If it is African wildlife, exotic beaches and an exhilarating hike up Mt Kilimanjaro you are after then Tanzania is the perfect country for a self drive safari. Tanzania is a huge country and can take days to drive from one end to the other so allow plenty of time.
Game parks are what Tanzania is most famous for. Tanzania boasts the world renowned Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater in the north and Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park in the south, as well as smaller game parks in the north like Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara National Park and Arusha National Park.
Major roads, although there are few, linking towns and cities are mostly good tar. However the smaller arterial roads going to and from the national parks are often rough badly maintained dirt roads. The very reason why most tourists prefer to fly to places like Selous and Ruaha as the roads can become impassable in the wet. The road between the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater is also a rough dirt road and although approximately only 100kms it can take up to 4 hours depending on the conditions.
The Serengeti National Park is a haven of wildlife and if you are lucky you won’t have to travel far to spot a plethora of game with a large concentration of animals near the area of Seronera which is also home to a number of public campsites. Our advice is stick to the side tracks as these are often in better condition than the main road through the centre of the park. The Serengeti is well known for large prides of lions, cheetah, elephant, eland, zebra, buffalo, wildebeest, various antelope as well as hyena and jackal. You have to be very lucky to spot Rhino who prefer to stay well away from tracks in dense wooded areas.
The Ngorongoro Crater is a major draw card however it has been seriously overrun by tourists over the past decade and much of the animals have relocated to outside of the conservation area. The hefty entrance fees of USD$50 per person and a whopping USD$200 per vehicle is hard to justify when there are so many other fantastic options in Tanzania.
In what is called the Northern Circuit there are also the brilliant game parks of Tarangire, Lake Manyara and Arusha National Parks. These small parks offer brilliant game viewing with stunning scenery and are well worth adding to the list of places to visit.
If you have time, the right 4WD vehicle, and don’t mind roughing it then a self drive safari to Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park is highly recommended. Avoid during the rainy season as you will probably find yourself spending more time digging your vehicle out of deep bog holes than exploring the parks. Expect travelling to these parks to be tough and a challenge for both driver and vehicle. However, those making the effort will be rewarded with exceptional game viewing with very few other vehicles to this wild underdeveloped piece of Africa. Camping is the cheapest option or for those not keen on camping can stay in one of the few luxury lodges scattered throughout.
Most travellers will head to the island of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania. Zanzibar is a favourite for its gorgeous beaches, historic town of Stone Town and vast range of accommodation options. Although you can put your vehicle on a ferry to Zanzibar it is really not justified if you intend on staying for only a few days, a better option is to leave your vehicle on the mainland and catch a ferry or plane to the island. You can hire a vehicle or motorbike in Stone Town if you feel the need to explore the small island from top to toe.
Although we love Zanzibar there are a number of other beach options for the intrepid traveller. Near Zanzibar is the island of Pemba, with far less tourism it is raw and exotic offering tropical beaches with very few tourists. There are far less accommodation options on Pemba adding to the feel of being on a deserted tropical island away from the crowds found on Zanzibar. For those not wanting to leave the mainland the coast of Tanzania is home to several beach paradises near the towns of Pangani and Bagamoyo which lay north of Dar es Salaam and Ras Kutani to the south each offering beautiful long white beaches, warm tropical waters and unique historical features.
Climbing to the peak of Mt Kilimanjaro is very popular not only with mountaineers but for those looking for a challenge, and what a challenge it is! At a staggering 5,895m (19,300ft) it is the highest peak on the African continent. There are a number of routes to choose ranging from 7 to 10 days the most popular being Machame, Rongai, Lemosho and Marangu, the best route to choose depends on the time of year and level of challenge you are after.
Tanzania is vast with much on offer and a country we visit on a number of our multi country self drive safaris. If you don’t want to spend all your time in Tanzania and want to also explore neighbouring countries then we have a number of options on offer like our 14 day Kenya and Tanzania Discovery, 26 day Dr Livingstone, 7 week Africa Overland Adventure, 8 week Africa Discovered and 10 week Cairo to Cape.
Our 14 day Kenya and Tanzania guided self drive safari visits Lake Victoria, Serengeti National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, and traditional Masai villages in Tanzania as well amazing places in Kenya like Lake Baringo a bird watchers paradise, Lake Nakuru National Park famous for black and white Rhino, Green Crater Lake for a walking safari near Lake Naivasha as well as visiting an elephant orphanage and giraffe sanctuary on the outskirts of Nairobi. This is the perfect self drive holiday exploring a variety of unbelievable places in Kenya and Tanzania.
If you have the time then you can certainly visit and explore more of Africa on a self drive safari. Maybe you have always wanted to see the Victoria Falls in Zambia, climb to the top of Dune 45 in Namibia, witness the great wildebeest migration in Kenya or explore the wine region of Stellenbosch near Cape Town in South Africa. Whatever is on your wish list we can help you achieve them.
Here is an excerpt of a blog entry from one of our multi country self drive safaris as we travelled through Tanzania.
We had a couple of long driving days ahead of us to the next major highlight – the Serengeti National Park. Our drive took us through the tea plantations of Western Kenya before crossing the border into Tanzania. We spent a night camping on the shores of Lake Victoria before entering the World famous Serengeti National Park.
We had been warned that the roads in the Serengeti were not unlike the ones in Northern Kenya. But no one seemed too fazed about this… after all we were entering the most documented and famous wildlife game park in the World; no one cared the roads might be bad! As we entered the park there were herds of antelope to our left… This is the Serengeti!
The roads were in much better condition than we had expected, or maybe we are now used to African roads. We drove along the road stopping for animals to cross and watching them watch us from a distance. Our 2 nights in the Park seemed to fly by very fast, with great game viewing, some vehicles seeing all three major cats (cheetah, lion and leopard), everyone was on a high. A couple of vehicles had to retreat when a bull elephant gave them some mixed signals, another had a cheetah step out in front of their vehicle, and one vehicle had some elephants a little too curious brushing up against the side. The evenings were alive with tales and stories of wildlife encounters (of course all from the safety of inside ones vehicle!).
Some of the group took advantage of our time in the Serengeti to treat themselves to an early morning balloon flight over the Serengeti plains.
We slowly made our way out of the park, satisfied we had seen the best the park had to offer. Not far from the Serengeti we were treated to another game park, Lake Manyara. A very different park alive with various types of primates and birds. The Park is well known for its tree climbing lions however I don’t think anyone saw these.
Tanzania and Kenya were truly living up to their reputation as being the number 1 safari region in Africa.
It was time to bid farewell to the safari country for a while and take in some other sights East Africa has to offer.
We spent a couple of nights in Meserani Snake Park and Campsite, run by a cheerful couple Ma and BJ. With an onsite clinic famous for treating snake bites a number of the group were keen to see some snake bites and learn about the treatment the clinic offered. Unfortunately the clinic had just discharged the last snake bite incident however chatting to the nursing staff and seeing photos of previous cases certainly opened our eyes to the issues facing these rural communities and the great work that is being done locally.
A morning was spent in the village with our local Masai guide learning about life and history of the Masai people in this part of Tanzania. It was a nice change to learn about local tribes from the people themselves rather than reading it in a guide book.
Everyone was really taken by the work Meserani Snake Park does in the community and hope we will have the opportunity to experience similar projects throughout the rest of the expedition.
Quite a few of the group made their way into the service town of Arusha to catch up on emails and a spot of shopping. Most of this group are Aussies and over the past few days we had been hearing about the floods in Queensland and NSW, we are now hearing about Victoria. A chance to catch up on news from home was welcomed.
We made our way toward Dar es Salaam over 2 driving days. As we made our way toward Dar es Salaam and the Swahili coast we could feel the humidity and heat rising. Dar es Salaam is a port city and a base for a night before boarding the ferry across to Zanzibar. From our base in Dar es Salaam Harry suggested we take Tuk-Tuks to the Zanzibar ferry port as they have priority and are faster through traffic. It was something everyone embraced and loved the experience.
We boarded the (new) ferry to Zanzibar and were delighted to find out it was built in Hobart, Tasmania!!!
Zanzibar – what a place to relax for a couple of days! We arrived in Stonetown and were met by Africa Expedition Support local representative who had a bus waiting for us to transport us to our hotel for the next 3 nights. Mtoni Marine is a hotel nestled amongst tropical gardens, with a private beach, swimming pool, 2 restaurants and a beauty spa and only a few kilometres from Stonetown. The rooms were spacious, with air conditioning and decorated in true Zanzibar décor.
We spent half a day in the plantations with our local guide Babu who passionately took us on a tour and explained the various spices and herbs that made Zanzibar famous as the “Spice Island”. As a qualified chef he gave us lots of hints and ideas of what each and every spice could be used for in cooking to give it that extra little kick and Zanzibar influence.
A visit to Stonetown for some souvenir shopping was a must however the heat and humidity meant visits to town were short …. After all with a pool and private beach awaiting us who could resist Mtoni Marine!!!!
By the time this blog goes live we will be well and truly in Malawi.