Tanzania Safari

Joined
Sep 12, 2007
Messages
851
Location
College Park, MD
Real Name
Kristin Rutkowski
I went on safari in Tanzania a while back (February 2011), and received excellent advice here on the café. Bob’s review (user bobhoge) was especially helpful. This is extremely delayed, but I’m finally getting around to writing my own review and posting pictures. Hopefully this helps some future safari-planner. I want to also thank everyone at the café for being so awesome – I knew nothing about safari planning when I started, and you guys helped me out a ton.

The company we used was excellent, and I highly recommend them – Bushbuck Safaris LTD. I found them because café user alkali mentioned them. I liked going with a large, established company for our first safari. If our vehicle broke down or something went wrong, another vehicle would have picked us up within a day. Our guide was fantastic. The company presented a lot of options to help me choose the safari (which parks to visit, which lodges to stay in) and I really liked the outcome. It was a private safari, so it was only Seth and I with our driver (the same driver/guide throughout the entire trip). I liked the private safari because we could linger on something for as long as we wanted. One day, we spent the whole afternoon hanging around three cheetah as they napped under a tree. And although we did meet some people we liked, I wouldn’t have wanted to be trapped in a vehicle with strangers I might not like for 10 days. The flip side of that is that we were kind of starved for outside interaction after a couple days, and tried to talk to other tourists in the lodges.

Our guide and our vehicle:
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A typical day was: breakfast at the lodge, then game drive, then stop somewhere for a picnic lunch (the lodge from the previous night provides box lunches, which were tasty and usually had too much food), then more game drive, then to the lodge for a shower, then dinner, then sleep.


ITINERARY

Day 1: Fly into Arusha, stay at McEllys in the city. It was an okay hotel. I don’t think I’d stay there again, but it sufficed.

Day 2: Drive to Tarangire Park, stay overnight at Tarangire Kikoti Camp. I really liked this park. I don’t think it’s well-travelled (we saw the least amount of safari vehicles in this park), but I’m very glad we visited it. Kikoti Camp was awesome! It was our first time staying in “tented” camp. Very luxurious, and right in the middle of the bush. To go to dinner after dark, they sent an armed guy to walk us (protection from the animals).

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Day 3: drive back through Tarangire, then up to Ngorongora Crater. Stayed at the Sopa lodge for 3 nights. This was a fancy lodge, at the top of the crater. It had great views, and was a nice enough place, but we enjoyed this lodge the least. We preferred to be outside like the Kikoti place rather than in a structure like this.

Sopa:
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View from Sopa into the crater:
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Getting to the lodge was a little nerve wrecking:

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The cliff on the side of the road:
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Two full days in the Crater was nice. We liked being able to go slow and see everything to our heart’s content.

road into the crater:
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Day 6: left Ngorongora for the central Serengeti. Stopped in Oldupai Gorge, which is famous for having the (arguably) oldest human fossils. This was okay to see once, we won’t visit it again if we go back. The next three nights were at Mbuzi Mawe camp. We really liked this camp. Like Kikoti, it was individual tents out in the bush, and very luxurious for a tent.

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Three nights in central Serengeti was a good amount of time. The second day, our guide took us through a bunch of trees, which we didn’t like (tse tse flies are the devil!). It was pretty boring, actually. But we also made it to a little museum/ranger post about the rhino, and saw the gong rock, and the kopjes (rock formations) where we found a sleeping lion. Our guide told us it was an option to go to Grumeti, or Lake Victoria, but we wanted to stay in the Serengeti.

Day 9: We drove down to the southern Serengeti, where the wildebeest migration was supposed to be. We stayed at Lemala Tented Camp, which was the most primitive of all our lodges, but still very nice. The rains hadn’t arrived yet, so the migration wasn’t there, but we still saw tons of animals. We stayed here two nights. I heard that during the migration, wildebeest surround this place.

Our tent:
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Right outside our tent:
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Day 11: Left the Serengeti. We stopped at Lake Manyara park on our way back to Arusha. This is a nice park and worth a couple of hours. We didn’t see any tree climbing lions, unfortunately. But we saw plenty of other cool animals. That night we were back in McElly’s.

The next morning we took a bus (Riverside shuttle) up to Nairobi. That was an experience! A good portion of the road up there isn’t road at all. It was very bumpy and hot and dusty, but hundreds of dollars cheaper than a flight.

In Nairobi, we stayed at the Country Lodge, which is adjacent to the Fairview Hotel. I highly recommend either if you stay in Nairobi. I felt very comfortable and completely safe. We got a taxi to take us to the Sheldrick elephant orphanage – great place! It’s open to the public around noon every day (for donations), but if you adopt an animal (minimum $50) you can show up at 5pm. (I would email or check the site to verify)


After our safari, we flew to the Seychelles for about a week.

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I wish I had incorporated a night safari or a walking safari somewhere in the trip. We also should have spent more early mornings out in the bush, instead of having breakfast in the camp and then heading out.

GEAR
I was very satisfied with a 70-300mm lens. There were only a couple of times when I wished I had more reach, but I don’t think it was often enough to warrant the extra cost and weight of a longer lens. For some of the animals that were really far away, I feel like the dust/haze/heat would have prevented a good picture even if I had a longer lens. And most of the time, the animals were pretty close. There were quite a few times when they walked within feet of the vehicles (including elephants, hyenas, cheetahs, leopards, lions, baboons). The other lenses I carried were the 18-135 kit lens on my D80, the 50mm 1.8, and the Sigma 10-20 on my D80. If I go back, I will bring a small tripod (for night sky and evening photography, but that wasn’t necessary on the game drives. I used the company’s beanbags in the vehicle, which worked great. I do recommend bringing a sensor cleaning kit. Each lodge had electricity to charge my electronics. I brought a power strip, but didn’t use it.

General recommendations:
  • We bought three cases of water before we left Arusha, where it was cheaper than out of town. This was good to have a steady supply in the truck. Each lodge provided a couple bottles in the rooms, but I liked having lots of water.
  • Get lots of cash in town before going out on safari, for the multitude of tips throughout, plus the little tourist shops.
  • Pack as light as possible. There were quite a few things we brought that we didn’t really need.
  • Seth’s binoculars were fantastic – better than my lens, in fact. The image was clearer, and you could see farther. Bring a GOOD pair of binoculars.

As I post pictures in new threads, I’ll update this post.

Kristin
 
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Joined
Sep 1, 2007
Messages
841
Location
Fenton, Michigan
Wow, what a nice experience! Sounds incredible, Kristin. Thanks for sharing your tips, also. You have nudged my interest in doing something like this.
 
Joined
May 20, 2008
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Fairfax Station, VA
Real Name
Tony Admana
Kristin,

These are very nice images, and certainly well documented. I enjoyed looking at your photos and reading your stories. Thank you for sharing your safari experience.

Cheers,
Tony
 
Joined
Sep 12, 2007
Messages
851
Location
College Park, MD
Real Name
Kristin Rutkowski
Thanks! I'm glad you guys enjoyed the story and the pictures. I'm still working on getting together pictures to put into new threads (one for cats, one for elephants, etc).

Also, I didn't explicitly say this, but I LOVED this vacation. It was absolutely wonderful, and I highly recommend everyone to take a safari. My husband and I both really want to go back and do it again.

Kristin
 
Joined
Oct 25, 2007
Messages
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Location
Potomac Falls, VA
very cool story and adventure, Kristin. You make it sound like an easy trip in spite of what would normally bring someone reservations. I will have to move up a safari in my bucket list. If you could add visa requirements, inoculations and any other trip essentials to your post, it would be appreciated.
 
Joined
Sep 12, 2007
Messages
851
Location
College Park, MD
Real Name
Kristin Rutkowski
very cool story and adventure, Kristin. You make it sound like an easy trip in spite of what would normally bring someone reservations. I will have to move up a safari in my bucket list. If you could add visa requirements, inoculations and any other trip essentials to your post, it would be appreciated.

John,
It was a very easy trip. You should definitely move it up in your bucket list!!

You need a yellow fever shot. We brought our shot records, and I think I do remember that one customs agent did actually check it. I don't think any other shots are required. Check your local travel health clinic (like Passport Health) - they'll have details about any country you might want to visit.

We did need visas. I think to get into Tanzania we just waited in line at the airport to get the visa once we arrived. It didn't take that long. Or you can go to a Tanzanian embassy before you leave.
We got the Kenyan visa at the border - the bus stopped and everyone went in to the office.

Throughout our safari, we'd occasionally see kids come up to the vehicle asking for candy or money or whatever. Our guide didn't want us to give them anything, because it would teach the kids to beg rather than go to school. He said if we wanted to donate something (maybe buy a bunch of pens in town), we could visit the school.

It really was an amazing trip.
 
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