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10-day Tanzania Trip

SAN FRANCISCO
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10-day Tanzania Trip

My husband and I are starting to look into a trip to Tanzania for next summer, either May or August. I've started reaching out to tour companies for suggested itineraries but have some questions - the most important questions are:

1) Should I include Kilimanjaro in the itinerary? We're not big hikers and a 7 day trek doesn't sound that appealing. Are there other options?

2) Mafia Island or Zanzibar?

3) Which is the better time to go? Which parks are better when?

4) Is 10 days in country enough?

Anything else I'm not asking!? Thanks in advance!

Los Angeles
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1. Re: 10-day Tanzania Trip

The typical 10-day northern circuit safari would include Lake Manyara, Tarangire, the Ngorongoro Crater and one or two locations in the Serengeti. If you are also considering including a beach vacation, you are limiting your safari time to (most likely) only 7 days -- very tight for inclusion of all the above locations.

Kilimanjaro is in the opposite direction from the northern circuit parks, a roughly 2 hour drive from Arusha. The mountain is hidden much of the time by cloud cover, though it can be seen, when cooperative, from Moshi or from Sinya Reserve, right at the foot of the mountain. You'd need a minimum of two nights, there, however, again cutting into your typical northern circuit itinerary.

I notice that you are from San Francisco, so I can't help pointing out that travelling all the way to Africa to go to a beach seems to me a waste of an opportunity to maximize the time you'll have available for wildlife viewing. Also, you need to consider different options for a May or for an August safari -- both in terms of the location of the migration and in terms of weather issues. May is the long rains, and it's not uncommon for roads to get washed out or for certain locations to be unreachable. It's low season, however, with great prices and less vehicle traffic -- and lovely green (though high) grasses, trees in leaf and abundant wildflowers. Choosing just the right time to visit for what you most want to see is an important decision -- perhaps one of the most important initial decisions you must make.

Since you still have a reasonable amount of time to finalize your plans (more, of course, for August than for May), you should do a bit more research before making any decisions. You might begin with the Top Questions About Tanzania list at the top right of this page, as well as reading a collection of trip reports and spending some time viewing the frequently accompanying photos. It's even very helpful to read the answers to other people's questions -- even sometimes questions you don't think at first glance would be useful. There's an enormous amount of information on this forum.

You're also free to privately message most of us with questions. Most of the people here who have been to Tanzania are happy -- even eager -- to help. Any opportunity to talk about Tanzania is an opportunity to relive one of the most wonderful experiences of our lives, and we're pretty much universally wanting your own experience to be just as wonderful.

SAN FRANCISCO
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2. Re: 10-day Tanzania Trip

Wow! This is so helpful! Thank you so much for your feedback. I will look more into the things you've suggested and get back to you if I have additional questions. The reason we're thinking about the beach is that my husband is a huge diver and I've heard that Zanzibar and Mafia Island have great diving options.

Do you think if we increased our time to 9 days safari and 2 days on the beach it would be better? If you had to choose, would you just do the 10 day circuit and skip the beach?

Thanks again!

Emily

Los Angeles
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3. Re: 10-day Tanzania Trip

<<<Do you think if we increased our time to 9 days safari and 2 days on the beach it would be better? If you had to choose, would you just do the 10 day circuit and skip the beach?>>>

LOL. That would depend a great deal on exactly how annoyed my husband would be at missing the chance to dive in the Indian Ocean.

Rule of thumb: It's always better to increase the time available on safari, in my opinion. Every day brings a new surprise -- Those impalas you were beginning to find boring become suddenly fascinating when one of them is in the process of giving birth. Or when two of the males are having a knock-down, drag-out fight over which one gets the girl. Or when one of those now familiar meandering elephants suddenly charges your vehicle. Or when those elegant giraffes suddenly begin "necking." (Until you've seen it, you won't get it.)

More days = more exposure to the sometimes eccentric behaviors of animals in the wild. I've seen two male elephants mating. I've seen zebras scolding recalcitrant wildebeest, reluctant to cross a few feet of water. Lion cubs rolling on the ground in a pile of playful fur. An entire elephant skeleton, alone in a clearing where it had died. A troop of baboons, enjoying themselves at a water hole, suddenly bolting into the undergrowth upon the approach of a pack of wild dogs. I've been charged by both elephants and rhinos. You never know what's likely to happen on that last day.

If your family is like mine, you're in for some form of negotiation with your husband. I, too, have heard that the diving is great, so I have some sympathy for his position. But, oh . . . the Serengeti. It is SUCH a wondrous place.

london
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for Zambia, Selous Game Reserve, Ruaha National Park
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4. Re: 10-day Tanzania Trip

Two days on the beach won't really allow for any diving. As your husband will tell you, you can't dive in the 24 hour period before a flight, which wipes out the last 24 hours, leaving very little (if any) time to squeeze in any diving.

If you want to combine diving and safari, you might want to consider looking at the Southern parks of Selous and/or Ruaha, which have direct flights to Zanzibar and Mafia. August would be better than May for the Southern parks.

I've not been to Mafia, although I have heard the diving is great. However, Zanzibar does allow the option of spending the last night (when you can't dive) in Stone Town doing sight seeing.

5. Re: 10-day Tanzania Trip

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SAN FRANCISCO
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6. Re: 10-day Tanzania Trip

@stokeygirl: Haha, I have a lot to learn about diving. Personally it freaks me out! From my initial research it seems as if you can see the same animals on the Southern Circuit as the Northern. If that's the case, why does it seem that everyone suggests the Northern Circuit? (Is it the same?)

@sandyleelee: Thank you again for your wonderful input. I really appreciate your help. I know all of this will help make our trip all the better!

Los Angeles
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7. Re: 10-day Tanzania Trip

Emily -- there are three major reasons for doing the northern circuit: 1) the astonishing experience of the great migration; 2) the vastness of the Serengeti; 3) the unique ecosystem of the Ngorongoro Crater. These things cannot be duplicated anywhere.

I'd also mention that the animals in the parks in the south tend to be less habituated to safari vehicles, and tend to retreat when they can, I've heard. Not having spent much time there, I can't verify this -- and many people love Ruaha and the Selous. Both are more convenient to Dar and Zanzibar, by air, the weather tends to be hotter and far more humid, etc. -- everything depends upon what kind of experience you're really looking for.

nyc
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8. Re: 10-day Tanzania Trip

You may very well see many of the same animals in the Southern vs Northern Parks, but if a first and possibly only safari, and you have pictured in your head the wide open plains of the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater, then it's the North. The south is more thick forest and brush.

Suggest you get a few good guidebooks to read up on Tanzania - the Brandt Guide or Fodor's "Complete Safari Planning Guide" = you certainly have time to plan for next year. As places aren't near as close as they appear on a map and the roads are often non-existent, suggest you pick-up a map of the country.

As above, 10/days doesn't allow for a full Kili trek (need minimum 7/days_; likewise, adding a beach (min. 3/nts) cuts safari time. You live in California, where there are many beach options much closer and probably at better prices.

Dallas, TX
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9. Re: 10-day Tanzania Trip

I just returned from my first safari and I visited both the traditional northern circuit as well as Selous in the south. I fell in love with safari and if I return to Tanzania would be more likely to return to the southern parks such as Selous or Ruaha. Having said that, for a first safari, I think the northern circuit is much more fitting. You will see ALL the animals and at very close distances. Although we saw some of the same animals in Selous, and some different ones, they were much more skittish and fewer and far between. I think I might have been a little disappointed had I only had the experience of the south. It was nice to get the big introduction and see everything then slow it down at the end to spend more time and really track the animals. Once I had seen everything in the north, there wasn't any pressure to see it all, if that makes sense.

I am also a diver and from the US. We do most of our diving in the Caribbean since it's close. I did research diving in Tanzania and my research indicated that diving at Mafia is much better than diving at Zanzibar, although it's still not clear to me how it compares to the Caribbean. My recommendation though is to bypass the diving on a first safari as well. You will be so blown away by all the experiences of the culture, the scenery, and the animals that the diving will not be missed. Going back for a second time, I would consider adding several days in Mafia for diving but I think it's too much to do it on a first trip, especially with only 10 days.

My advice is to listen to the experts here and stick to the northern circuit if you only have 10 days. Don't try to do too much. You will be more exhausted than you think riding around on those bumpy roads every day.

london
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for Zambia, Selous Game Reserve, Ruaha National Park
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10. Re: 10-day Tanzania Trip

Everyone will tell you to go to the north, because that's where everyone goes, following the herds in more ways than one!

Some people above have made some pretty sweeping statements about the south based on very little (or no) experience of the Southern Parks.

So here are a few sweeping counter statements about the north.

The north is popular. It's full of large lodges (50+ rooms) as well as a multitude of smaller camps. It caters to the mass market. Consequently, it's busy. You can easily see 20-30 vehicle pile-ups around a sighting, whether you choose to join them or not, you will see them.

The South is much less visited, with fewer camps, mostly very small. Ruaha is less visited than Selous as it is less accessible. In Ruaha there are only about half a dozen camps inside the park, most of which have less than 10 rooms. You will never see a 30 vehicle traffic jam, because there are unlikely to ever be that many vehicles in the whole park which is also the largest national park in Tanzania (yes, bigger than the Serengeti).

The Serengeti has open plains. Some areas of Ruaha have this, on a smaller scale (there is actually an area called the "small Serengeti"). But Ruaha has a towering escarpment, granite kopjes, majestic baobubs everywhere, sand rivers and boulder strewn river beds. Selous has massive lakes fringed with palms, and the opportunity to do game viewing by boat. Certainly neither park is "more dense forest and brush"- between the two parks the scenery is very varied and beautiful. Serengeti has herds of wildebeest- Ruaha has herds of buffalo and elephant, and huge prides (20-30) of lions. Selous has the biggest herds of giraffe (20-30 easily) I've ever seen and is one of the best places for seeing the highly endangered African Wild Dog.

As for the skittishness of the animals, I can't say I've noticed it, but then I tend to do most of my safaris in similar low human traffic areas. These are wild animals, and "skittish" is their natural state.

For a first safari people will recommend the north because you will see everything- not hard when all you have to do is spot a cluster of other vehicles parked around an animal. However, plenty of people choose the South for a first safari. Last year in Ruaha there were 3 honeymoon couples in the camp I stayed in, all on their first safari and all were loving it and really happy they made the less obvious choice.

I went to the Northern parks in 1998 and sorry but they didn't grab me the way other places in Africa have.