CAMPING SAFARIS, TANZANIA

There is no better way than a camping safari to truly experience the African Bush. After the excitement of game viewing all day, you return to your campsite where another adventure begins. It may be gazelles making their way to a favorite watering hole or curious baboons wanting to inspect your tent while all around you the sky is emblazoned with the brilliant colors that make East African sunsets famous. As night falls, the heavens come alive with millions of stars that seem so close, you could almost pluck them from the skies. While you drift off to sleep, you can hear lions roar and an impala calling for a mate as strange shadows fall across the canvas of your tent.

The most popular safari destination in Tanzania is the Northern Safari Circuit which includes the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and the National Parks of Lake Manyara, Tarangire, Arusha and Mt. Kilimanjaro. In all of Africa, nowhere else provides the sheer numbers and varieties of game or the ease with which they can be viewed. Each park has its own distinctive habitats and their proximity to each other allows for a satisfying safari experience in a relatively short period of time.

A camping safari can range from a budget tour where you are expected to pitch your own tent and help with the cooking to the luxurious with a private campsite, walk-in canvas tents with cots, uniformed waiters and portable shower and toilet facilities. However, most visitors utilize a full service camping safari where regular park campsites and facilities are used and a driver/guide and cook are responsible for all camp chores. Tour operators are generally flexible and are willing to customize your safari to allow for your special interests or requirements. If a week is too long for you to go without a shower, you may want to request a night in a permanent tented lodge which has an ensuite bathroom with hot water and flush toilets. A safari is always an adventure of a lifetime but a camping safari authenticates the experience and satisfies one's fantasies of the romance of a bygone era.

Best Times to Go: While December to March is a rewarding period, February is best. Masses of migratory herds are on the short grass of the southern Serengeti Plains at this time. It is also the birthing season for the wildebeest and the hartebeest and it is always a thrill to watch a baby wildebeest stumble to its feet minutes after being born. The southern Serengeti is the area nearest to the other parks so you are assured of a memorable safari even if you are on a tight schedule. From a practical standpoint, in February, the land is verdant with meadows of wildflowers, the dust is minimal and there are fewer safari vehicles in the parks.

Getting There: Northern Circuit safaris originate in Arusha. From Europe, KLM flies directly to Kilimanjaro International Airport. Overland, buses are available from Nairobi, Dar-es-Salaam and Mombasa via Tanga.

Clothing/Gear: Pack lightly, preferably just one bag. Your tour company will store your excess baggage. Days are warm and nights are cool, especially on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater with an altitude of about 7500ft. Be sure to take a camera with spare batteries and lots of film, binoculars, flashlight, a wide brimmed hat with a drawstring, good walking shoes, insect repellent, suntan lotion, personal toiletries and a sleeping bag if you do not plan to use a full service outfitter.

General Information: If you have a limited time for your camping safari, it is better to make arrangements with a tour operator in advance. This will ensure your ability to visit the parks of your choice since there are restrictions as to the number of vehicles allowed in each park. A passport, visa, and yellow fever certificate are required. There are exceptions to the visa and vaccination requirements but it is advisable to check with the Tanzanian Embassy for current regulations.

It is difficult to compare the costs of camping safaris. This is because there are so many variables involved. These include the number of people in your group and a vast range in the levels of service to be provided. On a fixed schedule, it is better to pay more for a full service camping safari and the reassurance of a worry-free adventure. Full service camping safaris range from about $100-200 per person, per day. The price difference reflects the size and comfort of the tents, the reliability of the vehicles, and the caliber of the driver/guides etc. Feel free to ask your tour operator for specific information. A luxury camping safari will cost considerably more. Tips should also be budgeted for your driver/guide and cook. Ask your tour operator for recommendations.

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