Tanzania

I’d been itching for another safari since my introduction in South Africa two years before. Tanzania has always been at the top of my bucket list for Serengeti National Park, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and Zanzibar. I had planned and booked this trip twice in the past and cancelled each time. Third time was a charm, so I finally made it happen. Safaris are expensive – especially for one person. In Tanzania, I cut costs by doing a budget, group, camping safari for five days. After the safari, I visited Zanzibar for five days of relaxation. At the last minute, a buddy working in Africa, decided to join me for the Zanzibar portion of the trip.

Day 0: fly from NYC to Rome to Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro/Arusha, pick up by safari company, overnight in Arusha
Day 1: start group safari, game drive in Tarangire National Park, visit Masai village, overnight in tented camp
Day 2: game drive in Lake Manyara National Park, overnight in tented camp
Day 3: game drive in Serengeti National Park, overnight in camp
Day 4: game drive in Serengeti National Park, overnight in camp
Day 5: game drive in Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, overnight in Arusha
Day 6: fly to Zanzibar, relax on the beach, overnight in Nungwi, Zanzibar
Day 7: snorkeling trip to Mnemba Atoll, overnight in Nungwi, Zanzibar
Day 8: relax on beach, drive to Stone Town, overnight in Stone Town, Zanzibar
Day 9: snorkeling trip, explore Stone Town, overnight in Stone Town
Day 10: relax in Stone Town, fly to Dubai via Dar el Salaam

DAY 1: Tarangire National Park

The first stop of the 5-day Tanzania safari was Tarangire National Park, located 2 hours from Arusha. Tarangire is famous for two reasons – large herds of elephants and Baobob trees. The park’s landscape is composed of rolling hills, rivers, and lots of trees of various types.  The ability to see tons of animals in different landscapes helped make this my favorite park in Tanzania. We spent around four hours in the park before driving to our tented camp near Lake Manyara.

The Masai live all over Northern Tanzania and Southern Kenya.  I encountered them everywhere I visited in both countries.  The Masai are known for their colorful clothing.  The Masai live inside Tarangire and Serengeti National Park and formerly lived in Ngorongoro Crater, but were relocated to the crater’s rim a few years ago.  Outside of Tarangire, we stopped to visit a Masai village and to watch a jumping dance.  The whole experience felt very commercialized. Later in Amboseli National Park in Kenya, I went on a safari walk with two Masai guides and it was much more interesting as I was able to interact and learn about the Masai people and cultures.

DAY 2: Lake Manyara National Park

Lake Manyara National Park was our next stop along the Tanzanian northern safari circuit. The small park is bordered by Lake Manyara to the east, a rift wall to the west, and the village of Mto Wa Mbu to the north.  The lake takes up almost half of the park, but completely dries up during dry season.  The landscape around Lake Manyara is dense forest and wetlands.  It was completely different from Tarangire, even though the parks are only one hour apart. We only spent four hours in park, but covered the entire park due to its small size.

DAYS 3 – 4: Serengeti National Park

Serengeti National Park is the most famous wildlife park in the world.  I enjoyed the park for the sheer number of animals in the park, but the park has fewer interesting landscapes. We spent two days at the park with morning and evening game drives.  We stayed overnight at a campground in the park.  After hearing reports of a lion roaming through the camp the previous night, I was glad to see a ranger with a gun paroling the perimeter.

Day 5: Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Conservation Area was the last stop on our Northern Tanzania safari circuit.  Ngorongoro Crater was formed by a collapsed volcano. More than 80% of the 25,000 animals that live in the crater never leave. We did one game drive in the crater, but I could’ve spent much more time here. This is also the only area we visited that still has black rhinos. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any.

Day 6: Nungwi, Zanzibar

The first day in Zanzibar we stayed in the beach village of Nungwi on the northeast coast of the island.

Day 7: Nungwi, Zanzibar

I did two snorkeling trips while in Zanzibar.  On the second day, I did a day trip to the reef around Mnemba Island and Muyuni Beach.

Day 8: Stonetown, Zanzibar

Stone Town is the main city of Zanzaibar. The city has an interest mix of colonial, Islamic, and Indian architecture that reflects its rich history. I could’ve spent hours getting lost in the never-ending maze of streets and alleys. Darajani Market is the main place to buy food in Stonetown.  The market is divided into various halls that sell grains, fruits, meats, and vegetables.

The beaches near Stonetown are not as nice as the Northern beaches, but are still interesting to explore.  The main beach is located near Forodhani Gardens and the Park Hyatt hotel and is full of tourists and locals, particularly at sunset.  South of the this area, the beach bends and the sand transitions to algae covered rock. Many of the waterfront buildings in this section are in various states of disrepair.

Day 9: Stonetown, Zanzibar

On the fourth day, I did a half day snorkeling trip to a sandbar island and reef and did some open water snorkeling. A storm came in after few hours into the trip and we had to call it a day.

Day 10: Zanzibar to Dubai

On the last morning I flew in a prop plane from Zanzibar to Dar el Salaam on the mainland to connect to my Emirates flight to Dubai. The views over Zanzibar and the Indian Ocean were incredible.


FLIGHTS

Alitalia (business): JFK-FCO, FCO-AMS
KLM (business): AMS-JRO
The three Alitalia/KLM flights were covered using 70k Delta Skymiles.

Coastal Aviation (economy): ZNZ-DAR
This was my third time flying in a small prop plane. I love the views from the lower altitudes, but these small planes are terrifying. I paid $80 for the 20-minute flight.

Emirates (business): DAR-DXB, DXB-JFK
Emirates business class is one of the best in the world, so I was glad to find availability for 80k Alaskan miles from Africa to the US with a free two day stopover in Dubai.


HOTELS

Mvuli Hotels, Arusha – moderate
Recommend: Yes

Manyara Sunbright Tented Camp – basic
Recommend: Yes

Green Mountain Hotel, Arusha – moderate
Recommend: Yes

Doubletree Nungwi – moderate+
Recommend: Yes

Doubletree Stonetown – moderate+
Recommend: Yes


HIGHLIGHTS

Beaches of Zanzibar
Zanzibar has tons of amazing beaches.  I only visited the beaches along the Northern tip of the island.  Due to the strong changes in tides, at low tide, you can walk 100 meters from the shore before reaching water deep enough to swim.

Stonetown architecture
Stonetown is an interesting mix of Arab, Indian, and European influences. The city’s traditional wooden carved doors are fascinating.  I could’ve spent an entire day just taking photos of doors.

Tarangire National Park, Tanzania
Tarangire is not the most famous of Tanzania’s national parks, but it has a huge selection of wildlife and a very diverse landscape.  The park is also full of incredible Baobab trees.


NEXT TIME

Mt Kilimanjaro
Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro takes at minimum five full days. I simply didn’t have enough room in my itinerary to do the trip.

Mafia Island
Island off the coast of Zanzibar that is known for its remote beaches and marine park and whale sharks.

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