When: October 2019
Where: Tanzania – Central Serengeti
I had learned what many others had discovered before me – that Africa, for all its perils, represented wilderness and possibility. – Paul Theroux
My now husband and I talked about what our honeymoon would be like before we ever talked about getting married. So when the blessed event finally occurred, we knew that an African Safari was exactly what we wanted to do. The Serengeti is a place like no other on Earth filled with exotic wildlife we always dreamed of seeing. The landscape is a dramatic backdrop and home to so many beautiful creatures. I will be forever grateful we got to experience a safari and hope to make it a repeat trip in our lifetime.
Planning a safari involves figuring out the “where, when and how.” We knew we wanted to go to the Serengeti so the “where” was pretty easy. Tanzania has a stellar reputation when it comes to their parks. About a third of the land consists of national parks and the drivers must stay on the roads, so you won’t disturb the wildlife or inadvertently destroy their habitats.
Regarding the “when”, we knew we didn’t want to go during peak season and end up shoulder to shoulder with 50 other jeeps. We decided on early October to align with our work schedules and it’s also about the start of the short rain season. We were very lucky and didn’t have any rainy days!
The “how” included budget and tour companies. I started researching with a Forbes article on safari companies and read a few blogs on the DIY safaris. Since this was our first time to Africa and our honeymoon, we knew DIY was not for us, we easily eliminated a few of the more expensive companies and crossed out the roughing it safaris as well. We interviewed three companies and decided on Game Watchers. We worked closely with Rick from Game Watchers via phone and email to carefully build our itinerary. He provided expert guidance and advice based on our budget, timeline and list of things we wanted to do and see. His hands on expertise was invaluable and I can’t thank him enough for the memorable trip he helped us to create!
We spent the night prior to our safari pick up in Arusha at the Mount Meru Hotel and thoroughly enjoyed the views, quiet and superb thick coffee. I recommend arriving a day early to eliminate any issues with airline delays and to give yourself a day to get over the jet lag. Ethiopian airlines ended up losing my bag and I was able to pick up a few items from the hotel instead of not having anything out in the bush.
Mount Meru is the 5th highest mountain in Africa and on a clear day can be seen from Kilimanjaro. While not as tall, it’s still a serious hike and takes about two to three days to summit. Perhaps on our next trip!
It was a 30 minute uneventful ride to the airstrip that would take us to the wild. The airstrip itself was tiny but had an open air bar/restaurant, coffee shop, and a few souvenir stalls. We took off on time in our little 15 seat puddle jumper and made it to the Central Serengeti in under an hour and a half.
This was my first time in a little plane and I had lots of irrational fears circling my brain for weeks leading up to take off about what would happen if we crashed. Since my baggage was limited to 33 lbs, I wouldn’t be able to pack the necessary survival gear and surely die of thirst out in the wild as I would most certainly be the sole survivor of the plane crash (Sorry husband). However, bush pilots are reputed to be the best in the world as they have the most experience with take offs/landings which are the trickiest parts of flying. They made us comfortable within the first five minutes. We were in good hands with even better views.
As we began our descent into the Serengeti at the Seronera air strip, we saw a few giraffes picking at the tree tops for their afternoon snack. We shrieked in amazement completely oblivious to the close encounters to come! After landing we were hustled into an open air jeep to the Nimali campsite.
It was a bumpy and dusty 45 minute ride to the camp filled with grazing Thompson gazelle seemingly greeting us to Tanzania with their wagging tails. We made a right turn and came upon the camp where would be staying for the next three days.
Even though we were in the middle of nowhere Tanzania, we ate like kings. They did not want to hear that we weren’t that hungry, they were going to feed us anyway and everything was delicious.
Breakfast consisted of an assortment of juices and tea, made to order eggs, breakfast meats, veggies and toast.
Lunches were picnic style since we did all day game drives. We sat in camp chairs out in the bush and gorged on the best homemade chicken salad I’ve ever tasted, mini veggie pizzas, fruit and dessert.
Dinners were three course meals. We started with fresh bread and cream vegetable soups. The soups alone would be enough to make me travel back to Tanzania. The main courses were a variety of meats including a filet and ribs and fancy side dishes. Desserts ranged from fruit cheesecakes to sweet ice creams.
Nimali was also free pouring with the wines and local beers. My favorite was Mt. Kilimanjaro, which has the cheeky tagline “If you can’t climb it, drink it!”
Suggestions and Tips
- Bring binoculars
- Make sure to bring an extra camera battery. While most jeeps have outlets you can charge your devices, it’s helpful to just swap out your batteries so you can keep snapping.
- One thing I wished I would’ve looked up before arriving was southern hemisphere constellations! Sitting around the campfire and tranquilly watching the stars glimmer would create an affinity for astronomy in anyone.
- Pack long sleeves and a scarf/bandanna to keep warm in the morning and the wind/dust out of your face
- Don’t waste any precious packing space with dinner clothes. We primarily just hung out after game drives in our safari clothes and then after a few drinks went to the dining tent
- Tipping: Tips should be paid at the end of your stay. At least $15-$20 per person/per day for the guides and drivers and another $5-$10 per person/per day for the house keeping and camp staff