For our honeymoon in October we decided to go to Tanzania and Kenya for a Safari and then to the Seychelles for some solid beach time. We heard it would be a once in a lifetime experience - and we were not disappointed.
“I booked everything through the travel company Extraordinary Journeys based here in the U.S. – they were absolutely amazing every step of the way.”
Accommodations: Highly recommend all of these
I booked everything through the travel company Extraordinary Journeys based here in the U.S. – they were absolutely amazing every step of the way. Once you reach out to them, they will discuss what you’re looking for and then send a proposed itinerary within a couple days. The itineraries are personal, custom tailored, and presented beautifully online through a personal link sent by email.
We are experienced world travelers and usually book our own trips and accommodations so this was a new experience for us. While we knew our intended destinations were well traveled by westerners, we still felt most comfortable using a travel planner. This was by far the best decision we ever made. I would go as far as to say it’s 100% necessary to have the optimal experience being that Kenya and Tanzania are still developing nations. Every single detail was taken care of. We didn’t have to worry about one thing once we arrived at Kilimanjaro International airport. Every bite of food was planned for 17 days. Guides picked us up from airports, airstrips, hotels, and everything was door-to-door service.
To get to Tanzania you will fly into Kilimanjaro and the itinerary that makes the most sense is to start with Lake Manyara, then go to The Ngorongoro Crater, and then take a short flight to the Serengeti.
We added in Kenya to our trip, so we went from the Northern Serengeti to the Mara Triangle in southern Kenya. Our trip was planned to end there because Nairobi offered nonstop flights to the Seychelles. Another option, which my brother-in-law did, is to stay in Tanzania for your entire safari and go to Zanzibar to get your beach fill. This can save on time and money since it’s closer than the Seychelles.
The flights within the bush (the local term for the game parks and game reserves) are small (usually 8 to 12 seat) planes that take-off and land on dirt airstrips in the middle of all the action surrounded by fields of animals at times. This was honestly the one thing I was worried about the most before the trip. I am not a fan of small planes/helicopters, but as soon as I got on the plane and up in the air I was fine and felt perfectly safe. You never go too high (you can even see animals below you – but I kept my eyes shut due to motion sickness issues). I would recommend taking Dramamine or some motion sickness tablets if you have any issues. Our planes weren’t bumpy but I’m sure you can get unlucky. Out of 3 of these small flights we took – the longest was 40 min. total with 2 stops at other camps.
The companies we flew with were Coastal and Safarilink and they were very professional, on-time, and very friendly. Usually they were early which is great because you can get your day started sooner than planned. Generally you will be getting up around 5-6am to start your days so you will be having early nights and early mornings!
Since you will be flying on these small planes, you can only pack a soft bag that weighs a maximum of 33lbs. This can be difficult, so I will explain to you what I wore and how to pack light.
Something to think about when planning your trip is vaccines. You don’t need yellow fever vaccine to go to Tanzania or South Africa, but you do need it to go to Kenya. We went to a travel doctor in NJ and he ended up suggesting we also take Malaria pills, Hepatitis A Vaccine, Typhoid Vaccine, and Tetanus.
Hep A is something you can contract in the US or anywhere else in the world so it is actually something we are happy to get and we planned to take the booster shot 6 months later which then offers lifetime immunity.
Yellow Fever was the only mandatory shot required to enter Kenya but we ran into some issues with finding it. The U.S. approved manufacturer slowed down or stopped production in 2017 so the government was offering the European version as an emergency FDA approved vaccine. It’s essentially the same medicine, but there was a shortage and not a lot of doctors were offering it - so this is why we ended up going to the Travel Doctor. The lesson here is to plan your vaccines well in advance and be alert for any potential supply issues. Don’t be like us and wait till the last minute!
Since you will be flying on these small planes, you can only pack a soft bag that weighs 33lbs. This can be difficult so I will explain to you exactly what I wore and how to pack light and efficiently.
I wore light, comfy shoes every day. I got an off-white color because it is very dusty/dirty – so I found something I didn’t mind getting dirty. These were the safari shoes I bought at DSW and they were perfect. They are slip-on, very comfortable with foamy soles, light and airy so they aren’t hot – but you can wear socks with them if it is chilly.
I brought a few light tank tops/short sleeve shirts which I layered with a light sweater, vest, and military jacket. It is chilly in the morning, then it warms up, and then chilly again in the evening. It is best to layer up. For Men – same thing – t-shirts and a light sweatshirt/jacket are fine. If you want to look safari-chic just wear tan/green but you really don’t have to buy anything special.
I wore pants every day and I was never hot. You are generally in a jeep with a roof so you aren’t basking out in the sun and there was a nice breeze driving in the open-air style cars. I didn’t wear any special kind of pants – just khakis from Old Navy. Beige or green jeans would be fine too. My husband wore these columbia hiking pants and just regular khaki shorts and they worked out great!
My packing suggestions for 8 - day safari:
· 2-3 bottoms (1 pair of shorts just in case)
· 3 Tanks/tshirts
· 3 sweaters/long sleeve shirts
Must bring items:
· Binoculars (1 per person)
· Camera with a zoom lens – will talk more about this below
· Backpack to bring in the jeep for layered clothing/binoculars
· Dry Shampoo – this was extremely necessary for the Chaka Camp we stayed in since the water was limited during our showers. I have a lot of hair so I just chose the dry shampoo route instead of attempting to wash my hair.
· Hat - I just brought a baseball cap and it helped when it was windy to keep my hair from blowing everywhere
· Aquaphor/Lip balm/Lotion – It is very dry!
· Lots of different types of medicine - just in case - because you will not have an opportunity to buy any nor do the camps/hotels have any typical western medicine available at pharmacies. I ended up getting sick at some point and ran out of Advil. I found an American at an airstrip and she gave me her whole bottle since she was leaving that day – LIFE SAVER.
I would suggest bringing 2 cameras with you – one with a super zoom lens and one without. We ended up renting an amazing camera and lens from Borrowlenses.com and the camera and lenses we got were Canon EOS Rebel T6i Digital SLR and this Zoom Lens.
I also own this Canon camera which is a great, affordable DSLR camera if you are interested in making an investment. This was the 2nd camera we used and it was perfect for our needs. You can buy this with a regular lens and then rent a zoom lens on Borrowlenses.com. I would bring an extra camera battery to be safe as well.
About our Safari guides
We had the BEST Safari guides from Nomad Tanzania. If you want their names, feel free to email me.
We know people who also used &Beyond but that is a higher budget travel experience – Nomad Tanzania is probably a more affordable option for most people but it still on the luxury side.
This is something to think about – I don’t think you want to go too cheap when you are on Safari so if you don’t use my recommendations, definitely go through a travel agent. But when it comes down to it – do what you can afford.
We learned that you can request your guide so I would recommend asking for one with as many years’ experience as possible. You’ll truly be amazed by the knowledge they possess and they’re seemingly superpower abilities to spot animals in the far, far distance.
We drove around in two different types of jeeps. One of them was more enclosed but the top was all open so you can stand up and look out with a clear view. The other type of jeep was more open all around but the top was enclosed. I preferred the one you can stand up and look out the top much better (the one pictured below). I am not sure if you can request this specific type of jeep, but I would if you can!
Now for the really good stuff. A Safari is one of those rare things you do that words or pictures simply can’t do it justice. Majestic landscape views of the Serengeti are breathtaking on their own without even considering the fauna. You could be seeing a lioness kill a zebra for their cubs to eat, vultures circling dead carcasses, and herds of wildebeest crossing crocodile infested rivers all in a day’s work.
During the safari, a common goal is to see the “Big 5” – the lion, African elephant, cape buffalo, leopard, and the Rhinoceros. My personal goal was to see the leopard and the cheetah. Cheetahs are endangered, but they don’t hide much so we saw a few of them. The leopard isn’t endangered but is very elusive. We got extremely lucky and were able to watch a leopard stalking an impala. He didn’t end up making the kill because a giraffe alerted the impala and the leopard’s cover was blown. The whole event was so incredible to see. The best part was once his spot was blown, he didn’t care about hiding anymore and just pranced around and lied down in plain sight – a very rare experience. We ended up staying by the leopard and watching him for an hour because he was so beautiful we couldn’t imagine leaving.
We saw lions mating – a lot. Apparently when a lioness is in heat they mate every 15 min. for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and the time in-between sessions gradually lengthens to every half hour by the end of the week. We stayed there for an hour or so and watched them mate multiple times. I am not sure what that says about us (haha) but we thought it was extremely interesting.
The Great Migration is something that happens for a few months in the year and it was supposed to be prime time while we were there, but it started earlier this year because the rains started earlier. By the time we arrived at the Northern Serengeti most of the herds moved south. We did get to see a couple crossings though and it was pretty unbelievable. Basically - while the herds of wildebeest and zebra are migrating they have to cross crocodile infected rivers. They do this all together as a herd – I suppose to make the likeliness of getting grabbed by a crocodile less. We did end up seeing a wildebeest getting grabbed by a croc and it was the saddest thing in the world – but the entire crossing as a whole was INSANE and SO COOL.
Tanzania vs. Kenya
I loved both and they both were so beautiful in their own way. My husband preferred the landscape of the Northern Serengeti over the Masai Mara – I preferred Masai Mara. That being said – they both were phenomenal for animal sighting. We saw the leopard in the Serengeti and we had a better Safari guide and experience with Nomad Tanzania than we did with our company in Kenya – so that could be part of it. I would do our exact itinerary again - it was perfect – so you get to experience both! If you had to choose one then I would do Tanzania and do the first part of our trip without going to Kenya. We only spent a couple days in Kenya so I can’t speak to it enough but it was definitely worth going! A part of our great experience in Tanzania was Chaka Camp - this was a tented camp site and you legitimately heard animals (even Lions) walking around at night. This experience was surreal but not for everyone - More on Chaka Camp below.
We stayed for three nights at a tented camp called Chaka Camp. A lot of the accommodations in the Serengeti are camps as a opposed to hotels. You can either stay in resorts that are more of a permanent structure or you can stay in the tented camps. Chaka was a tent but you had a bathroom with flush-able water, a sink, and a "shower". These camps are in the middle of the Serengeti, no fences or anything, so you are living among the animals. During the day it is safe to walk around but at night they don't allow you to walk from the dinner tent/firepit/hangout area alone. That being said, it is not scary! It is absolutely breathtaking and by far one of the cooler experiences we have had as travelers. Food was delicious, you can buy alcohol if you'd like and the sunsets were truly amazing.
About the "showers" - since it is a tent - you have a showering mechanism but no running water. When you want to shower you let them know and they bring you hot water and fill up the showering mechanism. Once it is filled up you have a lever that allows you to stop and start the water. The water was plenty warm and it definitely worked fine as a shower, but as somebody with a lot of hair - I wasn't able to wash my hair with the amount of water they provided and the water pressure - so this is why I brought and highly recommend dry shampoo! My husband was able to shower and wash his hair fine - but I was not. I don't mean for this to sound like a negative experience because it was not. If I asked, they would have let me use more water to wash my hair, but I was ok with my dry shampoo!
This was the cute little dining area. You had incredible views everywhere you sat at Chaka Camp!
Here is the shower we were working with - you can see the little lever on the top.
This was the hang out area where they had wifi and a bar.
I included a number of pictures below so you can really get the feel for our INCREDIBLE trip!
Let me know if you have any questions at all! Email email@example.com
I am happy to help! Enjoy!