a recommendation? Having bases all over eastern and southern Africa, they are well familiar with many of the 4x4 companies. Since they do not have a vehicle available, they might be willing to suggest another company. CR
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May 19th, 2012, 08:27 AM
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Joining the thread late. I think you have a great self drive itinerary for northern Tanzania. Ten years ago, when I lived in Tanzania, I did a few self drives to Tarangire, Serengeti, and NCA. Those trips are now great memories for the family and friends that came with me. I am sure your safari will be fantastic.
Your choice of special camps over public camps is an excellent decision. For me it is definitely worth the extra money to pay for special camps. I have been the only camper at public camp sites in Tarangire and Mikumi but in more popular places like the Serengeti and Crater public camping can be noisy and crowded. The special camps that we stayed at the Crater rim, Moru Kopjes, and Kirawira are some of our favorite safari memories.
One suggestion: Try to stay at camps in nice locations for two nights. My first self drive, I didn’t do that, and found that by the time we set up camp and broke camp the next day, the safari was a bit rushed. The following self drive safaris, I stayed two nights at some campsites, which I felt worked out much better. For instance, in your itinerary, you are staying one night at Lake Ndutu Special Camp Serengeti and one night at Lake Ndutu Special Camp NCAA. Is that to make the best use of your Serengeti park fee (you are coming from Naabi Hill SC)? If not you might consider passing on Lake Ndutu SC Serengeti and spending two nights at Lake Ndutu SC NCAA (if a second night is available). That will give you two nights at the same camp. There is lot more to see on the NCAA side of Ndutu.
canadian_robin has some great advice, including breaking camp early, without breakfast, to go game driving in the early morning, when wildlife is most active, and then stopping later to eat at a scenic spot or at a good wildlife sighting.
I suggest bringing food that is simple and quick to prepare, and won’t be damaged by shaky vehicles on rough roads. Also recommend bringing a lot of snack type foods.
I did a safari to Ndutu three months ago (not self drive). We left Arusha before 9 a.m. and arrived in Ndutu late afternoon. To check in 3 hours before your 9:40 p.m. flight you must be at the airport by 6:40 p.m. I like to maximize my time in the parks so personally I would drive from Ndutu to the airport on the same day but if you want to be safe then Gibbs Farm is a good choice. Ndutu was unseasonably dry in Feb 2012 but typically Feb is the rainy season, which is why you want to be there- to have the chance of seeing the migration. If it is very wet conditions then there is a risk of being stuck in mud. Make sure your vehicle has a high jack and shovel. If you do decide to drive from Ndutu to the airport in one day then I would leave Ndutu at sunrise, to have some extra time, just in case.
Have a great safari
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May 19th, 2012, 10:33 AM
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>>Ndutu was unseasonably dry in Feb 2012 but typically Feb is the rainy season, which is why you want to be there- to have the chance of seeing the migration.<<

February the 'rainy season'? Not!
The 'long rains' can start from mid-Mar thru May.
The 'short rains' are from mid-Oct to mid-Dec.

That said, it can just as easily rain anytime even during the so-called DRY SEASON!
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May 21st, 2012, 03:21 AM
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I’m not sure if my Special Camp experiences are typical or aberrations but on two occasions when we arrived at our Special Camps we found these were occupied by others. In both cases we had our papers to show that we had paid for the SC on the dates that we were there. The first time I was self driving. A safari company with a lot of tents was in my SC. I went to the ranger, who arranged for a new special camp for me, in a location that was not as nice as the SC I had booked. It was still a decent location, and we had a good time camping there. The second time I was with a safari operator. Same situation-- when we arrived at our SC we found tents set up by anther operator. We showed our papers. This time the other operator moved his tents. These incidents aside, I am still a big fan of SCs, and if available would choose SCs over public camps. It would be interesting to hear from others self drivers who have used Special Camps in Tanzania to learn if they had problems booking SCs or encountered other tents in the SCs when they arrived there. I mention this because Ndutu was crowded (by my standards) in February 2012. I’ve heard that some operators block book special camps during popular periods.
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May 21st, 2012, 05:42 AM
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My DH and I (self-drivers) have stayed on special campsites in Tarangire, Lake Manyara, the Mara, the Western Corridor, and the central and Northern Serengeti, and only once have we arrived to find our SC occupied. It was at Lobo in the northern Serengeti, and our site was occupied by a tour operator who had about 15 tents set up. As there were two other equally lovely special campsites nearby, which we had passed on the way to our site, it seemed silly to ask the group to move. Instead, we simply went and told the rangers that we had discovered our assigned site occupied and, with their permission, would set up on another site. The rangers were none to pleased and, after carefully modifying our permit so that they would know where we were, set off to learn why the group was on the incorrect site. Our impression was that the rangers suspected that the operator had not paid for the site and was hoping not to be discovered. Other than that one occasion, we have had no difficulty with the special campsites. CR
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May 21st, 2012, 09:25 PM
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We also had problems with special campsites in the Serengeti. Another operator moved in with large tents etc. His permit showed erasures, but they only made the workers leave at night and let the tents stay up. Never got any money back either. Hope you have your sites booked at Ndutu. We couldn't get sites near there almost a year ahead. Have a wonderful trip!
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