How to Begin Planning Tanzania Adventures?
How to Begin Planning Tanzania Adventures?
Viewing Africa’s wildlife may have been piqued by a National Geographic documentary, magazine article, a visit to a zoo, or watching “The Lion King”. Due diligence by the novice explorer turns endless choices into a successful safari. One option is contacting a ‘safari expert’ tour operator to arrange the itinerary OR one can become an informed traveler, and research what is important to see and experience on a wildlife safari.
An African safari involves several wildlife game drives, staying in remote locations, and observing the behavior and survival skills of Nature’s inhabitants. For 2 weeks, the novice explorer chooses to be electronically unplugged from the modern world (internet is available, but ignored; turned off the cell phone; no newspapers, radio, or television), no fast-food chain restaurants, no vehicular traffic, no crowds of people, no manmade noises – an alien world in today’s fast-paced, modern hurly-burly. Each day on safari is a series of spontaneous, unexpected, natural events.
One never knows which game animals or wondrous sights one will witness. The encounters are a bull elephant charging the 4 wheel drive (4WD) safari vehicle; thousands of wildebeests thundering away from predators; lions mating; a leopard family at play; baby elephants helping each other, unsuccessfully, climb out of a muddy watering hole; vervet monkeys stealing food and drink; hippos turning a pink hue in the noonday sun; and innumerable families of giraffes, baboons, lions, hyenas, leopards, monkeys, warthogs, zebras, wildebeests, elephants, cape buffaloes, hippos, mongooses, gazelles, vultures, and ostriches.
Every wild animal plays a specific role in the ecosystem of Africa. Some animals are predators, others are prey, and still, others are scavengers. Most predators attack the vital organs and soft tissues, while others consume calcium-rich bone or tough outer hides, leaving few animals remains to blemish the landscape. Every safari is unique and exciting. The opportunity to view Africa’s wildlife and meet the indigenous people enriches one’s world. Knowledge acquired for an African adventure ensures a rich appreciation of the safari experience.
Which African country to visit?
54 countries claim the continent of Africa home. Organized safaris are available in 3 distinct African regions – 8 countries that are toured individually, or combine 2 or 3 countries in one safari expedition. The regions are:
• East Africa – Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda
• South Africa, the country ·
• Southern Africa – Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia
The country to tour would depend on the specific animals the novice explorer wants to observe, which is primarily determined by the landscape and rainfall: umbrella acacia trees on the savannah (most varieties of predators, prey, and bird diversity); treed woodland (elephants); scrublands and semi-desert; desert (Namibia Desert is known for reptiles and birds); forest (mountain gorillas and birds); wetlands, lakes, and rivers (hippos, crocodiles); coral reefs and coastal beaches (abundant sea life).
Narrow the choices – decide which game animals, the corresponding country of residence, and select the national park or reserve. Most national parks and game reserves harbor several species. Game animals are protected from poachers and hunters in designated national parks, national reserves, and private game reserves.
Observing and shooting (with a camera) the ‘Big Five’ is the primary goal for the novice explorer’s first African safari. The Big Five include lions, leopards, elephants, African cape buffalos, and the nearly extinct rhinoceros. The country of South Africa, originally, is the location chosen. Yellow fever inoculations and anti-malaria medication are not required for travel to South Africa. South Africa has two large national parks (Kruger and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park), approximately 25 small national parks or private game reserves, as well as cultural activities.
The research unearthed the following information: During high season, Kruger National Park is overrun with (closed) safari vehicles filled with tourists (the same is said about Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve); game viewing is impossible with the number of vehicles in the park, and no off-road driving is allowed. Private reserves bordering western Kruger offer: a safari in off-road, open safari 4WDs; night game drives; or walking safaris (with an armed ranger and naturalist).
A decision to concentrate solely on wildlife game drives versus cultural activities results in researching other countries. A documentary of Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater and descriptions of the annual Great Migration convinces the novice explorer that East Africa, (Tanzania and Kenya), is the safari destination.
When is the Best time of the year to go on a safari?
Tour operators advertise game safaris are offered 12 months/year. Yes, that is true, but the operators fail to mention that some lodges and tented camps shut down operations during part of the year – the low season. The main reason for closure is weather-related, the long rains. The continuous torrential downpours of the ‘long rains’ hampers wildlife sightings and the dirt roads become impassable. The volume of safari guests drops considerably during this period.
After the ‘Long’ (April thru mid-June) and ‘Short’ (November and December) rain months, unpaved roads (translation = dirt tracks) become muddy quagmires. ‘Short rains’ do not last all day as the ‘long rains’ do. After the rains end, the grasses grow to more than 3 feet. Safari guides admit it is more difficult to spot wild game among the tall grasses.
Time of year is important in order to see the Great Migration in East Africa. The large grazers (grass-eaters) and browsers (eat leaves, grass, bushes, and trees), and the predators (that hunt and kill them), consume the fields of new grasses following the annual long and short rains. The annual Great Migration (almost 2 million wildebeests and zebras) runs from late May through the end of October.
The game mammals follow the lush new grasses and water sources in the Serengeti ecosystem in a clockwise direction. In 2011, the annual migration begins early as the rains are not abundant. The wildlife migrates to more fertile savannahs 4 weeks early.
If East Africa experiences drought conditions, constant blowing DUST is a major hazard from June through the end of October. The dust gets into your ears, eyes, nose, throat, hair, skin, clothes, etc. One gets covered in DUST. Nevertheless, wild game is much easier to spot during dry weather.
Late December through March is calving season for the mammals, another popular season to be on safari. 400,000 wildebeests (gnus) alone are born during 3 weeks in February. The newborn gnus are easy prey for the lions and many young are hunted and killed before the completion of their first migration.
Types of Safari: Budget / First Class / Deluxe / Luxury
The differences between a budget versus a deluxe safari are the quality and location of accommodations; quality and number of included activities (which are hidden in the final safari cost); the size of the safari tour group; and the level of personalized service.
“of camping is the Holiday Inn!” – The novice explorer did not want to pitch a tent and cook food, though there are safaris where an authentic “in the African bush” experience is offered. The novice explorer prefers flushing toilets (no squat holes); hot water showers (versus tepid bucket showers) after a long and dusty game drive; and meals prepared by someone else.
No video games/televisions on safari. Guests have face-to-face conversations discussing the day’s events and animal observations. Internet access is slow (and expensive) – almost nonexistent out in the bush. Accommodations use generators for a few hours each day to power equipment and provide electricity. The generators are turned off from midnight to dawn to conserve fuel. The safari levels below are arranged as a group safari, as well as a private safari, by a safari tour company: ·
• Budget – least expensive: Participation safari where camping equipment is carried; choice of ‘pitch own tent’ or more basic accommodations. A cook may be hired to prepare meals and clean up. This is a no-frills wild game safari. ·
• First Class – moderate expense: more comfortable stays at rustic hotels/lodges; large safari group tours; restaurants; beds (not sleeping bags); other amenities; additional costs for extra activities, in.e., Masai village visit. ·
• Deluxe – upscale and more expensive; smaller group tours, gourmet dining, game drives at night (additional charge); personalized service, all-inclusive meals, and activities, i.e., star gazing, lectures, etc. ·
• Luxury – golf courses, spa treatments, private valets and butlers, wine and liqueur included with meals, free laundry. Less emphasis on observing wildlife, more emphasis on personal pampering.