With the covid-vaccine in our bodies, new travel prospects open up for many people: The desire for faraway places calls – and Tanzania lures with great offers. A small group trip into the vastness of Africa is the ideal start back into the world of holiday experiences after months of confinement in the clutches of the pandemic. Today I’ll tell you what it’s like to go on a small group safari in Tanzania.
The mere approach to Kilimanjaro International Airport is breathtaking. I just happen to be sitting on the right-hand side with the best views. From here, I can enjoy the full panorama of the highest mountain in Africa: 5,895 m, and at the same time the largest free-standing volcanic massif in the world. In my first week I want to climb to the Roof of Africa – up to the top of that glacier crest that shimmers so icy and cold white just before landing.
A few days later, exhausted from the strenuous active days on the mountain but with the Kilimanjaro summit certificate in my grateful hands, I am now looking forward to a relaxed safari in some of the most exciting nature reserves of Tanzania: Tarangire National Park, Lake Natron, Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater. Tanzania – The Wild Side. The best thing about it: In the next few days I only have to walk the distance between the car, tent, sanitary facilities and campfire. The rest of the time, I can cling lazily to the window and let our guide drive me around. And all that in cozy and warm temperatures. Serengeti, I’m coming.
I spend the night before the safari starts in a lodge near the lively town of Arusha. How comfortable it is. And so beautifully situated in a secluded garden setting. It’s hard to believe that I really want to spend the coming week in a tent. I could of course have chosen to go on a lodge safari. But somehow, I also wanted to get out of my four concrete walls, knowing full well that I would not be surrounded by traffic, but by the sounds of the wilderness. I wanted to be even closer to nature and have the adventurous tingling sensation in the stomach area when, lying in the tent, I notice movement around my accommodation and ask myself: “Is it a lion or an antelope?”
Group safari in Tanzania – the group, the briefing, the first day
On the day the tour starts, I get to know the rest of the group, a couple and two other solo travelers like me. That allows us enough space in our Land Cruiser. A maximum of 7 guests can be part of such a small group trip. After Corona, who wants to be on the road again in a large tour group in a full bus?
The routine briefing that Andrew, the Operations Manager, does with all Tanzania guests over a cup of coffee, sets the mood for the days ahead in two ways: After the briefing, you know A what to expect and B you find out in a charming way what is expected of you. After all, you are not only traveling in a small group, you also encounter foreign cultures and wild animals. Certain rules of conduct provide security and security increases enjoyment. Here, we also get to know Enock, our guide. With his help, we quickly load the luggage and off we go.
Tanzania Safari – from Arusha to Tarangire National Park
The road leads us across the centre of Arusha. A very lively city. Modern architecture mixes with rickety buildings. The traffic seems a bit chaotic in some places. It smells like gasoline. Minibus taxis, motorcycles and cars cover the thin layer of tarmac, people do so even more. They are drawn to the hustle and bustle. In some areas it looks just like the African stereotype you know from television reports: improvised market stalls, long rows of gasoline cans for sale along the streets, wheelbarrows full of exotic fruits and spices, and women carrying their goods in baskets on their heads. Only once we leave Arusha behind us does the scene change. We drive past Masai villages with their mud-colored huts. People in colorful clothes look curiously into our Land Cruiser and small children happily wave to us.
Almost two hours later we reach our first destination: the Tarangire National Park. Finally, wilderness. Finally, wildlife. Just a few kilometers further in, it already feels like diving into a beautifully illustrated story book about the fairytale places of Africa. Again and again, an uncontrolled murmur of my fellow travelers can be heard. A “wow” repeatedly slips away from me too.
We encounter the first group of elephants in the riverbed. Whether the puddles there are still remnants of the last rainy season or the first drops of the new one can certainly best be recognized by the taste for the pachyderms. Looking at the amounts of water they are drinking in front of our eyes, it should hopefully rain very soon. Not far from them, giraffes pluck the leaves from the acacias with relish. With the long spikes in the branches, they would really risk a thick lip if they didn’t already have one. Zebras, on the other hand, wander from baobab to baobab tree ‘stop and go’ in search of edible grass. The lions are little impressed. They look up into the cloud-covered sky. The water-shy wildcats seem to be concerned about whether they go to stay dry or go hunting with wet fur.
It also remains unclear what is going on in the minds of the wildebeest crossing the road in front of us? They look neither to the left nor to the right and look like absent-minded professors who have forgotten their glasses in the office. Not far from the action, the powerful wing flapping of a vulture calms down as it makes itself comfortable on the branch of a tree. The way he’s probing the situation, he already seems to know more than we do. Yes, little stories everywhere. And to top it all off, a savannah backdrop that makes my eyes light up. The view over the Masai steppe towards the mountains is breathtaking. It’s one of those days that should just never end.
Filled up with natural harmony, we finally drive to our overnight camp. Enock is clearly delighted with our happiness. With a little story here and an explanatory comment there, he too contributed to this wonderful day. Now we all sit around the campfire, talk and laugh and toast with our drinks. It’s so nice not to have to worry about anything else. There is a separate crew independently of us on the road, responsible for setting up the tent and preparing food. And so, after a delicious and sumptuous dinner, we disappear into our made beds. Between me and the predators of the night stands only a thin, tear-resistant fabric. I hope all of these lions, hyenas and leopards keep their 6 feet physical distance.
A group tour in Tanzania – Across the country to Lake Natron
The next morning, I crawl out of my tent full of anticipation. In the shower wing I meet the other two singles on this trip. In a good mood, they throw a few jokes back and forth. At breakfast we talk about how the small group trip will continue today. Lake Natron is imminent, ‘off the beaten track’ – another wild side of the country.
It is mostly quiet on the way. Only the couple whispers to themselves to draw each other’s attention to things to see. Looking out of the window while driving does never get boring. In the Land Cruiser, no matter where we sit, we can see what is happening left and right as well as in front. I’m thinking of the larger coaches. Sitting on the right side you don’t really see what’s happening on the left, and from the back you can’t see what’s going on in front. Often you can’t even open the windows. Here, every passenger is guaranteed to have a window-seat with a large sliding window. Good for taking pictures. Even if it gets very choppy soon.
In the meantime, we have left the tar road and are now pounding a gravel road. Here, they call this type of body treatment an “African massage”. Only Enock sits firmly in the saddle. On the way we pass numerous Masai settlements. The landscape is spectacular. It goes past the volcano Ol Doinyo Lengai, the holy mountain of the Masai. Lake Natron is at his feet. It is fed by the Ewasu Ng’iro River in Kenya and by mineral-rich hot springs. Which is one reason for its high salinity and alkalinity.
One could therefore think that the many water birds in the lake are on their wellness vacation. Up to 2.5 million Lesser Flamingos alone, around three quarters of the world’s population, live here in a largely isolated and undisturbed location. Instead of a healing spring, for them Lake Natron is one of the most important feeding grounds and nesting sites worldwide. The view over the lake is gigantic. It is this unbelievable mass of Lesser Flamingos and countless Greater Flamingos that is so impressive. I wish I could fly.
But instead of swinging wings, we can only stretch our legs today. Fortunately, my muscles are feeling more relaxed now after the strenuous Kilimanjaro climb. And it doesn’t go uphill either. Instead, the way follows a narrow mountain valley to a waterfall with an inviting bathing opportunity. Our guide along the thin paths is a Masai. He strides effortlessly through the stony terrain. But no wonder with his sandals – they are cut from motorcycle tires. And since they have even more profile than my shoes, I’ll guess it was an Enduro. Either way, we all enjoy getting some exercise after all the hours in the car. The mood under the cascades is humid but happy. What is missing here is something like a pool bar.
Our camp today lies near the lake and the flamingos. The camp is owned by a Masai family. They themselves are housed in round huts. Building a Masai hut is an interesting process: The basic structure consists of thin tree trunks. The walls and the ceiling are built with branches collected from the surroundings. If necessary, an insulating mortar is then added on top. This consists of a rich mixture of cow dung and mud, which is made up either with water or optionally with human urine. The long, dry grass of the steppe is laid over this layer on top of the roof. Braided plant fibers carefully hold everything together.
Trip report to be continued …
Safaris in Tanzania are some of the most exciting imaginable encounters with wilderness and wildlife. A visit here is definitely worthwhile. We are happy to answer any questions you may have and share our own experiences to support you in planning your Tanzania trip. Here on site, we are always well informed about the current situation. So get in touch with us! Your dream, our expertise – your very own Tanzania experience.