12 March 2015 Written by 

What your safari consultant will not tell you before travelling to Tanzania

Epitomising the image of Africa, Tanzania has it all – mountains, beaches and islands with majestic views, national parks and game reserves so vast some are the size of small countries and with the most impressive natural event in the world of annual migrations. Nothing is as humbling as seeing the snow-peaked Mt Kilimanjaro when the sun rises. Nowhere are animals as visible as on the high plains of the Serengeti. To look down into the immense bowl of the Ngorongoro Crater is to stand at the gates of heaven itself. Moreover, relaxing in Zanzibar with its coral-sand beaches, barefoot beach lodges and opulent heritage is the ultimate holiday finale.

When to go

Awe-inspiring wildebeest gather on the rain-soaked plains of southern Serengeti to give birth in February before commencing their migration. April - May is the rainy season, bush roads are impassable and camps close. The dry season from June - October is a popular time.

How to travel

  1. On a budget – travelling by road minimises costs and is a good way of seeing more of Tanzania. Journeys between parks average five hours using the universal 8-seater minivan with raised roof hatches and a local English-speaking driver-guide.
  2. In style – this includes direct flights into the bush (cutting out long road journeys), game drives with expert local guides in vehicles purpose-built for better viewing and the opportunity to stay at Tanzania's most exclusive camps and lodges.
  3. Mobile camping – the most authentic way to see Tanzania up-close without sacrificing too many creature comforts whilst having greater flexibility in the bush.
  4. Walking – a real adventure for the reasonably fit. Although there are less 'good' wildlife photo opportunities, one experiences the full-on thrill of the Wild. Riding camels and experienced guides escort travellers.
  5. Beach-and-bush safaris – an irresistible combination: a sojourn in the grassland plains, savannah, riverine forest and woodlands followed by a chance to relax beside the Indian Ocean.

How to dress

Wear comfortable and practical clothing whilst avoiding bright colours, camouflage (military type) clothing or blacks and blues (both attract tsetse flies). Blend into the landscape with greens and khakis. Go for lightweight cottons, long trousers and long-sleeved shirts. Invest in a fitting baseball cap and sensible footwear with thorn-proof soles. Carry swimwear and a jacket or sweater (for dawn game drives). Most camps and lodges have a shop where you can buy a cotton kikoi that can double as a scarf, sling or turban. Carry a soft bag and travel light. Local flights in light aircrafts often have a 15kg weight limit.

Money matters

American dollars are usually accepted. Many camps and lodges accept credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard, anticipate a surcharge of up to 5%.

Your visa

A single-entry tourist visa for Tanzania costs around US $50. It is valid for three months from the day of entry and can be obtained at official entry points throughout Tanzania.

Your health

Ensure your immunisations are up to date, specifically for hepatitis A, typhoid, diphtheria and tetanus. Antimalarial tablets are essential as malaria is widespread and immunisation against yellow fever is recommended.

Camps and lodges

Set in the heart of the action, they are chosen for their idyllic locations. Sleeping under canvas is the way to go if you want to enjoy the full-on safari experience. Everything is provided, from en suite bathrooms with running water to local and international cuisines and hot-water bottles for chilly nights.

The game

The trophy hunters of old named Africa's most dangerous game the Big Five. Today, other charismatic species such as cheetah and the endangered wild dog sit at the top of must-see lists. Antelopes, zebras and giraffes are abundant and just as beautiful as the elusive cats. Tanzania also has at least 1,000 bird species and marvels such as the buffalo weaver, elephant shrew, ant lion, rhino beetle and leopard tortoise.

Esther Gacheru

Esther Gacheru is an aspiring Business Analyst in Nairobi who is currently nurturing an agribusiness project. Her most indulged passions include listening to music, giving back to the society, travelling and writing about her travels.
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