Lodge life or wildlife on a Tanzanian safari?

In early February, 2016, I joined a week-long safari in Tanzania to see the well-known two million-strong wildebeest and zebra migration in the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.  It was my first time in East Africa, and though I have a lot of experience in southern African national parks and wilderness areas, I did not know exactly what to expect of Tanzania’s parks.

Things didn’t go exactly as I’d hoped, for several reasons, and, to make matters worse,  I came down with food poisoning or an amoebic parasite infection at the end of the week.  Read my full report on my Allen on Africa blog.

10 thoughts on “Lodge life or wildlife on a Tanzanian safari?

  1. I am very glad viewing the herd migration in Tanzania has never been on my bucket list. Two words: Rhino Africa Provides great service and itineraries.
    Hope you’re feeling better. I got home Thanksgiving night from South Africa with a serious sinus infection..prescribed 850 mg of Augmentin twice a day fot ten days. Possible side effects include diarrhea. Yes…in spades and can reoccur for up to a year. I feel your pain.

  2. I’m sorry that you had such a dismal experience, which is quite quite different form my own, both as as an individual traveling with my wife and also traveling with a group of travel agents. In both cases we stayed in lodges, but spent far more time viewing game than you did. For example, we spent most of a morning in the Ngorongoro Crater and were able to get quite close to a female hippo with her calf as well as several rhino and a number of lions. You seem to have run into a perfect storm of incredibly bad road conditions, a safari operator who is not in the top tier and poor execution. I would hesitate to conclude from your experience that lodge-based safaris are not a good way to experience the wonders of Tanzania and the Great Migration.

  3. I’m curious as to why you wouldn’t go to a qualified travel consultant for assistance in planning and booking such a monumental trip. As a Virtuoso agency, we only use tour operators who meet strict criteria and have a proven tract record. If you’re considering future travel, please feel free to contact me. Protravel and I will take very good care of you. I promise.

  4. Mistake number one you went at wrong time. Migration happens in July August (impossible to predict and catch. You want to see Migration from Tanzania to Kenya. Not other way. Game drive is two times a day. Start at 6 00 AM and not 8 AM.
    8:30 to 9 Am breakfast start after you come back from safari. Another in afternoon at 4 pm.
    We did six parks Kenya Tanzania more then 500 elephants 100 plus lions doing kill just after kill mating. Zebra giraffe leopard all animal we show.
    Guide know each other communicate animal spotting and help each other on vehicles problem. Pick travel agent out Nairobi Kenya.

  5. I was part of a group of four that spent almost 2 weeks in Tanzania is August. While we missed the height of the migration, we had the opportunity to see lots of wildlife–we did stay at many of the same lodges — we picked a dry season and added extra days which aloud our guide to tailor our days to wildlife viewing.I cant say enough good things about our guide with Leopard Tours. I am so sorry your experience was so disappointing as ours was one of our highlightts.

  6. Being ill in a foreign country is very anxiety-provoking and I sympathize. Your trip, though, seems to have been very badly planned and I also sympathize with that. (To travel from Taragire all the way to Serengeti Sopa in one day would be difficult at the best of times.) I agree that the roads in the Serengeti are abysmal — even in the dry season. (We were there at the end of August.) They are pitted and rutted and almost impassable in places without the added burden of water. (And how about that approach road to the Serengeti Sopa — basically a pile of rocks?) The roads department REALLY needs to address this.
    While reading your essay I felt very sorry for you. Never mind the migration — you missed out on the almost magical experience we lived for two days in the Ngorongoro caldera (and elsewhere). The soft halo of morning clouds around the rim, the light playing on the hillsides and grassland, the geological variation from mountain top to bowl bottom, the plentiful wildlife of every sort, (including jackals and hyenas) the birds !, the adventure of watching a buffalo escape two prides of lions, hippos (both in, and out of the water). As domestic feline lovers we really wanted to see a lot of big cats and our very patient and knowledgable guide from Leopard Tours seemed to have a radar for them. We saw a leopard up a tree with a kill in Taragire and once we got to the Serengeti we saw lions, and cheetahs to fill our hearts. One experience you missed in the Serengeti was the Lake Duluti area where we had the best hotel (“tented”) with the best food, the best WiFi (yes, important out there), the best interior decor and the nicest staff. Also the best lions — three females with nursing babies and watchful dads nearby. A real thrill for us.
    Given the size of the Serengeti/Ngorongoro area I don’t understand how you could not have a “lodge-based” experience unless you were camping in tents. There is no other place to stay, and the distances are vast. Our previous safari experiences in South Africa and Kenya were also, of necessity, “lodge-based”. In the Massai Mara we had to be out of the park by 6 PM. In Kreuger, our afternoon drives lasted until 7 PM so we did get to see some “night creatures” missed during the day as well as a very impressive lion kill.
    May I suggest you go back to Tanzania and spend a much more leisurely trip and not try to do everything in such a short time. Take two weeks and miss Manyara and maybe Taragire and just do Ngorongoro and the Serengeti itself. Visit the Oldupai Gorge and allow yourself some time for refection. Good luck to you !!!

  7. Oops — on my previous comments, I made an error. Our favorite place to stay was Lake Ndutu tented lodge. Lake Duluti Serena Hotel was where we stayed in Arusha.

  8. Will, there’s no need to sugar coat things. Tell us how you REALLY feel about Ranger.

    On a more serious note, I’ve been to Africa one time…..November 1980, to Kenya, with five days in the bush. Arrived there two days after running the NYC marathon, 18+ hours on a 747 — NYC to Monrovia, Lagos, and finally Nairobi. Anyone for stiff muscles?

    Africa was a marvelous experience and I’ve never forgotten it. Mt. Kilimanjaro rising in the distance, pleasant weather, fine red road dust getting into everything, wonderful lodges, tasty food and adult beverages, and a great variety of animals…..all made for wonderful memories. Unfortunately, this occurred in my “former life” and I’ve promised my wife, being the consummate animal lover she is, we’ll see African wildlife in the next year or so. The only question is where to go, when to go, and how to do it. Also, reading about lousy roads is something that would not have initially occurred to me.

    As for being plagued with the “green apple two step”, I’ve managed to enjoy it twice during India trips, as well as once in Cusco, Peru following a day trip to Machu Picchu. I try to be careful, but as my wife says about me……it’s “not if, but when” in the lands of bottled water and questionable foods. The specialty travel clinic nurse we consult advises travelers to hit the Cipro immediately. Don’t bother with initial efforts featuring Pepto-Bismol, Imodium, etc. At least my events have been relatively brief.

    Thank you for your writings. They are interesting, helpful, and I plan to carefully research the Africa quest. I hope you’ve completely recovered and I look forward to reading about your future adventures. Best wishes……

  9. Really enjoyed your post. We just had a similar (and yet opposite) experience in the Okavango Delta. We booked 3 nights at a “water camp” (Jao) that had no water. We found out several weeks before our trip that all boating excursions were cancelled due to the severe drought which has been going on for some time. After we asked (before the trip even began) if we could change to a different camp since we had specifically told our travel outfitters that the water experience was important to us, we were told emphatically, “Only if you want to forfeit 100% of the three night cost!” (Does the phrase “tyranny of the fixed lodge schedule” ring a bell?)
    Long story short, it was an hour long drive to any navigable water, which ended up being little more than a puddle. Jao tries to pass the drive off as a “game drive” but since the area does still (occasionally) flood, the concentration of game animals in the area is very poor compared to the other three camps that we visited on the same trip (DumaTau, Toka Leya, and Jack’s Camp). Also, because the area is still marshy, sometimes you would see animals at a distance but not be able to get to them in a vehicle.
    The big issue for us was that we had only booked our trip in Jan 2016, and was told two weeks after our check cleared about the water issues, which we heard nothing about from Wilderness Safaris or our travel agent, Extraordinary Journeys, before they took our payment.

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