Tanzania safari, part 1

Jul 16th, 2002, 07:59 AM
Posts: n/a
Tanzania safari, part 1

I've tried to post this a couple of times, but it hasn't worked...so, I will try to split the saga into three parts and see if that works...here goes...part 1:

Notes from Africa!

We just returned from a 16 night safari in Tanzania, including Serengeti for 10 nights (Kirawira Camp, Migration Camp, Serena Lodge), Ngorongoro Crater 3 nights (Crater Lodge), Tarangire 3 nights (Tarangire Safari Lodge). We had an absolutely wonderful trip of which I will share some of the highlights for those planning an African safari. We traveled with Roy Safaris, and they met and exceeded our expectations – I would highly recommend them to anyone traveling to Tanzania. They are a Tanzania-based company and, thus, seem to have very competitive pricing.
I traveled with my Mom, her husband (Stan), and my boyfriend (Larry) – the 4 of us went on a private safari and were assigned a private guide and private vehicle (Toyota Landcruiser – which, I must say, was the best vehicle I saw on our whole trip). Our guide, Camillus was so personable, and became almost like part of the family. He was easy going, and good to joke around with...and he sure worked hard, given that we would always be up at 5:30, ready to be on a game drive (with picnic breakfasts) by 6:00 am. Larry and I are both professional wildlife biologists – so we are a little obsessed with wildlife viewing. Camillus said that on most safaris, people actually tire of looking at animals after 3 days, and they then spend more time at the pool. But, we would go and go all the time, every day. We’d come back to camp at around 12:30 or 1:00, have lunch, take a couple hours break, and be back out at 3:00 or 3:30 until 7:00.

We flew into the Serengeti, with knowledge that the wildebeest migration, because of good rains, was still in the areas where we would be. Sure enough, we saw long lines of migrating animals from the air. And, more than once in the western Serengeti (Kirawira area), we parked in the middle of large congregations of wildebeests and zebras...a truly phenomenal spectacle. It was quite something to witness this part of the migration...the long lines of animals moving through the Serengeti on their way north, and the groupings of the animals amidst the woodland areas of the northern and western Serengeti.

The first 4 nights we were at Kirawira camp. The Bradt Guide gives this camp a favorable review but also gives a sense that the place is too overdone and not “bush” enough. I must disagree with the Bradt guide in this regard. The place is definitely immaculate, and provides a definite colonial feel. However, there are no fences, and there is plenty of wildlife around camp..as we witnessed by the large male lion who visited our tent balcony on our first night, and the 4-5 lions who stayed next to our camp roaring all night. To listen to lions roaring so close (and separated only by a canvas wall) is really something. We all just loved Kirawira camp. The staff there was fantastic, the food great, and there was an incredible view from our tents, with giraffes dotting the plains. Kirawira also had a beautiful pool area, and we took a couple of refreshing lunchtime swims in very cold water. There was a lot of wildlife in the area, and we were fortunate enough to also witness a cheetah kill an impala.
Jul 16th, 2002, 11:44 AM
pseudo laura
Posts: n/a
Dear Laura
For posterity I am copying your part 2 and 3 into this same thread so that the story stays together.
It means if anyone asks questions etc, we can do it all on one thread and all the info stays together.
Hope that is OK?
Message: From Kirawira, we drove to Migration Camp. The scenery of the northern Serengeti is stunning. But, there was certainly less wildlife in the Migration Camp area than at any of our other destinations. The books attest to there being less wildlife here at this time of year, but they also say there are large resident populations in the area. They fail to say that the resident wildlife (at this time of year) is easily concealed by the extremely tall grasses. Also, reports say that there are large resident elephant populations. We stayed at Migration Camp for three nights and did not see even one elephant. However, the area is beautiful and we did see a spattering of exciting wildlife, including a cheetah, a few lions (who we couldn’t approach as off-road driving was not allowed in the area), and large herds of migrating zebras. Migration camp was really nice and a little more rustic than Kirawira which made for a good contrast. One other problem is that the rangers do a lot of burning in the Serengeti in the dry season (to try to reduce the chance of huge fires and to supposedly reduce the tsetse fly population) – and they had picked the Migration area for this year...so, we saw a lot of charred areas and smoke filled the air in some locations. This is something travelers should definitely inquire about with their safari companies.

After Migration Camp, our trip got better and better. We spent 3 nights in the Seronera area at Serena lodge – although a lodge, it has more of a camp feel to it. The units are actually hut-like with two or three rooms in each, and they are scattered in the trees in a manner that gives lots of privacy. The food was buffet style, but absolutely fantastic! There was a plethora of wildlife in the Seronera area. We saw 4 leopards in this area. And, the highlight was a pride of lions – of which we saw 3 lionesses with their 9 small cubs – on one of the kopjes....and, close enough for good photos. One morning we came upon another pride of lions (also right next to one of the roads) – and they were next to a drainage where there were some elephants. It was interesting to watch the interactions. Elephants are not really at risk from lions...but they don’t like them...they kept charging the lions. We sat and ate breakfast while watching them. There were also some remaining large herds of wildebeests/zebras in the Seronera area. We also splurged on a balloon ride, which was certainly one of the highlights of our trip. It was a completely different, and beautiful view of the Serengeti and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.

Jul 16th, 2002, 11:46 AM
pseudo laura
Posts: n/a
Message: After Seronera, we had to say good-bye to the Serengeti. But we left feeling like we had seen so much of it, and really glad that we spent 10 nights there to really enjoy the place. Our next stop was Ngorongoro Crater. Larry and I had been there on our last trip, but that was in early Sept during a drought year...and the crater looked very much the worse for wear. So, we were pleasantly surprised to see it looking very lush this time around. We stayed at Crater Lodge... the lodge is truly incredible....we have done a lot of traveling, and have never, ever seen anything quite like it. There are chandeliers and a long dining hall that looks like a royal palace. The rooms are actually 2 round areas – one is the bedroom, complete with a fireplace (that your butler stokes every night before you return from dinner) and the other is a palatial bathroom with a huge shower (surrounded by wood beams) and a bathtub with a view of the crater. We seemed to be the only people at South Camp for two of our nights there (the lodge is split into three areas) – to us South Camp appeared the nicest – and the food, again, was incredible – we even had lobster for dinner one night. Three nights is more than most people spend at the Crater...but I was glad we did....the Lodge was spectacular and the Crater was very enjoyable. We did two full day game drives here (bringing both a picnic breakfast and lunch into the crater...and the Crater Lodge did even this preparation first class). We spent one of the early mornings mostly sitting at the lake watching the flamingos...at this time of year, there were a couple of million flamingos on the lake and we found it very relaxing just to sit and watch them. Also saw male lions, lionesses in trees, 9 black rhinos, a communal den of hyenas (with some young pups), and the oldest elephant in the crater...estimated to be around 75 years old...his ears are now drooping because he doesn’t have the muscles to hold them up.

From Ngorongoro we proceeded to Tarangire. We were there relatively early in the dry season (mid-July), yet there were already so many animals there (especially elephants). It is a really fascinating and beautiful park... with scattered baobab and palm trees. Tarangire Safari Lodge was definitely below the standards of our other accomodations, and it could use renovation ....the food was also below standard. But the place was adequate, and the view from the lodge & dining area is spectacular. The Lodge overlooks the Tarangire River and you can just sit there and watch tons of wildlife coming to the water for a drink....large groups of elephants, zebras, giraffes, elands, etc. Now, we didn’t expect to see lions in Tarangire because the park is very brushy....but we were fortunate and surprised. Saw 7 lionesses in trees one evening, and a lioness with three 1-month old cubs the next morning. And, the elephants...my goodness....they were everywhere you looked. On our last morning game drive in Tarangire, we got out of the vehicle to have breakfast on the hood of the car, while watching some vervet monkeys. All of a sudden a herd of zebras came thundering out of a drainage with a lion in hot pursuit. We all jumped back into the vehicle very quickly. The zebras got away, and we felt that Tarangire and Tanzania had just given us a very fond farewell. What a way to wrap up a great trip.

I’m sure I could go on and on and on...but I will leave you with this, some of the highlights, at least for now. Feel free to ask any questions.


Jul 16th, 2002, 11:58 AM
Posts: n/a
Right then!!!

Firstly thanks so much for sharing your trip report. Only last night I watched a wildlife documentary which covered all the areas you visited and so to read your report today is particularly exciting as I can picture it in my mind even more vividly than usual!

Did your private guide and vehicle stay with you for the entire trip? If so, when you did the game drives in each seperate area, did this same guide do all of them or did experts from each lodge run the local game drives in each area?

Did you find any crowding at all once you'd arrived at an interesting sighting, ie were other vehicles in the area radioed in order to tell them what was to be seen so they could join you?

Will you be putting any of your photos online (using one of the free services such as Ofoto)? I certainly would love to see them.

I also really appreciate the details on the camps and the way you have linked this in to what you read in the guides.

Thanks again for your informative report, the longing to return to Africa is as strong as ever.
Jul 16th, 2002, 12:10 PM
Posts: n/a

Thank you for consolidating these...it does make things easier. Yes, we did have the same guide for our whole safari. He picked us up at the airstrip in the Serengeti and stayed with us our whole trip.

In Kenya, on safari in 2000, we flew from camp to camp using the camp's guides, and we were very, very happy with them...and their knowledge of the area.

I was a little worried about not using camp guides on this trip....but Camillus, as I stated, turned out to really be exceptional and personable and he, of course, talked to other guides at each camp to find out about the most current, exciting sightings.

In many instances (because of the areas we selected to travel), we were the only vehicle at our own animal sighting. In other places such as the Seronera valley and Ngorongoro, there were certainly some other vehicles around...but only once, near some elephants, did I find the other vehicles obstructive. Most of the time we saw at maximum 4-5 other vehicles...but most of those came for a couple of snapshots and then left. We really like to sit and study and animal for a long time (sometimes 2-3 hours) --so, we were often left alone with the wildlife for most of our viewing.

I hadn't thought of posting photos...I will give that some thought. We do have our own photo website www.wildlife-reflections.com that we are working on...we will certainly put some from this trip there.

Jul 16th, 2002, 07:31 PM
Liz Frazier
Posts: n/a
Hi Laura-
Thanks for the wonderful trip report. How did you find Roy Safaris? Did they let you use a credit card for the trip charges and deposit? I ask that in case something goes horribly wrong you have an avenue open for recouping charges that weren't delivered. Did you come from the US or Europe? Thank you so much for the individual camp reports. Where was your balloon staging area? I think when I was there it was only from Seronera Wildlife Lodge if I remember correctly.
Kavey- Thanks for the posting. We just deposited on our Namibia/Botswana trip for next April and I am so thrilled. Will let you know more later. Liz
Jul 17th, 2002, 05:52 AM
Posts: n/a
Hi Liz:

I originally found Roy Safaris with a search of the internet....and they are listed on the Tanzania Tourist Board site. We also read good reviews of this company in Bradt and Lonely Planet travel guides...so, we felt comfortable with that. The icing on the cake was the very personable way Roy Safaris approached our travel plannning...we were working with Sanjay, the owner.
We sent a 30% deposit to Roy Safaris by wire...then paid the rest with the bank check when we got to Tanzania.
Jul 19th, 2002, 11:02 AM
Posts: n/a
Oh oh oh you're going to Botswana and Namibia, how wonderful... I am really excited for you.

If you feel like you're boring your friends silly with it, email me to ramble on, I LOVE talking about it, it just helps me relive the trip and look forward to 2004 when we go back ourselves (we hope).

I've only been there once, and once to Kenya and Tanzania so I don't know it better than anyone else here, but I can try and answer anything if you have anything you want to ask.

What's your itinerary? (Maybe we should email or you could post as a new thread)

Jul 24th, 2002, 08:20 AM
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Hello Laura -

Thanks for the great post!

I am planing my honeymoon in Tanzania for next September. We will have 15 nights and will be arriving on September 13th.

Our main interests are of course seeing wildlife and perhaps a three night trip to the beaches of Zanzibar for some snorkeling and down time.

Considering that you have been to Tanzania (twice or more?) where would you suggest that we go to see the grestest diversity of wildlife during this part of the dry season. How would you divide your time between various areas/lodges?

The only area which is a "must see" is the Crater. Other than that, we are also interested in the Serengeti, a location on a river that will be attracting wildlife during the dry season, seeing the Chimpanzees in the extreme western side of the country, and, like I mentioned, perhaps Zanzibar.

I guess I need some sort of frame of reference that lets me know how long it takes to get from point A to point B (example Serengeti camp to the Crater). We are prepared to fly most places, if needed.

Thanks for any and all advice in any of these areas. Thanks so much!!
Jul 25th, 2002, 07:17 AM
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Hi Dawn....

September is as tough a month to predict as our trip was in late June-mid July as far as concentrations of wildlife...as you probably already know, a lot of the experience hinges on where the wildebeest are.

We have not been to see the chimps...but it does sound like an exciting trip...check into current safety in that area if you decide to go...there have been off and on problems in the past.

If I were you, I would travel as late in Sept as possible...to increase your chances that the wildebeest have returned to the Serengeti...Migration Camp in the northern Serengeti is supposed to be really good at this time of year...so start here...you can fly from Arusha to the Lobo airstrip (or at Kleins Camp just outside the park...I would spend 4 nights in the northern part of the park at this time of year. Then, go to the Serena Hotel in the Seronera Valley for 3 nights...this area is always good for cats...you can drive from here to Ngorongoro in about 2-3 hours, much of which is through the park so you are on a game drive the whole way. I would only spend 2 nights here at this time of year...the crater will be very dry at this time of year...still lots of wildlife, but not as pretty as other times of the year...stay at the Crater Lodge!!! Skip Lake Manyara...there is abundant wildlife here, but the park is small...and your next recommended stop should be astounding in Sept....go to Tarangire...we thoroughly enjoyed the park...stay at the Safari Lodge 3 nights inside the park...for the view...you can drive from Ngorongoro to Tarangire in 2-3 hours. Round up your trip at Zanzibar...we've never been here, but hear the beaches are beautiful. So, that's my 2-cents worth...there are lots of options...including a trip that would be earlier in Sept, and also include the Mara...but I don't know if you want to venture into Kenya. Of course, if you want to still include the chimps you will have to shave days off of other locales...but I would hesitate to do that as I think the trip would be too hectic and not give you time to really enjoy the parks...the Serengeti is HUGE.

Jul 25th, 2002, 07:33 AM
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Laura -

Thanks for all the quality suggestions.
Jul 26th, 2002, 04:52 AM
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Just some notes, that I felt compelled to add, after reading this string. I too fell in love with Africa. My husband and I took a custom safari in Tanzania in Feb-March 2001, and I ache to get back. We had 12 days on safari at 5 national parks (Arusha, Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti) a driver and Land Cruiser all to ourselves, a day in Nairobi at the Norfolk, and 3 days on the island of Lamu off the coast of Kenya at Peponi an amazing resort. At the last minute we changed out plans from Zanzibar to Lamu (because of political trouble in Zanzibar at the time).

I want to say something about the accomodations. Although I have nothing against luxury, that was not my main concern on planning this trip. That being the case, we stayed at a variety of lodges and were happy with the choices. The Serena lodges might not have been THE most luxurious, but they were beautiful: in architecture, landscaping, employees were friendly and helpful. Food was plentiful and tasty, varied between buffets and sit down. We stayed at the Serena Mountain Village-Arusha, Serena Lake Manyara, Serena Ngorongoro and Serena Kirawira Tented Camp (this is considered a luxury tented camp and it certainly was-marble ensuite bathroom, gourmet food and only 25 tents).

The 2 more "rustic" places that we stayed at were quite possibly more fun and we still wanted for nothing. Tanangire Safari Lodge was a tented camp with an amazing view. We shared our tent with 2 frogs, quite a few moths and harmless insects, and sitting on our front porch we watched superb and tawny starlings, plus other birds and butterflies, dwarf mongoose, dik diks and vervet monkeys. One morning we woke up to no water, an elephant had taken down some part of the plumbing during the night, but they had that back up and running in no time. They had a built-in pool, laundry service, a well stocked gift shop, sunrise coffee delivered to your tent and buffet dining. Electricity is turned off from 3:00-6:00 in the afternoon and 11:00 pm til 6:00 am (requested - no hairdryers), but after a full day who cares! While we liked this camp very much, our guide/driver said that at Oliver's Camp (which was outside the park had night drives which is not available inside the park). It is something I would look into for my next trip.
cont in next post
Jul 26th, 2002, 04:53 AM
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In the south eastern Serengeti we stayed at Ndutu Safari Lodge. (This might not have heavy concentration of animals in Sept, but their web site has monthly reports that you could look at. Several of the travel agents that I talked to advised me that this was sub-standard (or rustic, as if this was a bad thing). But I had read that it was in the right place to see the gnu migration (a major goal of this trip was to see the gnu birthing season) and it has been there for 30 years, I liked the history behind it. It couldn't have been better and I talked to other guests there that thought it was more their style than some of the Serenas. We had our own stone cottage (some were connected) with bathroom, and the usual laundry service, excellent gift shop. A lounge and dining area included a genet family (this is a primitive carnivore looking somewhat like a cat. They are nocturnal so it is unlikely that we would see them anywhere else) whose ancesters had moved into the lodge 30 years ago. There were thought to be 9 living there at the time but we never saw more than 3 at a time. They built a platform in the lounge and stocked it at dinner time so that they would come out for guests to see. It was very entertaining. Meals were such that the waiter brought large serving dishes around for you to help yourself. One night the lamb was tough - but honestly do you care? The drivers and guides ate in the same dining area, with their group in some cases. Again there was not a lot of landscaping, but we saw giraffe from our porch and guinea fowl, etc. They had bonfires in the evenings. Checking their web site recently I discovered that Sir David Attenbrough stayed there shortly after we had left while he was filming for a new BBC TV series called Life of Mammals. I suppose this is not for everyone, again electricity was off for parts of the day and they didn't have a pool (water was a precious commodity here), but it friendly and had a lot of character. Check out their web site: www.ndutu.com. Both of these lodges were situated so that game viewing begain almost as soon as we were out of the parking lot.

I might suggest, that you spend a day at Arusha National Park, it is smaller than the others, but it is a chance to see the Colobus monkey, and was more forested that the other parks in the northern circuit. I am would also be interested in seeing the Chimpanzees, but its definately impossible to see everything in one trip.
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