I recently returned from Tanzania, a country I didn’t necessarily have on the bucket list, but which surprised me very much, mainly due to the five-day safari experience. I’ve been on a safari in Yala Park in Sri Lanka, but it doesn’t compare.
I activated my adventurous spirit in a safari through the most important safari parks in Tanzania. Tarangire, Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Lake Manyara are the four places where I managed to complete the mission that probably any traveler who arrives on these lands has: to see THE BIG FIVE.
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The four nights spent in the middle of the wilderness made me exclaim Hakuna Matata! No worries, you won’t become a meal for the lions. I also visited a tribe of Maasai, I learned everything about coffee, and I have many stories to tell that will soon make their place on the blog.
It’s time to start with the first one, more precisely, an extensive list of questions and answers I asked myself when I organized this adventure.
I didn’t find everything you need to know before going on safari in Tanzania then, so I challenged myself to do this for those of you who want to have this experience in Tanzania.
What I use every time I travel:
- To book hotels: Booking.com
- To book tours: GetYourGuide.com
Everything you need to know before going on safari in Tanzania
Some essential things to know about Tanzania
With an area of 947,000 square kilometers, Tanzania is one of the largest countries in East Africa. The capital of Tanzania is Dodoma, although the largest city is Dar es Salaam.
Famous for the perfect national parks for safaris and the beaches bathed by the Indian Ocean and the highest mountain in Africa, Kilimanjaro, we can say that Tanzania is a destination that is well worth visiting.
Even though the official language is Swahili, most people can also speak and understand English, especially those who work in the tourism industry. So, conversations should not be a problem if you decide to come here.
And if we talk about Swahili, you have to remember the following basic expressions:
- Jambo! – Hello!
- Karibu! – Welcome
- Asante Sana! – Thank you!
Do you need a visa for Tanzania?
In general, tourists need a visa to enter Tanzania; you can get the visa online ten days before your flight or get the visa on arrival.
The visa costs $50, but for Romanian citizens, it is free due to an old and close friendship between Ceausescu, the former ruler of Romania, and Julius Nyerere, the former president of Tanzania.
Why choose Tanzania as a safari destination in Africa
There are many reasons why Tanzania is a great safari option. First of all, the diversity of animals is enormous. Hundreds of animal species, including the big five (buffalo, rhino, lion, elephant, and leopard), but also vast herds of zebras and wildebeest, cross the endless plains of Serengeti every day.
Secondly, the vegetation seen in the documentaries on National Geographic and Animal Planet will surely delight you. You will see acacia and baobab trees everywhere you look, and they are amazing.
Ngorongoro Crater is a unique place on earth, formed more than 2 million years ago, when a volcano erupted and collapsed on itself. The scenery is dreamy, and the road from the top of the crater to the bottom looks pretty damn good. It is also where you are most likely to see the black rhino.
Unlike other African countries, Tanzania is relatively safe in all respects, which is a good enough reason to choose it.
READ ALSO: Best time to visit Zanzibar
How to choose the safari company
There are several ways to choose the safari company for your trip to Tanzania. Either ask your acquaintances who have already gone through this experience and were satisfied, or search on Facebook groups (at a simple search on Tanzania safari keywords, you should discover a few), or read travel blogs or consult some specialty sites.
I tried all the above options until I made a final decision, and that’s because I wanted to make sure it was the best choice, especially since it’s not a cheap trip at all. Although you can go on safari with a slightly lower budget, being the first time I was going on safari for five days, I chose comfort.
Of all the methods to search for the company, the most efficient was the specialized websites. They are actually a kind of search engine that brings together all companies and their offers. Therefore, I recommend going to either bookallsafaris.com or safaribookings.com.
Put some filters to sift the results, then look carefully at each offer. My suggestion is to keep at least three options in mind and send a message to each company to request a quote and tell them what you want.
Everything can be customized: budget, itinerary, and the type of accommodation you want. You can even opt for luxury accommodation on one of the nights, while you can stay in the tent the other nights. It all depends on personal preferences and the budget allocated to this experience.
We chose Gosheni Safaris, a highly rated company with a lot of experience, and we were pretty satisfied.
How many days do you need for a safari in Tanzania?
Tanzania is one of the best countries globally when it comes to safaris and the opportunity to observe wild animals in their natural habitat. Some of the great parks of Africa are in this country, and the most popular are Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Tarangire.
The sizes of these parks are enormous, as well as the distances between them. You have to spend at least three days to see a little of each. And if you want to have extensive experience, then five days would be ideal.
The sky is the limit for those with a bigger budget and passion for this type of travel. Our guide told us that some people prefer to stay even for a month, although rarely happens. Most are satisfied with 5-10 days.
We chose the option of 4 nights, respectively, five days. I must mention that the four nights were inside the parks; they do not include the two nights spent in Arusha.
We had enough time to explore Tarangire, Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Lake Manyara during the five days, precisely in this order. Although, if I were to go again, I would give up on one of them.
Do you need vaccines and other medical treatments before the safari in Tanzania?
Only if you come from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, or Burundi the yellow fever vaccine becomes mandatory and must be presented to the authorities.
Otherwise, it’s only recommended. There are also other vaccines you could take for this type of trip, but a doctor would inform you better than me.
The same goes for malaria. You can take medical treatment before and during the trip, as far as I know, but it is best to ask a doctor. I have no medical studies; I’m just telling you that they are not mandatory for Tanzania and that the level of caution remains at everyone’s choice.
What you must have are sprays against mosquitoes and Tsetse flies. There are many, and they can be dangerous, so you should apply and reapply DEET sprays throughout the day for high protection.
How safe is this experience?
Throughout the days spent both on safari and in Tanzania in general, I never felt in danger. As long as you take your protection measures, use the sprays I keep insisting on, sun protection and do not consume tap water, you should be fine.
The animals can’t attack you as long as you listen to the guide’s instructions and don’t get out of the car and don’t walk outside from the campsite.
This is pretty much all you need to know before going on safari in Tanzania about safety.
How much does it cost to go on safari in Tanzania?
When it comes to costs, no matter how relative things are, going on safari in Tanzania is not cheap. Several factors contribute to the final price.
The main criteria would be the number of days, the type of accommodation, the plane tickets, choosing a private or group tour, and the company you collaborate with.
For example, a classic 4-day safari includes a visit to the three popular parks: Tarangire, Ngorongoro, and Serengeti. Well, prices can start at just under $ 1000 per person, this without including plane tickets, and you would have to stay probably in regular tents, without too many facilities.
On the other hand, you should share the same safari car with strangers, if you don’t come with a group of friends. This can be interesting and fun or vice versa. It depends on what kind of people you meet there. If you want to stick to a relatively small budget, it may be worth the compromise.
On the other hand, there is the luxury version, with 5-star premium accommodation, with an infinity pool right next to the elephants. I am convinced that you have seen these kinds of safari pictures on Instagram.
Such a very Instagrammable accommodation would be Four Seasons Serengeti. Besides this accommodation type, you will have delicious and quality food, drinks, and snacks during the game drive and a private tour. Such an experience exceeds a budget of around $ 4000 per person.
At the same time, there is the middle option. This option includes a private tour and excellent accommodation in lodges or tented lodges. The rooms are big and comfortable, have non-stop water and electricity, and a chef who is cooking for you.
Even the lunch taken in the parks is also prepared by the chefs here, and the food is warm. This option comes with prices starting at $ 1500 and can go up to $ 3000 for a four-day trip. In the picture is the accommodation I stayed for two nights in Serengeti, Acacia Serengeti Luxury Camp.
Also worth mentioning is tips, a common custom throughout Tanzania. Even in the contract, it appears specified, and it is not insignificant at all. It is highly recommended that the tips be around $ 15-20 per person for each day of safari.
Tips are also expected at the accommodation units, from the chefs, receptionists, and people who carry your luggage. I’m not saying it’s bad or good.
Indeed, those people work and deserve to be paid, but I consider it an important detail that you need to know before going on safari in Tanzania. However, is rarely mentioned on other blogs. In short, you can expect an extra cost that can reach several hundred dollars.
The perfect safari itinerary in Tanzania
I told you earlier that I would eliminate one of the four places I visited. Well, this is Lake Manyara. Although it should be famous for flamingos and lions climbing trees, not only did I not see any of it, but I saw almost nothing in general.
I must specify that 90% of the roads inside the park were under renovation, which turned the trip into an ordeal. Vast piles of soil were placed in the middle of the road, and our guide slalomed between them.
I thought that we would flip at some point, but fortunately, it did not happen. Thank you, Zadock, for your driving skills!
In my opinion, the park should have been completely closed to complete the works because it was a lost day for us anyway. The only animals we managed to see were a few baboons, elephants, and a mini herd of zebras.
Therefore, the ideal safari itinerary in Tanzania, from my point of view, would include a day in Tarangire, two in Serengeti and two in Ngorongoro, beautiful parks abounding in animals and savannah vegetation, with beautiful baobabs, dwarf shrubs, and acacia trees.
And if you have several days, you can add Nyerere and Ruaha, located further south.
What to wear on safari
From a chromatic point of view, the only colors you should avoid when it comes to a safari outfit are blue, black, and very bright and intense colors, which stand out far too quickly.
It is ideal for wearing environmentally friendly colors, beige, brown, cream, white, and savannah green or animal and vegetable prints.
The materials should be as comfortable as possible and cover as much of the body as possible. It would be preferable to wear a hat to protect yourself from the sun and necessarily sunglasses.
I will write an article dedicated to how I chose to dress in the safari, but now I leave you with two pictures as an idea until then. The same advice applies to both women and men.
The best time to go on safari in Tanzania
The best time to visit this wonderful part of Tanzania depends on the season and the density of the animals.
The climate in Tanzania is divided into two major seasons: the dry season and the wet season. If you want to avoid the rains, but have slightly drier vegetation, then it is best to go in June – October.
If your goal is to witness the great migration in Serengeti, you will be able to do this best between June and August.
But if you want to have bigger chances of seeing the animal cubs, most of them are born at the beginning of the year, January-February. However, you could still have opportunities to see them at other times of the year.
Summarizing all the criteria, I would say that the best time for a safari in Tanzania is June-July. While probably the worst, because there is a lot of heavy rain, is March-April.
What to pack for a safari in Tanzania
The one thing in planning the trip that gave me some headaches was the luggage. It’s not my favorite thing to do, regardless of the trip, but especially this time.
First of all, make sure you add some mosquito sprays that contain DEET in a high percentage. Then don’t forget any medications you may need or use regularly. If you have them on the recipe, be sure to add the recipe as well.
Sun protection is also mandatory, considering that you will spend even 12 hours a day in the car, and you will not be protected from the intense rays of the sun, regardless of the month you arrive here.
Given the situation we are still in, bring hand sanitizer and antibacterial wet wipes. Of course, these may be necessary regardless.
Put in your luggage a hat, a scarf, sunglasses, a camera with a lens suitable for safaris, comfortable shoes, and light outfits, which look good in pictures. You should add binoculars, but you better ask beforehand if your guide has and can offer you.
Let’s not forget the adapters. It is unclear what kind of sockets are used in Tanzania because I have come across three different types. So it is best to take some universal adapters with you.
Don’t forget the battery for the camera, although I give you good news: there are sockets in the car!
On which airport you should land for safaris in Tanzania
You have two options. Either you land at Kilimanjaro International Airport or the domestic airport in Arusha. Safari usually starts in Arusha, being closer to the main parks.
So if you don’t plan to climb the mountain, it would be best to land here and stay at a hotel in the city, to start the safari the following day.
However, the distance from Kilimanjaro airport to Arusha is not very long, only one hour and a half. Regardless of where you land, Arusha or Kilimanjaro, you can agree with the safari operator to offer you transport to the hotel. In general, it’s included in the price.
What animals can you see on a safari in Tanzania?
In general, anyone embarking on this adventure has big expectations about the big five. My advice is not to have any expectations and to be surprised. Surely the wildness of these parks will amaze you in several episodes.
As for the five most sought-after animals, the chances are pretty high to meet them all, but nothing is guaranteed. We had the opportunity to see them, noting that we could only see the rhino through binoculars, about a kilometer away.
Even so, I think the experience was a success. I saw thousands of zebras, several species of antelopes, hundreds of elephants, giraffes, buffalo, flamingos and other splendid birds, cheetahs, leopards, lions, baboons, hippos, mongooses, and many more.
What are the must-see safari places in Tanzania?
I think I have already mentioned places that you should not miss, but of course, you can always add more destinations in this incredible country, with so much to offer.
For example, I would have liked to see some waterfalls because I know some really wow, but time did not allow us. On a future visit, I would probably include the waterfalls, along with Mount Kilimanjaro or even Meru.
Also, I encourage you to visit at least one Masaai tribe. The things you will learn from them are fascinating. The experience is an extra cost, but it is worth all the money.
It usually costs about $ 50. If you can, give the children some presents, either school props or juices and sweets. Their reaction will fill your soul with joy!
Types of accommodation on a safari in Tanzania
Even if you are in the middle of animals and you probably imagine that such an experience has nothing to do with luxury and comfort, find out that you’re mistaken. There are many types of safari accommodations, and among them are some super luxurious.
To summarize, the types of safari accommodations in Tanzania are of three kinds:
- Tent (camping) – is the most basic, comfort is minimal, and I suppose everyone knows what a simple tent looks like. A big plus here is the adrenaline
- Tented lodge – is a more advanced tent, with electricity, water, even a large bathroom. At such an accommodation I stayed in 3 of the four nights. The tented lodge can be economy or luxury, depending on how it looks and other facilities it offers
- Lodge – a lodge built of stone, wood, and other materials used in a house or hotel. Lodges are luxury or luxury plus. I stayed at a lodge near Ngorongoro Crater, called Farm House. I must mention that it was my favorite accommodation of the three
What food is served in safari?
All tours offered by companies that organize safaris in Tanzania offer three meals a day, and some also provide snacks between meals, including water, coffee, tea, and beverages. The cars are equipped with refrigerators so that the drinks stay cold.
The three main meals are generally prepared by the accommodations where you will stay.
Breakfast and dinner are served at the accommodation and lunch somewhere along the route, generally in specially designed spaces. There are places in the safari where several cars gather at about the same time.
If I may say so, the most “crowded” place was in the viewpoint near the Tarangire River, where there are several groups of baboons that will continue to struggle to steal food.
As much as you love animals and want to feed them from your lunch, you won’t be allowed to do that because they need to keep their wild nature.
Can you do the safari on your own?
Yes, you can go on safari on your own, but I would not recommend that. Even if you have experience because you’ve been before, I find it much more comfortable, safe, and advantageous to go on safari with a specialized company.
The guides are prepared for this and have years of experience behind them. They know better than anyone when and where to find animals and they communicate with each other through the station.
Sometimes, several cars meet around some lions, and this is not a coincidence. They frequently talk through the station and announce when they notice something worth seeing.
Even from financial criteria, I don’t think it’s an excellent choice to go on safari on your own. If you take a look at Booking and see what are the prices for one-night accommodation at the park lodges, you will see that the packages made by these companies still have significant financial advantages.
Do you need health insurance for a safari in Tanzania?
If before it was somehow optional and only the most cautious of us used it, I think the time has come for medical insurance to become indispensable when it comes to travel. It could save us from many situations where we would have to pay money out of our own pockets if we didn’t have it.
Tanzania requires a test performed a maximum of 72 hours before entering the country. These are the rules at the time of writing, which may change in the meantime. Therefore, if the test is positive, the vacation is lost. Insurance would help you recover the money spent. This is just one example.
It is not mandatory, and the authorities will not ask you. But for our peace of mind, it’s good to have it.
When do you have to make the payment?
In my experience, you will have to pay a part of them a few days in advance. This part may vary from company to company. We were asked for 30%, and we would pay the total amount when we would meet them. You can pay both in cash and by card, both in Tanzanian shillings and dollars.