Planning your Safari
We planned this trip with friends that we met on a cruise. I am not sure we would have ever taken on this adventure without their encouragement and information they gained from friends of theirs who had taken the same trip the year before. This was one travel destination that I dreamed of but thought it was financially impractical. I had only seen ads that read, “9 day African Safari’s for just $7,995 per person”. That price doesn’t include the airfare from the US either. I love to travel but I just couldn’t imagine finding an affordable safari. That price seemed to be an industry standard for 9 days on the savannah watching African wildlife. Meeting other travelers and sharing travel stories is a blessing if you have wanderlust. They share information on their travels about companies that are small, affordable and provide you with a quality experience. Some companies also extend additional discounts if you book a group of travelers together. We went on a 12 day Safari in Tanzania for around $5000 per person for a group of 8, including round trip airfare from Pittsburgh to Kilimanjaro Airport near Arusha, Tanzania.
Companies that advertise through magazines and online and mail brochures drive up costs for safaris. Their lodging choices may be higher as well. Smaller companies tailor your safari to your interests and your budget. I didn’t have a problem with our mixture of luxury tented camps and lodges. The brochures for those companies include beautiful sunset vistas from a ridge overlooking the valley below as the sun is setting with a fire pit and plush furniture in the foreground. The Kirurumu Tented Camp we stayed at provided the same setting and a beautiful view of the Lake Manyara Valley.
Safari game drive vehicles vary by regions. Open vehicles elevated on truck beds are the norm in southern Africa and rugged SUVs with pop up roofs are the norm in eastern Africa. To get the most out of your safari be sure to go with a guide. It would be quite easy to get lost without a guide most importantly. Without a guide you would probably drive by leopards or other animals that a guide knows best how to spot.
All Inclusive Lodging
The safari company will provide prices for your choice of lodging. The lowest price option is to camp. Your guide will carry the gear along with food and drinks. You’ll set up camp depending on your selected itinerary, i.e. moving daily or staying in two or three parks depending on the length of your safari. Luxury tented camps is a mix of permanent and mobile camps but may also include a lodge during your safari. You also have the choice of 5 star luxury lodging and camps. The following is based on my experience staying in luxury tented camps & lodges.
Lodging is all inclusive with the exception of soft drinks and alcohol, the cost being reasonable, from $2 for soft drinks, $3 for beer and $20 for a bottle of wine. All meals are served in an open air dining area. Breakfast included eggs, cooked to order, bacon, fresh fruit, toast, coffee, juices and usually potatoes and/or other vegetables served either fresh or roasted. A box lunch was prepared by the camp or lodge and carried in the vehicle with a stop at a picnic area while out on a game drive. The box lunches were nearly always the same, a boiled egg, chicken, juice, assorted bread, crepes, and yogurt and with luck a cookie or chocolate. On four occasions we had a box breakfast and took a mid-day break with a hot lunch, which was a welcome treat.
The dinners were amazing! I had expected to find myself eating goat or other items I couldn’t identify. In fact I had expected this would be the one vacation where I would lose a few pounds but the camps and lodges all served wonderful 4 course meals. They included some of the most delicious soups I have ever eaten: Green Banana Soup, Spinach Soup, a variety of Pumpkin Soups, and Butternut Squash Soup among them. A fresh salad made from local produce was next followed by the entrée consisting of 3 choices, lamb almost always being one, beef and a vegetarian choice. The entrees were usually accompanied by rice or potato and fresh vegetables. The desserts were more in line with European diets which translate to cakes that were somewhat dry, but tasty.
Balloon Safari in the Serengeti
Four members of our group signed up for a morning balloon safari which included champagne and an English Breakfast on the savannah following the hot air balloon ride. It was $500 per person at this writing. Expensive but a once in a lifetime opportunity and they did not cut corners at all. The fun part was the portable bathrooms set up facing away from the breakfast area. The “Loo with a View” had signs to indicate if they were in use. You could watch the zebras and wildebeest while using the loo.
You can arrange for a breakfast or evening bush dinner for additional cost. I don’t know what the charges are. Our safari company treated us with a bush dinner our last evening on safari. It was a wonderful treat sitting under the stars and a nearby Baobab tree enjoying a Serengeti Beer while enjoying the buffet dinner set up by the tented camp’s staff. It was a great ending to our safari. I recommend exploring this as an addition if it’s not cost prohibitive.
Tips and Information if you book a Safari
Paying: Your safari company will likely require international banking transfers for deposit and final payment of your trip. They may also require you to cover the cost of their fees. That will add as much as $70 to each transaction, $35 for your transfer and $35 for their bank to deposit the transfer. You can save $70 by paying for the entire trip when you book it, but I recommend buying insurance in case you have to cancel. They will only refund the final payment minus the deposit up to the time frame provided when you book the trip. Make sure you know what is refundable.
License of Operator: Check www.tatotz.org  for an operator license for companies in Tanzania. If you have a problem with the company they will also assist in a resolution. You can also ask the company to attach a file of their TALA (Tourist Agents Licensing Authority) license to email communication. This will confirm they have access to the national parks you plan to visit on safari.
Immunizations: Those required for travel are most affordable at your local Department of Health. It is unlikely your health insurance will pay for them. Yellow Fever is not required in all African countries but is recommended in case of a flight change results in a landing at a country that does require it.
Medical needs: Ask your doctor for a prescription for antibiotics in case you get traveler’s diarrhea. Take a variety of OTC drugs you might need while on safari. You can also purchase insurance for airlift to a hospital for less than $40 per person during your stay. Your tour operator can arrange it. You never know when you could get ill or have an accident requiring medical attention.
Bathroom Breaks: Your safari guide will stop as often as the restrooms are convenient during your game drives. I recommend you use the facilities whether you feel the need or not.
Currency: Check before you go. Tanzania accepts US Dollars in addition to the local Shillings. Take all denominations with you keeping in mind you will want smaller bills for tipping.
Banking: There are some ATMs but they are also a magnet for crime. Visit a bank to exchange for local currency if possible.
Credit Cards: Few businesses accept credit cards. Ask your tour operator about using credit cards at the lodges and camps on your schedule.
Insects: Plan your trip according to how concerned you are with insect bites. If you go in the dry season the insects are minimal. You will need to take anti-malaria drugs per your specific prescription no matter when you go. Be sure to take insect repellent. Tsetse flies are not affected by repellents, you’re at their mercy and the bites are painful. Take along heavy socks, long sleeve shirts and pants to wear in areas where tsetse flies are active. Wet seasons are November, and February through April. Plan to visit a few months after the rainy season or just before the start of a rainy season to avoid insects. (Keep in mind the summer months are also the busiest and parks can be quite crowded, delaying entry.)
Clothing: Take along light weight clothing, nylon is good. You can easily clean clothing while on safari. Light colored clothing is less attractive to tsetse flies.
Other items to pack: Take along a twin sheet per person. The bed covers are feather beds and can be quite warm. The sheet will be better for sleeping. Also take a wash cloth as they are not usually provided.
Water: The camps and your driver provide bottled water. Drink only bottled water, including when brushing your teeth. Be careful not to get water in your mouth when showering.
Cell Phones: This was a surprise for a country with no electric or water supply outside of the larger cities, but they actually had cell phone service everywhere we went. And the service is fairly inexpensive. If you pick up a phone when you arrive or purchase an air time card to use a local’s cell phone you can communicate with family inexpensively.
Battery Charging: The safari vehicles are equipped with an electric outlet so you can charge your camera batteries while on your game drive. This was very convenient and a must when staying at the mobile tented camps. Power there is limited to lights from solar power. Electric is available in the dining area while the generators are running in the evening during meals.
In Addition to the National Parks you’ll visit on safari consider: Oldupai Gorge (sometimes called Olduvai Gorge, site of oldest humanoid fossils, and the museum), Maasi Tribal Village, Bush people & the Datoga Tribe near Lake Eyasi .
I recommend the following lodging:
- Kirurumu Tented Camp overlooking Lake Manyara. The camp is beautiful and the ride off the main road will prepare you for the trek to the Serengeti.
- Roika Tarangire Tented Lodge. This camp has a swimming pool which elephants sometimes come to drink from. The dining area and bar is hotel quality.
- Bougainvillea Safari Lodge is very nice, it has a pool and the grounds are beautifully landscaped. The food was very good here.
- Kati Kati Tented Camps in Serengeti. The staff is wonderful and very accommodating at this mobile camp.
Buy a travel book that covers the country you are visiting on safari and study it before you depart on your safari. I also recommend you take along a guide on African animals.
See Part One  for additional information on a Safari vacation.
For a price quote on an eastern Africa Safari, contact Magda, Flash Photography and Safaris at:
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The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances. Travel policies and packages are subject to change without notice. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact travel providers and hotels at the time of your bookings to confirm pricing, itinerary, and all costs. The comments and observations are limited to the author’s personal experience and your results may vary significantly. This article and replies to comments are not intended to substitute for professional travel services. Our reply is time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change.
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