Decide what you want to see
Basically, you can do a safari in Tanzania all year long. There are enough national parks and lots of animals to see, including the Big 5. But there is also the Great Migration, one of the top reasons to do a safari trip in Northern Tanzania. We did ours in the beginning of July in anticipation of the Great Migration. But this is also the high season so everything is relatively more expensive. You can find our 10-day itinerary in this link.
One tip I got from our guide is to do the safari during the rainy season which is from March-May. He said that the trip can be very difficult but the game is good. Due to hiding from the rain for longer period, the big cats tend to be more active and aggressive when they are hunting so that means more action and more chance to actually see a kill. Sometimes you can do a safari for two weeks in the high season and you might not even see a kill.
We booked our trip with Matoke Tours, one of the leading safari travel agencies in the Netherlands. Robin and I both have full time jobs so we wanted to make the most of our 12-day holiday. Everything was arranged for us with no hassles. When you have a full time job, you would rather pay for comfort.
The trip cost €6,500 together. We were put in a group of 6, which is considered small if you are talking about safari group tours. In Tanzania itself, we were taken care by Easy Travel and Tours Ltd, I think the local partner of Matoke.
The rate included airfare, accommodations (a mix of mid-range and luxury lodges), half board and full board meals and park fees. Our package did not include Zanzibar because we didn’t see the point of spending money on a touristy beach when we could have one all to ourselves in the Philipines. If you want to include Zanzibar to your itinerary, that’ll cost you an easy €300-€500.
We were advised to take €200-250 each for pocket money. Since I was the one shopping all the time (I couldn’t go home without buying pasalubong) I brought €400 while Robin brought €350. At Schiphol airport we exchanged a total of $400 together and the rest of the money, we exchanged for Tanzanian shillings in Arusha.
If you are prudent, you can get away with a €200 pocket money and still have some left over. But we love good wines and we are generous tippers. On our 10-day trip, we spent €25-30/day on wine and drinks (those local beers are really good) and gave a total of €180 on tips. Our guide and the people who served us during the entire trip were all very friendly and hardworking. I think they deserve generous tips for allowing us to see their beautiful country.
The rest of the money, we spent on gifts for friends and family back home and a part of it for my precious Tanzanite ring.
We also had to pay €73 and €150 respectively for anti-malaria shots and at least €250 for an extra backpack for myself (I don’t own a backpack), a pair of sandals and toiletries. In total, the trip cost us about €4000 each.
Anti-malaria and vaccinations
Malaria is prevalent in Africa. So if you don’t get the proper vaccinations, you risk getting malaria and dying.
I initially thought that I would be spending a fortune for vaccination based from these rates (for Dutch travelers). But luckily, since I grew up in the Philippines, I didn’t have to have Hepatitis A vaccine. I ended up paying only for DTP and yellow fever vaccines. This cost me €75 including consultation but Robin had to pay a bit more for the Hepa A&B vaccination.
We were prescribed Malarone (proguanil+atavaquone) pills since our trip is not very long. The doctor said that in the event that we’d actually contract Malaria, we would be home by the time the symptoms appear. Malarone cost about €80 for 4 boxes of 20 pills. We bought that on a discount.
What to pack
June-September is considered the dry season but we had a lot of rain showers in Arusha. The weather was cold, between 17-21 degrees in the morning. Temperature can dip to 13 degrees in the evenings up to early mornings especially in the Serengeti. This can change to up to 30 degrees in the afternoon.
Clothes – 3 pairs of long pants, 2 pairs of hiking shorts, 5 t-shirts, 5 thin, long sleeves, a fleece jacket or a hoodie. Socks and underwear depends on how many times you change. Choose light weight materials like cotton or linen. Bring a pajama set as well because it can get really cold in the evenings although you would be sleeping under a mosquito net. Most hotels provide towels.
Accessories – Scarf, hat (please don’t bring a wide-brim hat or only use that for the beach), binoculars (we didn’t bring any and how I regretted it), sunglasses.
Shoes – Preferably hiking shoes/boots, slippers and your regular sneakers. Unless you are climbing the Kilimanjaro or have more than 5 hours of hiking/walking, you could actually get away with your old pair of boots or your running shoes. You’d be staying mostly in the jeep.
Your regular toiletries – Most hotels provide soap, shampoo/conditioner and even lotions in the more upscale accommodations. Anti-mosquito repellant, wet wipes and alcohol ( you’d be using your hands for eating those lunch boxes which mostly contain grilled chicken).
Skin care – Sunscreen above 30 spf and your most effective facial hydration cream. The national parks only have dirt roads so you can imagine all the dust that will gather on your face the whole time. If you don’t mind the extra weight, bring your facial cleanser as well. You will be needing it.
Please use a backpack for luggage rather than a regular a suitcase. A 4×4 only has a limited space so it’ll be difficult to squeeze in your thick suitcases.For comfort and common sense, bring a day backpack as carry on. You need the space to bring your toiletries, cameras, tripod (if you are an avid photographer/videographer) and an extra bottle of water.
You don’t really want to be bringing too much because you’d be moving to different lodges after one or two nights.
Tanzania is the most expensive safari country. It might be because of the Serengeti and because the government set very high fees on parks, airports, etc. I think it is only fair that the country benefits from the influx of tourists who want to have this unique experience. Tourism may be good for the economy but it also poses a danger to cultures and the wilderness itself. We never regretted a single cent we spent on this trip.