Traveling in Africa is little different in comparison with other parts of the world. In spite of this fact, Africa as a destination is becoming more and more popular. Many tourists are drawn to Tanzania thanks to its two attractions – safaris and Zanzibar island. We couldn’t resist either and visited the spice island. In the article, you will learn about our experience, but also about our accommodation tips and about what you should not miss if you travel to Tanzania.

It All Begins with Planning

When we plan our travels, we try to avoid summer months, especially because of higher prices for flight tickets (Our tips for cheap flight tickets), accommodation, and because of crowds of tourists as well. Unfortunately, this time we had to realize our journey in July, by force of circumstances. We were thinking about where to go for a long time when we finally came up with an idea to realize our longtime dream – to have a first-hand experience of an African Safari.

We did a lot of thinking about what country to visit, and we shortlisted to Kenya and Tanzania. After a long time of considering which country is the most interesting to us, we picked Tanzania. The reasons were clear. It is safer than Kenya and there is also a higher chance of seeing the Great Wildebeest Migration (which we didn’t see eventually). Also, this choice provided more possibilities to visit Zanzibar.

Undeniably, a safari was the most expensive part of our vacation. We started to search via or which offers a wide variety. Eventually, we picked a 5-day long safari (4 nights) with a camping sleepover and a possibility to visit three national parks – Lake Manyara, the Serengeti National Park, and the Ngorongoro Crater. Our safari was arranged by African Travel Tour and we were very satisfied with their services. At first, we were little worried because they required us to pay a deposit of 200 USD. In the end, it proved that it was pointless to worry about anything because it all went without a hitch.

tom_profilOne of the main tourist attractions of Tanzania and the whole east and south Africa is a safari, which is affirmed by the prices and crowds of tourists in the park. We paid 850 USD per one person for a 5-day / 4-night safari, in total. Everything was included in the price – transport with a pick-up at the airport, accommodation in a tent including the lending of sleeping bags and mattresses, food and an unlimited amount of water. The only thing which we additionally paid was a tip for the driver and the cook, which was approximately 120 USD for both of us altogether. Both of them took care of us greatly. Whenever we arrived to the camp, they unloaded our things from the car and meanwhile we were driving around the parks with the driver, the cook would always build the tents and make meals for us. On the top of that, our guide was truly educated and it seemed he knew everything about animals. He knew answers to all of our questions and he could speak in a very engaging way.

Meeting Africa For A First Time

When we landed in the city of Tanzania, Dar Es Salaam, there was just one task ahead of us. To get a visa and get on the plane to the Kilimanjaro airport. Surprisingly, it was harder than we expected. It was the first time we encountered the African way of thinking – “there’s plenty of time for everything.” For that, the locals use this phrase – “Hakuna Matata”. The free translation could be: Keep calm and relax, it will be done, somehow. Eventually, it took 3 hours of standing in queues and we were anxious that we wouldn’t manage to catch our next flight in time.

Typical Africa

Typical Africa

The flight with Fastjet, the local airlines of a doubtful reputation, was a piece of cake after the getting visas. Flights in Tanzania you can find easily at A taxi was waiting at the airport to take us to a hotel in a nearby town of Arusha. In the hotel called Arusha Center Inn Tourist, Shabani – the owner of the safari tour – was waiting for us. He told us about what was ahead of us in next 5 days, and we could finally take a shower and go to sleep. The room was very small, the bathroom was not very clean and wifi wasn’t working at all, but the bed was cozy and that was enough for us.

A Visit To Lake Manyara National Park

A taxi took us after a decent breakfast to a place where we met with our fellow-travellers. In total, there were nine of us – young people from various corners of Europe. We were divided into two off-road vehicles. Each of the cars, Toyota Land Cruisers, had a pop-up roof, so you could stand up and watch animals and take pictures. Also, there was tents and food for the whole crew in each car. Our guide was also our driver, and there was a cook in the car as well. He helped to make food and build tents for all of us.

Our Toyota Land Cruiser with roof up

Our Toyota Land Cruiser with roof up

When everything was ready, we hit the road to Lake Manyara National Park which is famous especially for a variety of water birds living there. We saw several kinds of apes, a few wildebeests, and a giraffe before we reached the lake. Around water, we watched a plenty of herons, colorful flamingos, storks, geese, and plovers. It was a wonderful experience. But at that time, we had no idea that we would come across a herd of elephants, literally blocking the road, during our way back. A majestic male elephant with huge tusks stepped in our way, unwilling to let us go. We tried to step on the gas and pass by in close proximity, but he was not very fond of it. Our experienced guide made a skillful maneuver at the end, so we managed to pass by the huge elephant but we were all excited as hell.

The Way To Serengeti, A Journey Full Of Pitfalls

The following day we loaded the car with our things and headed for our main destination – the Serengeti National Park. We were delayed on our way there by a stop in the auto service where we had the tires changed. The road was very dusty and it seemed to take ages. The more we receded from an inhabited agglomeration, the more rapidly the landscape turned wild and rough. We passed Maasai villages and men dressed in multicolored tunics as they propelled their herds to watering places during the way.

Unfortunately, the journey was not as smooth as we would like. A little stone flew to the windshield, leaving a huge crack on it. So, there was a huge “spider net” blocking our view. The next problem forced us to stop for a couple of hours. A spring rate in the other car’s front axle suspension broke. Right before the entrance to the Serengeti national park. We waited for hours in the direct sunlight, until our drivers managed to solve the problem. Meanwhile, we spent the time in the company of the Maasai who were drifting around hoping we would be interested in paying for taking pictures with them. Here you can read the article about our visit te Maasai village. It was awesome experience. 

Tom before Serengeti park Gate

Tom ahead of Serengeti park Gate

Accident in Serengeti

Accident in Serengeti – a hole in the radiator

Afterward, we were in a hurry. We wanted to reach the camp by daylight because the road was bumpy and full of potholes and stones, it was really dangerous in the night. A few kilometers after crossing the borders of the national park, our car engine unfortunately overheated. The leakage of engine coolant caused by a hole in the radiator was to blame. We started to feel little desperate! But, you know, Hakuna Matata. Typical African copes with anything by himself. We couldn’t believe our eyes, but the problem was solved with loose tea. Our guides poured it into the radiator expertly, in order to plug the hole with larger pieces of tea. And it actually worked.

This was our campsite in Serengeti

This was our campsite in Serengeti – note no fence

We eventually reached the camp in darkness. The cook built the tents for us and cooked us dinner which was, after the day-long plod, delicious, indeed. The camp in Serengeti surprised us. There was a small kitchen in the middle, build out of bricks and with iron bars instead of windows. Nearby, there was a humble social facility with cold water. But there was no fencing around the camp. We were told that whenever we would go to the bathroom, we should beware of lions or buffalos. The kitchen was attracting many other animals of smaller size, such as monkeys, birds, and rodents. A few meters from our tent, there were burrows inhabited by mongooses which were running around calmly, eating the leftovers.

eva_profilThe first night in Serengeti was really adventurous. It was around 4 a.m. when we were woken up by a number of merciless bangs. We ran out of the tent, narrowing our eyes to see what was going on. A male elephant smelled fresh fruit stored in the kitchen. The only things blocking his way were the bars, so he decided he would remove them with his tusks. It took him a few punches only to damage the bars enough to be able to conquer the kitchen with his trunk. It woke up the cooks sleeping on the kitchen floor. One of them ran out of the kitchen with a box of fruits, trying to lure the elephant away from the camp. The other ran to the car, turned on the lights and started revving it up. At that point, the whole kemp was awake. Fortunately, the elephant got scared and ran away. But he didn’t bother to clean up the mess.

Serengeti – The Real Gem Of Africa

The main destination of many tourists on a safari is to see the Big Five game – Cape Buffalo, African leopard, African lion, African elephant, and rhinoceros (the common hippopotamus is sometimes included). The Big Five is a term coined in the colonial era and still in use today. It denotes the five most dangerous or the most difficult animals to hunt. We managed to see all of them, except for the extremely endangered rhino. It is on the brink of extermination, because of the Chinese medicine especially. There is a few of them living in the national parks and they are strictly guarded against poachers. Anyway, the future of the rhinos is still strongly threatened.

Giraffe on the edge of our campsite

Giraffe on the edge of our campsite

During those few days, we spent in the Serengeti National Park, our love for nature and living creatures deepened. It was amazing to watch animals in their natural habitat and to listen to our guide’s stories, who told us about a lifestyle of giraffes, lions, elephants, zebras, and wildebeests.  We thought that tracing animals for the whole day would become boring after a while, but the opposite was true. Serengeti gave us a few experiences that we won’t forget.

The Ngorongoro Crater

When we left the Serengeti plains, one last day to be spent in the Ngorongoro crater was ahead of us. Our goal was a tough one. We hoped we could finally see the rhinos there.

The Ngorongoro crater is a caldera left after a large prehistoric volcano. It means that millions of years ago, a huge volcano collapsed into itself and all that was left is an enormous crater expanding up to 260 square kilometers. The edges lie around 2,400 meters above sea level and the bottom itself lies at the height of 1,800 meters above sea level. Nowadays, the crater is sometimes called as the biggest ZOO, because there are many kinds of animals living in its bottom except for one – the giraffe. The crater walls are so steep that the animal would not be able to climb down.

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Grazing herd of wildebeest in the Ngorongoro Crater

We spent the last night in a camp on the edge of the crater and there was a breathtaking view of the surroundings. On the other hand it was also very cold there. The temperature dropped to 5° C in the morning,  and it was incredibly foggy there, so we couldn’t see almost anything. When we were approaching the bottom, the temperature started to rise and the fog disappearing. We didn’t see any rhinoceros that day. The reason being, reportedly, that it was too cold for them, so they rather stayed hidden in the bushes. We were already saying goodbye to African animals and hit the road back to Arusha. During our way, there was a short visit in a Maasai village where they welcomed us with their traditional dance, showed us their culture and village. Here is an article about the Maasai and our visit to their village.

A Journey To Zanzibar

After the return to Arusha, we were accommodated in the Raha Leo Inn hotel. It was a nice hotel with spacious rooms and a lounge, we can only recommend it.

The journey to Zanzibar was ahead of us. We planned to travel to Dar Es Salaam by bus at first and to continue with a ferryboat to Stone Town from there. We decided to buy flight tickets to Stone Town because of the lack of time, it was quite expensive, of course. Those tickets were the most expensive we had ever bought, considering the length of the flight. The direct flight from the Arusha Airport to Zanzibar took approximately 80 minutes, and it cost 220 USD per person. Here is our Travel guide to Zanzibar.

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Prison Island – Zanzibar

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