No one can return from the Serengeti unchanged – George Schaller
Today, ‘The Big 5’ ranks up there in any bonafide must-have travel experiences list. And I can vouch from personal experience that it is with good reason 🙂
As a kid, my Dad would insist I spend at least 30% of my allocated TV time watching Discovery or Nat Geo. On the rare occasion that I actually paid heed to his advice, I remember being so fascinated by the sheer wilderness of the Serengeti savannah. I was no wildlife enthusiast (still wouldn’t call myself one), but visiting the Serengeti some day felt like something I simply had to do!
Marriage brought me to Tanzania 3 years ago and I am so thankful to have finally been able to go on a trip of a lifetime – a safari to the Serengeti 🙂 The endless plains of Serengeti offer an infinite feast for your eyes and soul. You just never know what you’ll find – a pride of lionesses with their cubs strolling alongside your vehicle, a lazy leopard’s foot dangling from a not-so-far away Acacia tree, a lone rhino that seems to be in love with it’s solitude, a never ending trail of wildebeests and zebras migrating in millions to a different region of the park or even a coalition of cheetahs cooling off after their last hunt.
Wildlife enthusiast or not, a trip to the Serengeti is guaranteed to put one important thing into perspective – the fact that all of life on earth is connected. The earth belongs as much to these animals as it does to us and it is our duty to do more to preserve their natural habitats.
I am sure that many of you reading this might want to visit the Serengeti but don’t know where to start.This post is aimed at helping you do exactly that. I will share details of how I went about planning and budgeting this trip for two, a suggested itinerary and answers to some FAQs that most people have when it comes to planning a trip to Africa.
PLANNING AND BUDGETING
The most important part of planning a safari to the Serengeti is to pick the right travel/safari agency. In this part of the world, most travel planning is still done by these agencies and they can get you much better deals than approaching hotels directly (they organise safaris as well) will.
I would HIGHLY recommend Karibu World – a travel agency based out of Dar-es Salaam, Tanzania. After about 2 years of getting quotations from various agencies that specialise in organising private trips to the Serengeti, I found their rates to be the most competitive and their customer service to be impeccable. Not only did they promptly respond to each query, they delivered on every aspect of the execution. Find more details on them later in this post. For now some important points on planning and budgeting:
- What areas would you like to cover? The choices usually are – Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Park. We chose Serengeti and Ngorongoro.
- Number of days – Like most of you, we have full-time careers and could only budget about 5 days/4nights for the safari. This included travel to and from the starting point of the safari which in our case was Arusha. This worked well for us since we live in Tanzania. But for those you flying in from elsewhere, I would strongly recommend budgeting a minimum of 7 days purely because of the extended travel time.
- Would you prefer camps or lodges for stay? While many people prefer the camping experience, the husband and I were clear that we wanted the jungle lodge experience and that’s when we stumbled upon the beauty that is Four Seasons Serengeti. Easily, the most gorgeous property we have ever stayed at. Read more on FSSerengeti later in the post.
- How many of you? Will you be going as a group, or a couple or even just you?
- What’s your budget like? Please remember that a trip to this part of the world can be quite expensive (contrary to the popular perception that Africa is easy on the pocket). The price of a 5-7 day safari that covers Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara /Tarangire National Park can vary anywhere between 2000 – 7000 USD/pp depending on choice of stay – budget, mid-range or luxury. This excludes airfare to and from Tanzania, internal flights, visa fees, tips and medical insurance. Of course, you can bring the cost down depending on what areas you want to include and by smart choices of stay!
- Getting there – If you’re traveling from India, there are plenty of flight options available to Tanzania. You will in all probability end up flying in to Dar-es-Salaam and taking an internal flight to either Arusha or Mwanza depending on which region you choose to start the safari from. I would recommend starting from Arusha instead of Mwanza since you could save taking an internal return flight (which costs anywhere between $250-$300pp) by flying directly into Kilimanjaro Airport (good options available to Kili from all major cities in India) and driving down to Arusha (the drive takes just about an hour).
OUR ITINERARY SNAPSHOT
Day 1 – Land at Kilimanjaro Airport from Dar-es-Salaam. Spend the night at Moshi.
Day 2 – Wake up early next morning to catch a glimpse of the ‘Roof of Africa’ – the majestic Mt. Kilimanjaro. Drive to Arusha to have breakfast and meet with the safari guide to start on the trip of a lifetime 🙂 Reach Serengeti by lunch and start with game drive that goes on until sunset followed by dinner and stay at the Four Seasons, Serengeti.
Day 3 – Game drive begins at 7 am and continues all day until 5 pm. Spend the night at the beautiful Four Seasons, Serengeti.
Day 4 – Early morning departure to one of the ‘Seven Wonders of Africa’ – the Ngorongoro Crater. Arrive at the crater and begin game drive by 9 am. Continue until 4 pm. Back to the Ngorongoro Serena lodge to catch a bird’s eye view of sunset at the crater. A visual you will remember forever 🙂 Spend night at the lodge and return to Arusha next morning.
Day 5 – A half-day game drive at the crater followed by a visit to the Masai village (this is optional). Post-noon departure for the Arusha airport. Back in Dar-es-Salaam by evening.
FOUR SEASONS SERENGETI
This beautiful property is quite literally an oasis of luxury in the wilderness of the Serengeti. After a long day of game drives, this is the most rejuvenating place you could come back to! Can you imagine swimming in the most gorgeous infinity pool offering uninhibited views of the Serengeti while elephants stop by at the natural watering hole right in front of it? Sipping on your morning cuppa on your own private pool deck in the Serengeti? A romantic open-air candle light dinner for two preceded by a traditional Masai dance? If these are experiences you’d like to have, the Four Seasons Serengeti is the right property for you!
To add to all this gorgeousness, the food was absolutely delicious! They also had amazing vegetarian options for me which was a relief 🙂 A special mention for their wonderful GM, Martin Cody, who was most polite and welcoming upon arrival! All in all, this was definitely one of the most memorable stays we’ve ever had! 5 stars plus from The Fab Trail 🙂
If the pictures have got you dreaming of staying there, visit their website to know more!
SERENGETI – A SUGGESTED ITINERARY
A simple way to control costs is to decide on the areas you would like to visit. Travel companies usually recommend a 5-7 day safari across Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Park. I would recommend:
2-3 nights in Serengeti
1-2 nights in Ngorongoro Crater
1 night in Lake Manyara
You could visit each of these in whichever order you like depending on what you’d like to do first. An itinerary like this with mid-range stay options like the Serena Serengeti & Ngorongoro would cost you about USD 2200-2500 pp. Please remember that this excludes flights, insurance and any other personal expenses. This will usually include all meals, stay, park and guide feeds and vehicle expenses. It is recommended to tip your guide at the end of the safari. Anywhere between $100-200 is usually a good idea.
- Did you see all of The Big 5? Yes we did 🙂 We couldn’t get a close up shot of the rhino and the leopard though (saw them mainly through the binoculars), as they were quite far from our vehicle and we didn’t have a good telephoto lens on us!
- Will I see The Big 5 for sure? No one can guarantee that! All depends on the movement of the animals and the eagerness of your guide to ensure that you spot them all. However, most people do end up seeing them all.
- Is it safe in Tanzania? Yes! As long as you’re attentive about your personal belongings, you shouldn’t have an issue.
- Is it safe inside the Serengeti? Absolutely! Your safari vehicle is well covered from all sides and mishaps are unheard of. Also, your guide will constantly communicate with his colleagues through a walkie-talkie. So rest assured, help is never far away 🙂
- Travel essentials for this trip? Your travel agency will provide you with a comprehensive list of everything you need to bring with you. I could, however, emphasise on a few things – neutral coloured clothing (to avoid attracting tsetse flies), hats, medicine kit that includes a potent insect repellent, a really good camera 🙂 and binoculars (the guide will usually have one though).
These are usually the questions most people have. However, if I have missed out on anything, please feel free to send me an email and I’ll be happy to answer your questions!
THE FAB TRAIL X KARIBU WORLD – giveaway
Karibu World is a boutique travel company based out of Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania that specialises in organising Safaris across Africa and especially the Serengeti and neighbouring areas. Read more about them on their website.
As a TheFabTrail.com reader, you are eligible to get $100 off on your safari package planned by Karibu World. Write in to them at firstname.lastname@example.org with a copy to email@example.com. Mention this coupon ‘THEFABTRAIL100′ to them in your email and you’re all set to receive your discount! 🙂
So are you planning your Serengeti adventure yet?