Discover The Unexpected

First Timer’s Guide: Step by Step Guide to Planning Your Tanzania Safari

With a plethora of wildlife destinations scattered across Africa, Tanzania has long held a revered status among safari aficionados.  Thanks, in part, to the dramatic visuals seen in wildlife documentaries, many are familiar with the great wildebeest migration, spectacular landscapes and fascinating culture. 

WHAT IS AN AFRICAN SAFARI?

Before diving into it, it is vital to understand that going on a safari is nothing like going to a zoo or safari park.  The animals are absolutely free, their only mistress being the whims of Mother Nature – which can be brutal in its efficiency and most parks adhere to strict policies of non-interference unless humans are to blame.  

You will set out to find the animals, and although your guide might have contact with others and a superb understanding of animal behaviour, sightings of wildlife can never be guaranteed.  Sometimes you might see nothing for hours.  Here, the services of a professional safari operator and guide are invaluable.  Their experience, network and local knowledge is often the difference between a holiday and a life-changing experience.

At best, some animals may be habituated to humans, but they are wild and will defend themselves without hesitation.  Do not attempt to approach, feed, touch or chase anything… even if a monkey steals your water bottle.  Most unfortunate incidents occur when instructions or common sense are ignored.

Also, remember that wildlife documentaries take years to make and are often a composite of footage used to create a story.  In real life, lions, for example, sleep for 18 hours a day and miss 90% of their hunts – so manage your expectations and don’t expect drama from sunrise to sunset.

With the popularity of wildlife holidays, Tanzania has a well-developed safari industry, catering to a broad spectrum of interests, budgets and pursuits.  Nonetheless, if you’ve decided to visit Tanzania (or anywhere in Africa), it pays to do some research and planning beforehand.  Africa, as they say, is not for the faint-hearted, so having an idea of what to expect goes a long way to having expectations meet experience.

The so-called Northern Safari Circuit, incorporating  Ngorongoro Conservation Authority, the Serengeti, Tarangire, and Lake Manyara National Parks, among other worthwhile destinations, is the most popular and well-served.  The flip side is that it is busier and more expensive than other lesser-known parks to the south. 

For first-time visitors, this can all seem overwhelming, so we’ve created a guide to assist the first-time traveller in researching, planning, budgeting, and undertaking a successful safari.

RESEARCH

Like any trip, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  And in Tanzania, with its unique cultures, customs, and social norms, not to mention cumbersome bureaucracy, it helps to know what you’re getting into.  What do you want to see?  Are you all about the wildlife, or interested in the culture too?  It is a good idea to check out the reviews on various tour operators before booking with them.  Don’t waste time with those who don’t listen to your preferences or adhere to your budget.  In general, if you plan to go in the high season, give yourself a years’ advance for booking.  For the low season, 2 – 6 months should do.

BUDGET

For many, a Tanzanian safari is a once-off experience and doesn’t come cheap.  First off, there are the return flights, internal flights and road transport.  There are ways of reducing costs but sometimes savings mean sacrifices.  For instance, if you’re planning a holiday, you’d best research the various tolls, camping fees, destination fees, entrance fees and more.  Tanzania loves a good fee.  

From this perspective, booking an inclusive package makes sense, as all but some items are covered (curios, expensive drinks, tips) and they eliminate most of the unexpected expenses and bureaucratic hassles, particularly in the mid to lower price range.  

Gratuities are considered the norm and you should add anything from $10 for general staff (kitchen and housekeeping) and $10 for your guide, per person per day.

Accommodation options cater to all market segments.  At the low end, you would need to budget about US$125 per person per day.  At the upper extreme, numerous lodges charge thousands of dollars, with an entourage of staff attending to your every whim.  It is certainly possible to find somewhere that suits your pocket and your safari aspirations.  Remember, due to the environment you’ll be visiting, rules or limitations may apply to those with children.  Some places have special programs for children, who may not enjoy spending hours each day in a vehicle.

Be sure to inquire at your local travel clinic about malaria and vaccine requirements – and don’t forget to factor in travel insurance.

WHERE, WHEN AND FOR HOW LONG?

Next, look at where you want to go.  There are distinct high and low seasons, with prices to match.  It’s fair to say that the more popular the area, the more you will have to pay. So perhaps consider adding Tarangire National, and spend less time at the Ngorongoro Crater.  In all likelihood, the species represented will be much the same (and without the jostling traffic at sightings, a more relaxed experience too).  The high season runs from July to September and through December.

Likewise, you’ll have to decide whether you must see the wildebeest migration, for example, or are you happy to see the same species in lesser concentrations at a different time of year.  The seasonal rains may affect game viewing and accessing certain areas.  This is a relatively minor issue, for the most part.

The length of your safari will likely be determined by your budget and the time you have available.  While some sources suggest a week is enough, others suggest a fortnight or more, so you can visit more places.  A valid suggestion is to spend at least two to three nights at each lodge.  This gives you time to settle in, enjoy the amenities, relax, and most importantly, get a true sense of the destination and the wildlife found there.  

Aside from the changing landscapes, hopping from one lodge to the next in a mad rush will only cause stress, does not improve your sightings and reduces your viewing time (lost to travel).  A frequent refrain at the end of a safari is wishing there was more time.  Manage it carefully, along with your reasonable expectations, and you will savour the experience tenfold.

WHAT TO PACK?

Luggage space and capacity are often limited, so choose lightweight clothing and layer it for warmth.  Early mornings and evenings can be surprisingly cold so take a good jacket and a beanie.  All manner of sun protection is vital – sunglasses, hat, sunscreen.  If you are doing a walking safari, good hiking boots are essential.  If not, a pair of trainers and flip-flops will suffice.  A travel raincoat is also a good idea, although camps often supply ponchos.

You’ll no doubt want to capture your memories, so invest in a camera with a decent zoom.   You will probably be disappointed if you think your cell phone will suffice.  If you are an avid photographer, do some research as to what gear to take.  Binoculars are provided on the safari vehicle, but you are welcome to bring your own if you prefer.

WHAT TO EXPECT?

Life on safari starts in the early morning.  By conducting activities in the cooler times of day, you are more likely to see active wildlife that might otherwise be resting in a thicket when it is hot.  Most camps offer game drives during these hours, although some do extended drives throughout the day.  Not all lodges allow night drives or offroad driving.  

In between activities, meals  – usually brunch, high tea and dinner – are served.  Depending on the area you visit, additional activities such as guided nature walks may be on offer, allowing you to learn more about the minutiae of the ecosystem.  Top-end lodges may even offer balloon safaris and helicopter flights.  If wellness is your thing, you will find lodges that offer beauty treatments, yoga classes and fitness centres.

As you’ve read this article, you’ll have realised that the considerations and variables could fill a book or two.  Bringing us back to the first point – research.  It’s your holiday, your investment, and your adventure.  Make it count!

Categories

Tags

Related Articles

Check Out These Tours For You!

See What Our Clients Have to Say

LoveTravel259094
LoveTravel259094
August 8, 2023
Asante Gosheni and espacially Hassan Nous tenons à recommander Hassan car nous venons de passer un séjour mémorable avec lui. Grâce à son expérience, sa connaissance parfaite du monde animal et des parcs, Hassan nous a permis de voir de nombreux animaux en étant extrêmement bien placé.
Bien évidemment les big five (même le rhinocéros!), la traversée de la rivière par les gnous et bien d'autres animaux.
En faisant un safari avec Hassan vous trouverez tout ce que vous êtes venus chercher.
A l'avenir si nous décidons de refaire un safari, nous voudrions repartir avec Hassan.
Myriam D
Myriam D
August 8, 2023
Hassan is the best guide !!!! Nous avons eu la chance de faire un safari de 8 jours dans les parcs nationaux du nord de la Tanzanie avec Hassan comme guide. Hassan est un guide très expérimenté.
Grâce à lui et sa grande expérience nous avons découvert et appris énormément de choses sur la Tanzanie, les animaux, les végétaux etc. Hassan est un véritable passionné qui aime transmettre son savoir.
En plus de ses connaissances, Hassan a un véritable œil de lynx et sais débusquer le moindre animal caché.
Grâce à Hassan nous avons eu la chance de voir beaucoup d’animaux et tous ceux du « Big Five ».
Parmi tous les véhicules présents lors des safaris, Hassan sait se frayer un chemin pour nous permettre d’avoir toujours le meilleur point de vue.
Hassan sait où se placer pour nous permettre d’avoir une vue sans égal sur les animaux, en les observant de très près.
Hassan est également un excellent conducteur. La route n’a aucun secret pour lui.
C’est également un guide très attentionné, toujours aux petits soins pour nous et d’une extrême gentillesse.
Nous recommandons Hassan les yeux fermés et si nous devions refaire un safari, nous demanderons d’être guidés par Hassan sans hésitation.
Merci encore à Hassan pour ces merveilleux moments qui resterons gravés dans notre mémoire !!
bonny l
bonny l
August 6, 2023
amazing Safari experience wiz gosheni nice trip wiz our amazing guide Samir We saw all the wild animals during Safari
thx a lot for the thoughtful and excellent service
highly recommend
FENG Y
FENG Y
August 6, 2023
愉快的非洲之旅 幸运的选择了gosheni Safari,我们的向导samir服务非常好,小朋友们都很喜欢他,非洲五霸除了犀牛没有看到外,其他都替我们找到了,寻找动物经验丰富,在超远的地方就能看到目标。可以在众多的车子中抢到一个很好的观赏位,办事灵活。
Vladimir T
Vladimir T
August 6, 2023
Great experience! Great experience! Starting from the trip planning the communications were very clear and smooth to organize the tour and select itinerary. In the end we opted for 5 days/4 nights route including the Tarangire, Serengeti and Lake Manyara nations parks as well as a visit to the Ngorongoro crater. The tour itself was excellent and very punctual, here kudos to our guide Wilson who is very experienced and knowledgeable about his job and also went well beyond his duty and gave us a nice summary of country’s history. It was really a pleasure to spend time with him and we managed to see the big 5:) Accommodations were superb: great camps, an amazing farmhouse close to Ngorongoro, meals were also good and picnic lunches well organized.
In summary the experience was highly satisfying, I sincerely recommend Gosheni Safaris and to ask for Wilson as a guide.
Allison B
Allison B
August 5, 2023
Great Taste of Tanzania Had a great 5-day tour. Our guide James was very dedicated to making sure we saw amazing sights. He asked us our favorite animals to see and made it his mission to help us spot them. The food was good, the lodging was very pleasant, and enjoying a glass of wine on lunches was a nice touch. Favorite lodging was definitely the Farmhouse by Ngorongoro. Beautiful landscapes along the entire tour, covered a lot of ground and got a great introduction to Tanzania.
Sukhraj S
Sukhraj S
August 5, 2023
Gosheni number 1 What an unforgettable 6 days, courtesy of Gosheni Safari and our guide/driver Zadock!!!
I booked this holiday back in 2020 but then had to cancel due to Covid. That was after a lot of research of tour companies and finally picking Ghosheni. The time was right to get this once in a lifetime trip set up again, so working via email with William at Gosheni we compiled the agenda…he was so helpful and we settled on one day in Tarangire, one day in Lake Manyara, three days in Serengeti and one day in Ngorongoro Crater…I’m now on the way to Zanzibar after an amazing experience, Gosheni took care of the whole package for my wife, three teenage sons and I.

Our guide and driver was Zadock, a humble, honest, genuine, proud and generous man. He did absolutely everything for us, answered every question and took us to all the places to see the big five up close, hunts and more.

The food was served every lunch time as a picnic, with plates, blanket, wtc whilst others had lunch boxes. The Jeep was cleaned daily, and was extremely comfortable along the difficult rough terrain…a credit to Zadock.

Zadock had so much knowledge not only of the animal kingdom’s hundreds of species but also the history of Tanzania, Africa, politics, and social customs, we felt as though he was part of our family.

Thankyou Zadock and Gosheni, I very rarely write reviews after holidays and I have travelled extensively around the world, but these guys are special and have made this so memorable for my family and I….I recommend to everyone if you are unsure about who, how, what, these guys will sort out the whole trip and at a very reasonable price.

Well done William, Gosheni and Zadock, and I really hope you get to be recognised as the number one tour company in Tanzania!
Eric W
Eric W
August 4, 2023
Extraordinary Safari with Gosheni I am so glad to have Gosheni as our tour operator. They provide excellent service starting from arranging the tour till the end of our safari.
As our city had quarantine arrangement due to COVID-19, we were so worry about our trip. Luckily, Gosheni is so considerate and try their best endeavors to rearrange our scedule. With their assistance, everything is set and we feel comfortable for all of their kind arrangements.

During the safari, we have a terrific tour guide, Edward! He takes care of all the stuff and administration including liaison with hotels, lunch packing, other add-on safaris so that we can fully enjoy the trip.

Not only Edward spots a lot a lot of animals and birds for us, including the top 5 in the trip, he also introduces us the habitat and features of the animals and birds. We are very impressed by his rich knowledge and do enjoy listening the "stories" of the animals.

Edwward is definitely experienced and propose the best programme during the safari, e.g. he tries to maximise our time for the game drive in different locations and tribe visit. We fully trust his expertise and professionalism.

We are very happy with Edward and Gosheni. We will absolutely consider them in our next Africam safari.
Priyank S
Priyank S
August 4, 2023
Amazing Safari with Gosheni and Ombeni Our guide, Ombeni, was the best part of our trip. He is really knowledgeable, friendly, and we trusted his expertise for the whole 9 days across Tarangire, Serengeti, and Ngorongoro. We were lucky to see some amazing things on our game drives. Having grown up in Kenya, I have been lucky to go on many safaris, and this is one of the best I've been on.
The food was excellent, and even on the all-day game drives we had a cooked, sit-down meal for lunch which was a big plus point. All the accommodation was excellent as well.

We had a bespoke itinerary which we planned in advance with William from Gosheni, and he was extremely helpful in answering our questions and accommodating our requests.

I would highly recommend Gosheni and especially Ombeni for future travels.
Banu
Banu
August 4, 2023
Dreams come true!!! Thanks to best guide Hassani I have been dreaming Serengeti Safari tour for a long time and Gosheni Safaris made my dreams come true. We completed our 5 days safari at the end of July and it was wonderful. We visited Central Serengeti, North Serengeti and Ngorongoro.
The company is very professional from beginning to end. Peter the owner of Gosheni Safaris helped us a lot about planning our itinary. I asked too many questions and he replied all of them everytime. Sometimes he can be in the bush and has no internet connection but be sure he always will reply your questions. Just be sure that you are in safe hands and Hakuna Matata☺️

Our guide was Hassani who is a perfect guide, safari driver, friend and everything. He always did his best to show us as much as possible. We always felt safe and witnessed lots of amazing moments by help of Hassani. Beside being a perfect safari guide, he prepared very nice lunch tables every afternoon. He is very funny person and makes lots of jokes during the safari. I higly recommend Gosheni Safaris which is best one and Hassani who is a very good guide. I want to thank Hassani in person for making our safari perfect and looking forward to meet again🙏🏻

Tips: I recommend ‘Morning Hot air Balloon safari’.

Destinations

Experiences