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Starting research for July 2013 trip

New Orleans
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Starting research for July 2013 trip

We're in the very early stages of planning a 3-week trip to Africa next summer. Though I've traveled internationally before, it will be our first time on the continent, and appears to be a different beast to plan for.

In the past I've avoided guided tours and instead traveled independently, primarily using public transport. We were hoping to do some safari viewing, and were assuming that we would get ourselves to the appropriate park, hire guides, and pay them their per diems to see the wildlife. But it seems as though most people here have contracted out with a particular company to provide a driver, guides, and all other costs.

So I guess my first questions are:

1) Can Tanzanian safaris be done independently? Or is the cost savings so minimal that it's not worth the extra time/hassle?

2) If we are interested in a bed & hot water in the bathroom (at least in AM/PM), what would be expected costs during high season (either with a safari organizer, or independently)?

Easy Travel & Tours Ltd
Safaris, Nature & Wildlife Tours, Cultural Tours
Gosheni Safaris Africa
Safaris, Nature & Wildlife Tours
Duma Explorer
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Isle of Man, United...
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1. Re: Starting research for July 2013 trip

Your research is correct.

1. You can do independent travels to Wildlife Parks but local bus (but how are you going to get into the Park?) If you are self driving then how comfortable are you about this and driving in close proximity to large mammals, some of which can be dangerous?

I don't think DIY will actually save all that much when you take account of the effort you must expend in putting the trip together. viz, booking accommodation in sequence, organising a Hire Car, paying NP Park fees, navigating to where you wish to be, fixing the car if it gets sick.

Therefore most folk simply follow the procedure in the FAQs on the right.

Contact several Operators in country with a proposed itinerary and ask them to cost it out.

For guidance on that see the recent thread on "Swala" as to how that poster did it.

(2) Hard to say. Some folks think nothing of paying $1,000 per night. I am not one of them. Expect to pay $100 pppn for full board in one of the many decent Lodges, up to $200 for one of the better ones. Any more than that and you are wasting money. The wildlife is just the same whereever you have slept. On my next trip I am paying no more than $180 and often a lot less. A LOT less but may have to pass up on the Hot Water En suite.

Hope this helps.

Findlay, Ohio
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2. Re: Starting research for July 2013 trip

1) Can be done, but you will have to be making your own arrangements and you probably don't know how. Roads there are not like I-10, they are typically dirt/gravel and not marked, so what do you do when you come to the fork in the road with no markings. Park fees have to be paid in advance on a prepaid card, do you know how to do this. Once in the parks, some are as large as some countries, will you know where to go to find the animals. It's really not worth it, and public transportation will not get you to the parks in many cases.

If you really want to do this by yourself without contracting with a safari operator, then I would suggest that you not go to the Northern Circuit (Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti) but rather to either Mikumi or Ruaha, and when you get to the park gate ask to go to the ranger station and there you will be able to find a guide for the day. You will find in the list of Top Questions about Tz one on going to Mikumi.

Bottom line is don't try this, you will probably be disappointed with your safari. And if you cannot afford to get a safari operator then I would suggest that you postpone your trip until you can. It's not inexpensive.

2) Sometimes you won't get hot water in the most expensive places, so cost is not a factor here. However, if you stay in guest houses you will most probably get a bucket of hot water to use for your shower, these will be in the $5 a day range. You can find hotels there for anywhere from $10 to $1,000 a day. For myself I typically pay about $30 a day for a hotel room, all I ask for is clean, change linens, have bed nets, electricity, and warm water showers. Being in the park lodges is another story, there you might pay at least $100 a day per person; unless you want to stay in a tent.

New Orleans
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3. Re: Starting research for July 2013 trip

Thank you so much for your answers! You've convinced me that we'll need to use safari operators. Will the costs pretty much be the same no matter when we ask for quotes? (I realize we could probably get less if we waited until the week before, but I'm not that big of a risk-taker.)

Now if we wanted to do some of the cultural tours that were mentioned at www.tanzaniaculturaltourism.com, do we need to involve the safari operators at all? I've already sent off 3 e-mails to the regions whose tours we were most interested in (Dumbe Chand/Arusha, Babati & Hanang, and Chilunga & Morogoro...though Babati/Hanang was returned as undeliverable). I'm waiting to hear back from them but am assuming that we could make our own independent arrangements to go from where the safari left off to some of these areas. Is that correct?

Also, if we do multiple cultural visits, will they be different enough to feel as though we're not doing the same thing several times? We're thinking about visits with the Hadzabe, Walugulu, Maasai, and maybe the Barbaig.

Looking forward to hearing your wonderful insights!

Isle of Man, United...
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4. Re: Starting research for July 2013 trip

Well I would just tell your operator to organise the Cultural tours and visits etc.,. They will know how to do this.

One thing I would mention if I may. Don't think by leaving it until last minute you will save money. You won't. You MAY find an operator with spare capacity who would be prepared to discount but ask yourself WHY he has this capacity?

Is it because he is not as in demand as his competitors? Is he no good and you are getting things past their sell by date? Has he dragged a useless guide and car out of retirement just to accommodate your last minute business?

So whilst the bottom line may be cheaper the overall product may well disappoint. And to me that is a waste of all the money not a small saving.

Good guides 'sell fast' and you need a good guide!

Findlay, Ohio
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5. Re: Starting research for July 2013 trip

Use a safari operator for your safari portion of your trip, and use the others for the cultural part of your trip.

I don't know how these cultural operators work, where they meet you, etc. But from what you have chosen, you are on a driving line from Babati area (which is South of Tarangire NP) quite a ways, Lake Eyasi which is in the same general area, and then Morogoro, which is quite a ways away from this area of Tanzania. What you may want to consider is continuing down the Dodoma Road from Arusha (could take a bus) and stop off at Kondoa where you can see ancient rock paintings, then continue on to Dodoma (which is the capital of Tanzania and has a rich history), plenty of Maasai in this area where you can visit and it won't be staged as it's far from the tourist areas and there's plenty of Barbaig people in this area also. From Dodoma you can easily get to Morogoro for your Morogoro tour. By the way while you are at Morogoro I would suggest that you go out to Sokoine University of Agriculture and visit their Hero Rat project there, they train rats to sniff out land mines (you can see this project on their web site google Hero Rats), they do amazing work in parts of Africa where they have had conflicts.

All this can be done by public bus, that is moving from one place to another. It will save a lot of money rather then having these touring companies come and fetch you.

And the good part of this will be that you will see a part of Tanzania that most people who go there never see, and you need to get out of the tourist areas of the country in order to do that. It's completely different from what is staged in the tourist areas.

You appear to want to make this trip independent which is why I am providing this information for you.

6. Re: Starting research for July 2013 trip

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Edited: 8:46 am, July 17, 2012
New Orleans
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7. Re: Starting research for July 2013 trip

Thanks for the feedback. I won't put off trying to locate a safari operator, but will start to contact them soon. Would the following itinerary seem reasonable, or would you recommend any adjustments (different parks and/or # of days in each park)?

1 day: Tarangire

1 day: Ngorongo

3 days: Serengeti

Thanks for the advice on focusing on different parts of the country. I'm working out of some generic Africa/safari books, and online sources, and haven't purchased a book specifically on Tanzania yet. I'm debating between the Bradt (2009 edition) or the Lonely Planet (2012). Historically, I've done LP but I've heard the Bradt is much better. Will the 3 year difference in publication dates make much of a difference?

If we wanted to see the Maasai and/or Barbaig around Dodoma, how would we go about learning more directly about their communities & heritage? Are there any local cultural tour organizers, or would this be walking up to someone and trying to find out the info from random people in the community?

The Hero Rats project sounds really interesting; thanks for sharing about it. How long should we expect it to take to hear from the cultural tour operators? We haven't heard back from anyone yet, and I didn't know if this should be considered normal.

Edited: 10:56 pm, July 21, 2012
Isle of Man, United...
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8. Re: Starting research for July 2013 trip

I swear by the Bradt guide (except for the Zanzibar section) as I know Philip will have visited all the places mentioned. A couple of years 'out of date' is really nothing as nothing changes that much. It is the writing style that most folks prefer over the somewhat stiff and bare reports of other publications.

If you buy a copy and then read up on it you will get a very good picture of what Tanzania has to offer.

Your outline itinerary is OK but surely you are going to spend more than 5 days in Country?

Findlay, Ohio
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9. Re: Starting research for July 2013 trip

Theres lots written about the Maasai, very little about the Barbaig. Some Barbaig still live in the forest with very little.

I once noticed some people meeting at the guest house where I was staying a long time ago (in Dodoma), and they were obviously having some kind of meeting. One day I asked them what they were doing and they told me that they were translating the Bible into a language which the Barbaig could understand. They told me it was difficult because there was no written Barbaig language and this would be the first attempt at a written language for them. I found that terribly interesting and questioned them at length about this. Just to let you know about what might be available concerning the Barbaig.

Isle of Man, United...
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10. Re: Starting research for July 2013 trip

Barabaig. Really a sub branch family of Maasai. Nilotic in origins and much akin to the Samburu of Kenya. Their lands are mainly around Mount Hanang and their customs much as the Maasai as you would expect although they do some agriculture too.

Displaced from their homelands some years back to make way for a yet another Wheat growing project . See my post on that contentious Topic a couple of weeks back..