For the not- Italian readers, in Italy we had a very famous travel TV show called “Alle Falde del Kilimangiaro”. Needless to say, I became addicted to it, religiously watching it every Sunday afternoon and swearing that one day I’d make it to Tanzania! And indeed I made it 😉
TANZANIA MAP & INTRO
Below: Such a lovely image of the “King”, an amazing lion in the wild spotted during my stay with the Ang’ata Safari crew who showed me around this beautiful country! I can’t recommend them enough, not only for their incredible professionality but most importantly for their human touch. My experience in Tanzania has been a memorable one also thanks to them. REAL people behind a name. You guys are incredible!
So, on the 2nd of January 2016, with thousands of thoughts and emotion running in my mind, I finally made my way to the country I had been gazing in the Atlas and on TV since my childhood! Upon arrival at Kilimanjaro International Airport, I had to pinch myself to be sure that I wasn’t dreaming.
If you read my Pre-Africa trip post you can clearly see the level of excitement, enthusiasm, and expectations I had about heading to Africa and Tanzania in particular. The guide, Ally, was all set to welcome me and after that, I was driven to a lovely hotel in Arusha for an overnight stay of well-deserved rest.
The following day I was supposed to leave very early in the morning to start my one-week epic tour but, as usual (Ugh!), I had to make a quick detour to a local hospital as I was still half sick from my not so smart move of drinking tap water during a layover in Johannesburg two weeks earlier.
More on my semi misadventures and advice on health and safety while traveling in Africa on a separate post I’m working on right now. Don’t worry, you will survive, just don’t make the same silly (and totally avoidable) mistakes I did! 🙂
The right question is, why people shouldn’t love it!? I mean… look at this <3
So, health issues almost solved (special thanks to Joey, manager at Ang’ata Camps, for her kindness and support), I was finally ready to fulfill yet another crazy dream! One week is the bare minimum to discover a part of the country so I decided to cover just the northern part but there is so much more to see!
In my opinion, seven days are still a good appetizer to discover and explore the scenic beauty of Tanzania, leaving you with a longing feeling of wanting to come back for more (because there are always more things to do in Tanzania, they are endless!)
My itinerary was made as to stay in a few different super organized and lovely campsites in the wilderness of the most famous and scenic natural parks: The Ngorongoro and Serengeti, combining a bit of chic/luxury comfort with some great wild adventure safaris! More details on the places I’ve stayed on the next part of the post!
This amazing video just brought tears on my eyes, you should watch it till the end, it brought me back to those amazing moments I experienced from the viewpoint of Ngorongoro to be in the middle of it, surrounded by the beauty of nature and its wildlife! On top of the things to do in Tanzania for sure!
There are so many reasons why I madly fell in love with Tanzania but, personally, what really hit me the most about this country, set aside for the warmness and kindness of its people, were its green, majestic landscapes. During the hours spent in the minivan with Ally, my super fun guide, I was literally glued to the window, jaw dropped, contemplating my surroundings in disbelief and thinking “Is this for real??”
The mountains, the hills, and the green fields populated by the animals in their wild environment create such a surreal atmosphere that it’s almost impossible to describe if you haven’t tried it. It was literally a “wow” after another! And by then I had already visited a few other amazing African countries, so these things were not super “new” to me.
Ally was so patient, stopping the van whenever he heard me screaming in excitement for something I just saw, being an animal or just the rays of light hitting the hills, and he slowed down our schedule allowing me to fully enjoy the scenic views, sit down, having a chat and soak everything in.
Thanks, Ally! I loved this guy to pieces, one of the best guides ever. We had such a great time, some interesting conversations and countless laughter together!
My biggest “WOW” moment in Tanzania (and the one that probably scared Ally the most :D) was definitely the viewpoint at Ngorongoro Crater.
I still remember the first time I saw a picture of it: It was around 2009/2010. Toby, one of my friends back in London, posted it after he climbed the Kilimanjaro mountain mentioning it as the top thing to do in Tanzania. No offense to Toby, but it wasn’t a super sharp or breathtaking picture per se. A simple snapshot from his mobile phone was enough to make me fall in love with that place!
At the time I was still dreaming about traveling and I’d never thought that I could really visit that place. So I kept looking at that picture in awe. Little did I know that one day I would have been “included” in a similar photo (here below!) 🙂
Each trip is different and you will have a few options to discover Tanzania:
- Rent your own vehicle and book your accommodation: This is not the easiest way to get around Tanzania as the roads are not exactly in perfect shape, the country is huge and you will have to know the area very well to find your way around, know the rules and pay the fees for the parks and more. Still doable if you feel adventurous but my advice is to plan in advance as much as you can!
- Moving by public transport: At least from town to town in the most touristy areas. Venturing into more remote places is not really recommended or sometimes not even possible by public transport. It will take a lot of planning ahead, patience and get ready to change your plans as you go.
- Booking the whole trip with a private company like I did: I’ve chosen this as being my first time in Africa (even if I never felt unsafe) I wanted to simply enjoy my one week in the country without the hassle of spending hours in Arusha trying to organize a safari experience, finding proper accommodation and so on. The additional cost is well worth it and you will still have an authentic experience. Heck, I even met the local doctor and the lovely kids in a village of probably less than 100 inhabitants including chickens and piglets in the Serengeti park 🙂
In Tanzania, I got the opportunity to stay in some of the most beautiful luxury camps. After experiencing the extremely adventurous side of basic camping in Namibia and Botswana, and with another month to go in Africa, I had the need to slow down and truly relax after a day filled with adventures.
Why I recommend Ang’ata Safari for your safari trip to Tanzania:
They offer a top-notch experience all-inclusive experience, from the lovely and super comfortable camps to the personalized safaris and skilled guides, able to spot a cheetah one kilometer away (yes no kidding!) but most importantly, their human touch. I can’t stress this enough, it was truly the cherry on top of an incredible pie!
With Ang’ata Safari you will have it all: The trip of a lifetime in Tanzania!
Ang’ata luxury camps were definitely the perfect choice to chill and yet still be in the wild.
Yep, as wild as you can possibly imagine (keep reading!). At the Migration Camp, I slept in a tent a bit “far” from the restaurant/reception and I had to ring a bell so that I could be escorted in there for dinner. At first, I was puzzled, I mean come on… it was literally not more than 10 meters away, what could possibly happen in 10 meters?! They also told me to never get out of the porch of my tent at night. Again, I thought that their security measures were a little over the top. Well, turned out they were (obviously) right!
THE MASSIVE HIPPO!
One night I was sitting in the dark admiring the milky way (oh my, what a view!) when I heard a strange sound just outside the porch. The moon hadn’t risen over the horizon and it was pitch dark. The sound wouldn’t stop and it kept getting closer and closer… Without making a sound I slid back in the tent and grabbed my flashlight.
From behind the curtains of my tent, I switched the light on and I saw a hippo (they look small in the pictures but they are MASSIVE BEASTS, even taller than me!) munching grass just one meter away from where I was sitting! I had a similar encounter in Kenya but from a distance, while this big boy was right in front of my tent!
Anyway, don’t panic, the hippos are not aggressive unless you are “invading” their territory. They won’t attack you or enter/destroy your tent just because they had a bad day 🙂 My suggestion is to follow the instructions of the camp religiously and never try to be smart and take a night walk in the wild. VERY. BAD. IDEA!
THE HUNTING LIONESS!
Wasn’t the cellulite filled hippo exciting enough for you? ah well, let me see… another night I was trying to take a picture of the milky way just at the border of the porch outside the tent. I had my head torch on and I was sitting on the grass for 5 seconds to take the shot.
When I came back to look at the camera screen I heard a sound, turned my head in that direction and there she was, a lioness jumping out of a bush on my left chasing some animal and quickly disappearing in front of me! Let me tell you, I will never forget that night, pure adrenaline, I think I might still be in shock thinking about it!
During my week journey to Tanzania I didn’t stay in just one camp but three amazing ones, each camp offered something unique.
1)The Serengeti Camp
2)The Ngorongoro Camp
3)The Migration Ndutu Camp
The beds I slept on were super-comfy and canopy beds are actually one of my obsession so imagine my joy in seeing them! They are actually quite frequent in Africa as they are used to protect you from the mosquitoes.
The night I took this picture I realized that I never slept better in a proper bed since 2008, in a lovely hotel in Scotland. Seriously, either that or they must have put some sleeping spray on the pillows 🙂 Fantastic!
The camps offered personalized service, courteous staff, and super tasty local and international food. What makes these camps very worth it, is that they are luxurious, but they still preserve the true African vibe in every possible aspect, from the materials used to build the tents, the eco-friendly ways to manage the water and electricity to the decors inside the beautiful tents and the porch outside, with a Masaai guarding your tent and making you feel super safe in the wilderness.
It’s been a unique experience. Sometimes I truly don’t believe I was there. I think I had the most amazing dream of my life. Glad I have pictures to prove it!
Do you want to book your own incredible experience with Ang’ata camps? you can either go to their website or ask for more info in here! Check out the pictures of the camps, they are breathtaking!
The Ngorongoro area as previously stated was definitely one of the highlights of my trip and definitely on the top 3 things to do and see in Tanzania. Since I had only one week, I decided to go for the northern part and your visit would not be complete without checking out the Ngorongoro Crater! My advice is to take it easy and spend as much time as you can at the viewpoint!
After admiring the magnificent view, the guide will start driving towards the heart of the crater, usually to eat lunch while watching the hippos enjoying their time in the water, the lions napping in the shade and so many other animals roaming around the green fields. Ngorongoro is such a peaceful, mesmerizing place!
Tip: Ask your guide to stay a bit longer when the other cars are gone, this way you might be able to enjoy the view all by yourself! Simply awesome.
The Serengeti National Park
The Serengeti was in my dreams since… forever, after watching countless documentaries. Words cannot describe its beauty. You will find so much info online about the wild animals you can see, and why it is so special, but it’s never enough to truly capture its magical essence.
This is why the Serengeti is for me (and I think for many others) the top 1 thing to do in Tanzania. You can’t visit Tanzania and not go to the Serengeti!
I decided to put a video (not mine as I was honestly too busy to contemplate one of my dream becoming reality to being able to make a “video documentary” of it). I just took pictures from time to time and simply enjoyed one of the most incredible places on earth.
I will leave the video to speak for itself as I have no words to describe such beauty!
The Serengeti National Park is considered as Africa’s most famous wildlife park draped in grassy plains and serves as a home to the largest wildlife “collection” in the world (and if you watched the video you realized that it’s absolutely true!)
A Must Thing To Do: Scoring all of the big five!
The real reason for heading to Africa is usually to indulge in a blissful Safari Experience. Who doesn’t love watching wild animals? Those who never thought of getting involved in a safari tour will absolutely fall in love with the wildlife. I feel SO lucky that I was able to spot all the Big Five in Tanzania!
If you don’t know what the “Big Five” are exactly, well, no need to scratch your head, I didn’t know what the “Big Five” stood for (yes, shame on me!) but now I do: They comprise of Africa’s most dangerous animals:
In Tanzania I also beat a personal record: It was the closest I had ever been to a Lion. I could easily touch it if I wanted to but glancing at him literally froze my blood! Below, I was going back to my camp from the Ngorongoro Crater.
If that wasn’t enough, voila’… out of the blue I finally spotted the mythological Unicorn! No, wait… that was probably a rhino 😀, such a scaringly fascinating creature. They are pretty elusive animals, that’s why when you spot one (even if it’s not as famous as the “big cats”) it’s always a thrill and a treat to see.
Is it Safe to Travel to Tanzania?
The country is pretty safe, even if you decide to explore it independently. Just use common sense especially in the cities, just as you would do in any other country. Obviously when you are in the wild or on a Safari, always follow your guide instructions. When camping in the wild, even in luxury tents, always remember that you are in the middle of nowhere where predators are free to move without barriers. But worry not, follow your guide and you will be more than OK!
Do I need a Visa for Tanzania?
As far as Visas are concerned, it varies from country to country, but generally, you will need to apply for a tourist visa (one or multiple entries) before you arrive or upon arrival. If you choose the latter, make sure to have enough cash (US Dollars) to pay for the fee, that might vary depending on your citizenship (around 50/100$). You also need to have an outbound ticket and the visa is valid for a 3-month stay. Always make sure to have all the documents requested. For more info and updated guidelines, check out this website.
What Vaccinations do I need for Tanzania?
I HIGHLY recommend the following vaccinations:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
What about the Yellow Fever Vaccine? It’s not mandatory unless you arrive from certain endemic countries. I did it way in advance in Italy as a precaution as I had to travel for 2 months in Africa via some endemic countries. For more info read this article.
Do I need Malaria Profilaxis for Tanzania?
I’m not a doctor so DO NOT take my advice as it’s the bible. I lived for years in areas where there was a risk to contract Malaria (Asia mainly) and I never did any prophylaxis. I did actually contract Malaria, but I was in Zambia and it happened because the mosquito repellent gave me a minor skin reaction one night and I was chatting at the phone outside the tent (very smart move!) 🙂
Luckily in Africa, they are used to Malaria, so I was tested, given a cure and in 3-4 days I was OK. I’d say that if you are careful enough, apply the repellent and cover yourself at dusk, you won’t need it but I highly recommend to book an appointment to a travel clinic before the departure to evaluate the benefits vs the side effects.
Is it safe to drink tap water in Tanzania?
Unfortunately no. And this is valid for most (if not all) the African countries. Always drink bottled water, readily available and cheap, and also brush your teeth with bottled water. I made the mistake to drink tap water in South Africa, after asking the manager of the hotel if it was safe. Bad mistake! For them is perfectly safe to drink as they were born in there and they are “immune” to certain bacteria, we don’t. As a result, I got a VERY BAD case of intestinal “issues” and had to stay put for one week.
I will link to an article I’m about to publish where I will give you all the tips to avoid my mistakes and have a great time in Africa. Don’t be scared, there is truly no need!
Currency /Money/ATM’s in Tanzania:
Tanzania’s currency is the “Tanzanian shilling”, I recommend to withdraw the local money at a local ATM upon arrival (fees might apply, of course, depending on your card/bank), and always have US dollars available (I’d say at least 100/150 USD in cash). The major cards are widely accepted in Tanzania (Visa, Visa Debit, Mastercard), Traveler’s cheques are NOT accepted.
Tipping in Tanzania:
Tipping is a common practice in Tanzania. They usually have boxes for tips in the camps and you should always tip your guide. There is not an average tipping %, but I did usually give around 10/15$ when staying in the camps and at least 10$ to the guide.
I know what you are thinking : “Hey wait a second… isn’t this a post about Tanzania? Why is she comparing Southern Africa with Eastern Africa?
Well, since I have spent more than 4 (super stressful) months organizing these 60 epic days in Africa, and I visited both the Southern and Eastern parts, I know that some people will be super torn about where they want to spend their money.
I decided to go for broke (as usual) because, even if I had some great companies who hosted me, I paid for everything else: flights, extra activities and more. In addition to that, I wanted to go to Africa since forever and I contacted the companies I would have paid anyway if they said no to our cooperation. So I was in a situation that’s familiar to many of you.
Which African Countries/areas are best? Where should I go?
Obviously, the answer depends on your preferences, some people hate camping, for example, some other are super adventurous… to each its own. I just wanted to give you an honest overview of what I saw during my time in Africa to help you out in your decision making!
Disclaimer: I only put the countries that I actually visited, as Southern and Eastern Africa includes more countries than the ones stated below, but I never talk about something I haven’t tried when giving advice. The ones with the (…) are the countries I only visited briefly (one-2 days max).
Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Seychelles, (Zanzibar)
Namibia, (South Africa), Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Victoria Falls
Tourists and Accommodations:
Generally, East Africa is known for having a huge number of tourists that prefer to stay in luxurious camps. After all, I stayed in one too 😉 The best feature of staying in a luxury camp is that it offered me a chance to explore and indulge in huge tracts of the wilderness without being crammed with other tourists.
In Southern Africa, they have more options, from the basic camping /overland trip as I did, to fine lodges and self-drive safaris. Of course, there are options on the east part too but are less frequent. Probably because the overall general price is higher in the southern countries of Africa, compared to the eastern ones.
List of The Main Attractions In Eastern and Southern Africa
Tanzania: Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro, Zanzibar, Mount Kilimanjaro, Tarangire National Park, Visit the nearby Island of Zanzibar and marvelous Seychelles.
Kenia: Masai Mara, Lake Naivasha, Lake Nakuru, Amboseli national Park, Tsavo National Park, Samburu national reserve, Nairobi, Mombasa.
Uganda: Queen Elizabeth National park, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (see gorillas in the Wild), Lake Bunyonyi, Murchison falls, Ziwa Rhino sanctuary.
Namibia: Etosha National park, Sossusvlei & Deadvlei, Skeleton Coast, Namib Desert, Fish River Canyon, Cheetas rescue park, Kolmanskop ghost town, visit Swakopmund Town and last but not least: Cross the Tropic of Capricorn! (Read the details on my article about my 2 weeks camping in Namibia.
Botswana: Chobe national park, Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve, Central Kalahari Game reserve, Kubu Island, Khama Rhino Sanctuary, Guma Lagoon.
Zimbabwe: Mana Pools National park, Eastern Highlands, Matusanona National park, Hwange National Park, Matobo National park, Victoria Falls Bridge, Victoria falls (the best view of the waterfalls is in the Zimbabwe side)
Zambia: Victoria Falls- Devils Pools (this is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life! See the video above and the article about the Guide to the Devil’s pool, South Luangwa National Park, Blue Lagoon National Park.
Compared to Southern Africa, The easter part provides a bit more of genuine interaction with the local communities, opportunities to witness Maasai or Samburu tribal living is quite common. I even went to the local doctor to ask for a thermometer as I had lost mine and despite the fever bothering me, it was such a lovely experience to see how these people actually live far away from the touristic route!
In southern Africa, I had the opportunity to visit the lovely Himba tribe but the experience was “less genuine”, meaning that you had to go to their village in a sort of “tour”. The locals don’t mind as they can make a bit of money selling bracelets and artifacts but you wouldn’t meet them on the streets as it happens in Eastern Africa. Still a great experience, don’t get me wrong!
Safaris & Wildlife:
The wildlife species in both regions are much similar. The major difference I’ve noticed is in how many you will see. In Southern Africa (especially in Botswana), you will see a lot more elephants while in East Africa the massive number of zebras and wildebeest that you would find in the Serengeti is… impressive!
What about our beautiful predators? (Lions, Cheetas and leopards)?
From what I saw, you will have many chances to see your beloved big cats in both Southern Africa and Eastern Africa (everyone goes absolutely BONKERS during a safari when one of the guides communicate to the other that they have spotted a cheetah, a lion or a leopard). In my experience, I saw more lions than ever in Tanzania and Kenya, while they are a bit more elusive in Namibia and other parts of southern Africa, but still, you will see them, probably napping or yawning, their favorite things to do ;), don’t worry!
Please don’t kill me but… If my life depended on this answer, I would be dead by now as I haven’t made my mind up yet! It is impossible to decide, both parts of Africa are breathtaking. So this is my honest advice. Life is short, and Africa is quite expensive. If you want to live life to the fullest but you are not rich, don’t lose hope.
I had to sacrifice A LOT to live the life I’m living right now, but I don’t regret selling all my belongings to fulfill a dream. MY DREAM. So if your dream is to visit Africa, something that, you have to believe me, will change your life forever, you have to be patient and maybe wait a couple of years, save the money and DO BOTH!
If you are one of the lucky ones who can afford to spend some money, then I’d say even more convincingly … visit both Eastern and Southern Africa. You won’t regret it one bit.
Actually, by visiting both areas you will have an even more life-changing experience as, set aside for the wildlife and Safaris (which are quite similar in the end), the landscape, cultural and adventurous experiences will be so different that will blow your mind.
It took me more than 2 years to write this article, and you know why? Because the words to describe what my trip to Africa and Tanzania in particular, meant to me, lack of a proper vocabulary.
I had to process my emotions, thoughts, and memories and there is not a day that passes by without thinking about that amazing continent. As I said. Life is short, and what really matters in the end, are the experiences we have, not the thing we own. The choice is yours 🙂
Have you ever been to Tanzania? If so, add your own tips and things to do that I’ve missed in the comments! 🙂
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