There are essentially two types of organised safaris – those where you camp at night (Tanzania camping safaris) and those where you stay in game lodges or luxury tented camps at night (Tanzania Lodge Safaris). Whichever you choose, safaris typically start and end in either Arusha though there are a number of exceptions to this.
Apart from the transfer to and from Arusha and driving from one park to another, once you’re in a park you’ll be taken on a number of game drives — usually two and sometimes three per day. Each drive typically lasts two to 2 and a half hours and the best (in terms of sighting animals) are those in the early morning and late afternoon when the animals are at their most active. The vehicles used for these drives are six to seven-seater 4WD Safari jeep with roof hatches, Land Rovers, or open-sided trucks.
As a general rule, you’ll be left to your own devices between late morning and around 3 pm (except for lunch) though, if you’re on a camping safari, you may well be taken care with a driver and safari cook who will prepare all the meals for you 3 times per day throughout your safari trip.
Tanzania Camping Safaris
Tanzania Camping safaris cater for budget travellers, for the young (or young at heart) and for those who are prepared to put up with discomfort. They are no-frills safaris, with none of life’s little luxuries such as flush toilets, running water or iced drinks. Such safaris can be quite demanding depending on where you go, and you’ll be expected to lend a hand.
You’ll end up sweaty and dusty and there may well be showers available but cold ones. On the other hand, you’re in for an authentic adventure in the African bush with nothing between you and the animals at night except a sheet of canvas and the embers of a dying fire. It’s not at all unusual for elephants or hippos to trundle through the camp at night or even the occasional lion, and so far no-one has been eaten or trampled on.
Another plus for these safaris is that you’ll probably find yourself with travellers from the four corners of the earth. Truck safaris may have as many as half a dozen people of different nationalities on board. The price of your safari will include three meals a day cooked by the camp cook(s) though on some safaris you’ll be expected to lend a hand in the preparation and clean up. Food is of the ‘plain but plenty’ variety.
The price will also include all the necessary camping gear except a sleeping bag which you must provide or hire locally. The tents provided sleep two people as a rule and at Shizi Safaris the camp is taken on ahead of you and the tents erected by the staff. Tents are invariable of the type which sleep two people and, if you’re a single traveller, you’ll be expected to share with someone else. If you don’t want to do that then you’ll be up for a ‘single supplement’ of between 20 to 25% on the price of the safari which will allow you to have a tent of your own. Mosquito nets are generally not provided so you’ll have to bring along insect repellent either in the form of coils or skin cream.
You’ll need to bring clothing and footwear sufficient to cover you for hot days and cold nights but the amount of baggage which you’ll be allowed to bring is limited. Excess gear can usually be stored at the safari company’s offices. Don’t forget to bring along a torch (flashlight) and pocket-knife.
There are also a number of somewhat more expensive camping safaris available which utilise permanent campsites with pre-erected tents fitted with mosquito nets, beds and sheets and which have showers (though there’s sometimes not enough water for everyone to have a shower).
Remember that at the end of one of these safaris your driver/guide and the cooks will expect a reasonable tip. This is only fair since wages are low and these people will have made a lot of effort to make your trip a memorable one. Be generous here. Other travellers are going to follow you and the last thing anyone wants to find themselves closeted with is a disgruntled driver/guide who couldn’t care less whether you see game or not.
Tanzania Lodge Safaris
Tanzania lodge safari are for those who want luxury at night and in between game drives. On these, the accommodation is in game lodges or luxury tented camps. There is plenty of beautifully conceived and superbly sited lodges in the main national parks where you can expect a fully self-contained room or cottage, the cuisine of an international standard, a terrace bar with ice-cold drinks, a swimming pool and videos and plenty of staff to cater for all your requirements.
Many of these lodges overlook a watering hole or salt lick so you can sit on the viewing terrace and watch the animals from there. The watering hole or salt lick will usually be floodlit at night. Some of the lodges put out bait or salt to encourage certain animals to visit the spot and while this is often very contrived, it usually guarantees you a sighting of animals which you’d be very lucky to see otherwise.
There’s obviously a considerable difference in price for these safaris as opposed to camping and most of the people who go on them are package tourists with expectations and attitudes of mind quite dissimilar to those who opt for a camping safari.
For them, it’s essentially a holiday rather than in-depth involvement in Africa, its people and wildlife. It’s the African bush at arm’s length. On the other hand, if you have the money, it’s worth staying at the occasional lodge just for the contrast.
Lodge safaris will cost you at least four times what a camping safari costs — and often considerably more. Luxury tented camps are no less expensive than lodges and the more exclusive ones cost up to four times the price of a lodge. They’re for people to whom money is no object and who want to experience what it must have been like in the days of the big-game hunters, except that they’ll be stalking with cameras rather than guns.
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