From April 21st until April 28th, I did volunteering in Dar Es Salaam.
Afterwards, me (30 years old Belgian male) and my girlfriend (28 years old) visited Tanzania from April 29th 2014 until May 12th 2014.
Below, you can find our experiences.
29 April: Arusha (Outpost Lodge)
30 April: Safari: Tarangire National Park (Jambo Campsite)
2 May: Safari: Serengeti National Park (Seronera Campsite)
3 May: Safari: Serengeti National Park (Seronera Campsite)
4 May: Safari: Ngorongoro Conservation Area (Jambo Campsite)
5 May: Safari: Lake Manyara National Park + return to Arusha (Outpost Lodge)
6 May: Mt Meru (Mariakamba Hut)
7 May: Mt Meru (Saddle Hut)
8 May: Mt Meru + drive to Moshi (Pamoja Guesthouse)
9 May: Moshi (Pamoja Guesthouse)
10 May: Moshi (Pamoja Guesthouse)
11 May: return to home
2. General impressions
Tanzania is just beautiful.
We visited the country at the end of the rainy season, and everything was very green and fresh.
People are very friendly, and the nature is just overwhelmingly beautiful.
I can strongly recommend this country to everyone.
The only thing I regret is that we had limited amount of time, and that therefore we could only visit the North.
Yes it is the rainy season.
And yes: this means that it can suddenly shower very hard.
That being said: at no time was this a great problem.
As they say: “There is no such thing as bad weather, there is only bad clothing / preparation”.
We were lucky that during our safari, we didn’t have any rains.
During our hike on Mt Meru it rained every day.
Only during the last hike at night (from 3.500m to 4.500m) did it make the hike difficult.
Additionally, because of this rain, we couldn’t not see the stunning view on the summit.
On the other hand, it made the climb more adventurous, and makes a good story at home.
Also in Moshi, we had some rain.
This is an absolute must do in Tanzania.
I myself have already been in Kruger Park (South Africa), and in my opinion, a Tanzanian safari is much better!
Especially the Serengeti is just astonishing.
During our visit, we saw a lot of animals. Although we were just too late for the big migration, we did manage to see some herds of wildebeests and zebras that were late, and it is truly an impressive sight.
The only thing I would change on our itinerary (see point 1.) is that I would spend more time in Serengeti (and maybe skip Tarangire or Lake Manyara). Additionally, I would not go to Olduvai Gorge. Note that this is a personal preference, and other people might like these places.
We have booked our budget safari with Happy World Safaris, of which we had read some positive comments online. We can strongly recommend them to everyone.
First of all, they were one of the cheaper ones. I will not state the exact amount, since we were in low season, and this might hamper the enterprise in negotiating with tourists, but we paid less than 1.000USD p.pax for our trip, including all meals, entrance fees and sleeping in tents. Note that for the exact same itinerary, we have received quotes that were double the final amount we paid.
Additionally, from the beginning, Joseph (the owner), was very helpful and clear in his communication with us. He kept all his promises, and even came to us the night before our trip in order to explain everything and to reassure us.
Also right after the safari, he was again there to welcome us, and to ask if everything was in order.
We had to share our Jeep (which was in good shape) with one other Canadian tourist, and were accompanied by a guide (Tony) and a cook (William). We were very happy with both of them.
Tony walked the extra mile for us (on the last morning in Serengeti, he drove around since there were rumors of a leopard. Thanks to him, we managed to see the big 5), and William made delicious meals for us. When comparing our lunch boxes with other tourists, it was clear that we could be happy with ours.
We had also chosen for a mix of more western and local diners, and they too were very tasty. I can strongly recommend the stew with meat, potatoes and bananas.
If you decide to book with Happy World Safaris, you will not regret it when you inform for these 2 guys!
To summarize: We can strongly recommend Happy World Safaris.
5. Trekking – Mt Meru
Since we were that happy with Happy World Safaris, we asked them to arrange the Mt Meru trekking for us. Note that they have experienced mountain guides, who can also help you for a Kilimanjaro trekking. We chose for the 3 day hike, and were accompanied by 1 more tourist, 1 guide, 1 cook, and 4 porters.
Again, the night before we left, Joseph came with our new guide (Victor) in order to talk everything through, and in order to make sure we had the right gear (which is important on Mt Meru).
To do Mt Meru in 3 days is quite ambitious, especially since on the last day, you have to climb 1.000m, and descend 3.500m. Although you need a good physique, we did not regret choosing this option, since a 4 day trekking makes things more expensive. However, for people with less physique, the last day might be too long.
We can also strongly recommend this trekking, since the scenery is beautiful. Although the last climb was tough, I am very happy we persisted. Even with the rains and the wind we experienced, this was still a very nice experience
Note that again, Happy World Safaris did a good job. They even provided us with something extra, by dropping us off for free in Moshi. Note that this might not be standard practice, so make sure to talk this through on beforehand.
In Arusha, we stayed at the Outpost Lodge, which is situated approximately 1km out of the city center. We thought this hotel was good, with nice food (and scrambled eggs as breakfast). People were also friendly, and we could leave our luggage during our safari.
Rooms are large enough, with a private bathroom (and warm water), and beds come with a mosquito net. You only have to watch out for the monkeys !
In Moshi, we stayed at Pamoja Guesthouse. The good thing about this guesthouse is that all profits go to a local project for women. In high season, this hotel is filled with volunteers which are active in the neighborhood.
Rooms are spacious, with a private bathroom (and warm water), and beds come with a mosquito net.
We were welcomed by Andrew, the manager. He explained the different activities in Moshi, as well in the vicinity. On his recommendation, we did a nearby coffee tour, which was very nice.
He also gave us many tips about restaurants and bars in Moshi.
So all in all, we can recommend this guesthouse.
For the safari and the trekking, it is strongly recommended to tip your guide, cook and porters. For instructions on how much to tip, you can read travel guides (such as Lonely Planet) or simply ask you guide about common tipping practices.
Most reputable travel agencies pay their employees a basic salary, but please know that these people are highly dependent on tipping.
In our opinion, if you visit a country like Tanzania, part of your responsibility is making sure that something goes back to the local community. This especially is true when one can pay circa 1.000 USD per person for a safari…
We never felt unsafe.
People are friendly. Off course, in some towns (Arusha, Moshi) people try to sell things, and might be persistent in doing so. However, if you keep calm and friendly, they will stop at one time.
Note that we also followed guidelines of hotel staff, which recommended not to walk on foot after dark. So always take taxis after dark. Ask hotel owners for recommendations.
One thing I would still like to mention is that you have to be cautious when you have an international flight leaving from another airport. We booked our flights back via Kenia. On the last day, we decided to change our flight from Tanzania to an earlier flight.
Luckily we did this, because the flights were 3 hours late that day, and otherwise we would have missed our international flight.
Apparently, this happens often in Tanzania…