How To Plan For A Serengeti Safari
No place in the world compares with Tanzania and here in Northern Tanzania is the fabulous Serengeti. This special place is surrounded with game rich havens that make for an unparallel safari experience. The Serengeti makes it to the number one game park for the sheer exhilaration of its wildlife experience. It is so spectacular that it deserves more time to explore and absorb its full-blown beauty. In other words do not rush your safari, take it slowly or you will miss out.
This is the kingdom of predators, while the huge herds of the Migration thunder across the plains in countless numbers. The Serengeti has so much more to offer that the worlds last remaining great migration. However, this migration is so spectacular it is hardly surprising most visitors to the Serengeti try to time there itinerary to coincide with the migration.
It is a good idea to try to get out and about when on Safari. Whilst it must be said that it is not always practical nor wise to leave your vehicle on rare occasions it is encouraged. Canoeing on Lake Manyara or walking in the Tarangire Wilderness Area are great ways to stretch the legs and see, smell and feel the African bush away from the confines of the 4×4.
A superb way to discover the waking Serengeti is by hot air balloon. This entails leaving your lodge in the central Serengeti at 5 am to reach the site where the balloon ride will take off. This is the one time it is allowed to drive in the Serengeti in the pre-dawn. Night drives are not allowed inside Tanzanian National Parks. The balloon takes off at dawn, ascending as the sun rises and floating silently in whichever direction the winds of the morning takes the balloon. Sometimes flying at treetop height, sometimes lower, offering a unique perspective and great photographic opportunities of the wildlife below. At times, ascend to 1000 meters or more to see the enormity and wonderful panorama of the Serengeti. From time to time the pilot must put more heat into the balloon with the powerful whisper burners. In between these burns, there is silence apart from the natural sounds below.
A major consideration for most people is the cost. The Serengeti is not cheap – with park fees alone doubling last year to US $60 per person per day. There are some lodges that cater for budget safaris and if you also travel in low season then lodge costs are reduced considerably.
How long should a safari be? The Serengeti alone is so vast months could be spent exploring. A general rule would be to spend five days in the central and southern Serengeti or the central and northern Serengeti depending on the time of year is the minimum time to get any real feel or enjoyment for the area.
What time of year is best? The dry season is July to December and is the optimum time for a photographic safari. The short rains are in November and the long rains from March to mid June. However, the weather does not always act predictably. Some years we have had more rain in January and February than the whole of the wet season. It may be better to say the rains are from November to June with a drier period from December to mid March. Remember that low season is both cheaper and has fewer tourists.
What time of year to book a safari depends on what you want and to work closely with your tour operator will help you decide. I would try to avoid late July to the end of September for the sole reason the parks and limited number of lodges are just too busy.
If you are a seasoned traveler, there is no reason why you should not arrive in Arusha and organize your safari with a local operator. This way your itinerary will be more interesting and you will save money. However if you do this late July to September you may be disappointed as the lodges at this time are fully booked. By far the safest option is to book through and agent or tour operator, however this is not full proof and a lot of your hard earned money will go to pay commissions. I have worked as a tour operator in Arusha in northern Tanzania and designed itineraries for clients who have had up to three travel agents in a chain all adding commission onto the price of the safari.
A safari for one or two people is expensive. One way to reduce this cost is to join a group. Joining a group will be cheaper; this being the only advantage if cost is an issue. To share a safari vehicle with sometimes demanding strangers may case conflict once the safari begins.
What to take? This depends on your itinerary and what time of year you travel. Your tour operator will give you all this information. The more questions you ask the more successful will be your safari. The quality of the answers you receive to your questions will also indicate how interested your operator in Tanzania is on the success of your safari verses merely making a profit.
One last remark will be to relax whilst on safari – take off you watch as it simply will not be needed. There is not the same urgency on an Africa safari.