East African Safari

Lodge Safaris in Tanzania… I will try to avoid the travel clichés of “unique”, “off the beaten track”, and “renowned for…”. These tired terms are used over and over again for almost every destination in Africa!

The lodge safari is the best way to see this lovely country. Tanzania has so much to offer, so many parks that have few visitors and high concentrations of game animals. Some National Parks boast just one lodge in a million hectares. Your lodge safari in Tanzania can truly offer a taste of what the early explorers experienced.

When choosing your lodge safari, choose a lodge with care. Many visitors want to see the Great Migration and the Serengeti. Some lodges are in fact hotels and, although they are very nice, they do not contribute to that “out of Africa” experience. What is called for is a private camp; these are ideal for the intimate African experience. So when you look to plan your trip do not go for the “lodge safari” but the private camp safari. Your choice of lodge or camp is an important part of the whole safari experience.

These camps are usually made up of a small number of tents. Not your two-man tent with no standing room, sleeping on the hard and sometimes damp ground. Not the cooking over a stove and eating grass and sand with your tinned food. No, these private camps have tents with large comfortable beds, bathroom en suite and butler service. The food is of the highest quality and you dine from bone china and drink champagne (or beer) from crystal glasses.

If you want to listen at night to the song of the African bush with the occasional distant (or sometimes close) roar of a lion; if you want to open your tent in a morning to be greeted by impala and zebra grazing so close to your tent you could touch them; then choose one of these camps. If you want to be in a remote part of the park but close to the animals; if you want to stand in the open plains of the Serengeti and not be joined by a caravan of twenty other safari vehicles; then the private camp is the option above the mere mass tourist lodge.

There are several such camps scattered throughout the Serengeti. Your choice of camp will depend on what time of year you visit Tanzania. A good camp is Kusini Camp in the Southern Serengeti: small, luxurious, and in an ideal spot from the end of December until March, as the Great Migration is in this area at this time. However, for the rest of the year this camp is a bit isolated and animals may be harder to spot.

A problem with planning a safari around the Migration is that the Migration follows the rains, and the rains are notoriously unpredictable. Your camp may end up being in the wrong area of the Serengeti. This year the Migration was in the Northern Serengeti at a time of year when normally the animals have crossed into Kenya. Many safari expeditions found themselves in the wrong country!

This is a headache for safari operators, as a disappointed client is not good for business. This can be solved with a “mobile camp”. This is by far the best option, but also by far the most expensive.

A new breed of camps is emerging: the semi-permanent camp. This is a tented camp that moves maybe three or four times a year. It will follow the Migration, ensuring that whilst the Migration is in the Serengeti the camp will also be in the midst of the animals. One such camp I have heard good reports about is EMC [Exclusive Mobile Camp – Serengeti]. They are friendly, knowledgeable and embrace fair trade tourism, and – best of all – the camp is very good value for money. They have a website and an Arusha office, and will give out details of the Migration and the position of their camp. This is great for tour operators and also for people wanting to plan a safari.

This is where the Internet can help in a positive way to help you plan a safari that will truly be a holiday of a lifetime. There is no need to hope your travel agent will do a good job in planning your vacation. Take some of the responsibility yourself and plan your safari; check out your destination and accommodation. If your travel agent or tour operator is not co-operative or flexible, then change to someone who is willing to earn their commission.

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