We have just returned from our 11 day Safari in Tanzania and Zanzibar and I wanted to share an overvoew of our experiences and some things we were glad we learned from previous TA posts and observations.
We booked our trip through Africa Adventure Company out of Ft. Lauderdale FL. Yes, I know that many posters here recommend going directly with Tanzanian companies, and I agree I could haved saved some money by doing so. However, seeing as this was my first time to Africa, and I really didn't have a concrete idea of where or what I wanted to do, the AAC made the process much smoother for me. Their service and responsiveness were impeccable and I couldn't be more happy with our outcome. Our journey was completely customized and private, and the Tanzanian sub-contractors we worked with were wonderful as well ( with one hiccup, outlined below).
I will post reviews for the individual lodges we stayed at separately under the hotel review section, but overall we were delighted with the accomodations and completely bowled over by the level of service and hospitality we had at every lodge. We stayed at Arusha Coffee Lodge, Gibbs Farm, Soroi Serengetti, and Matemwe Lodge. Gibbs Farm was our favorite overall, and Soroi and Matemwe were a bit more "rustic" than my research led me to beloeve, but charming nonetheless.
Itinerary -- we had only one night in Arusha, 1 day at Lake Manyara, 1 day at Ngorongoro Crater, 4 days in Serengeti and 3 days in Zanzibar. If I were to do it again, I would have spent one less day in the Serengeti, and had an extra day in Arusha since we really had no time to explore there. Also, we were very fortunate to see all the big 5 plus tons of other stuff during the first couple of days in the Serengeti so we didn't feel the need to keep looking for something we missed.
Guides -- We had Eli with Ranger Safaris for the Lake Manyara/Ngorongoro days and David Singh (Sung?) in the Serengeti ( he was working directly for Soroi, but also has his own private business). Both men were wonderful, excellent at helping us spot game and giving us an education about all the things we were seeing. David really did an exceptional job at undersstanding what we wanted and finding it for us. We also took a Stone Town tour offered by our lodge and Benjamin was our guide. He did a great job of walking us through the town and the history of the island. I will say that with the heat and walking it got to be a bit of a march toward teh end, and we were happy he deopsited us at a hotel for a drink while he went back and got the car!
Tour Operators -- Rnager Safaris did a great job of ushering us through the visa/customs process and did a great job at arranging all our internal air. Gallery tours basically just shuttled us from the airport to Matemwe and back. However, we did have a snag as when we returned for our flight back to Dar es Salam and on to our international connection, Gallery gave us a slip telling us the wrong airline to check in to! We got to the airport a little late anyway and when I got to the coutner for Costal air, they had no record of us. I was quite distraught and thought I'd miss my flight to Amsterdam. The staff at the check in were very empathetic and trying very hard to help us. Fortunately as I was digging for documentation/confirmation number/anything, I found our original information from AAC which showed us flying on ZanAir. Sure enough they had us and we barely made it on the flight, but it all worked out in the end. When we got to Dar, Lions of Tanzania met us and took us to the Hyatt for drinks and dinner before returning us to the airport, which was nice since we had about 6 hours to kill.
I could go on and on about the beauty of the land, people and animals, but workd can't do it justice. You just have to go. But I did promise lessons learned, and here they are:
--It is worth investing in a good pair of binoculars. We didn't and fortunately our guides were kind enough to let us borrow theirs, but having our own would have been nice
--US dollars were accepted everywhere - no need for us to get shillings
--Was really helpful to plan out tips ahead of time and have all ready in individual envelopes. It make planning easier, and we could always add or deduct if necessary based on service (we almost always added, we had such good service)
--Bring good repellant! We used a strong deet compound for skin and did use premethin for our clothes. I know some don't like the chemicals in these products, but you will need something that works (even in Zanzibar where we were told there aren't that many mosquitoes Ha! Tell that to my chewed up ankles!)
--Sunscreen is a must
--3-4 changes of clothing is plenty, we did laundry at Soroi adn Matemwe, and had packets of Woolite for delicates
--we only needed an adapter, not a converter and all our lodges had 24 hour power so charging our cameras, etc was fine
--If you use hair conditioner you may want to bring your own. While all our hotels provided shampoo, not all had conditioner
--while all our hotels had hair dryers available, they sometimes didn't work very well or had limited usage times due to generator operation. My suggestion is to just plan to not use dryers and go casual if you can. Ladies - the ponytail is your friend, no one is caring if your hair is a litle limp from air drying.
--White vinegar takes the pain out of a jellyfish sting ( or other types of sea animal stings)
--We did get the vaccinations recommended by the CDC (Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, and took Malaria tablets). I know not everyone would do this, but I always thingk it is better to be safe than sorry. Plus we are now covered for next year's trip to southeast Asia!
So trying tho think of more but those are top of mind. We had a wonderful time and hope to go back again.