Safariguide for beginners
If you know very little about safari you have found your place! We will take you through everything you need to know about how to plan your perfect safari.
What we talk about when we talk about safari
In the early days the “safari” was used to describe big-game hunting, but the word actually mean long journey in Swahili. However, nowadays "safari” often refers to observing and photographing wildlife.
The # advice:
Do NOT go with a standard "ready to go" package deal like you are going on a charter trip
Any professional safari company should be able to customize your trip! And when it comes to safari-trips, this is vital to get the trip you want, not just something you are fine settling with. Do not get fooled by a set package with seemingly good price. This can be your biggest mistake when planning your trip to Africa!
We recognize the fact that all our customers are different, have different expectations and want different kind of experiences. We also recognize the fact that all our travelers have different knowledge about travel and experience with Africa.
In this section we’ll try to give you simple, understandable and sensible advice on how to get the most out of your trip. Since there are so many adventures to choose from, selecting a random “pre-defined package” just because it fit´s your budget –rarely gives you exactly what you are after.
If you consider yourself to have extensive experience on safaris, and want to you can get more in-debt knowledge about a certain area/park and options, you can find that in our Destinations section.
Let´s start with some basic terms
Originally the term was used for animals hunted for food. In the safari content the term is used on all the different wild animals you would see on safari
The term is used to describe the activity where you are in a 4x4 vehicle out on safari looking for game
The word "safari" means "long journey" in Swahili. For us it means being on journey to explore, not just watching animals but enjoying nature
Safari on a boat! In Tanzania this can be done in Nyerere (Rufiji River), Saadani (Wami River) & Lake Tanganyika
Morning hot air balloon safari is something else! Serengeti, Ruaha and Tarangire a unique but expensive activity
A hike with an armed ranger in search of smaller animals, i.e The Small Five, plants and vegetation.
A game reserve is a place where ecosystems are protected and conservation is a key. Indigenous wildlife in its natural habitat helps growth in numbers at a natural rate. Off road is permitted here!
A conservation area, also referred to as a protected area, are locations which receive protection because of their recognized natural, ecological and/or cultural values.
Example; Ngorongoro Crater
A national park is classified as a park used for conservation purposes. In most cases a national park is a reserve of natural or semi-natural or development land of a sovereign state declares or owns
Accommodation & standard on safari
A piece of advise
Basically you can get whatever you want in all price-ranges. And as anywhere else in the world, quality and cost have a certain connection for obvious reasons.
This being said, very luxurious camps and lodges on safari are very seldom worth their price. Although spectacular, you don’t spend a lot of time in the room or at the campsite (since you are out for game-drives most of the day). So no need to go for the top level unless you plan to stay in camp all day!
The most luxurious camps and lodges can charge 1000 USD per night person.
In the other end, stay away from the lowest segment. Yes, it might be tempting to get the lowest price possible, but it could highly affect the quality (and safety) of your stay. You might be able to get decent beds, but quality food and a good guide are critical elements to have a successful and memorable trip. You won’t get that on a very low budget.
Different type of safari accommodation:
A lodge is a permanent structure inside or outside a reserve. Rooms are often large canvas tents on permanent structures, stone bandas or even similar to hotel rooms in some places. In larger reserve a lodge can even be pretty much like a hotel, especially in larger reserves that are well developed and frequently visited by safari travelers. So needless to say, a lodge can basically be of any kind of permanent structure. Many lodges have pools, and electricity are more common to be supplied 24/7 in opposition to the other types of accommodation types.
A tented camp is like a lodge permanent but smaller and more intimate. A normal size tented camp will have anywhere from 6-12 tents. As the word express, accommodation will be in large canvas tents, often with a permanent structure or deck around. Normally electricity is provided by generator a few hours per day. Facilities are often good, and many tented camps will also have a pool. Dining area is often permanent but open buildings with thatched roof. You will find tented camps both inside and outside reserves, often close to waterholes or other attractions where animal roames.
FLY CAMP / MOBILE TENTED CAMP / SEMI PERMANENT
Glamping! Smaller than tented camps, with only semi-permanent structures to have minimal impact on nature. Often seasonal camps depending on areas, and some camps move several times per year to follow special events like the great wilderbeest migration in Serengeti. When they pack up, there should be no visible signs left of the camp. Do not expect any pool or high luxury facilities, but do expect the best locations! These camps are set for the best safari experience and creates an intimate atmosphare shared with other safari enthusiasts. Often not more than 4-8 tents, and often most costly.
This is camping, more or less like you know it from back home, with a few upgrades. We provide dome tents, portable shower and portable toilet and set up our own camp for you. We will provide safety for those who like with an armed ranger, and a chef will provide the cooking. Other than that it´s you and the wilderness! You have the opportunity to do camping at public camping sites where others can also set camp, or we can provide special private camping sites where you are the sole camper. Although primitive, it could provide a fantastic and "raw" African wilderness experience !
It´s important to mention, that the type of accommodation does not necessarily say anything about standard of the place! So just because you choose a specific type of accommodation,
does not mean you have a set standard. Lodges & tented camps in particular comes in all
shapes and all standards. Just to give you an idea of what to expect:
Small rooms/tents, bungalows and hostels. Sometimes shared bathrooms. Usually fans, don't expect AC. Our "budget" recommendations would in most cases pass as mid-range.
Thoroughly good standard hotels and lodges. Big differentiator from mid-range especially when it comes to food! AC (not on safari), swimming pool, laundry service and might even have spa.
Hotels, camps and lodges. Fan or AC. Could have great location although the facilities might differ. Restaurant service and might have a swimming pool. Big differences in this category.
Best there is! Exclusive hotel rooms, private villas, private pools, spa, total isolated area, restaurants etc. On safari you will have the best guides available. Often no children policy.
Bed & breakfast included. An option we only use on arrival & departure day, and at places with special restaurant options
Means Half-board. 2 meals per day is included -in most cases breakfast and dinner. Drinks are in most cases not included, unless it is specified. This is the default option on your beach location (ie Zanzibar)
Means Full-board. 3 meals a day is included -breakfast, lunch and dinner. Drinks (soft drinks and alcoholic beverages) are in most cases not included, unless it is specified. This is the default board option when you are out on safari, since there are no other options than your lodge
All meals are included, soft drinks as well as locally produced beer and spirits. An option we do not recommend, solely because you will probably spend some time away from the hotel on excursions during the day. If you are accommodated at larger resorts or at very remote locations, this could however be a good option
How to choose accommodations
Tanzania offers all classes and standards when it comes to accommodation! Sometimes a great place can have a bad web-page that doesen´t really give the right impression. On the other hand, some places can seem really nice on their webpage, but might actually use pictures from other places to look more attractive than they really are.
Once you are there, it might be to late to change the hotel, so that´s why you shouldn´t book a hotel/accommodation yourself in Africa without doing a significant amount of research. Pages like TripAdvisor can be of good help, but needs to be read with a certain level of skepticism.
While TripAdvisor and similar sites, as well as information on a webpage could provide good information, do not blindly trust what you read. A place can change owners, which affect the whole experience of a place, and there is very little control and justice of what is written on webpages in many African countries.
A place could pretend to be a 5 start luxury resort with fantastic pictures, but in reality they are a mid-range 3 star hotel, who got some lucky shots in the dark of their facilities. Just because a company can create a great web-page, does not mean they understand and can provide a great stay for the customers. So please trust our advice here.
By booking through Tanzania Explorer you can be sure you get the right information about your accommodation. We have approved all the places we recommend and visit the places regulary to make sure we have updated information about the stay. That allows us to secure the standard you want, to the price you expect! In addition we have great deals with hotels and lodges all over Tanzania at lower rates than what your would get if you booked directly.
We will try to give you a few hints on what you can expect from the different standards, both "out in the bush" on safari and at your beach vacation.
These are some examples in general. The most important thing is that you tell us what you are looking for, and together we will find the best option for your budget and time of travel, since this might also vary!
Budget & cost
You should have an idea of how much you are willing to spend, to get the best deal
What to do
Having a clear priority on the most important things you want to experience is importat
When to go
If you know when you want to go -be open to where you want to go
Where to go
If you know where you want to go -be open to when you want to go there
The big questions
The BIG questions
Now that you have gotten an idea in the former chapters about accomodation, it´s time to target the bid decisions. Not that accommodation isn´t important, but we will always suggest accommodation alternatives to you, based on the 4 big questions above.
Budget and cost are naturally linked to what you want to do and experience on your journey, that´s a given. What might not be a given is that if you know when you want to go, you should be open to which destinations you visit in Tanzania, as quality of areas varies can vary a lot during the different seasons. So you should never have the mindset of "I want to visit area X during time Y, unless you know that the area is suitable for the activities you want to do, during that particular time. So let´s jump straight into the elements that affects the price, and what you have to expect to pay for a good safari adventure. PS! Keep in mind that we customize your trip, based on the budget you have at hand.
Budget & cost
A safariday, including accommodation, food, park fees and game-drive, costs between 300-1 000 USD per day
A mid-range to high 14 day holiday with 40/60 safari activities and beach vacation, with full-board on safari and half-board at the beach location is between 2 500-4 500 USD (excl. int.flights)
FACTORS THAT AFFECTS THE PRICE
Especially regarding drive-in safaris. The cost of a car/driver/guide per day, are mostly the same no matter how many people that is in a car. So more people = more to split the cost between. This being said, it is not advised to “cramp up” in a car just to save costs. Safari cars normally come in 2 types: normal car with 6 seats, and extended safari vehicles with 8 seats. One seat is naturally occupied by the drive guide. For short safaris you might be fine using the front seat, but for longer safari adventures we recommend 4 pax in the normal car, and 6 pax in the extende cars, as you are likely to have to luggage as well.
PS! At all cost avoid safari companies that use the middle seats in their cars, except from open vehicles. It highly limits the view.
It goes without saying that that sharing rooms (within your family) is a cheaper option. If you are friends traveling, there could be a big buck to save if you choose a double room with twin beds, instead of 2 single rooms. Families can also cut a good deal, as many places have family rooms and/or interconnecting rooms. Even on safari!
Hopefully you have an idea here, based on the previous chapters on this page. While you are on safari, you will most likely not spend that much time in your room. So going for the absolute top level of accommodation could be throwing money out the window. This is where it is vital to have a good safari planner, so that you can get proper advise on what lodges or camps that could fit both your requirements and you budget. Because this is really hard to do by yourself, as many lodges and camps aren´t even listed on booking sites.
Length of your safari
The most costly part of your trip will probably be the safari. So if you plan a week safari in luxury accommodation, be prepared to pay a substantial amount for your safari. For most customers than have never been on safari before, 3-4 days on safari in one park or 5-7 days roadtrip with 2-4 parks would normally be enough. Park fees and other fees linked to various reserves can be a tricky calculations, so providing a sensible and smart route for your safari is essensial. Fees vary a lot. But never complain about the wildlife fees, they are what protects the animals that you are paying to see -so this is a good investment for everyone! :)
Time of travel / season
This is a big one. Camps, lodges & hotels operate with seasons, and can operate with different seasons in terms of pricing even though they are right next to each other! And if you are traveling when a season shifts, prices and easily double or be cut in half over night. That´s why you should get some proper advice here. Also, "low season" does not neccesarily refer to a bad time to travel to a certain area. It´s just that few people normally travel during that time, because it could be out of normal holidays. One solid example here is that May is considered low season in Serengeti because it is at the end of the defined "wet season". However Serengeti has statistically very little rain during this period, but amazing and green areas and very little tourists -so it´s the perfect time to go, and the prices are also perfect!
Although this varies a lot from lodge to lodge and area to area in Tanzania, this is normally how seasons are set in our country:
Peak Season - Late December/early January
High Season - Late January - March, June-October. (January - March is low in the South)
Shoulder Season - November, early December
Low Season - April & May
When to go
An occational rainshower can appear. Statistically a bit more rain in the South, but normally just as an morning or afternoon shower
NORTH & SOUTH
JANUARY & FEBRUARY
As the peak of the rain season comes, South becomes difficult. North however can still be great, and late May is especially nice in the North
MARCH - MAY
This is a great time to explore the Southern areas. Not too hot and green after the rain. North can be busy but are still nice to visit, especially early summer
JUNE - JULY
AUGUST - OCTOBER
NORTH, SOUTH, WEST
All areas are good! The rough West with remote and secluded experiences are at its best since this is the peak of the dry season in Tanzania
NOVEMBER & DECEMBER
NORTH & SOUTH
Both areas are good! You could expect a small shower now and then. If possible avoid North during Christmas as it tends to be very busy with tourists
Where to go
final tips from an old elephant
START PLANNING EARLY
SET YOUR PRIORITIES
DON´T JUST GO FOR THE NAME
BE OPEN TO ADVISE
A trip like this should not be a last minute deal. Planning your safari should be an adventure in itself, and we dare to say that good "last minute deals" for safari are usually exactly what you want to avoid, because they are rarely what you are after. In most cases, the earlier you book, the better prices you will get. And the most sought after camps and lodges fill up early -some a year in advance!
As with everything else in life, you can seldom have it all. So when you are planning your safari, it´s easy to get carried away....and the budget flies. It´s good to have a clear picture of what the most important part of your journey is, and what part of the journey you would prefer to have as close to your dream as possible to prioritize your budget in the best possible way.
One of the biggest mistakes safari travelers do, is that they pick their destination based on namedropping on places they have heard of. If this is how you choose your ultimate safari destination, be sure to do proper research so that you understand what it is, and what it is not.
The most famous places are often crowded, more expensive and might not even be the ideal places to visit at the time you are going.
It´s a jungle out there. Tour operators, safari operators, travel agencies all promoting why you should choose them. It´s important to choose someone who understand your needs and wishes and chemistry with your safari planner is important. So before you choose your trip and provider, it´s a good idea to get a feel of a few of them to compare! And do not make your choice only based on price.
If you have read this far down on the page, it´s likely that you don´t have that many safaris under your belt. The best choice for you, based on the preferences you have and time of year you are going, might actually be places you haven´t even heard of. So being open to advise from an expert, because safari is not safari. A park can be amazing a few months of the year, and completely dead the rest.