Travel guide to Tanzania part 1 : Kilimanjaro & Serengeti with Sababu Safaris

Every year during February we always scratch off a destination thats super high on our bucket list during my annual birthday adventure. Feb is a fave month since its my birthday and also just after our wedding anniversary! This year we went on an incredible adventure to Tanzania and it was one of the best trips ever ! Anush and I have always wanted to go on an African safari adventure and looking back I am so grateful we went to Tanzania for this!

For our 10 day trip to Tanzania we split it across – Kilimanjaro, Serengeti and Zanzibar. This travel guide is part 1 of my travel guide and covers Kilimanjaro and Serengeti. Stay tuned for my part 2 which will be a Zanzibar travel guide, later this week.

TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS TO TANZANIA :

* The country dosen’t need a Covid test required to enter, however we did test few days in advance prior to our trip. Your airline might need a test to board so its best to check with the airline too.

* We also got Travel insurance even though it wasn’t necessary.

* The government of Tanzania has stated it has an enhanced screening policy for all incoming tourists, which includes a health questionnaire and temperature checks.

* Mask wearing and social distancing in all public spaces.

* Other requirements :

  • Visa : All nationalities would need a visa to enter. It is recommended to apply for an evisa online atleast 2-3 weeks in advance. If not you can apply for visa on arrival ( $50/person).
  • Yellow Fever certificate : not needed as long as you are originating from a non YF country.
  • Travel back to the USA : In light with the new test requirements back to the US, we also made sure to book our test in Tanzania for 3 days before we depart. We did our test in Zanzibar and got the info on where to test from our resort. If you are travelling to Tanzania, prior to booking your trip make sure to ask your resort or tour operator on testing options to fly back.

 

WHY TANZANIA :

Africa is filled with so many incredible countries each more diverse than the other when it comes to natural beauty and wildlife. I love planning trips that have SO much variety in one destination – makes you have such a well rounded vacay with so many diverse experiences ! Tanzania is the perfect definition of that – it has so much to offer from incredible wildlife to natural wonders to rich culture and even pristine islands. We chose Tanzania for these 3 primary reasons :

1 ) WILDLIFE  : Did you know that Tanzania has the highest number of animals than any other country in Africa ? And if you love lions let me tell you this other fun fact – Tanzania has over 13000 lions – thats more lions than Kenya, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia combined! This fact of the high game density in Tanzania was the primary reason we chose this country as our first safari destination. Approximately 38% of Tanzania’s land area is protected and make up the 17 national parks, 29 game reserves and 40 controlled conservation areas ! So you are bound to see a ton of wildlife in this incredibly biodiverse country at any time of the year.

2 ) GREAT MIGRATION : The Great Migration happens here for a majority of the year ! Most visitors are familiar with the great migration as the famous river crossing that happens usually aug – sept across Kenya and Tanzania ; but for the rest of the year the migrating herds move back into Tanzania into central Serengeti and then the southern plains ( where we caught them during our trip ! )

3 ) DIVERSITY  : Aside from wildlife, Tanzania has sooo much more to offer ! From natural wonders such as Mount Kilimanjaro, cultural experiences such as living with the Maasai and even pristine islands such as Zanzibar – Tanzania makes for a super versatile, diverse and well rounded destination for a bucket list trip!

 

INTRO TO SABABU SAFARIS :

 

As I mentioned before an African Safari trip has always been super high on both Anush’s and my bucketlist and looking back we are so glad to have done it with Sababu Safaris. It was an absolute DREAM COME TRUE in every way! Thanks to Sababu Safaris we were able to create a dream itinerary for our time here that allowed us to experience its diverse culture, nature, wildlife, and so much more !

Let me tell you – I’m a big planner and I usually love planning all my trips on my own, but while planning a safari trip I soon came to realize it’s unlike any other trip where planning on your own can be very confusing and overwhelming – with trying to plan and coordinate accommodations, bush airplane transfers, park fees, other fees, game drives, activities, etc all within your budget, time and other constraints.

Sababu Safaris is a locally-run boutique Tanzania safari operator that is committed to create unique and authentic Tanzania safari experiences! They cater to the mid range to luxury safari traveler and all safari itineraries are crafted and tailored to the specific month of travel and to your individual travel style, preferences and interests.

It was such a breeze to plan with them once I gave them an idea of what I was looking for, how many days I had , my overall budget, the parks that I wanted to hit and the kind of accommodations that we wanted – the rest was all taken care of by them; which made our job so much easier! All we had to do was show up and enjoy our private luxe safari adventure !

And what really makes them stand out ? “Sababu” means purpose in Swahili and they always aim to travel with purpose and give back to the communities. Their unique impactful experiences give you the opportunity to completely immerse yourself in the rich Tanzanian culture that few truly get to know, and to make a difference at the same time!

 

HOW TO GET TO TANZANIA ?

Our international flight was from San Francisco to Dar Es Salaam ( via Istanbul ). If you can fly into Kilimanjaro, that would be more preferable, as it is closer to both Kilimanjaro as well as the national parks. Your safari tour operator will be able to plan and book your internal flight transfers like Sababu Safaris did for us.

 

WHEN TO VISIT ?

If Wildlife is your main agenda for your Tanzania trip here is a quick guideline on what time of year is best to visit.

Image via Sababu Safaris

With close to two million wildebeest on the move, along with thousands of zebras, the annual migration is spectacular and is the most popular time to visit. Most visitors are familiar with the “Great Migration” which takes place in both Tanzania and Kenya at the Mara River. However, for the rest of the year, as the migrating herds move from the Mara River back to Central Serengeti and down to the Southern plains, each season marks a unique pattern, a different landscape and all kinds of thrilling action. While wildlife movement is hard to predict, every year the migration will typically follow a very similar pattern, and Sababu Safaris offers unique, customized itineraries based on the 4 Seasons of migration:

1 . CALVING SEASON (which is when we visited)
Late January to March | Southern Serengeti & Ndutu plains
The Migratory animals were on the Ndutu plains when we were there in February.
2 . GREEN SEASON & GRUMETI RIVER CROSSING
Mid-April to early July | Western & Central-West Serengeti
3 . DRY SEASON & MARA RIVER CROSSING (the Best time to go)
Mid-July to early October | Northern Serengeti
4 . SHORT RAINY SEASON
Mid-October to December | Central & East Serengeti

OUR ITINERARY WITH SABABU SAFARIS :

Once you give Sababu Safaris details about your budget, style of accommodation, dates, etc ; they will book everything for you right from internal flight transfers to park entrance tickets to lodge stays.

Whether you prefer actual tented accommodations or cemented lodges (like we did), Sababu can work any mid range to luxe lodge into your itinerary based on what you prefer.

Given our limited time and the fact that I wanted to do a little bit of everything we chose to do Kilimanjaro, Serengeti (two parks) and Zanzibar.

Here is our exact itinerary details for accommodations. We did a total of 10 nights split across :

1 ) 2 nights at the foothills of Kilimanjaro (stay at Maasai Lodge).

2 ) 2 nights at Ngorongoro Conservation Area (stay at Ndutu Safari Lodge – mid range accommodation )

3 ) 2 nights at Serengeti National Park ( stay at Four Seasons Serengeti Lodge – luxury accommodation )

4 ) 4 nights in Zanzibar ( stay at Sharazad Boutique Hotel )

Other parks to consider if you have more time in Tanzania :

  • Tarangire National Park (known for elephants)
  • Ngorongoro Crater (different from the conservation Area , I highly recommend this !! This is one place we regret not adding to our itinerary)
  • Lake Manyara

 

KILIMANJARO & STAYING WITH THE MAASAI :

Majestic Mt Kilimanjaro in the distance

We didn’t have any plans to hike Kilimanjaro but having gone all the way to Tanzania I wanted to stay at a place which had a view of the magnificent mountain and was so beyond happy when Sababu Safaris suggested us the Original Maasai Lodge ; it truly is one of the most unique places we have stayed at !

Built and run by the Maasai, the Original Maasai Lodge offers nature, culture and relaxation with a view of Mount Kilimanjaro. To get to this lodge, you will have to fly into Arusha or Kilimanjaro airport and the lodge will be able to pick you up and rive you to the lodge ( roughly a 2 hour drive ).

Original Maasai Lodge is a unique authentic property that is run by the Maasai, where you get to live like them and experience their rich culture first hand, all in this unreal location! The lodge is located in a remote unbeatable location between Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Meru. Staying here at the lodge being up close in the midst of the Maasai no doubt was an incredible experience but what I loved most about this place was that all the profits go back towards helping the local Maasai community. Experiences with meaningful impact like this make it so much more worthwhile don’t you think?! Read more about our stay at this lodge in my blog post here.

 

SAFARI DAYS AT NGORONGORO & SERENGETI :

After our time at the Original Maasai Lodge, we flew from Arusha into Ndutu where we were picked up by our driver guide from Sababu who drove us to Ndutu Safari Lodge. As far as accommodations go in the national parks they range all the way from basic to mid range to luxury to super luxe in both tented camps and concrete lodge styles. Since this was our first time doing a safari we opted for only concrete lodges and split our time between a mid range lodge here in Ndutu and a luxe one later on in Serengeti.

ACCOMODATIONS & FOOD :

The picturesque Ndutu Safari lodge is located in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area on the edge of the Southern Serengeti plains filled with acacia trees and wide views across Lake Ndutu. Location wise, this ancient lodge is perfect and has fantastic sightings from the lodge itself but also from short game drives out on the plains. Set within the Ngorongoro Conservation area, it is also easy to access the Serengeti from here. Read more about this lodge in my blog post here.

Ndutu Safari Lodge

 

After our time in Ndutu, we then made our way to the iconic Serengeti National Park. For our time here we stayed at the beautiful Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti. This is a beautiful luxe lodge that blends so seamlessly in the middle of the Serengeti, and makes you feel isolated in the wilderness yet pampered with all that luxury. Perched on a series of elevated platforms and walkways, the Lodge sits next to an animal watering hole, where you can often watch a family of elephants stop for their morning drink as you sip your own out on your room’s private balcony or take a morning dip in their picturesque swimming pool. As much as I loved going on game drives in the park , it also felt super rejuvenating to retrieve back to a luxurious lodge such as the FS Serengeti to recoup and savor all the après safari activities. The best part of the lodge is that there you still see so much wildlife in and around the lodge, so you don’t feel like you are missing out on too much! Read more in my blog post here.

Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti

For food it is good to keep in mind – almost all accommodations are full board or all inclusive which makes it convenient to eat all meals at your lodge. They also pack picnic lunches for you for game drives which is so convenient.

 

GAME DRIVES :

As far as game drives go, if you are on a private safari like we were on, you can plan your own day and choose when you want to go out on game drives. Typically early mornings and later afternoon/early evening is the best chance to view a lot of animals. We went by our guide’s advice on when to venture out and where.

Safari is so much about luck but also about having a really experienced and patient driver guide ! We had the best experience with Rob from Sababu Safaris who has been doing safaris for over 20 years. Aside from these spectacular animal sightings on the daily our guide knew where to take us for sights that we wanted to see! He was so knowledgeable and shared so much info along the way about the national parks, the wildlife and Tanzania as a whole ! Safe to say we left with a refresher course on wildlife 101, loved learning so much more than we already knew.

With Rob, co founder of Sababu Safaris – our trusted driver guide

Aside from Rhinos, we  literally saw every animal on our wishlist – lions, cheetahs, a leopard ( consider ourselves lucky since they are so rare!), elephants, zebras, giraffes, buffaloes, different types of antelopes, hippos, crocodiles, ostriches, baboons, warthogs, hyenas, wildebeests and so much more! There is no words that can do justice to this magical experience ever! Seeing all these beautiful creatures in the wild, in their natural habitat is absolutely breathtaking. Even memories of these animal sightings brings me to tears and gives me all the feels, I truly wish each and every one of you get to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity to witness nature and wildlife like this. Here are just a few of our favorite shots from our animal viewings (among the 1000’s of photos we have haha!) :

 

BALLOON SAFARI :

Going into this trip, we knew that a hot air balloon safari was a popular thing to do in the Serengeti ; but having done one recently in Cappadocia we didn’t initially plan on doing one here. But that changed, quickly once we arrived in the Serengeti and I am SO glad we booked a last minute safari from the sky with Miracle Experience! Check out more in my blog post here.

If you ever visit the Serengeti, you must add a hot air balloon safari to your itinerary! Here’s why :

  •  seeing wildlife from this perspective is seriously something out of this world ! We spotted over 8 different types of animals – including giraffes , baboons, hippos, a leopard, elephants and so much more.
  • you can’t off-road in the park which means you only get to see the wildlife that’s around the roads. Seeing it from the sky gives you the opportunity to view sooo much of the park that you can’t access via roads !
  • This birds eye perspective of the park is insane and gives you uninterrupted views of the enchanting scenery all around ! This is when you will really appreciate the vastness, magnitude and sheer magic of this place!
  • not only was the actual balloon ride so incredible, but the entire experience itself – landing in the middle of the park and celebrating with some bubbly 🥂 and then being whisked off to a dreamy breakfast situation in the bush was seriously such a cool experience all together!

After your safari with Miracle you can also check out their Tanzanite store called The Tanzanite Experience at the Serengeti park visitor center if you are interested in authentic Tanzanite.

Views for days of the stunning Serengeti!

Breakfast in the bush!

 

BUDGET FOR A SAFARI IN TANZANIA :

Overall safari pricing varies, depending on the level of accommodation, the time of travel, the number of travelers, the amount of days and a few other factors. Sababu Safaris will be happy to give you a free quote on how much it could potentially be for your plan.

Straight off the bat I can tell you a safari isn’t a budget vacation by any means. It has been one of the most expensive trips we have ever taken in the 45+ countries I have been to! But so so worth it.

While there are ways to save up on accommodation ( going for basic v/s mid range v/s luxury), costs such as park fees, internal transfers, etc are all fixed and they are definitely pricey. All national park fees, conservation fees, etc go directly towards protecting the wildlife and this precious ecosystem, which is what makes it so expensive and 100% worth it. But as a ballpark budget for specific details:

  • Flights : roughly $1000 – $1200 RT economy from the US
  • Safari cost : $600 per person per day is a rough guideline that my guide mentioned for ( this covers very basic accommodation, park fees , basic food, car + guide, etc). It will be more expensive for better accommodation in mid range to luxe options )
  • Internal flights : $500-$600 per person ( again depends on how many internal flights you take )

WHAT TO WEAR & CARRY FOR A SAFARI :

Check out this blog post for all the details on what I carried + essentials not to miss out on packing for a luxury safari.

 

 

GET INSPIRED TO VISIT :

A bucketlist moment! Seeing African Elephants in the wild.

Giraffes are my favorite safari animals!

Always stopping for epic views and photos opps in every corner.

We couldn’t get over the amount of wildlife we saw daily! It was truly so magical !

One of our favorite sightings – seeing over 2000 wild buffaloes! And we were the only safari vehicle in sight!

Anush and me in our elements!

Making friends with the Maasai at the Maasai lodge

Cultural sundowners with the Maasai – such a special experience!

Relaxing at our safari lodges in the mid day – Ndutu safari lodge (above) ; Four Seasons Serengeti (below)

Magical bush sunrise! Love the acacia trees silhoutte.

Another fave moment – flying over a hippo pool!

The Serengeti in all her splendour!

Bush Sunsets are out of this world!

 

Overall this was an adventure of a lifetime and one we will cherish for years to come. This is a place we will certainly be back to soon enough! I can’t recommend Sababu Safaris enough, for a beautiful, unique and authentic safari adventure in Tanzania.

Stay Wild, Gypsy Child!

 

Stay tuned for my Travel guide to Tanzania part 2 ( Zanzibar) that will be up soon!

Thanks for stopping by! xoxo

Jyo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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