Going on a safari is one of the top activities that most people have on their bucket list of things to do in life. There is nothing quite like rising just before dawn, getting to water holes as the animals start arriving to take advantage of the coolness; the breaking of day; the smells of vegetation, dust and damp earth, of wood smoke from encampments; the dawn chorus of huge varieties of bird life...there is little that can rival this very special ambience.
A true safari involves more than just a day-long drive through a game park. Travelers should dedicate around at least 4 days or more, getting into remote areas, leaving the digital world behind and really getting back to nature.
Here is some of the planning you should do for your safari in Tanzania to ensure that your trip is safe, amazing and highly memorable. Also see this blog post for more information:
Depending on the level of comfort you desire – and your budget – you will either stay in luxury, exclusive game parks, or in a basic camp, a bungalow, or even a tent in the bush if you are adventurous and prepared to rough it.
Camps such as Angalia offer a wide range of options. You can experience the legendary Serengeti, Mount Kilimanjaro, and Lake Tanganyika, by selecting the various lodges and camps available through Mbali Mbali; or even a boutique guesthouse, such as Upepo on the beach near Dar es Salaam.
Also, check out the Ang'ata mobile camps located in Tanzania's most beautiful national parks and conservation areas. These camps are designed to offer the highest quality accommodations.
Choose a Safari Operator
There are more than 400 safari companies in Arusha, alone. That’s a lot to select from, so here are a few basic tips on how to choose the right one for you:
- Search online for reviews and recommendations; TripAdvisor, Fodor’s and other safari resources.
- Decide whether you want be a member of a group or take a private tour. Also consider if you want to work with a medium-sized safari company versus a large, well known global tour company.
- Thoroughly check the selected reputation of safari operators in Tanzania and if they are members of the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO), which has more than 200 registered companies.
- Ask tour operators about the suitability of their particular safari if you have personal issues: food allergies; limited mobility; heart condition; motion sickness; etc.
When to Travel to Tanzania
The best season to go on safari in Tanzania is during the dry season from late June to October. Animals are easier to spot since they concentrate around waterholes and rivers, and there is less vegetation. There are fewer mosquitoes because there is almost no rain. Skies are clear and most days are sunny.
Visas and Passports
USA passports must be valid for six months past the return date of travel from Tanzania. US citizens are required to apply for visas for Tanzania. Other nationalities may have different requirements. Check with your local embassy or consulate for the latest information, requirements and fees. You can also get information about visa requirements, here.
US dollar bills are widely accepted, even by local roadside vendors, with souvenirs priced in US dollars. Take $1.00, large-faced US bills, printed after 2003, for quick purchases. If you want to change US dollars into Tanzania shillings, do so at the local Bureau de Change, rather than the bank. Major credit cards are generally accepted, but there aren’t too many ATMs around. You can easily make online payments in Tanzania.
Malaria is a risk in Tanzania. There are many different types of anti-malarial tablets available, and people react differently to each type. Yellow fever inoculation is required if you enter from a yellow fever-prone country (India, Kenya, etc.) but not if you arrive from the USA and/or Western Europe. Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B inoculations, as well as booster shots for tetanus, polio, and other childhood vaccines, are recommended. This information may change without notice, so double-check with a travel medicine expert, your personal physician, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most current health recommendations.
When on safari, it is best to wear earth tone colored clothes. There’s nothing inherently wrong with bright colors – most animals are color blind – but khaki and light browns are just more practical. Expect to get dusty and probably dirty as well. Avoid wearing blacks and dark blues which attract biting and disease-carrying tsetse flies. Wear long sleeve shirts, long pants, closed toe shoes (not sandals); and use mosquito netting to prevent insect bites. Good hiking boots are recommended, especially if you expect to do part of your tour on foot.
Consider buying a safari (or photographer’s) vest with lots of pockets. A safari vest means you don’t have to carry anything except your camera.
Get yourself an Indiana Jones-style wide-brimmed hat – not just because they look cool, but they also keep you protected from the sun. A bandana can also be very useful keeping the ever present dust from your hair. It can also be used to cover your nose, mouth, throat, and effectively functioning as a dust mask.
It’s recommended to pack slippers, rubber slops or even Crocs. Floors and bare earth are difficult to walk on to and from showers and washrooms, and it is generally a good idea to keep your feet protected from any splinters on wooden floors, insects or snakes.
Pack a light duffel bag, or a kit bag with only your essentials. You do NOT need an entire suitcase with a change of clothing for every day. Just a change of underwear – which you can wash every night – and you can easily wear the same clothes for a few days (depending how dusty you get); Nobody is interested in your couture – only in the animals and scenery.
Some Essentials to Pack:
Apart from cameras and other electronic products, take memory cards, batteries and chargers (and an adapter). You should also bring a small flashlight to illuminate pathways to dining or washing areas, and for light in the middle of the night.
In addition to your prescription drugs (take copies of doctor’s prescriptions), pack a small portable first aid kit containing:
- Sticking plasters and bandages
- Cotton wool and tips
- Antiseptic cream or lotion
- Eye drops
- Aspirin, pain relievers
- Anti-itch bug bite lotion
- Lip balm
- Tweezers and a small scissors
- Hand sanitizer
Take non-perfumed deodorant by all means but forget colognes, after shaves and fragrances. They are not needed in the bush and the scent can actually be disruptive to animal life...and maybe even fellow travelers.
How to get there
Most regular scheduled airlines fly into Tanzania. Once you are there, check out Air Excel which specializes in scenic, private, or chartered flights within Tanzania as well as scheduled services to the Northern Circuit, Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam. Fastjet also flies from five airports in Tanzania, covering routes between Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Kilimanjaro, Mbeya and Zanzibar. They also fly internationally, from Tanzania to Johannesburg, Lusaka, Harare, Entebbe, and Nairobi. Flightlink Ltd is an airline that conducts scheduled and private charter flights out of Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Arusha daily.
There are few things more breathtaking than a safari in Tanzania...the early morning smells and sounds, viewing wild animals in their natural habitat, and then, at the end of the day, relaxing while watching the African sunset turning the sky into golden flames. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and taking all of these tips into consideration, it can go off without a hitch. Enjoy!