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Tanzania Wildlife Viewing

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Jul 5th, 2014, 10:17 AM
  #1
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Tanzania Wildlife Viewing

We are itching to get back to Africa. We are thinking about a trip to Tanzania or Botswana.

Our last safari was in Kruger (at a private reserve). We were able to drive off-road, we were many times not just within a few yards of lions, but at one time could look down at them as they laid just a few feet from the vehicle. All the vehicles held 6 people, 2 across in three tiers so no one had a blocked view. We were able to get close to Buffalos and Elephants. In general we did not need to use binoculars except for the few eagles and birds and photography was a snap. No pun intended.

We have heard and read that Tanzania is much different. No off road. We viewed You Tube's that show cases where vehicles are close to game, even one where a Buffalo is covered with lions and they are right up against the vehicle. But it is obvious that the vehicle is on a road, even if unpaved.

We don't want to be disappointed since we were able to get so up close and personal in Kruger, What we'd like to know first, is not being able to go off road an issue? How easy is it to get close, or do you have to wait for them to want to get close to you? Are there any camps that are able to go off-road? And, in Botswana, how does that compare on the issue, does anyone have experience there?

Lastly, what is the best time to go in the dry season. We were thinking of September.

Appreciate any suggestions.
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Jul 5th, 2014, 10:29 AM
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September is great time. I'd suggest the Southern Circuit of Tanzania, especially Selous and Ruaha. Not many people or cars, Selous with its river and lakes is a bit of Botswana with game drives and boat safaris and rugged Ruaha a great place for lions, eles and buffalo...lion-buffalo interactions likely.
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Jul 5th, 2014, 10:30 AM
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PS - not being able to go offroad is mostly not an issue.
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Jul 5th, 2014, 01:18 PM
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What I've learned after almost 19/yrs visiting on safari, and regardless which country, I've learned that 'no two days are ever the same' - whether the game you come upon or even how close.

Have been on game drives where game is so close that one is tempted to reach out and pet whatever is there, but you don't. Other times, just sitting outside your tent when along comes an elephant, so you pick yourself up, move out of the way till it goes on its way. Still times when monkeys will enter tent seeking something to eat and finding nothing, just leave with little consideration of occupant. Often I've found little 'Bambi's' walking besides me on a road or their larger parent impalas likewise escorting one to dinner (these though are quite powerful, so you do keep some distance and give them their right of way... your dinner will wait).

Though I haven't been to the Delta in Botswana, have visited at Chobe known for large herds (30-40,000+), yet when we visited saw only three over 3/days... so to whom do I complain?

With the exception of the Ndutu area at Tanzania (best between Dec-Mar) where off-roading is permitted, the Serengeti doesn't allow simply to protect the eco-system. Yet most times we've found the game had been rather close.

Each country is different when it comes to their rules/regs, but I've not encountered any that disappointed especially if you don't have pre-conceived expectations... you're in the wild and game is free to move as they wish.

If you'd prefer something a bit different in Tanzania, as mentioned in reply above, consider the Southern Parks - Selous, Ruaha, Mikumi - where game drives have fewer limitations as not many tourists/vehicles visit here.
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Jul 5th, 2014, 02:14 PM
  #5
jgg
 
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We just came back from our first safari to Tanzania. We stayed in two private reserves and went to two national parks. In the national parks you were required to stay on the roads and not go off road. We were still able to see quite a few animals close up including lions, but I have to admit riding off road in the private reserves was really the way to go!! It is amazing to be able to drive where ever you want and get up super close to the animals, as you experienced in Kruger.

The two private reserves we stayed in were Manyara Ranch located in the Manyara Ranch Conservancy, and Singita Sabora located in the Grumeti Reserve. Both fairly spendy (particularly Singita), but well worth it if you can make it work. In Manyara Ranch Conservancy we were also able to do a walking game drive as well as an evening game drive.

The two national parks we went to were Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara National Park.
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Jul 5th, 2014, 02:19 PM
  #6
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SDB2 & Sandi,

Thank for the replies. We are constantly amazed and appreciative of Fodorite's quick and informative responses. It's a good thing we're starting early because there are an overwhelming numbers of camps and options and we've got a lot of work to do.
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Jul 5th, 2014, 03:00 PM
  #7
 
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Being allowed off-road in game vehicle is a big issue for me. Going off road is critical for photography so that the light, subject and camera can be best positioned. Not to mention the thrill of being in the middle of an elephant or buffalo herd!!

I was on safari in TZ in Feb of 2011 for 18 days. The only area we could go off road was the Ndutu area. (As sandi says above). The Serengeti, no. And any "big" sighting, e.g. leopard, in the Serengeti attracted herds of tourists. Here's a snap of mine showing that in 2011 -
http://tinyurl.com/nauqfnj
(Other photos from that safari also there in that directory).

Having said that, the Ngorongoro Crater, although you may not go off road, is a must do if you are in that part of TZ. If you do NG, stay at the Sopa lodge on the rim that has an access road into the Crater and get down into it as soon as road opens, 6am. By 10am there are many game vehicles in it.

Most of my 8 safaris have indeed been in the Kruger area, including Kruger National Park. I love photography and I love the access you have to the wildlife in that area.

Botswana - been there only once so do not feel qualified to comment much about it. But some camps are excellent and also $$$$$.

regards - tom
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Jul 5th, 2014, 05:48 PM
  #8
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cary999,

Great photos. I assume super long lens since after seeing lineup of vehicles it's not easy to just move closer while staying on the road. Looks like we'll have to look at Ndutu in February.

How hot was it when you were there, if you remember?

JGG,

Just to understand, the two private reserves you stayed at then allowed you to go off road, except when you drove into the NP's?

Looks like we need to look at private reserves where possible.
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Jul 5th, 2014, 06:20 PM
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Not really long lens, two Nikon DSLRs, one with 18-200, and one with 70-300. Long lense like a f4 400 are just to big to wrestle around, not worth it for me.

If you have a DSLR a great combo is a f2.8 200mm (not zoom) with 1.4 and/or 2.0 converters as required. The expert photographer on that TZ safari with me, Roger Clark, used that as a Canon setup. BTW my Fodors trip report is at -
http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...-tanzania-.cfm

We spent most time at Ndutu Lodge for the migration, off roading permitted. The other three lodges - Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara reserves did NOT permit it. But again Ngrongoro still very worth it. And if possible skip Lake Manyara, it just happens to be convenient coming out of Arusha.

Yes, we had some hot afternoons. And dry, the rains had not come as supposed to. So no calving yet. The weather and rain a real dice roll, but Ndutu Lodge books up early for Jan Feb with photographers from all over world.

Also would recommend Roy Safaris out of Arusha. The owner, Sanjay, knows TZ safaris. Roger Clark has used him for 4-5-6? safaris. And here is Roger's web sight, gobs of info there, his expertise is image analysis and world wide renown in the field. http://www.clarkvision.com/ . What a gorgeous night photo he has up now on his home page.

regards - tom
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Jul 5th, 2014, 10:47 PM
  #10
jgg
 
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AfricaTexas - That is correct. When we stayed at Manyara Ranch we were able to go off road in the Manyara Ranch Conservancy. This is located in the wildlife corridor between Tarangire and Manyara National Park. When we were at Singita we were able to drive off road in the Grumeti Reserve which borders the Serengeti National Park. It is 350,000 acres and the only people who are allowed to drive through it are those who are staying in the 5 lodges/camps in Singita Grumeti. Manyara Ranch was our first stop on safari so we did not realize how lucky we were that we got to go off road until we went to Manyara National Park and the Crater and then realized what the difference could be. We were happy to get to Grumeti and go off road again!!
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Jul 6th, 2014, 04:20 AM
  #11
 
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Africa Texas,

Whilst the main Serengeti Park is great. I miss the flexibility of being outside. I prefere the NCA and Ndutu area. For real bush experience Try Alex Walker's Serian http://www.serian.net

There are a number of options

All Alex's camps have great style are luxurious and are always well located. The options for off road driving, game walks etc are great. If you like walking you can add on a couple of days of fly camping.

If you liked the private exclusive feel of your trip to South Africa - you will love this too. In the calving season (February-March) the camp is in Serengeti South in the Ndutu/ Maswa area. The short grass plains are teeming with game and the predators are really active. Later in the year (>June) the main camp moves north following the migration.

You get a vehicle to yourself and can do what you want - As a very regular safari person I wanted to focus on wild dogs and stayed with a large pack for most of the day. The flexibility is great.
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Jul 6th, 2014, 05:49 AM
  #12
 
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Hi AfricaTexas,

Your original post mentioned “Botswana” and “September”. So far this thread has not addressed either one of those topics in great depth. I think August and September is a fine time to be away from the heat of Texas. It also happens to be the best time of year for many places in Southern Africa. The peak of peak season for Southern Africa (Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana) is early September in my opinion. The rains typically stop in Southern Africa in March and the bush immediately begins to dry and the trees start to defoliate. The animals eat or tread on the grass with the cumulative effect of all these actions being that you can see further in the bush. In addition, the animals begin to concentrate more around permanent (year round) water as temporary puddles, seasonal rivers, and other rainy-season water sources dry up. This means the guides know exactly where to go and find the animals.

Aug 15-Sep 15 is optimal in Botswana (and Zambia, Zimbabwe) because it is late in the dry season and the weather is still fantastic (not too hot yet). Of course, with supply and demand and good marketing, Botswana is the most expensive safari destination in all of Africa when measured by the average price paid by all American and European tourists across the board. In a former career I was an engineer and also a math instructor at a college – the mean and median total per person per day price of a safari in Botswana is the highest in Africa in August and September. Because of media induced fear that has nothing to do with the reality on the ground, Zimbabwe has the lowest average safari price and, IMO, offers the best value for money in all of Africa in peak season.

If selecting Botswana, then I suggest you pick one lodge chain (or possibly two) and stick with it to extract long-stay savings. Here are some circuits to consider using non-luxury camps (Wilderness Safaris calls this style “classic”).

Ker & Downey + one independent:
Nine nights with three nights each at Shinde, Okuti, and Mashatu (Mashatu is independent).

Wilderness Safaris:
Nine nights with three nights each at Chitabe, Tubu Tree, and Duma Tau (or Chitabe, Little Vumbura, and Savuti).

Great Plains + Sanctuary:
Nine nights at Duba Plains, Selinda, and Baine’s Camp (the later owned by Sanctuary).

Zimbabwe:
Nine nights at Ruckomechi, Changa, and Little Makalolo

The other “input” that has been overlooked for East Africa is the great migrations. The conversation above tilted towards Tanzania and the month changed from your original time period of September to February. If you want to travel in September I actually recommend Kenya. The greatest wildlife spectacle on earth is the great migrations and they are ALMOST guaranteed to be super concentrated on the Masai Mara and surrounding private conservation areas of Kenya in September. Of course, many people also have media induced fear of Kenya when, in fact, the US is much more dangerous and has more shootings per year than Kenya. Perhaps that is why you did not mention it. If you go in September I recommend Kenya not Tanzania.

Off-road – with the exception of time in the Masai Mara National Reserve (Kenya) everything I mentioned so far allows for off-roading. My ideal trip would only include a few days in the National Reserve and the rest on private lands in Kenya such as Chyulu, Lewa Downs, private conservancies, or northern rangelands/Laikipia plateau.

Here is a top-end circuit for Kenya that would be the closest I would ever be willing to guarantee the great migrations:

(1) Four nights Mara Plains, three nights Ol Donyo Lodge and three nights Sirikoi.

A less expensive circuit for Kenya:

(1) 2 nights Rekero, 3 nights Naboisho, 3 nights Lewa Wilderness and 3 nights Sabuk OR

(2) 3 nights Serian, 2 nights Serian Fly, 3 nights Lewa Wilderness and 3 nights Safara.
(Rekero and Serian Fly are in the national park (i.e. human crowds but also animals).

I hope this helps.

Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond
2011-2012 Travel & Leisure A-List agent for Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia
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Jul 6th, 2014, 02:19 PM
  #13
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Really appreciate all of the comments from everyone (JGG, Peshf, Cary999 and Safari_Craig). Based on your comments, we definitely will plan options for private reserves.

Our dates are flexible and we wanted to go in the Dry Season but also want to go when the wildlife viewing is best. We would much prefer September when it's not hot and want to avoid Jun-Aug when a lot of US and Europe are on vacation.

Safari_Craig: Thanks for including some itinerary options and Kenya vs Botswana comparisons.

After we do some more research, we may have some more questions. This is a fantastic site and many Fodorites have helped us with our other travel plans. Thanks again for all the detail.
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Jul 6th, 2014, 02:29 PM
  #14
 
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While Sept is considered the 'dry' season - East and Southern - know that it can still rain anytime during the year. Short and brief and as water is precious in Africa, not something to give much concern.
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