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Tanzania Northern Circuit Safari

Ottawa, Canada
Level Contributor
87 posts
18 reviews
Tanzania Northern Circuit Safari

I am posting this in a new thread as a continuation on my initial post in October. ( I couldn't figure out how to link that post with my new one or change the title so created a new one here)

Thank you to everyone who has helped me thus far in planning my upcoming Africa trip with my mom. Everyone's comments made me realize I really needed to extend my research, which I have done.

I have decided to start/depart in Arusha so I can fly in/out of Kilimanjaro airport. I have decided on a private safari for just the 2 of us with our own guide/vehicle throughout. We will do the Northern Circuit and include stops to: Arusha NP, Tarangire NP, Serengetti NP, Ngorongo Crater and Lake Manyara. I havent decided on a tour company yet but have e-mailed 10 companies a list of my requirements/questions and am in the process of reviewing them all. We will visit in May 2014 probably the last 2 weeks depending on airfare prices at the time. At this time I just want to confirm the flow of the safari and will later book activities within each destination where applicable.

My questions are:

-Based on the parks we would like to visit which order would you recommend to reduce travel times between each location

-Some of the tour operators have suggested taking a domestic flight back to Arusha at the end of the safari to avoid driving times, thoughts?

-I was interested in the crater rim walk as I read it was short and not too challenging so figured my mom would be able to do this but I am having a hard time finding reviews of travelers who have done this. All I have been able to determine so far is the walk is with an armed guide who normally does not talk to you and it cannot be your safari guide leading the walk?

-Some of the tour operators have suggested I omit Tarangire and Lake Manyara because animal viewing can be challenging in May due to the length of vegetation from recent rains, however these places really interest me, thoughts?

I have just begun researching private tented camps and lodges can anyone offer any recommendations for these areas?

Thank you in advance for you help!

Chicago
Level Contributor
2,134 posts
6 reviews
1. Re: Tanzania Northern Circuit Safari

Don't skip Tarangire and Manyara. They were my favorite spots the first of June.

Los Angeles
Level Contributor
2,672 posts
45 reviews
2. Re: Tanzania Northern Circuit Safari

Tarangire is a wonderful, wonderful park -- particularly beautiful following the rains, when the baobabs are in leaf and everything is green and lush. I'm fond of Manyara, as well, and think you'd do yourself a great disservice in skipping them. Both have features which make them unique -- Manyara's groundwater forest and escarpment views and Tarangire's ever-present elephants, stunning baobabs and the lovely Tarangire River. Yes, you'll need to pay attention -- spotting the wildlife, especially smaller animals, can be more difficult when the foliage is thick and dense -- but the animals are still there, and you will definitely find them.

I can't even imagine going on a northern circuit safari and skipping Tarangire. The Crater is a must-see -- particularly for first-timers -- but I much prefer Tarangire to Nogorongoro Crater.

Now, as to routing, I like to drive out and fly back, giving a usual routing of Arusha to Arusha NP to Tarangire to Manyara to Ngorogoro to Serengeti and fly back to Arusha. This leaves open what specific locations in the Serengeti, and in May I think I'd opt for central to west. You just can't be sure where the migration will actually be, as everything depends upon the rains.

As to lodging, I have stayed at Whistling Thorn outside Tarangire, both Kirurumu Tented Lodge and Ngorongoro Farmhouse for Manyara, Sopa Lodge for the Crater, and both Mapito Tented Camp and Kati Kati in the central Serengeti area. (Also other places not currently on your itinerary). I'll be substituting Tarnagire Safari Lodge for Whistling Thorn on our upcoming Feb trip -- only because I thought we should try some new camps. I do love Whistling Thorn, so we'll see how TSL measures up. I'll also be staying at Serengeti Wilderness Camp this trip, as well as Mbuze Mawe further north.

Camps and lodges are somewhat important to me but, like hotel rooms, not the purpose or focus of safari, so I'm not as likely to be disappointed when a "favorite" camp or lodge is booked up. I'm mostly looking for reasonable comfort and value -- a clean and comfortable place to lay my head, decent shower and toilet facilities, edible food. I want neither a butler nor a hot tub. Of far greater importance than the quality of the accommodations is the quality of the safari vehicle and its driver/guide. That's why the outfitter is more important than any other consideration at the outset of your planning.

Ottawa, Canada
Level Contributor
12,228 posts
155 reviews
3. Re: Tanzania Northern Circuit Safari

So, it is with your mom so I can understand the suggestion of flying back.

How many days do you have?

Really, the only logical flight from Ottawa is KLM via Montreal. Always makes me laugh that my first flight is a bus to Montreal from the Train Station. But it does work for me. You can force the option of flights via TO if you want. I do find via Montreal is cheaper - it does mean, however, that upon return, there is an 8 hour layover in Amsterdam from 7am - 3:15. I tend to go into town (easy train ride from basement of airport) until 11:30, then train back to airport for a final cleanup and boarding. There are lockers in the airport - easy to access from deplaning area, so leave your luggage there, just carry light purse into town. Or consider doing an overnight in Amsterdam if never visited before. As far as prices, KLM should be having a flight sale soon. Go to the website and sign up for their customer loyalty program and ask for newsletters to your email box. Might not save you much, but given the costs of KLM, something is better than nothing. Air Canada code shares with Turkish Airlines as an option, but from Ottawa, more expensive and you arrive in JRO at an ungodly time in the wee hours. At least with KLM you can be in your bed in Arusha by 11pm.

Here is a pencil sketch of two options - number of days and lodgings to be determined.

Overnight near the airport and do Arusha NP first or second day. It is easy going, you can do a 2 hour walk to stretch your legs, but close enough to return for a nap or a swim if the jet lag hits you. If time, do second day in the area - resting the first.

Tarangire NP, Ngoro Crater, Serengeti, Lake Manyara

or if flying back: Arusha NP, Tarangire, Manyara, Ngoro Crater, Serengeti

I did safari the same time 2 years ago. It is definitely quieter and some tented camps are still closed, or just opening for the season.

Crater rim walk - well, the reviews I have read are often ho hum, as it is an easy walk, but not always with views. Often is through shrub forest. the Ngorongoro Conservation Area website has a map of the area and also activities and talks about walks and stuff on a printable handout. Discuss with the TO after the major decisions are made.

May will have long grass - even in Serengeti - that is corrrect. Some small animals come out to the roadside, drinking in the puddles, but I found the lions then tend to climb into the trees more often - particularly in Serengeti. I found the grass length in Manyara to be much shorter than Serengeti. It is a green treed park with lots to offer, but not dynamic like some of the others. The views of the cliff face (part of the famous Rift Valley) are quite stunning, and if I was to do it again, I would try for a lodge on the cliff closer to the park. Kirurumu Manyara is a large lodging, but very quiet in May, lovely permanent canvas rooms and some stunning views. Just a little too far away to see the drama of the dropoff to the park, but one can hear waterfalls, and watch the lights turn on in Mto wa Mbo, and even Lake Eyasi as well as Manyara in the distance.

Naitolia Camp is a small tented camp that I think stays open in May. It is a little out of Tarangire park, but also has valley views, walks or night drives. You would most likely be the only ones in camp at that time.

Kati Kati in Serengeti is a reliable tented camp.

Several lodgings (maybe not tented) on the road to Arusha NP. For Crater, it gets cold and you most likely want to stay closest to the gate, so no tenting.

Honolulu, Hawaii
Level Contributor
864 posts
6 reviews
4. Re: Tanzania Northern Circuit Safari

And just for a bit of a different view. I don't know how old your mother is or how much time you two have. I am both a mother and a grandmother but I would never fly back when you can drive and see so much more while you do. Any driving in Tanzania, in or out of a park is an amazing experience. There is so much more to see than animals. IMO only

Ottawa, Canada
Level Contributor
87 posts
18 reviews
5. Re: Tanzania Northern Circuit Safari

sandyleelee ,

Thank you for your response! I have decided to not omit Tarangire and L.Manyara, I just cant imagine not visiting these areas so will definitely include them.

I have a couple of questions for you:

-Which TO did you use on your last visit?

-Did you enjoy the accommodations you used for your last safari?

-How much extra did you pay for the return flight to Arusha as opposed to driving?

Thank you!

Ottawa, Canada
Level Contributor
87 posts
18 reviews
6. Re: Tanzania Northern Circuit Safari

Quiltingmamma,

I love the information you gave be about flights and am going to look into all the details you provided me, thank you!(What luck to have a fellow Ottawa person reading my post)

Yes the flying back would be because of my mom and our time on safari is 9-12 days sorry I forgot to mention that in my initial post.

I am going to confirm with the TO I choose how much extra a flight back to Arusha is compared to driving and determine the itinerary from there.

-Do you think 1 night at L.Manayara and N.Crater is enough? I heard N.Crater only allows 6 hours to visit so all you could really do is one day anyway right without having to pay a bunch of extra money for an additional park permit?

-Do you mind if I ask what TO you used when you visited Tanzania?

Thank you!

Ottawa, Canada
Level Contributor
87 posts
18 reviews
7. Re: Tanzania Northern Circuit Safari

ALOHA-UTA,

My mom is only 53 but was in a car accident a few years back and has a hard time sitting for too long (plane ride should be fun)

If I chose the order: Arusha, Taragine, Lake Manyara, N.Crater, Serengtti, Arusha what would be the driving time back to Arusha as opped toleaving from L.Manyara or N.Crater? I have read that ending with the Serengetti is best as the other parks are a little disappointing after just leaving the Serengetti, is there any truth to that?

Ottawa, Canada
Level Contributor
12,228 posts
155 reviews
8. Re: Tanzania Northern Circuit Safari

Glad I can help.

As to TO, well, it is a bit complicated and situational. I first went on an OAT tour, and then used the same ground company KIBO guides for my solo trip, as I was still not comfortable spending a week with someone driver I had never met before, so I hired them as well as one of the drivers from the tour. One of the skewed comfort zones of being a single woman traveller and over protective, I guess. Anyway, they are a big company, and do the trip well, but didn't find them easy to deal with as an independent. Quite cold and to the point. I don't discourage folks to use them, but there are other options I would consider.

What I tend to recommend is a full day (or more) in Tarangire, then overnight near Lake Manyara NP. Visit it as early as possible (the morning light is fabulous and not to be missed) all day, until you need to leave for Crater rim lodging. One day in Manyara is usually fine. It is a small park. Because the Rim lodgings are often the priciest, and not always the nicest, I would prefer to visit at gate opening, and then start to head West. It seems there are places in Oldapai area to overnight, or in Ndutu area (even if not migration time). I stayed overnight in Ndutu and at one time was surrounded by gnus and zebra. Even though May, still large herds in that area in 2012. I am a little confused about the park fees you mention. Crater fees, are the priciest, and then there are Ngoro Conservation (NCA) fees that you can't avoid if driving to the Serengeti. However, you only pay Crater fees if you enter the crater. Some do pay twice for 12 hours, or do 2 consecutive days, and have never regretted it, but most are ecstatic with their one six hour visit. You are going to have to pay fees whether NCA or Serengeti. But there is no harm trying to leverage your time, and you don't want to have to pay both neadlessly.

Depends where you are in Serengeti, but Crater is about half way between Serengeti and Arusha. From Central Serengeti to Arusha is 8 - 10 hours depending on if all goes well or not.

When you fly from Serengeti, you will have to pay the driver/car day rate as it still is out of commission. Then the flight at $200 each, so additional $400 above the cost of a round trip drive.

As to which to do first, I like East to west, others like west to east, so no consensus.

Chicago
Level Contributor
2,134 posts
6 reviews
9. Re: Tanzania Northern Circuit Safari

I used Shidolya with Crispin as my guide. I had a great trip. Any questions let me know.

Victoria, Canada
Level Contributor
239 posts
1 review
10. Re: Tanzania Northern Circuit Safari

Another option for the flight from Ottawa to JRO would be with Ethiopia Air, it is shorter and cost less and has a flight that arrives mid-day, although the first leg is long. They fly the 380s.