A safari in Africa was a dream for me! And the Serengeti Park is one of the most beautiful in Africa. But I must say that I found myself there by accident. I wanted a holiday in Zanzibar, then I looked at small “cheaper” parks but in the end I let go of budget control for a safari in the parks of Northern Tanzania!
To find a guide
This is the first step! I advise you not to go through French (or your home country) agencies because the price is x2. But be careful when choosing the guide. I highly recommend you Safari Sauvage Tanzania. The ideal is to contact Samwel via WhatsApp. It provides a budget “at the fairest” according to your desires/expectations. Beware of too attractive offers because there is often a wolf! It can be a very poorly paid guide and cook; a car in very poor condition; hidden costs (you are told that it is all inclusive and once at the entrance to the Serengeti for example you are asked to pay everything directly, promising to reimburse afterwards but this is not the case).
You can also rent a car yourself, a priori it is allowed even if I do not necessarily recommend it. Indeed, the Serengeti is very large and no indication allows you to find your way. You risk getting lost! In addition, the guides communicate a lot with each other to indicate the attractive places for animals. And I also assure you that they have a much sharper eye than us! I wouldn’t have seen half the animals if he hadn’t seen it himself. Certainly you lose a bit of freedom with a guide, but that’s also why I didn’t join a group. I preferred to pay more and be able to adjust the safari as I wanted (some people only want to see lions hunting and have no interest in the rest for example).
Personally I paid around 2200 USD all inclusive (from Kilimanjaro airport to Arusha airport). Of course the price is decreasing if you are several! Eg at 2 it was $1500 per person and at 4 $1200 per person. Some examples of prices (in 2021): entrance to the Serengeti at $70; Tarangire at $50; camping in the Serengeti $30. There is also a particular cost “per vehicle” to descend into the Ngorongoro crater, approximately $300. I asked the guide : 1d Tarangire, 2d Serengeti and 1d Ngorongoro in camping mode, he detailed the price according to my desires! Be careful, when a guide says “6 days of safari”, it counts 1 day for the arrival at the airport (he is the one who picks you up) and 1 day to bring you back to the airport. So in the end only 4 days of “pure” safari.
Do not forget the tips for the guide and for the cook. Yes here there are tips for everything and nothing… It takes about $15-20 per day for the guide. And about half for the cook. This is a price per “family” and not per person. Afterwards you can be more generous if you think it’s worth it (and you have a bigger budget than me). For example a tourist gave all his photo equipment one day to my guide so that he could take beautiful photos himself!
How to pay
The safari amount is negotiated in USD. The guide just asked me for a small deposit ($200 I think) to block the slot. Then I chose to pay in two instalments: a transfer before my arrival. Be careful, Tanzanian banks do not know how to manage “big” transfers well ($1000 is huge for them) so the transfer did not arrive. He had to go to the bank to ask them what he was stuck on my advice (I had the info that the bank had an action to do to unblock the bottom of a transfer like that). I gave the other half in cash when I arrived. But we had to stop at his bank to collect the money, so it took a little longer to get started….
Tanzania’s northern parks are among the most beautiful in Africa. But we must admit that they are very expensive. I hesitated between the North and cheaper parks like Mikumi or Selous. So if your budgets don’t allow for the northern parks, give those a try. Besides, it is possible to do a day safari from Zanzibar.
Regarding the northern parks, the most beautiful park is the Serengeti for sure. The park is huge, you can see a wide variety of animals. And there is also a way to get lost without a car around which is a big advantage! The Ngorongoro Crater is the only place where you can spot (if you’re lucky!) the black rhino. The landscape is quite beautiful but clearly for the other animals it is not worth the trip. If you are on a budget, I advise you to skip it, because without rhinos, I find it not interesting enough for the price it costs. But having seen it, I absolutely do not regret having gone down there for my part!
On the other hand, I could very well have skipped the Tarangire. It’s a small park, we are a little too close to the others (especially if there is an “attraction” that attracts people like I had with the meal of the lionesses). The park is quite small, we quickly go around it.
I did not go to Lake Manyara park, I hesitated a lot with Tarangire. It looks like a small park as well. The attraction, a priori, is to see the lions in the trees. On the other hand, it is certain that these two parks which are really pretty in terms of vegetation (when I was there, Serengeti was quite dry, it was less beautiful in my opinion). I did not find out about other parks but there are many more!
The 4WD used during the safaris has a roof that can be raised to observe the animals while standing in the back! Being alone I had the choice to place myself where I wanted to best admire the animals. In the parks, the guide drives slowly so you can stand up and see if you see an animal you want to observe! By taking off my shoes I also climbed on the seats to be more comfortable to take photos/videos. After 3 days sitting most of the time, you will only dream of putting your butts somewhere other than on these seats😂. It’s not uncomfortable in itself but the roads being very damaged, there are a lot of jolts that put them to the test!
Plan to close your bags tightly, in fact there is a lot of dust that enters the vehicle. And for example, the road to go to the Serengeti was quite awful for that, very unpleasant!
Many wonder about the camera equipment and in particular the zoom… I have a Canon 6d Mark II (therefore full frame) and the lens I used for the safari is a 100x400mm. It is a device that also allows you to film! Overall it was enough for me, except for the rhinoceros which is suddenly very small in my photos…
Know that you can also rent photo equipment before your departure, which means you don’t have to invest in a large, very expensive lens. See to have a better goal than your usual needs.
- Day proceeding
The days begin at sunrise, for me around 6:30-7am. If there is a need to change parks, there is a lot of road and it takes time. If you are in a park, there is a better chance of seeing certain animals, especially because the other cars leave later. We are more easily alone. You should know that it is forbidden to drive at night in the parks. A breakfast is included by the guide. Depending on the one you have chosen, there will be more or less interesting foods and drinks (some came to take powdered milk from us, for example). There are sweet and salty! The lunch break can be quite late so you really have to be able to last several hours. Feel free to take some cakes with you if you think you need it. Water is provided by the guide (cool for me, he had a cooler). Plan to be fairly covered in the morning because it is quite cold in the high parks (Serengeti for example), I did not regret my fleece at all! But the day I planned a lighter outfit (I had hiking pants that turned into shorts).
An important point, always take a pee break when you have the opportunity, the next one may come several hours later! And if you’re wondering, yes I peed squatting in the middle of the savannah 😅. The guide had chosen a place without tall grass (to prevent an animal from hiding there) and a corner without cars. Let him know in advance if you need to, while he finds the perfect spot.!
At the lunch break, you will have a packed lunch. Personally, I didn’t mind eating cold (it’s already quite hot!) and it was really very good! There were several servings of different foods, salty and sweet. The first lunch the meal was a little spicy, the guide then asked the cook not to spice it up for me.
At the end of the day, arriving at the camp for the night, the cook sets up the tent (if we weren’t already there the day before) and then we plan a dinner hour. Often a soup first, then main course and dessert. It was really good and filling!
First point to clarify right away: no there is no comfort! In the Serengeti Park I was a little shocked by the other tourists who complained about the facilities. We’re camping cheaply in the middle of an African park. Of course there is no comfort, of course the water is cold! It seemed obvious to me… Regarding the tent, it depends on the guide chosen, do not hesitate to ask them what equipment they use before. There may or may not be wifi (free or paid), depending on the camp.
Another important point, in Tanzania the parks are not closed! That is to say that the animals come and go as they want everywhere. But actually, generally they stay in the parks which are their territories. But that also means that the camps are not fenced either! So you can have night visit! It should be known nevertheless that, when many humans are grouped together, they do not approach in general. We are the enemy rather than prey for them! But we hear very well the lions roar at night, it’s quite impressive!
I didn’t really have any mosquitoes myself, but there are Tse-Tse fly traps all over the place, especially in the camps. What was most problematic for me was the coolness of the night! Although I have some warm clothes, I woke up every night because of the cold and it is very difficult to go back to sleep with the cold on you 😑.
Which animals to see
In Tanzania, you can see the big five (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros). The greatest diversity being found in the Serengeti (but rhino only in Ngorongoro). However, it should be noted that these are wild animals and that we are in their environment “without human action”. This may make some people smile, but I want to make this clear in an entire paragraph. Indeed, my guide told me that he did not understand tourists. Some ask “and if we go to the right, we will see which animals”. Or even he was “yelled at” by unhappy tourists who thought that if he went left while another car was going right, he was making them miss interesting animals.
Unfortunately, I had to explain to him the concept of tourist parks conveyed in the West so that they understand why tourists act like that. But nature is not like that! There is not a road with elephants, a road with lions, a road with a leopard, etc. They can be anywhere at any time of the day (although leopards are in the trees during the day to sleep as they are nocturnal). I found it very sad to hear that. We distort things so much that we think that nature works as man wants it to 😥.