Trip Planning & Highlights of Tanzania {Africa}

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Trip Planning & Highlights of Tanzania {Africa}

Our latest trip was in June 2015 in Tanzania, Africa. We wanted adventure and Africa was calling our name!

We were originally planning on visiting South Africa until we were introduced to an Africa travel advisor, Chris Liebenberg, founder of Piper and Heath Travel, based in San Diego, CA. Chris lived in South Africa and worked as a safari guide so he is very knowledgeable and passionate about Africa. In fact, he visits Africa frequently to help with conservation and charity work.

We’ve never booked with a travel company before because we plan our own trips so I was a little hesitant, but after meeting Chris I knew right away that we needed to book with him because of his expertise. Researching was overwhelming and many camps required at least 6 months advanced reservation. With only 2 months to plan (we’re getting pretty good at planning last-minute trips) and with our busy work schedule, it was another reason why we decided to go with them.

Piper and Heath Travel put together a trip of a lifetime! They did it all – booked our flights, planned our itinerary, and they even surprised us with a package of travel goodies (i.e., custom duffel bags with our names embroidered on them, lighted hats, insect repellents, luci solar lights, and power adapters) – pictured below is our custom duffel bag and us sporting our cool lighted hats. I was blown away with their service! They were very professional and provided exceptional customer service. Every time I emailed Chris and Mark (Chris’ assistant) I’d get a response within a few minutes, they were both wonderful to work with and the coolest travel advisors we know!!! Just so you know I am not getting paid to write a review. They deserve a great review and I highly, highly recommend using them as your travel resource. You will not be disappointed, I guarantee you!

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Chris talked us into visiting Tanzania based on the type of travelers we are, our interests, and our budget. Traveling to Africa, especially South Africa, can break the bank but Tanzania is much more affordable. South Africa is prime for luxury safari and we aren’t “luxury” type-travelers. I must say though we stayed at some luxurious places in Tanzania, so I can only imagine how South Africa is like.

We booked an adventurous 12 day all-inclusive trip which included bike rides in the wild, tent-style accommodations, 2 guides (cyclist & safari), all-meals included, safari in world heritage parks, and a beach getaway in Zanzibar Island. We could not have asked for a more perfect trip!

Below is our 2 week itinerary:

DAY 1:
Arrive Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) in Arusha and transferred to Ngare Sero Mountain Lodge.
DAY 2:
Drive to Makayuni junction and bike ride (25km) to Kirurumu Tarangire Lodge.
DAY 3:
All day game drive in Tarangire National Park.
DAY 4:
Morning bike ride (32km) to the entrance of Lake Manyara National Park. Afternoon game drive in Lake Manyara National Park.
DAY 5:
Drive to Ngorongoro Crater. Afternoon game drive in Ngorongoro Crater. Transfer to Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge in the evening.
DAY 6:
Drive to Serengeti Western Corridor. Afternoon game drive in Western Serengeti. Transfer to Mbalageti Safari Lodge.
DAY 7:
Half day game drive in Serengeti.
DAY 8:
Drive to Lake Victoria for a boat/village/school tour. Afternoon game drive in Serengeti.
DAY 9:
Morning game drive. Transfer to airstrip for flight to Zanzibar. Afternoon arrival to Breezes Beach Club & Spa.
DAY 10-11:
Beach & cocktails on repeat! 😉
DAY 12:
Early evening transfer to airport for flight to Dar es Salaam (DAR). Late evening connection to Amsterdam (AMS) before our flight home. A five hour layover in AMS turned into a 2-day spontaneous trip to Amsterdam :). Read about my blog post on the layover in Amsterdam.

Flights:

We flew with Delta/KLM. First-time flying with Delta/KLM and we had no complaints. The biggest bonus for choosing this airline was the flight hours to Africa. Compared to other airlines, it “only” took us 24 hours versus 28+ hours. This was THE longest flight we’ve been on thus far; it wasn’t as bad as we had imagined.

Why is it that during long flights, we get stuck with the most interesting passengers? This time it was a woman’s hair blocking my husband’s TV monitor. Guess it’s time to read a book LOL.

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Here are highlights of our trip:

BIKE RIDING

Our trip started off with bike riding to our campsite and a national park where we biked a total of 35+ miles in 2 days – I didn’t realize that we signed up for a marathon! It was no easy ride at the park (as I had originally thought it would be), well at least for me! I can’t even remember the last time I rode a bike. I had the hardest time switching gears (my husband makes fun of me till’ this day saying it was like I was riding an exercise bike :), isn’t he sweet?). Riding a bike especially on not-so-easy terrain (dirt, sand, gravel, and rocks) was challenging! Also, the bike was too big so it was uncomfortable (or is that just an excuse LOL). If it weren’t for our guide singing and birds chirping the words of “work harder, drink lager”,  I don’t think I would have survived LOL! Luckily there were no sighting of wild animals during our bike ride….until we got to our tent :/ – of course it happens when we are away from our guides.

Despite the challenge, seeing the town on bikes made our trip that much more memorable and unique – we interacted with locals while kids chased after us. We would stop and give kids candy, snacks, and/or school supplies – they were thrilled especially when we let them touch our hands. It’s not often they get to interact with tourists. I loved seeing their reactions and knowing that we brightened their day! We rode through schools, homes, and villages. We’ll never forget this experience! I’d HIGHLY recommend this adventure!

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SAFARI

Our safari adventure took place in 4 different parks and we were in search for the Big Five Game Animals which were 1. Lion 2. Buffalo 3. Rhino 4. Leopard 5. Elephant. The Big Five are known to be the most dangerous animals to hunt on foot and are among Africa’s greatest wild animals. We got lucky and spotted all 5!! 😉

We also witnessed the annual migration of wildebeest in the Serengeti. Over 2 million wildebeest followed by zebras migrate together throughout the Serengeti National Park and Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve. It starts as early as December, however, peak season starts July-November. We went late June-early July so we didn’t get to see the migration at its peak but we were happy to see a glimpse of it.

There is no guarantee that you will see the Big Five Game Animals and/or the great migration. Don’t visit Africa with high expectations or else you may leave disappointed. Yes most of us want to see a wild animal kill its prey but you can’t control animals in their natural habitat.

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Tarangire National Park

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Lake Manyara

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Ngorongoro Crater

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Serengeti National Park

BEACH GETAWAY

It was the PERFECT way to end our adventure by visiting a private beach resort in Zanzibar Island, south of Africa. We normally don’t do beach type vacations, we like fast-paced, on-the-go agendas. But after not being able to sleep at night because I was always on alert-mode looking for animals (big and small), it was nice to come here and catch up on sleep!

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Breezes Beach Club & Spa

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What to pack:

Pack light especially if you’re traveling to multiple places and taking small aircraft. Below is an image of what we brought – a duffel bag and a hiking backpack, that is all! Seems like every trip we go on, our luggage gets lighter and lighter. Only bring what is necessary. There are luggage restrictions of between 15kg (33lbs) and 20 kg (44lbs) in a soft bag with no wheels, frames or rigid structures. We met a couple that didn’t know the rules and they had to rent a duffel bag while they stored their heavy sized suitcase in a storage room.

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Bring comfortable clothing, preferably dri fit, wrinkle-free clothing. We brought mostly workout clothes. You don’t need to bring any fancy clothing. While dinners can be nice and romantic, the mood is casual. Plus expect to get dirty! Many roads were unpaved and during game drives when your vehicle’s pop-up roof is open, be prepared to get washed in dirt :(. Bring warm clothing for morning game drives and cool clothing for the afternoon, it can get pretty warm (we went in mid-June to early July). Here’s what we brought:

  • fleece
  • hat
  • what not-to-wear on safari: white clothing, camouflage, bright and dark colors especially black and dark blue – tsetse flies will eat you alive! (click here to read more about tsetse flies)
  • what to-wear on safari: neutral colors such as brown, green, and khaki
  • sunshades
  • lightweight rain jacket
  • hiking shoes (bring closed toe shoes)
  • arm sleeves
  • earplugs (unless you don’t want to sleep at night because you WILL hear animals)
  • dri fit shirts
  • binoculars for EACH person in your party (a must!!!)
  • pen/pencil to keep note of all the animals you see
  • sun block SPF 30 or higher
  • handkerchief to cover your nose from the dirt
  • DSLR
  • GoPro
  • swimsuit
  • flip flops (these are so durable and they last for years)
  • lightweight convertible travel pants with pockets
  • comb (for the ladies for when your hair gets tangled from the wind)
  • socks
  • insect repellant with deet
  • travel medication
  • anti-nausea medication for long drives and/or flights especially in small aircraft
  • headlamp or flash light (a must, some places do not have lights after 8pm)
  • antibacterial hand & face wipes
  • tissue
  • book to read on long drives
  • lightweight waterproof/dustproof travel purse (I love kipling bags!) or backpack
  • passport/travel docs
  • toiletries in travel size tubes – don’t bring perfume, it attracts tsetse flies

Learn their Language!

Learn their language and make a list of common words. Below is my cheat sheet that I kept in my pockets at all times. Swahili is Africa’s most widely spoken language. Locals were so happy and surprised to hear I can “speak” their language :D. Saying Hello in Swahili goes a long way in Africa!

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Visa

We did not need a visa since we didn’t have a layover in Africa, otherwise, you may need one. Click here to find out whether or not you’ll need a visa. Make sure your passport is valid for 6 months beyond your departure date and have 3 consecutive/side by side blank pages (not endorsement pages).

Our trip was a good balance of adventure, culture, and relaxation. There is nothing I’d change about our itinerary. My only regret is not staying longer…oh! and not climbing Mount Kilamanjaro. I guess that means we’ll have to come back :).

P.S. Thinking about traveling to Africa? I would love to hear from you even if it’s just to say hello :). Please comment below.

4 Comments

  • Chris Liebenberg

    What an exceptionally well written and sincere blog! Loads of great advice and good information here for folks. We will share it far and wide:) It has been an absolute delight getting to know you both.

    September 17, 2015 at 12:28 pm
    • Lady
      Lady

      Thank you, Chris! I will continue to rave about your services. We are so glad to have met you and Mark. Our trip was PERFECT because of you two!

      September 17, 2015 at 4:03 pm
  • Douglas Chu

    My family and I are planning a trip in the future and always thought about a safari tour. This is excellent information and the blog experiences you’ve posted are so inspiring. Your suggested list of of items are going to come in very handy and will definitely prepare us for an very exciting once in a lifetime adventure! Thanks again Lady for your expertise!

    November 15, 2015 at 10:23 am
    • Lady
      Lady

      Hi Douglas!

      Thanks for your comment and nice words. I am excited to hear about your future trip to Africa. Please let me know if you have any other questions, I’ll be more than happy to help. I will be posting more on Africa soon – work and school have been quite busy – so stay tuned! 🙂

      Take care,
      Lady

      November 19, 2015 at 11:47 am

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