A Tanzanian Safari is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for travel lovers. Here’s what you can expect if you’re planning a safari trip in east Africa.
There we were, binoculars in hand, surrounded by millions upon millions of grazing, snorting wildebeest, waiting patiently (but excitedly) for the miracle of life to show its face.
And, after hours of anticipation, it did. While smack dab in the middle of perhaps my favorite (unofficial) wonder of the world – the Serengeti’s annual wildebeest migration – we witnessed one of life’s most incredible spectacles: a birth.
Well, precisely speaking, a wildebeest birth. I won’t go into the nitty gritty details on how a wildebeest goes into labor (you’re welcome), but I will tell you that whether you’re visiting in winter, spring, summer or fall, you’re bound to see at least one miraculous moment during a Tanzanian Safari.
As a product of my animal-loving parents, I’ve been on safari in Tanzania several times. Each time had its own incredible memories — a cheetah hunt, an (absolutely adorable) baby elephant, sunrise over the Serengeti and a wildebeest birth, to name a few. But of course, there were also the not-so-great memories, such as tsetse fly bites, tiny airplanes and motion sickness.
Are you planning a safari in Tanzania? While you should follow the timeless “expect the unexpected” cliché, here are 10 things you can plan for based on my safari experiences.
Small Airplanes: I’ll get this terrifying one out of the way so I don’t have to think about it anymore. To get to the Serengeti, you take a small (I’m talking eight-person) plane from Arusha. It’s bumpy. The cockpit’s open. And … OK. Must stop thinking about it. If you like small planes, you’ll be fine. If you don’t? Moving on…
Gorgeous Accommodations: Surprisingly, the lodges and “glamping” options in the Serengeti are immaculate. Rooms are decorated beautifully, food is out of this world and everything is clean. We booked all four of our trips through Africa Dream Safaris, and they suggest lodges from their approved list.
Waking up to Animal Sounds: Ohhh, this is my favorite. At any hour of the night, you could wake up to a variety of animal sounds, be it lions roaring, hyenas laughing or hippos grunting. Fear not – your accommodations are protected from the animals, so you can just sit back and take it all in.
Tsetse Flies: These little buggers are one of my least favorite parts about the Serengeti. Tsetse flies are twice the size of regular flies, and they bite – hard. I perfected the constant swatting movement during our first trip, but even then, I still came away with some scars. Oh, yeah – their bites are so painful they scar. So there’s that.
Long Hours Driving: Yes, you’ll see lions, zebra, giraffe, elephants – the whole works – but you’ll also see a lot of empty, desolate plains. Unlike a zoo, the animals are free to roam as they please, and it can take hours to find those big safari moments like a cheetah hunt or the wildebeest migration. Be patient, and enjoy the smaller moments and the less “wow factor” animals you see regularly – zebra are pretty darn cool, too!
Quintessential Safari Moments: I’ll be blunt here, it’s unlikely that you’ll see a cheetah hunt on your first safari. That doesn’t mean you won’t – and I hope you do! – but it took me four trips to finally see one. And in that trip I saw two, not to mention a wildebeest birth right after. It’s all about luck and chance, and just remember, if you don’t see one the first time, you have yet another reason to go back!
Weird Dreams: For health reasons (that I won’t go into since I’m in no way a doctor), Tanzania visitors are required to take Malarone or some other anti-malaria pill to avoid sickness from mosquito bites. These pills also double as crazy dream stimulants. (Again, not scientific.) Every time I take Malarone, I wake up from the most bizarre, yet realistic situations.
Changing Weather: Some days it’s rainy. Some days it’s sunny. Some days it’s a cold, then hot, then cold mix of these two. Wear layers you can shed, and always have a rain jacket handy. Also, avoid anything navy blue. It somehow attracts tsetse flies, so it’s quite obviously a no-no.
Open Air Vehicles: Safari vehicles are open on the sides and the top, so you can jump up at any moment for a photograph – a must with the Serengeti’s sporadic animal sightings. The tops and windows do close in the rain, so don’t worry about your camera gear getting soaked. We actually had a cheetah jump on our hood once, which was pretty intense…
Safari Schedule: Your day-to-day schedule is pretty flexible, and entirely up to you. If you want to head out before sunrise to see the animals when they’re most active, you can do that. If you’d prefer to sleep in, you can do that as well. Meals are served according to schedule, so if you’re out on the plains all day, you’ll dine among animals. If you’d prefer to safari for just a few hours, you can eat in the more luxurious hotel dining room.
The Serengeti has 5,695 square miles of unexpected, exciting adventure, and no two adventures are ever the same. While you can prepare for some essentials – such as clothes, medicine and gear – you’ll never know what surprises await you in the Serengeti until you go and safari there yourself!
Note: This list is in no way exhaustive, so if you have specific questions, please ask in the comments below!