30 Tips for Your Tanzania Safari

There are a total of 22 National Parks in Tanzania that conserve wildlife. The four most popular and toured parks are in the Arusha region of Tanzania. Safaris leave daily for Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti, Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Park and can accommodate a broad range of budgets. Here are some tips from my 6 day safari through these four national treasures.

Cheetah in Serengeti
  • Book on arrival.  Everyone knows someone that is a safari guide. If you have a more flexible travel itinerary it is easier to negotiate and don’t feel pressured to go TOMORROW. Shop around. Safaris leave daily. If you are on a tighter schedule, book in advance, but do the research and know your cancelation policy.
  • Bring Cash.  USD.  Safaris range upwards of $4000 a night. Know your budget. I had to withdraw money 8 times from the ATMs and was carrying the equivalent of roughly $800 in Tanzanian Shillings.  That is several million shillings in a legal sized envelope.
  • Find a good guide with good eyes.  You want the guy that spots the leopard, not the guide that spots the cars. Make sure to do some research, read the companies reviews. If it’s a small company ask for a few references, they should have no problem giving you them.
The Wildebeest Migration in Serengeti
  • Know the Season. The Great Wildebeest Migration is a big draw. Know what time of year you are going and what areas of the parks are accessible.
Wildebeest Migration
  • Listen to your guide. Don’t be foolish, these guides are exposed to a lot more wildlife than most people. If they say move, look away, or don’t sit there. LISTEN- they are looking out for you.
  • Beware of the monkeys. Monkeys are clever little creatures that will dig in your bags, rummage in the campsite, and trash the place. Beware.
Views of the Savannah
  • Expectations when doing a self-drive.  Renting a car and do the game drives on your own- this is more applicable in southern Africa like Zambia, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa as the fees for self-drive in Serengeti are extremely high.  Another option would be to book a private safari, where you have more flexibility. 
  • Break it up.  Unless you are a photographer for National Geographic a 6 day guided safari is going to be a bit exhausting.   By the last day you have been sitting in a hot cruiser for so long that you are basically paying to nap in a car and only want to be woken up when there is something more spectacular to see than a herd of zebras.
  • You don’t need an extravagant camera. Don’t stress about not having the best of the best camera equipment, unless you are comfortable with the equipment already, don’t fuss with using this as a learning curve. Enjoy the moment, camera phones are gotten pretty incredible. Although a camera with a zoom lens can double as binoculars. *****all these photos were taken with my IPad Pro.*****
Lion in Ngorogoro
  • Wake up call. Early mornings and late afternoons get a lot of activity. Make sure your guide has included an early morning game drive and an evening one.  In the heat of the day the cats are sleeping.
Elephant crossings
  • Expect to eat A LOT.  Safari is a lot of sitting and eating.
  • Snacking. Make sure your cook has packed lots of tasty samosas in your boxed lunch to attract the lions, so you can get the good pictures (but don’t feed the animals).
Desert Oasis
  • BYOB. Bring your own bathing suit. If you are lucky your campsite will have a pool and an afternoon swim is a great way to break up the day.
  • Wear Comfy Clothes. While you can get all decked out in head to toe khakis, think about what you would want to wear on a road trip- think light, airy, flexible and comfortable. Have layers for the early morning game drives and ditch the bright and dark clothes the tsetse flies are attracted to them and love to bite.
  • Bring a Notebook. You are likely to not remember all of the animal sightings. Jotting down a quick note is helpful to jog your memory.
Flamingos in Lake Manyara
  • Know what you’re paying for. There is no certainty that you will get the Big 5 or a hunt. But here are a few things you have more control over:

Questions to ask before booking your guide:

  • What kind of vehicles do they have? 4×4?
  • Does it have A/C?
  • Does it have a pop top roof?
  • How many people are joining?
  • Are you staying with the same group the whole time?
  • Are you staying with the same guide the whole time?
  • Do they have a radio to contact other guides?
  • Are binoculars included?
  • Is there a place to charge your camera/ phone batteries?
  • Are tents, bedding, food included?
  • Do they have bird and wildlife identification books in the car?
  • Are the park fees included? GET THIS AGREEMENT IN WRITING. If yes, there is zero reason to be shelling out cash when you get to the gate.
  • Are the camps inside or outside the park? If inside, that is extra time with the animals.
  • Ask for a detailed itinerary.
  • What is expected for this time of year?

If I have ever seen magic, it has been in Africa.

John Hemmingway

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