Going on a safari vacation in Africa is a bucket list item for many of us, but it can be difficult to know where to get started when planning your trip. There are several countries in east Africa offering Safaris, but Tanzania is among the most popular destinations, mainly because it is home to several big national parks with extensive wildlife populations.
We chose Tanzania not only because of the reasons mentioned above, but also because we heard so much about the friendliness and welcoming attitude of its people, as well as its proximity to beautiful seaside destinations by the Indian Ocean.
We started our journey in Dar es Salaam, the country's former capital and largest city, before taking a flight onward to Arusha the next morning to start our safari. We had planned to visit three different national parks/conservational areas, staying for two nights in each, before heading to Zanzibar for the beach part of our vacation (which we'll talk more about in a separate post).
In this post we'd like to share with you some must-do's we experienced during our time in this stunning part of the world and of course our recommended accommodations.
When you decide to go on a safari, there's very different ways you can set up your experience, ranging from very self-organized travel with a rental car and public camping sites, through privately organized group travels, up to an intimate private experience with your personal driver and vehicle, and lodges with different levels of comfort and luxury. We've decided for the latter, as this was our belated honeymoon.
If you chose the private safari option, you’ll not only have the comfort of having a safari car to yourselves but you’ll also be much more flexible. You can decide when and how you’d like your trip to be organized, which animals you want to see, and how long the safaris will last each day. Several companies in Tanzania offer both group and private safaris. We chose a private safari through operator Simba Safaris, which we highly recommend.
In terms of accommodation, the choice really depends on the national park and region you are traveling to. In some parks, like Serengeti for example, you'll find plenty of different campsites, tented lodges and luxury lodges. In other, smaller parks, like Tarangire, there's just two handful of accommodation options overall to chose from. As there is no running water or connection to the electric grid, campsites and lodges have to be self-sustaining, typically working with solar energy for light and hot water. The more luxurious of an accommodation you chose, the more privacy you can expect, as the more exclusive lodges typically only operate 5-20 tents or tree houses. We decided for three very different lodges for our journey, in order to experience the variety of styles as much as possible. While our lodge in Tarangire was tented, in the Ngorongoro area we went for a wood hut, colonial-style lodge in the midst of the forest, and in Serengeti we chose to stay at a remotely located treehouse lodge up on a hill above the endless plains.
Tarangire National Park
Tarangire is the smallest of the three parks we visited but also the most underrated, with the second highest concentration of wildlife in Tanzania and the largest concentration of elephants in the world. Other residents, including lions, cheetahs and leopards are sustained by large herds of buffalos, giraffes and zebras in Tarangire.
During our two-day visit to Tarangire, we stayed at the Tarangire Simba Lodges just outside of the park. Tarangire Simba Lodges offer 8 individual tented bungalows with full amenities provided. The common areas include, lounge, bar and dining room - all tented canvases on a raised platform, as well as a swimming pool facing Lake Burunge. As the lodge is located in the pleins without fences to the national park, animals often roam freely and pass by the rooms. It is an indescribable feeling knowing you have zebras and elephants passing by your lodge while you are sleeping at night (and you hear them loud and clear)
What we also loved about Simba Lodge was the friendliness of the staff and the very laid-back atmosphere, inviting to sit on the porch, sipping on a bottle of local Kilimanjaro beer, while watching the sun go down behind Lake Burunge.
The Ngorongoro crater is a natural, inactive, volcanic crater and with its steep walls, home to a large variety of wildlife in Tanzania. The access to the crater consists of a drive uphill through the Ngorongoro conservation area, a protected World Heritage Site, and down to the crater with spectacular views. The Ngorongoro crater is the worlds largest crater and among safari travellers known as the best place to see the big-five: elephants, lions, buffalos, rhinos and leopards.
During our two-day safari in Ngorongoro we stayed at the beautiful Neptune Luxury Lodge, just 5 minutes away from the Gate to the Conservation Area and the entrance to the crater. Entering Neptune lodge after two nights in the dry and sandy Tarangire region, felt like arriving on a different planet: thanks to the proximity to the lush and water-rich Lake Manyara region, the perimeter was green and thus such a strong contrast to what we had seen before of the country. The Neptune Lodges feature 20 log cabins with fireplaces in the rooms, a restaurant, bar and swimming pool. As it's located at a height of 1,600m, the temperatures drop and the air tends to get quite chilly in the evenings. A nightly fireplace service with hot bottles in the beds were a nice surprise that awaited us after dinner at the end of each day.
Serengeti National Park is the most famous wildlife sanctuary in the world. Home to millions of wildebeest, zebras and gazelles, as well as thousands of lions and elephants, It has the greatest concentration of wildlife in Africa and is a must-visit for safaris in Tanzania.
We spent two nights at the Soroi Serengeti Lodge, located on top of one of the few hills in Serengeti, and about an hour drive towards the Western Corridor (where the wildebeast migration takes place) northwest of the main game area in central Serengeti. The hour long drive to the lodge was more than worth it as arriving at Soroi, we were welcomed with unbeatable view, which we'll never forget.
Also Soroi Lodge is an open lodge without fences, and as you're in the middle of Serengeti national park, you’ll often see elephants, buffalos and other larger animals just down the hill and have baboons visiting the outdoor shower on your terrace or trying to take a dip in the swimming pool.
When in Serengeti, a must-do is a balloon safari. The safari starts at 5.30 in the morning and lasts for about 30 mins while the sun rises over the Serengeti. Upon landing, a beautiful breakfast with a champagne toast is server. The balloon ride is rather on the pricey side, but absolutely worth it. Don’t leave Serengeti without trying the balloon safari.
All in all Tanzania and its amazing nature are among the most beautiful and impressive places we have travelled to. All of our hosts and the people we have been in touch with were incredibly friendly and welcoming, the culture of this country is one of the most positive and joyful ones we've come across and being so close to so many beautiful animals and wildlife is so exilherating, that it is difficult to find the right words for it. Asante sana Tanzania!