Jambo! (a greeting, a welcome and the word I heard most in Tanzania)
I’ve had many experiences in life outside my home (Portugal). I’ve traveled a lot and I still need to travel much more. Were some trips more special than others? They certainly were. And this was one of them!
Today I’m going to tell you about my 9 day safari in Tanzania with Gosheni Safaris Africa and my fantastic guide Sam (Samwel John) who did everything to make my safari perfect, and it was. And that’s why it came on my list of the most special trips I’ve taken.
Gosheni Safaris prepares us for the safari saying we will “Discovery the Unexpected!”. This is so true and I couldn’t agree more because that’s exactly what happened!
I stayed the first and last night in a hotel in Arusha – arriving and departing at Kilimanjaro airport and where most of the safaris in Tanzania start. I flew with the Emirates with a stopover in Dubai and within Tanzania with Precision Air (Tanzania’s main airline). The Emirates are a beautiful aviation company and Precision Air as its name implies is accurate (all flawless).
Entry visa is given upon arrival and costs US $50 per person.
We cannot drink tap water or even to brush our teeth. But we got free bottled water in all lodges and Sam always had water for us in the jeep. Prophylaxis of malaria is imperative because Tanzania is at the highest risk of infection by the malaria mosquito. I advise you to consult a traveler’s doctor a medical specialist 2 months before traveling to Tanzania.
Arusha has 3 million inhabitants. The United Republic of Tanzania has 26 regions and Arusha is only one. 59 Millions of people live in Tanzania, whose official language is Swahili and whose currency is the Tanzanian Shilling. We can pay our personal expenses in dollars, we receive the change in Shilling’s. We can also withdrawal Shilling at some ATMs in Tanzania and Sam knows which ones.
On the night before the start of the safari, Sam went to the hotel with Verah to introduce himself (later on I will introduce you to Verah) – do not forget that it is with the guide that we will spend our next few days with and this guide will be a friend. Which means that if there is no empathy between us these 9 days of travel will not be as good as we would wish to. Lucky for me, I found a friend in Sam, full of wisdom and good will.
On safaris when we are inside the parks all the hours are spent inside the jeep. It is forbidden to leave the jeep and interact with the animals. We are just spectators and animals came and went wherever they wanted. We do not have the same privilege! We can only leave the jeep at places specifically designated for that purpose, where we can have lunch for example and where we can also go to the bathroom – and the lunches are always picnic style, almost always in scenic places.
Once human nature called on me and I had to pee with some zebras and two giraffe looking at my bum. (It was my highlight of the day!)
The national parks in Tanzania
Entry to the national park is not as simple as getting there and walking in. It’s the guide that deals with everything, and there’s a whole process that the guides have to obey for that to happen. In addition to the parks being paid, a registration list of all guests must be made by the park managers – who always know who’s inside the park and when we leave it. The paths are made of clay and we are not allowed to cross-cut other jeeps just because we see an animal in the distance.
The guides have to obey the rules for our safety, if they don’t they run the risk of getting their guiding license confiscated, as well as paying a fine if they are caught committing some illegality by park guards.
Often the animals walk so close to the jeep that if we stretch our arm we can touch them. But nope, it’s forbidden! I will not tell you all the animals I saw in total, but I have seen the big 5: the Lion, the African-Elephant, the African-Buffalo, the Leopard and the Rhino. (I also cannot resist saying that I saw 2 small baby leopard in Serengeti North!)
The first park I visited was the Tarangire National Park, which is the sixth largest park in Tanzania with an area of 2 850 km².
The park is named as such because a river of the same name – Tarangire River – crosses it. And it was here that I realized why the safaris were the most expensive programs in the world.
The famous tree -Imbondeiro. The Zebras one by one go in search of the shade 🙂
The first elephants I saw were here, this was thrilling because I love these animals. This park is known precisely for the large amount of elephants.
I stayed at the Tarangire River Camp and I loved it! Here is the link from my publication about all the lodges where I stayed while I was on safari in Tanzania.
Before entering the Serengeti I was lucky enough to visit a Maasai village. We can find several villages of the Masai people in the outskirts of the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro. I leave here the link of the publication I made about my visit to a Masai village.
The Serengeti National Park. With an area of 14,750 km is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. And I went through it twice in 5 days. Also known for the famous migration of wildebeest and zebras. Throughout this park we can find about 35 species of large mammals.
Do you know what Serengeti means in the Maasai language? It means Great Plains.
First I stayed in the central part of the park, then went north and finally returned back to the centre.
And in fact what is already a already wonderful place (because of the animals) is made better when we add to it the beauty of the landscape that surrounds it, it is impossible to feel indifferent. Vegetation to lose sight of, lots of animals, natural pools for the hippopotamus, lions lounging in front of us without giving the time of day, and so much more. Giraffes look at us and decides to show off. And sometime it’s almost like we have to ask the Zebras if they could you please move away for the jeep pass.
Elephants who seem to cross the jeep paths on purpose. It’s all incredible. Animals so healthy, and happy it was noticeable in their skin. A dream really, it was like a movie… only real!
And my friend Sam knew the best places to stop and when I wanted him to stop more often I would tap his shoulder and he would notice!
In the Serengeti I stayed in the Acacia Camps. In any camp we have to be escorted to our room at night and not allowed to leave it by ourselves. What is understandable the fields are set up in the middle of animal territory. In Central Acacia Camp I found myself drinking a beer and watching a hyena go by, it looked at me and followed path. It’s something special for those who like animals.
And when we have before us a lioness who approaches to eat what she had hunted and does not bind us at all. THIS IS AFRICA!!!
Having enjoyed everything in Tanzania, a country with a very rich natural beauty and with so much to offer was, I can say that it was North Serengeti that fascinated me the most – Africa in its purest state. Far to reach, difficult access, but all worthwhile because in addition to the animals it is here that happens the largest migration of animals in the world. The Wildebeest Migration. It is estimated that over 3 million of wildebeest pass here.
Throughout all of Serengeti there are wildebeests, but it is here, in addition to all the other animals I have mentioned before that they’re concentrated in greater quantity and where we find them preparing for the crossing of the Mara River.
This crossing is not known very well on what days and at what time of day it happens, it is a matter of luck for anyone who wants to watch it. I, in two days, waited a good few hours inside the hidden jeep to watch the migration. It never happens at night because the wildebeest do not see well. The jeep can only approach the river when they have started crossing, otherwise the animals hesitate. At this moment our levels of adrenaline are so already high, having the possibility to watch this moment live is amazing. Do not miss this opportunity in your life as a traveler and nature lover.
And what got me to the North of the Serengeti HAPPENED right in front of me! The largest migration of the world of Wildebeests crossing the Mara River!
North Serengeti has a completely different landscapes, more rocky, rugged Serengeti but as rich in wildlife as Central Serengeti.
It was also here that I took my Hot Air Balloon ride. I’ll leave the link to my publication about my experience in the hot air balloon here.
The Acacia Camp in Serengeti North was in hippopotamus territory, and while the hippos that spend the day in the water, at night they go out to eat precisely where the camp was set up. (The feeling of being in bed and hearing the sound of the hippos next to us is very cute.)
Before going to the Ngororongoro Crater I still returned to Central Serengeti, where I once more stayed in the same Acacia to rest. I actually ended up resting at all, there was too much to explore…
Ngorongoro Conservation Area (a Unesco World Heritage Centre)
We descended to the Ngorongoro Crater on a dirt and dangerous road that offers the most beautiful and scenic landscapes I have ever seen, it seems we are entering a Jurassic world, all that was missing was the dinosaurs. In an area of 8,292 km, you can find savannah, savannah forests, dense forests, as well as the largest boiler in the world where we can see the Big Five animals. It was also here that evidence of human evolution and human-environmental dynamics was found, including the earliest hominid footprints dating back 3.6 million years.
This is a very special place and I stayed at the Sopa Lodge – The Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge – which stands on the edge of the crater with a magnificent view attached to it. Here we also have to accompanied to the room by a member of staff… Once after dinner when returning to the room, a buffalo wanted to “talk” with us, my heart raced a little.
It was the first time I shuddered. But the buffalo fled faster than I did after the warning shot… In this lodge only one thing depressed me. In all the other lodges I’ve was in, Sam had dinner and breakfast with us. This was not allowed here. I found it bad and very inelegant and that’s the reason I decided not to go back.
We had not seen a tar road for five days and I bring with me kilos of dirt of all colors to confirm it. Now back on tar road, we made our way to Lake Manyara with an area of 231 square km, a place which Ernest Hemingway describes as the “most beautiful [lake] … of Africa”. Manyara comes from the Maasai word Emanyara, which is a plant called Euphorbia, very associated with Africa and found in great quantity around the lake. Here we can also find an immense variety of animals, but since the vegetation around the lake is quite dense, it’s not so easy to see them. And speaking sincerely, I believe that you should see everything with your own eyes, but this park would not be my first choice to visit.
One of the wishes I had was to stop at a local village where hundreds of safari jeeps pass and none stops at. I wanted to stop and try to understand how the Tanzanian people live. And so it was, described and shown by a local. Verah made this happen (thanks Verah!). Sam stopped the jeep and I had a lady waiting for me who took me for a ride through the village away from the main road. The village name is Mto Wa Mbu.
And how gratifying it was for me to know these people live, and to be able to speak to the locals. Poverty reigns in a very simple life, but peace also reigns in a country where various religions, various tribes, and various dialects interact with each other in harmony. I visited a space of artisans, true artists where lodges and souvenir shops have artifacts to sell to those who visit Tanzania.
I learned that bananas are part of the daily diet and that they cook a variety of dishes with it. Banana salad with bacon being one of them, who would have thought? And it was delicious!
Boys proudly showed me the little fish they had just picked up in a brook that supplies water to the rice paddies.
I realised why most cement houses are not finished, or take so long to complete – they try doing what they can, but very often the money is not enough to finish the houses, and as such the majority of the people live in houses made of clay on top of wooden reeds and as the clay wears out it is eventually replaced with new clay.
No doubt I came from Tanzania more spiritually rich than I was before.
And it is now that I will speak to you about the dear and professional Verah the face of Gosheni Safaris Africa and with whom I booked my amazing safari… When we choose to do a safari we have to take into account several factors – and this is where Verah, from Gosheni Safaris Africa, the lady who has Tanzania as her garden, a person who knows what a travel dream doing a safari is, come in. The factors are as follows: where we want to do it, what we want to see, how many days we want to be on safari and how much money we want to spend. We also have to say if we want a private or group safari.
Verah will answer all questions and clarify any doubts giving all the explanations and suggestions needed, she will also offer different price points. Standard, medium, medium-high or luxury accommodation, as well as suggestions of the lodges and hotels that vary according to the type of accommodation we want – and it is the accommodation and the time the year that makes a safari more expensive. I suggest you do it in high season – June/July/August, and perhaps September. It is the time of the wildebeest migration and honestly not going to North Serengeti will not be a complete experience. But all year round all other animals are there so it is possible to do a safari any time of the year!
Food in the lodges is almost always included – breakfast, lunch and dinner (after dinner drinks are not included). When we are out of the lodges at lunch time it is always the guide who takes our picnic lunch provided by the place where we stay overnight.
In my case I chose average medium-high and a private safari, which means that during the safari days I had a guide and a safari jeep for myself. For what I intended to do it couldn’t be any other way, because they made an unique itinerary for me. Gosheni also organizes group safaris if you wish to take one. There are dozens of companies that organise safaris in Tanzania and there are those that are overpriced. Often you will enquire about the same package, and one will double the price.
Do not hesitate to ask questions and always be open to suggestions. Do not forget that what for us is a dream and something we have never done, is their home, and knowledgeable and kind Verah is more than able to answer all your questions and doubts.
At the end of the safari I still had the pleasure of going to the offices and being presented to the entire Gosheni team. Thank you for everything, lots of love from Portugal Verah. But my biggest THANK YOU is to Sam. With all my heart thank you Sam, without you I would not have had this such an amazing experience, everything went perfectly.
Yes, you are the man!!! 🙂
And to finish I leave the question. Why did the zebras turn to different sides when standing?
To know the answer you have to go do a Safari to Tanzania. 😉