We spent the last three days camping in the wilderness deep in Africa. The days were spent roaming across dusty plains in search of legendary animals. The nights filled with the sounds of elephants, lions and hyenas. Tanzania is home to the incredible Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater national parks, which cover vast areas of the country. The parks are mostly untouched by man where herds of wildebeest roam, giraffes dot the horizon, and leopards nap high in the trees.
The two of us are currently in the beginning portion of a 45 day trip through seven countries in Africa. This is the second continent we have visited as part of our world trip. We have always dreamed of visiting but travel in this area is not as easy as other parts of the world. There is little infrastructure in many areas, and public transportation tends to be limited at best. City busses are available, but overpacked with locals which can be hazardous given the condition of the roads. Taxis and tuk-tuk drivers are known to overcharge tourists. Despite the challenges, many of the areas we will visit use English as a secondary language and either accept or prefer the USD as currency.We chose to explore Africa by joining a group safari trip with other travelers from around the world. The first portion takes us from Nairobi, Kenya to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe over a 21 day period. We pass through Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, and Botswana on the way. We tent camp along the way at sites ranging from the comfortable and modern to the remote and primitive. Device charging is limited, showers are usually cold, and connectivity is often non-existent. These amenities which have come to be standard in so much of the world are still luxuries in many parts of this continent. We have chosen to trade these inconveniences for the experience of living within the natural world.We flew to Nairobi from Bucharest following our Europe adventure via Dubai with a quick two night stop over along the way. We immediately entered another world where people wear tribal clothing and jewelry, and many tasks are still performed manually.
Kenya passport control and the visa process went smoothly. We were able to get a transit visa at the airport for $20 USD since our stay was less than 72 hours before heading to Tanzania. Most East and South African countries have e-visas which can be applied for online. However, there is a greater documentation requirement than if you apply on arrival.
The first destinations, the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, were over the border in Tanzania. Passport control and the visa process were a slow process where paperwork is filled out by hand and dumped in a pile on a neighboring desk. It would have been better to obtain the visa online for Tanzania since they had an expedited line for e-visa applications. However, no one on our tour had obtained a visa in advance. The visa issued at the border is only available as 1 year multi-entry for US Citizens, which cost $100 USD. Most other countries are charged $50, for a single entry.
We did the two parks back to back, which are two to three hours apart by car. The Serengeti covers 5,700 square miles of land and is home to hundreds of animal species.Ngorongoro is the worlds largest volcanic crater, and sustains 25,000 large animal, including the endangered black rhino.We saw a long and very diverse list of birds and animals, including buffalo, wildebeest, gazelle, zebra, warthog, elephant, giraffe, ostrich, hippo, baboon, lion, cheetah, leopard, serval cat, mongoose, jackal, and many types of birds.At the end of our Safari we had a chance to visit a Masai tribal village. The Masai are nomadic people who inhabit parts of Kenya and Tanzania and live life without modern amenities. They live in modest woven stick huts built with group labor and cook everything without electricity. Their society is polygamist where some males have 35 wives and the dowery for marriage is 20 cows. Most women have between 7-12 children. These children become the shepherds and are responsible for large herds of livestock which they move across their land for grazing. We would highly recommend a stop at one of these villages as it is an eyeopening experience.
If you are planning a camping safari trip to Tanzania, make sure you remember to bring the following in addition to your normal camping gear:
- A bandana to cover your mouth from the dust. The dry season is VERY dry and cloud of dust are everywhere.
- Hand sanitizer to use in place of soap which is MIA in many bathrooms.
- Toilet paper for obvious reasons. The campsites are poorly equipped at best.
- Binoculars to see the animals up close. Vehicles are not allowed to leave the paths so some views will be from a distance.
- Headlamp. The campsites have limited lighting.
- A portable recharger or solar recharger for your camera or electronic devices. Power outlets are rare and sometimes there is a charge for use.
- Baby wipes for staying clean when showers are not available.
We will discuss the full details of our participative camping trip along with a complete safari packing list in a later post.This 21 day safari will end in Victoria Falls. We then will meet up with some family for another two week safari though South Africa followed by a lengthy stop in Cape Town. Make sure to stay tuned for additional posts on Africa. Also take a look at our itinerary and see how we are able to travel to 20 countries without checking our luggage!