Kilimanjaro, Tarangire National Park, Serengeti, Ngorongoro
2020 was definitely a crazy year, for those of you who perhaps read this in the future, the spring of 2020 was when Covid-19 disease locked us all in our houses and banned us from traveling. Luckily for me I got to spend the end of February in one of the most beautiful places from Earth and I was able to enjoy a new experience altogether, a safari in Africa.
A while back I wrote my bucket-list experiences and one of the items from there was the African safari. One of the best places to do this is on the sets of National Geographic, the natural parks from Tanzania. Given the already planned trip to Zanzibar, we ended up extending our visit just to be able to check this huge milestone from my list.
Our trip started in Cluj-Napoca, we had one night stop in Belgium on our way to Zanzibar. Another one night stop in the capital of the island, Stone Town and from there on our way to the continental area of Tanzania. Our flight with a tiny plane of just 10 seats, was an adventure on its own. Apart from seeing the island from above, we got to see the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro on our way to Arusha. It was from there where the real safari adventure started.
On a Toyota Land-cruiser, we boarded with the destination of Tarangire National Park, home to the largest animals of Africa. From elephants to giraffes, baboons, and gazelles, zebras and wildebeest, only to name a few, it was beyond anything that I have ever imagined. The wild beauty of animals and baobabs is way better than it can be pictured on TV. Hours and hours of driving through the dusty roads of the national park, we were lucky enough to see up close a male African elephant, one of the biggest animals on Earth. The end of the first day was at a camping side with small houses, it was here where we got to enjoy live African music and some amazing traditional food.
In the second day of our safari trip we headed to Serengeti National Park, one of the most famous from Africa. With a painful history the park came to be worldwide known when Bernhard Grzimek and his son Michael in the 1950s decided to do a movie named “Serengeti shall never die” that helped the British people create a reservation and prohibit hunting, but also, unfortunately, evicting the local tribes from it. Nowadays the park is well known do be the set of National Geographic Channel.
On a side note, the safari that is made in Tanzania is only in the national parks and there are no fences between you and the animals. Obviously, you are not allowed in any circumstances to get out the car, but the roof of the car is lifted so that you can enjoy a great view.
The fauna from Serengeti is not very different from the one in Tarangire, but what we did manage to see was a leopard, though it was far and hiding in a tree, the amazing feline is a beauty that cannot be easily spotted. We were lucky enough to see many lions, hippos and different species of herbivores. We spent the night in a tent, and we had a hippopotamus eating grass in the camping area. Definitely a scary experience to have the tent moved by a 1tonne+ animal, yet the upcoming night when a heard of buffalo come near the camping area we were a lot more relaxed, knowing the they will not stumble upon our “accommodation”.
The third day was dedicated to one of the greatest natural landscapes, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Initially a volcano, the crater is now home to a thousands of animals and the migration from Serengeti to Ngorongoro is happening year round. Completely different from the dry landscape of the other parks, everything in the crater was green, especially since we went at the beginning of the wet season. The flat ground allows you to see up close so many animals that you start to lose track of how many they were. Even one of the most discreet and unfortunately almost extinct one, made an appearance, the rhino. From a far distance we were able to see it’s horn while the animal took a break and rested on the ground. In the crater at the moment there are around 25 rhinos, a very small number, that is slowly increasing. Hopefully they will be able to keep poachers away, so that in the future we will be able to enjoy the presence of this amazing animal.
In the forth day we had to say our goodbyes to the amazing people who lead us through the safari and head to the airport in Kilimanjaro, from where we took the “regular” plane and headed back to Zanzibar for another 10 days of sun and relaxation. More about Zanzibar will follow ;).
In terms of costs for the safari, we had our deal negotiated by the same person who organized our trip in Zanzibar and it was 1200$ per person, for the “modest” or tent accommodation including the plane tickets from and to Zanzibar. There is the option to upgrade to lounge, that are indeed beautiful and more comfortable, yet the price starts from 1700$, only for the accommodation and safari (this is what the other couple from the car payed). The car has 6 seats, and there will be a dedicated driver and cook that will join you. Private tours are also available, but I do not know the costs for those. We shared our car with the sweetest American couple and two other girls from Germany. We got along very well and had the best time.
Given the fact that we traveled to an African country there were some vaccines that we took, the yellow fever one, that is also mandatory for Tanzania and it is made once in a lifetime. The second one was the malaria pills that we took from Belgium with a prescription from our Romanian doctor. Luckily there were no side effects to the pills and we were able to enjoy our trip to the fullest. Mosquito spray is also a must, although it will not make much difference, we had three different brands from three different countries and none of those seamed to do much difference.
In retrospective, the safari trip is probably the best experience I had in my life and made me look forward to the next one. At the beginning we thought this will be a once in a lifetime experience but it left us longing for more, therefore we are planning in the future to repeat the experience in a different part of Africa, Namibia.
More photos here.
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