Travel

10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before My Tanzania Safari

Planning a safari conjures up images of stunning landscapes, spectacular animals, and luxurious lodgings set amidst pristine landscapes. Alas, it also conjures up some very expensive price tags. This was the exact dilemma I faced while planning my trip to Tanzania. Faced with a seemingly impossible dilemma, I dived into research and discovered camping safaris.

1. You Don’t Need Camping Gear. At Least, Not Much

Most camping safari outfitters include tents, camping chairs, all food and cooking supplies, and even mattress pads. You have the option of renting a sleeping bag, but I took my own — and I’m glad I did. I was just more comfortable having something that was never used by anyone else. I bought a very small, very lightweight sleeping bag for about $30 back home. It only took up a small corner of my bag. At the end of my trip, I asked my guides if I could give it to them and have them donate it to someone in need, and they were thrilled to do so.

2. Relax. You Will See Animals

Luxury lodges have their own airstrips but camping safaris have a whole lot of dusty driving and not much in the way of wildlife before you reach your initial destination. Whatever you do, don’t think of this as wasted time. Take the time to get to know your guides and pepper them with questions about the plants, flowers, trees, and birds. Their knowledge is extraordinary, and they’ll likely have field guides you can borrow to read up on all that you’re seeing.

Before you know it, you’ll be seeing animals. Lots of animals.

3. Don’t Get Too Hung Up On The Big Five

The lion, leopard, elephant, Cape buffalo, and rhinoceros make up the “Big Five” — the ultimate safari bucket list. And while it’s fun to have a list, some folks take it a bit too far. I’ve seen guests who considered their adventure a failure because they didn’t see all Big Five on the trip. Your chances of seeing the Big Five (or not) on a camping safari are the same as any other kind of trip.

Speaking of the Big Five … in all my years of travel, I’ve never seen a leopard. But at least one leopard has seen me, and it’s all thanks to camping. Urgent bathroom needs convinced me to sneak out of my tent one night — just for a minute! — to quickly pee. The next morning, our guide pointed out the fresh, feathery remains of guinea fowl and reported that a leopard had spent the night just steps from our tent, enjoying his snack. After that report, I learned to hold it!

4. Camping Means Close-Ups

While not every safari participant has the opportunity to see a leopard, there’s no denying that this way of travel allows you to get up close and personal with the wildlife. On one memorable occasion, we awoke to see a firm path of deep, intimidating lion footprints — the pathmaker had meandered directly through our site just hours earlier. On another occasion, a hyena lay on its belly and watched us, from a safe distance, as we finished our evening meal. Birds loved visiting us as we set up camp. And because we stayed in the heart of Serengeti National Park, the minute we got in the jeep, we saw big animals.

5. Early To Bed, Early To Rising

The best safari experiences start early in the morning as the animals are enjoying the cool dawn temperatures. A camping safari is no exception. You’ll be awake before there’s light in the sky. However, unlike safaris that are based at a lodge, you won’t be coming back home for a quick nap after your first game drive of the day. Every day means packing up camp just as light is beginning to break. Typically, you go to bed in the early evening after the dishes are done.

If you’re not used to a 5 a.m. wake-up call or an 8 p.m. bedtime, a camping safari is a big adjustment. If I had to do it all over again, I would have gradually adjusted my sleep schedule a few days before my departure so my body would be used to the schedule.

6. Camping Food Is Impressive

If you think camping cuisine means beans and wieners, you’re going to be mightily impressed on a camping safari. We enjoyed fresh bread every morning, baked in the embers of last night’s fire. Dinners included chicken curry, stir fry with noodles, and a South African-style braai feast of sausages, steak, and more. We enjoyed desserts and sophisticated salads like beet and feta and, overall, I was thrilled with the food and the portions.

7. The Coffee Is Not

My only food-related complaints applied to coffee and tea. The instant coffee available at breakfast and break time left much to be desired. I suddenly realized just what a coffee snob I am! I had some coffeeshop brand instant coffee and latte mix with me, and it offered a welcomed change. Tea drinkers will want to note that just one kind of black tea is usually available. If you love tea, a box of assorted flavors would be a welcome treat for the entire group.

8. Your Camping Chores Are Actually Pretty Easy

Some camping safaris offer deluxe tents (which are set up for you as you’re enjoying an evening game ride), spacious outdoor showers, and some extra comforts. But the most hands-on and affordable experience is a participatory camping safari. “Participatory” is just a fancy way of saying you’ll be helping out with the chores. Turns out, they’re pretty easy. You’ll assist as the guides set up your tents, you’ll help unload folding chairs and tables from the truck, and you’ll lend a helping hand when the canvas frames of the shower and toilet are being installed. You truly need no camping skills, just a willingness to help out.

9. Think Twice About Your Safari Wardrobe

You’ll dress much differently for a camping safari than you would a lodge trip. Cool, casual clothing is paramount for your comfort. I’m glad I brought thin, loose, comfortable trousers made from quick-dry material. I even slept in them some nights! I was especially thrilled with my choice when it came to the awkward climb in and out of the safari vehicle. I was equally happy that I brought along a classic Tilley hat, a lightweight long-sleeved shirt (for layering against the early morning chill), and a somewhat stereotypical “safari” shirt. While I never put the endless pockets to use, it was incredibly lightweight and dried in an instant.

Far less comfortable were the athletic-style tops that promised to wick away moisture and keep me cooler than a regular cotton shirt. They just clung to my body and didn’t allow for any fresh-air circulation. All. Day. Long. If I could do it all over again, I’d swap them out for extra safari shirts and regular everyday t-shirts.

10. Camping Showers Are Awesome (And A Bit Awkward)

I’m not sure a shower has ever felt so refreshing as the one I enjoyed after two days of safari adventures. Thanks to my clingy wardrobe of athletic fabrics, I was overheated, horribly sweaty, and dust clung to me like that was its job. Our camp shower consisted of a simple four-sided canvas shelter with a flap of fabric for a door. A perforated rubber mat was comfortable underfoot and ensured you didn’t stand in the mud. A folding chair just outside the fabric flap was convenient for storing towels and supplies, while a cone-shaped bucket with a showerhead nozzle hung from the tree overhead and provided a surprisingly strong stream of water. A quick scrub never felt so good! But wriggling in and out of my vexing wardrobe was an exercise in frustration! Yet another reason to bring a few things that are loose and breezy.

Pro Tips: When To Visit And Additional Safari Advice

Serengeti National Park is gorgeous all year round but would-be visitors should note that the dry season typically runs from July to October and the rainy season goes from April to May. Game viewing is considered best between late May and November, but in April and early May, the lush grass is thick and long after months of ample water. As such, animals have superb camouflage and game viewing is more challenging.

Tanzania Travel Tips & Useful info

Planning a safari adventure to Tanzania and want to know a little more about the country? Not sure if you need to take malaria pills or whether you’ll have much WiFi access over there? You’ll find the answers to all these questions and more with our Top Travel Tips covering everything from pre-travel health advice to money, shopping and more.

What vaccinations do I need for Tanzania?

You should seek medical advice from your local health practitioner before travelling to Tanzania and ensure that you receive all of the appropriate vaccinations. As a guide Polio, Diphtheria, Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid and Tetanus is strongly recommended. Meningitis and Rabies are also recommended.

A Yellow Fever International Certificate of Vaccination is required if arriving from countries infected with yellow fever or if you were in transit through infected areas (unless you remained on board or at the airport). This is particularly relevant if travelling from neighbouring African countries. If visiting Zanzibar from mainland Tanzania, a yellow fever certificate must be produced to gain entry.

Do I need anti-malaria tablets for Tanzania?

There is a risk of malaria in Tanzania so it is very important to check with your doctor before you go, to see whether malarial medication is required for the areas you are visiting. Generally, it is good practice to avoid mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeved, light-coloured clothes and wearing a mosquito repellent that contains at least 50% DEET. For more information on the malaria risk in Tanzania visit the NHS Fit to Travel page or the CDC Traveler’s Health page.

What is the plastic bag ban?

Tanzania has introduced a ban on plastic bags effective from June 1st 2019. All travellers arriving at a Tanzania airport could face heavy fines for using plastic bags in any way, shape or form. These include shopping bags, garbage bags and “zip-lock” plastic bags used for transporting liquids and cosmetics.

We recommend that you avoid packing any plastic bags in your suitcase or carry-on luggage before travelling to Tanzania. If you do purchase any items at your departure airport, be sure to take them out of their plastic bags. Double-check your hand luggage before disembarking and leave any plastic bags on the plane.

Is it safe to drink tap water in Tanzania?

The tap water in Tanzania is not considered safe to drink. You should drink bottled mineral water, which is readily available from shops, hotels and restaurants. Make sure you purchase this from reputable outlets and that the seal on the bottle is not broken.

What’s the food like in Tanzania?

The most common staples found in Tanzanian cuisine are rice and ugali, a thick, white paste made from cornmeal that is served alongside a sauce-based stew or meat dish. Chapatis, as can be found in India, also make the base of many meals along with beans and mchicha, a green vegetable that resembles spinach. Accompanying these staples are several different meat-centric dishes, such as grilled chicken or nyama choma, roasted beef or goat.

Once you hit the coast, seafood makes more of an appearance and one delicious dish is octopus in a creamy coconut curry. Snacks are also widely available, a popular choice of which are samosas, brought over to Tanzania from India. Roasted corn with lemon and chilli salt is also a favourite with locals and can be bought from street-side grills. Meals can be washed down with a hot cup of chai tea or a local beer, such as Safari, Kilimanjaro or Castle.

Safe eating while travelling in Tanzania

Be wary when eating outside of high-end lodges as sometimes the quality of the meat and the way in which it has been prepared might not be suitable for a sensitive western stomach. Also be aware that food hygiene in Tanzania is much more basic than you will be used to so if something looks unclean, old or badly cooked, it is best to avoid it altogether. It is also a good idea to avoid ice in your drink and eating salad as these might have come into contact with unhygienic water.

Is it standard to tip in Tanzania?

There is no set procedure when it comes to tipping in Tanzania but be aware that most people in the service industry earn very little and depend on gratuities to make up their income. Safari guides should be tipped the equivalent of about USD $10-15 per day and a few dollars should go to the driver, cook and porters when travelling on an overland safari. If you eat in a restaurant then 10% on top of the bill is a suitable amount to leave. When it comes to taxis, rounding up the fare is a nice way to show your appreciation, especially if they have successfully navigated the chaotic streets of Dar es Salaam for you.

What is good to shop for in Tanzania?

The most popular purchase for travellers in Tanzania is a traditional wooden carving, usually in the shape of a mask or tribes person. A close second to this are the soapstone sculptures that can be found in boutiques as well as marketplaces. Another excellent item to take home with you is a Maasai blanket, which are brightly coloured and similar in pattern to tartan and can be used as tablecloths, picnic blankets or even clothes.

If you’re looking for something to wear, colourful kangas, which look like sarongs, are widely available. You might also want to look out for some tinga-tinga art, a unique style to Tanzania that encompasses bright colours and a cartoon-ish style and usually depicts safari animals or African scenes. Another uniquely Tanzanian product is Tanzanite, a deep blue precious gem that can only be found in the country. If you want to buy one of these stones it is a good idea to do your research beforehand or take a trustworthy and knowledgeable guide who can make sure you’re getting the real deal.

Is bargaining acceptable in Tanzania?

Bargaining in Tanzania is not just acceptable but it is expected and you will find that as a tourist you will be told a much higher price than a local would be offered. Don’t let this annoy or offend you as chances are you have more money in your wallet than most of the other people in the market will see in a month or even a year. Don’t let yourself be ripped off but also be prepared to pay slightly over the odds for something.

Is it safe for a single woman to travel to Tanzania?

A lot of travellers visit Tanzania as part of a safari tour and in this context, visiting Tanzania is very safe for solo women as they will be away from crowded cities and under the protection of their guide and lodge at all times. However, those who visit Tanzania independently might have a slightly different experience. Harassment from local men is common but is usually just an annoyance rather than a threat. Nevertheless, you will want to avoid this by dressing conservatively, wearing sunglasses to avoid eye contact and carrying a photo of a man in your purse who you can say is your husband. You should also try to limit your night time travel as much as possible.

How about as a member of the LGBT community?

Currently, homosexuality is illegal in Tanzania, and sexual activity with someone of the same gender is punishable with prison, especially for males. Whilst an outdated view, this does not mean that Tanzanians are inhospitable or unfriendly people. In fact, Tanzania is generally a very welcoming country, homosexuality is just not accepted like it is in other parts of the world today.

Any LGBT traveller wishing to explore Tanzania would be best to behave with discretion and not to engage in any flirting or sexual activity with anyone of the same sex whilst visiting the country. As long as travellers act with discretion, there is no reason to expect any problems.

What is the duty-free allowance for Tanzania?

Travellers over 17 are permitted to bring the following into Tanzania:

  • 250g of cigarettes, cigars and tobacco (combined weight)
  • 1 litre of spirits or wine
  • 500ml of perfume and eau de toilette, of which no more than a quarter may be perfume

Unlicensed firearms and ammunition are banned from being imported into Tanzania.

What is the currency in Tanzania?

The official currency in Tanzania is the Tanzania Shilling. Check OANDA for the latest exchange rates.

Euro, British Pounds, US Dollars, South African Rand and other major currencies can be exchanged locally or in advance of departure. Additionally, exchange facilities are available at various bureau de changes and banks in major towns have ATMs. It’s advisable to request bank notes in smaller denominations, as it can sometimes be hard to get change from large notes and smaller notes are handy for smaller purchases and gratuities.

Traveller’s Cheques are not recommended as they’re often difficult to exchange and incur high fees.

What do things cost in Tanzania?

Generally, those on safari will have their accommodation and food costs included in their tour package. However, those heading to the big cities should expect to pay around USD $50 per night for mid-range hotels and around USD $100 for the best accommodation options. Street food is widely available and costs anything from a few cents to USD $3 depending on how hungry you are. A sit-down meal with a beer can cost up to around USD $10. Public transport is cheap and long bus journeys can come in at as little as a few dollars.

What sort of plugs do I need for Tanzania and what is the voltage?

The standard voltage is 230 – 240 volts. Primary sockets generally require the 3 square-pin variety, similar to the United Kingdom sockets. We recommend that you pack a universal travel adaptor. You will need a voltage converter and plug adaptor in order to use U.S. appliances.

Is WiFi widely available in Tanzania?

WiFi is common in Tanzania’s main cities but be aware that connections can be slower and less secure than you might be used to back home. In the national parks there is very rarely a WiFi connection as guests are encouraged to disconnect and immerse themselves in nature.

What time zone is Tanzania in?

Tanzania is 3 hours ahead of GMT and does not observe daylight savings.

Travelling with Children

In Africa selected departures of our overland safaris are classified as ‘Family Friendly’ and these are noted under ‘Prices and Dates’ on the relevant tours. Family Friendly departures welcome children aged 6 – 17 years travelling with their parents on tour. Please note children will be occupying a seat on the overland truck, therefore they pay full price. Parents must be aware that travellers aged 18 years and older still frequent the trip and the tour is a participation overland tour.

Children aged eight and above travelling with a parent or guardian are also welcome on lodge safaris in Tanzania on a request basis and subject to the agreement of the other passengers. Please note that children aged 12+ pay adult price. We can tailor-make private safaris for families and those travelling with younger children.

Best Time to Visit Tanzania

The best time to visit Tanzania is during the Dry season, from late June to October, when wildlife viewing is generally at its best. The wildebeest migration in the Serengeti is usually during June and July and the time to see the wildebeest calving is late January to February. The southern and western circuit parks are best visited during the Dry season (June to October), unlike the more popular northern circuit parks that can be visited year-round.

Dry Season (June – October)

  • June and July are the best months to see the wildebeest migration
  • August to September is the best time to see the wildebeest river crossings in northern Serengeti
  • Animals are easier to spot since they concentrate around waterholes and rivers
  • There are fewer mosquitoes because there is little to no rain
  • Skies are clear and most days are sunny
  • Mornings and nights get cold; it’s recommended to bring warm clothing

Wet Season (November to May)

  • January-February is the time to see the calving in the southern Serengeti, and an excellent time to see predator action
  • The scenery is green and beautiful; it’s low season, meaning lower rates and less crowded parks
  • Although wildlife is easier to spot in the Dry season, you’ll still see plenty, especially in the northern circuit parks
  • Migratory birds are present, and bird watching is at its best
  • Except for March, April and May, rains are mostly short afternoon showers and seldom interfere on your trip
  • March to May is the peak of the Wet season
  • Wildlife viewing in Tarangire, Katavi, Selous and Ruaha is better during the Dry season.

Top 10 Unmissable Things to Do in Zanzibar, Tanzania

Whether you’re looking for somewhere to relax after climbing Kilimanjaro or just want to hang out in an island paradise, Zanzibar Island has a lot to offer!

This island is located off the Eastern coast of Africa and it has a rich history as a trading outpost and a colony, meaning there are many more things to do in Zanzibar besides just hitting the beach.

1. CHECK OUT STONE TOWN

People have been living on the island for over 20,000 years, but Stone Town is the central point of Zanzibar. Because of its location off the coast and its sheltered harbor, Stone Town turned from a fishing village into a trading center. The island also was governed by many colonial rulers, from Portugal to Oman to Great Britain, until it became independent in 1963.

As a trading center, the island has plenty of cultural influences from colonizers and traders from India and Arab countries.  Slavery also affected the island as it was used as a port to send slaves abroad while hundreds of slaves also worked on plantations on the island.

It’s a mix of African, Arabic, and colonial styles all packed into one city. Because of all the unique influences, Stone Town has actually declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000!

The best way to get a feel for this city is to wander around the narrow maze of streets. You’ll definitely get lost, but that’s half the fun!

You’ll also probably be able to tell quickly that a lot of things haven’t been properly maintained since the colonial era. The older facades of the buildings are part of what gives Stone Town its the unique charm!

Stone Town itself is fairly small with a population of just 16,000 residents living inside the city in 2016. The town’s economy is now primarily based on tourism and it is one of the most prominent tourist attractions in Tanzania.

FUN FACT: Stone Town is actually one part of Zanzibar City. The other area of the city is called Ng’ambo, which is more modern. Stone Town is the more historical section. So if you see the two names used interchangeably, it’s because Stone Town is part of Zanzibar City!

Things to do in Stone Town

Besides just wandering around the streets, there are lots of things to do in Stone Town. This is the perfect city to really get a better understanding of Zanzibar people and culture.

Here are a few things I recommend checking out in Stone Town:

TAKE A GUIDED WALKING TOUR

 

Most hotels offer guided day tours around the city and I definitely recommend doing the tour with a guide. All the tourists you’ll see walking around are led by guides. You will learn so much more information with a guide and it’s not that expensive either! I definitely recommend it – you won’t regret it! Your guide can also tell you about the dark past of the island.

ADMIRE STONE TOWN’S INTRICATE DOORS

The fascinating architecture of the buildings starts with their doors! As you wander through the streets, make sure you look around at the beautiful, carved doors that are a special feature of the city.

The designs and carvings of the doors tell about the residents who lived there. You can also tell whether the doors are Swahili, Indian, or Arab based on the shape and design!

SEE THE BIRTHPLACE OF FREDDIE MERCURY

If you love Queen, don’t miss out on the chance to see where Freddie Mercury was born – it is located right in the city center, so you won’t miss it! (Or just search Freddie Mercury’s birthplace on Google Maps). Some people say this might not be the real house (because his father moved several times when Freddie was young), but it’s still a great opportunity to learn a little more about the background and upbringing of this amazing singer!

 

ADMIRE THE OLD FORT

This is exactly what the name says it is! Take a look around a unique piece of history and check out The Old Fort. This is an old fortification built by the Omani Arabs in 1699.  It is also one of the oldest buildings in town.

A more recent addition to the fort is an open-air amphitheater where you can watch local shows or other events. You can ask at the tourist information desk at the fort if there are any upcoming events that could fit into your Zanzibar travel plans.

VISIT THE HOUSE OF WONDERS

This was unfortunately closed for renovation while I was there, but I’ll definitely be visiting on my next trip to Zanzibar!

This is the tallest and largest building in town and was originally a palace facing the town’s central square. The building is now home to the National Museum of History and Culture.

LEARN ABOUT THE SLAVE TRADE AT THE SLAVE MUSEUM

As I mentioned before, the island has a dark past. This market was the last functioning slave market in the world and it only closed in 1873.  Although this might seem like a bit of a downer, it’s an important part of the history of the region.

Thousands of Africans were brought to the island as slaves to work on plantations. Slave traders also used the island as a base camp before sending slaves on the long journey to the East to be sold in Persia, Arabia, the Ottoman Empire, and Egypt.

At the Slave Museum, you can tour chambers where they kept slaves before they were sold.

We went down to see the “rooms” where slaves were kept – a 12 by 12-foot basement with one tiny window near the ceiling. They kept over 30 people in these types of rooms. Although this happened hundreds of years ago it still gave me shivers as I stood there!

You might need a pick-me-up after, but it’ll help you understand more about the island and its people.

The museum is open every day from 8 am to 6 pm. There is a $5 USD entrance fee and you can expect to spend about an hour in the museum.

VISIT ONE OF THE ROOFTOP RESTAURANTS

After a long day of taking in the sites and the culture, I recommend finding a rooftop restaurant for dinner and a drink as the sunsets.

  • I recommend The Tea House Restaurant. It’s a great place to see the sunset, but make sure to make a reservation in advance! The restaurant gets busy with other tourists who want to enjoy the view as well.
  • Another option is The Beach House Restaurant, which has an amazing outdoor balcony overlooking the water. The food is a mix of Italian, French, and Mediterranean and it’s delicious!
  • You can also check out 6 Degrees South, which is perfect for a romantic dinner looking out at the ocean.

WANDER AROUND DARAJANI MARKET

While you’re there, why not wander around the main bazaar in town? You’ll definitely get a taste for life in Zanzibar – and a whiff as well! I found the market to be a really authentic experience.

There is an indoor section of the market, but also a lot of pop-up vendors on the surrounding streets.  You’ll be able to experience a lot of traditional Zanzibar food and ingredients, as well as admire clothes, shoes, and traditional hats.

NOTE: Be prepared for the smell since part of this market is a fish market!

FORODHANI GARDENS

Although I wouldn’t call these actual “gardens,” this is the central square of Stone Town.  It has lots of trees and is a hotspot for locals and tourists alike.  I recommend going after sunset and enjoying the street food market. To get the full experience, look around for the stands that have the longest lines of locals and try some authentic Zanzibar dishes here (this means the food is good!).

PRO TIP: Locals recommend avoiding the seafood here though – it’s not always fresh!

PRO TIP 2: As a central spot for tourists, be careful of people trying to overcharge you or pretending to be waiters. Some tourists have had issues with “waiters” trying to charge them ridiculously high prices!

DRINK COFFEE AT JAWS CORNER

It might take you a while to find it as it’s among the narrow streets, but Jaws Corner is a small plaza. You can stop by and try the Arabic-style local coffee. Just be prepared – it’s definitely not like a cup of coffee with cream and sugar like you might be used to! It’s typically served black and bitter, and it is VERY strong.

DO SOME SHOPPING

There are so many little boutique stores all over Stone Town. There’s a bunch on Ginzenga Street, Kenyatta Road, and Changa Bazaar Street. You’ll also be sure to see some great stores for souvenirs as you’re wandering around.

I wasn’t planning on buying anything, but I loved the jewelry so much, I bought myself a pair of earrings! There are excellent places there where you can get some Zanzibar souvenirs to bring home!

NOTE: Zanzibar is a predominantly Muslim island. As a female traveler visiting Stone Town, you might want to dress conservatively.

2. TAKE A BOAT TRIP AND ENJOY SNORKELING IN ZANZIBAR!

If you want to do a safari in Zanzibar, you can consider a sea adventure safari as well!  Safari Blue is a company that offers full-day tours where you can swim or snorkel. Leaving Stone Town, these tours are one of the best ways to experience snorkeling in Zanzibar. You might also get a chance to swim with dolphins!

Depending on which tour you choose, you will be taken to several different places, from a sandbar to a lagoon. You’ll also get a full buffet lunch, which is usually grilled right on the beach! You can also sail in one of the traditional Dhows (boats used by Arabs and Indians that have large triangular sails).

There are a bunch of companies that offer similar tours, but Safari Blue is the most well-known. It’s also the most expensive and, while you can find identical ones for much less, they might not be of the same quality.

If you’re looking for something more exclusive, you can book your own Dhow (at $450 USD for two people) or even charter a private yacht! There are plenty of other options to choose from as well, depending on your preferences and budget.

Also, be sure to book directly through the company, as some places charge you extra for the booking!

NOTE: You may have heard of dolphin tours in Zanzibar. These tours typically use the boats to scare the dolphins and prevent them from leaving an area so that tourists can swim with them. It’s dangerous and scary for the animals. Safari Blue doesn’t offer a specific “dolphin tour,” so you can see and swim with dolphins if they happen to be around where you are, but they don’t scare the animals or do anything unethical!

3. TRY SOME LOCAL DISHES – EXPERIENCE AUTHENTIC ZANZIBAR FOOD

 

You can get these local dishes anywhere on the island if you know where to go, but Stone Town might be the easiest place (and most authentic!) to try them.

For you foodies out there, there are also several food tours you can take, in case you don’t want to discover everything by yourself or if you are short on time. For example, the 3-hour “Taste of Zanzibar” guided tour will bring you to various local stalls and restaurants where you can try authentic flavors. You can also do a 2-hour Afternoon Food Expedition which includes a traditional lunch, as well as other samples.

If you want to go around the city and try some authentic food by yourself, here are some traditional dishes I can recommend:

Zanzibar pizza

You might be thinking that you’ve had pizza before, but not like this! This isn’t like any pizza you’ve ever seen. It’s more like a pancake or pupusa. The dough is folded up so that all the ingredients are inside and then it’s cooked on a hot metal pan. You can get these with chicken or beef, and they usually also include an egg, cheese, onion, bell peppers, and mayo. You can also get it with chili if you like spice! If you’re looking for a sweet treat, some vendors even make these with Nutella or mango and cheese.

Biryani and pilau

There are two rice dishes that are traditional on the island – biryani and pilau.

To make biryani, the rice is cooked separately from the meat and sauce. Once everything is finished, then everything is combined and it’s served with an amazing sauce.

Pilau is cooked all together with all the ingredients in the same pot, giving the rice an incredible flavor. You can get it either with your choice of meat or without any meat. I recommend that you try both and see which you like better!

Urojo Soup

This is a flour-based soup with mango and lemon flavors. It also usually has potatoes served three ways in it – cubed, fried mashed potatoes, and potato shavings- along with lots of spices and meat. With a slightly sour flavor and a lot of tangs, this soup is something you definitely have to try! It’s a lunchtime favorite of Zanzibar people.

Zanzibar tea

Zanzibar isn’t known as the “spice island” for nothing! When I came back from my hike to Kilimanjaro, I was feeling a bit under the weather. This tea was a really amazing blend of spices and helped me clear my throat!

Mishkaki (maybe with an octopus!)

Mishkaki is a meat kabob where the meat is marinated in spices and then grilled. These are common snack food and you can get them with any kind of meat you like.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even try them with an octopus! The island is known for its “octopus hunters”, so octopus is a common addition to lots of dishes.

PRO TIP: Be careful where you get these, as some places reheat them after they’ve been sitting out. It’s best to watch them grill yours so you can see that it’s fresh.

Mandazi

Mandazi is a fried dough, a bit similar to a donut, but not as sweet. These are eaten alone or with dips and accompany a lot of dishes.

Learn to Cook Zanzibar Food

If you completely fall in love with the flavors of Zanzibar, you can take a cooking class and learn how to bring the food home with you! Most tours will take you out to the market to collect the ingredients and then show you how to prepare traditional Zanzibar food. You’ll end the day with a full belly and a lot of new knowledge! Some classes also include a spice tour so you can do both on the same day. Prices start at $41 USD a person.

4. TAKE A SPICE TOUR IN ZANZIBAR

Early settlers soon learned that the island was perfect for growing a variety of different spices. As a result, there are lots of spice farms on the island. You’ll also taste the spices in the food, of course!

One fun thing to do is to take a spice tour where you can visit a spice farm and learn about how they grow and process all the different spices.

I did a spice tour combined with a town tour of Stone Town. It was a long day (and it involved a bit of walking!) so you can consider doing them separately, but it’s up to you! Plus, this is also a great Zanzibar attraction if you’re traveling with kids.

The spice farms are free to visit, but the guides work for tips. You can also book a 3-hour tour for $36 USD a person if you want a private experience. If you’re short on time and want to see the town and a spice farm, the 6-hour Sultan Panorama Tour will show you everything you want to see in Stone Town – you’ll visit a spice farm, and you’ll get to see a local village!

NOTE: Please note that spice tours are a VERY touristy thing to do. The guides will start making your crowns out of palm trees or other accessories before you know it. If you’re not a fan of these kinds of things, you might be better offer to avoid these tours. On the other hand, if you don’t mind something touristy, you’ll actually get to learn a lot about spices! We got to see cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, and cloves.

5. VISIT JOZANI FOREST

 

These monkeys are black and white with red backs and you’ll be sure to see a few if you visit the forest. You’ll also see lots of birds and unique butterflies, too!

The park is open every day from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm. There is an entrance fee of $8 USD that includes a brief tour. Then you can wander around the mangrove boardwalk on your own. You can tip your guide if you like, but it’s not mandatory.

When I visited Zanzibar, we had just come back from an amazing safari, so we opted out of visiting Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park only because we didn’t think there was any chance it could compare to our epic safari adventure!

It’s best to hit the forest if you’re heading from Stone Town to Paje Beach (or the other way around). That way you can stop along the way and not make a detour for a quick visit.

NOTE: Tanzania is full of national parks. In fact, 45% of the country’s territory is a protected area! But there’s only one on the island so you really should visit it if you want the chance to see some unique Zanzibar wildlife!

 

6. TRY KITESURFING IN ZANZIBAR!

If you are searching for some adventurous things to do in Zanzibar – try kitesurfing! It’s one of the best spots in the world to do it!

Kitesurfing is a sport where you ride standing up on a small surfboard or kiteboard and let the wind drag you along while you hold onto a kite. This is a full-body sport

and you’ll definitely be feeling a bit sore the next day!

Page is considered to be the best place to kitesurf, but you can also take lessons at Nungwi beach or Jambiani beach. In fact, most tourist beaches offer kitesurfing lessons, so if you’re just starting out you can pretty much give it a go anywhere!

PRO TIP: The best time to go if you want to kitesurf is from January to February or June to September. If you’re there during this time, you might also get to see some expert kite surfers doing tricks and jumps!

There are plenty of different instructors and centers where you can learn to kitesurf, so shop around based on where you are and see what works for your timeframe and budget. One option is Kite Centre Zanzibar, which offers lessons for beginners (all equipment included) starting at around $330 USD per person.

NOTE: By the way, if you want to check out a place in Zanzibar to surf, most kitesurfing places also offer surfing as well.

7. HEAD TO THE NORTH OF THE ISLAND – NUNGWI BEACH

Most of you are probably already planning on hitting this popular beach and, if it’s not on your must-see list, it should be!  This is the island paradise you’re dreaming of – picture-perfect soft, white sand beaches and clear turquoise water.

NOTE: Zanzibar beaches that aren’t part of a hotel or resort aren’t really well taken care of and there tends to be a lot of garbage on them so don’t waste your time visiting them. Instead, go to the beaches that have some infrastructure. If there is at least one restaurant nearby, that’s a good indication that the beach around it is probably swimmable.

Kendwa beach is right around the corner (10 minutes by car) from Nungwi Beach. You should check it out too and, while you’re there, don’t forget to watch the amazing sunset!

8. EAT AT THE ROCK RESTAURANT ZANZIBAR

Zanzibar doesn’t have a ton of attractions in the typical sense of the word, but The Rock Zanzibar might just be one of them! It is something that you’ve probably already seen on postcards as well!

This is a unique restaurant that is off the coast of Pingwe, located on an actual rock. Depending on the tides, you may have to wade out into the water to reach the restaurant.

To get the full experience, the best time to go there is during the day for lunch. For dinner, it will usually be too dark to really see all the surroundings (and it gets dark quite early – around 6 pm).

NOTE: Because of its popularity, the restaurant has pre-set seating times. You must book in advance and arrive to eat either at 12pm or 2pm (for lunch).

The Rock Zanzibar prices are a bit higher than some other restaurants in the area because of how unique the dining experience is. Expect to pay at least $60 USD per person for a proper lunch.

9. VISIT PRISON ISLAND

This island is off the coast of Stone Town and is also known as Changuu island (don’t mix it up with Canggu in Bali!).  Although Prison Island in Zanzibar seems like an intimidating name (and like it might not be a fun day trip!), it’s a bit of a misnomer. There never actually was a prison on the island. They used the island to house rebellious slaves in the 1860s and as a place to quarantine people with yellow fever.

Nowadays, the island is a tourist destination because it is home to giant tortoises. It’s a peaceful sanctuary for this vulnerable species. Some people estimate some of the tortoises on the island are more than 150 years old!

To get to Prison Island, you have to take a 25-minute boat ride from Stone Town. Most hotels can help you book a tour or you can head to the beach and look around for someone advertising one. If you want a more in-depth tour with a chance to snorkel, you can book a private tour! If you want a tour that takes you to all the sights in Stone Town and Prison Island all in one day, consider this tour instead. That way, you’ll get to see a bit of everything that Stone Town and Prison Island have to offer!

The island is open every day from 9:00am to 4:15pm. You can plan to spend about 2-3 hours there during your visit (or longer, depending on the tour you’ve booked). The island does have a $4 USD entrance fee, which may be included with the cost of your tour (make sure to check or ask beforehand!)

10. TRY SNORKELING OR DIVING IN ZANZIBAR AT ONE OF THE ATOLLS

If you’re a fan of snorkeling or diving, there are some great places to do this in Zanzibar as well. Mnemba Atoll, located right off the north-east coast, is considered to be the best spot. You’ll see all sorts of colorful fish!

NOTE: Divers, remember – you should have at least a 24-hour rest between your dive and your flight (for your safety!).

If you’re near Mnemba (Kigomani or Matemwe beach village), you can hire a boat from someone right on the beach. This is the cheapest way to do it, but don’t expect luxury! These boats are not fancy and are about as simple as they come. Also, if you do it this way, don’t forget to bring your own snorkeling mask!

 

PRO TIP: If you are into photography, you might want a waterproof camera or a GoPro to record everything you see around you!

NOTE: Please do not touch the coral while diving or snorkeling. They are really sensitive and it takes years for them to regenerate if you disturb them. Treat the coral with respect. Remember, you are a guest there, so just look, don’t touch!

10 Safari Do’s and Don’ts

Both vehicles are full of travelers like you, and both are out for their morning game drive. But there’s one major difference between them.

You see the vehicle in front? That one is full of people who exude proper safari etiquette. They are responsible wildlife lovers whose actions represent a favorable approach to safari. The second Land Cruiser? Well, that one is full of folks whose behaviors prove less appropriate for safari.

Look: the road forks ahead and each vehicle chooses a road. Let’s follow them separately to better understand what to do and what not to do on safari, shall we?

 

Vehicle #1: Good Safari Etiquette

1. DO Be Courteous of Volume

A man in the backseat asks the driver: “Are acacia trees negatively affected when giraffes graze their upper canopy?” (Answer: acacias actually depend on large grazing herbivores – View Source). He doesn’t yell or take up all the driver’s attention. Instead, he lets others have the opportunity to ask questions. Being patient and punctual is important on safari, as time and space is both shared and limited.

 

 

 

2. DO Wear Natural Colors

Approaching the first vehicle we notice that everyone is wearing natural colored clothing—khaki, olive, brown. Wild animals can respond adversely to bright colors like reds and blacks, while bugs love blue. Also, having a scarf or jacket nearby is highly recommended, as all-day game drives can run the gamut of weather.

 

3. DO Learn Swahili Greetings

A woman in the Land Cruiser spots movement in the bush, and she politely asks the driver to slow down, thanking him in Swahili, “Asanti sana.” Tanzanians appreciate when you try their language out. A little bit goes a long way. Here are some essential phrases to try.

 

4. DO Pack Light

As the first vehicle stops to watch four cheetahs perch on a rock outcropping, peer in the back of the vehicle. Note that everyone’s luggage is compact and durable. Packing only the essentials for your safari, in durable bags, helps getting in and out of the vehicle, while making room for others.

5. DO Tip your Guides

In each bag, you’ll find some US dollars, meant to tip each guide after the safari is over. This is an industry-wide expectation. Easy Travel’s professional drivers will be with you nonstop throughout the journey, answering questions, giving cultural context, and providing one of the most memorable trips of your life. So tips are encouraged.

 

Vehicle #2: Not-So-Good Safari Etiquette

Now that we’ve seen what some good safari etiquette looks like, let’s check in on the second Land Cruiser and see what we might avoid while searching for that pride of lions.

 

6. DON’T Get Out of the Vehicle

As we pull up, someone is outside the second Land Cruiser, taking photos of an elephant in the distance. This is major safety concern and is not advisable until your experienced driver can find a safe place to do so. Easy Travel guides have decades of experience and will ensure that each passenger is safe and secure at all times.

 

7. DON’T Be Obnoxious

Inside the second vehicle, everyone talks loudly over each other. Be aware of others in your safari group. Make sure that your voice is considerate and not overbearing for you or the wildlife. (Note: many animals are extremely sensitive to sound. Did you know that elephants can hear storms from as far as 150 miles away? They can even hear through their feet!

 

8. DON’T Be on your iPhone

A young man sits in the front of the vehicle and flips through text messages, just as a Bateleur eagle flies overhead with its six-foot wingspan. Missed opportunity! Each safari offers but three to four days of game drives, and, believe me: they will go fast. So turn off your devices and turn on your focus towards wildlife.

 

9. DON’T Stop for Everything that Moves

This Land Cruiser starts and stops every mile because each traveler asks the driver to stop whenever they see a gazelle. Gazelles, though majestic, are everywhere, and your driver wants to show you all of what Tanzania has to offer.

Easy Travel guides know all the nooks and crannies of Tanzania and they are excited to show you them off. And this takes time.

 

10. DON’T Choose Inexperienced Safari Operators

Be sure and choose a safari provider that knows what they’re doing. Locally-owned and operated, with state-of-the-art, customized Land Cruisers and over 25 years of safari experience, Easy Travel knows the most exciting regions of each park and reserve in the country. So choose wisely, travel responsibly, and be ready for a life-changing experience.

 

Bottom Line?

Safari is all about celebrating the wild places. It’s about honoring the wonderful creatures that live there. So tread lightly, express genuine interest in Tanzanian culture, and choose an outfitter that’s both experienced and responsible. With these in mind, you’re bound to have a life-changing experience.

What to Wear on your Tanzania Safari

Planning what to wear and essentials to bring on your upcoming safari in Tanzania is not all that complicated. Everything you need is most likely in your closet already! Our clothing suggestions apply for all seasons on a Tanzania safari while different guidelines apply if your route is to the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro or heading down to the famous Zanzibar beach.

TANZANIA WEATHER

The best wildlife viewing months in Tanzania are during the Dry season from late June to October. The best chance of seeing the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti is during June and July and the time to see the wildebeest calving is late January to February. Tanzania’s main rainy season, or the ‘long rains’, last during about March, April, and May.

WHAT KINDS OF CLOTHES ARE RECOMMENDED FOR SAFARI?

Casual, comfortable and easy to wash clothes are recommended. The goal is to pack lightly as most lodges and camps will launder clothes for a small fee. Safaris are informal, and there is no need to dress up. Do plan to dress in layers so you can adjust to temperature changes as early morning game drives can be quite cold depending on the time of year while daytime temperatures can get quite warm. Stick to neutral or khaki colors and avoid wearing dark blue or black clothes as these colors tend to attract tsetse flies. Wide brimmed hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent are a necessity. After sunset, we recommend that you wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and socks and spray insect repellent to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

RECOMMENDED SAFARI CLOTHING TO BRING

  • T-shirts and tank tops
  • Long-sleeved shirts (for protection from sunburns)
  • Shorts
  • Light long pants or convertible long-short pants
  • Warm fleece pullover or jacket
  • One swimsuit
  • Cotton socks and underwear
  • Pajamas
  • One pair of comfortable walking shoes
  • One pair of sandals or flip-flops
  • Wide-brimmed hat
  • Bandana (for dust)
  • Heavy sweater, gloves, and toque if traveling in the cold season (June – August)

CLOTHING FOR ZANZIBAR

Please dress modestly when sightseeing in Stone Town or visiting anywhere outside of the beach resorts in Zanzibar. Women should not wear sleeveless or revealing tops and short skirts or thigh-high shorts (Capri trousers or at least knee-length shorts are fine). Men should wear shirts, pants or knee-length shorts.

WHAT ARE SOME OTHER ITEMS TO PACK?

We strongly recommend that you carry-on all important items such as prescription medication, camera equipment, essential toiletries (please keep in mind many airlines have liquid restrictions) and one or two changes of clothes in case of checked luggage delays or loss.

PACK LIGHT! HERE ARE THE TOP THINGS TO BRING WITH YOU ON A SAFARI:

 

  • Passport
  • Plane tickets
  • Travel Insurance Policy & Emergency Contact Numbers
  • Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate (if applicable)
  • Safari itinerary
  • U.S. dollars in large and small denominations ($20, $50 & $100 bills should be issued after 2005)
  • Credit cards and ATM bank cards
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • Small flashlight or headlamp
  • Insect/Mosquito repellent
  • Eye drops and extra contact lenses or spare glasses (if applicable)
  • Anti-bacterial hand sanitizer
  • Tissue paper and small travel towel (washrooms in Tanzania often don’t have toilet paper or paper towels)
  • Camera, extra memory cards, batteries, and charger, if applicable
  • UK plug adapter and transformer/voltage converter, if applicable
  • Ziplock bags for toiletries, camera equipment, snacks, etc.
  • Personal toiletries
  • Small first aid medical kit including Tylenol or ibuprofen, antimalarial pills, cold and allergy medicine, itch medication, band-aids, stomach ache remedy, antibiotic cream, diarrhea medicine, prescription antibiotic for travelers diarrhea (Ciprofloxacin) and any prescription medications.

On Safari Vehicle Etiquette

Most of your time on safari will be spent in the back of a safari vehicle which you will likely share with a number of other keen ‘safari-goers’. So, it is worth keeping a few basic rules of vehicle etiquette on safari in mind:

1. Be ready on time

Following proper vehicle etiquette on safari is important. So, always try to be ready to board your vehicle at the agreed time, having been to the toilet and with everything you will need for the day (cameras, binoculars, sunblock etc).

2. Be considerate (and courteous)

Be prepared to indulge the interests of others in your group.  They will hopefully do likewise for you. And don’t always rush for the ‘best’ seat. Be considerate of others. Remember to practice good vehicle etiquette on safari.

3. Talk in moderation

Try to avoid talking incessantly during game drives, as this can be very disruptive to the other guests and even off-putting for the guide!

4. No sudden movements

Avoid standing up or making any sudden movements when close to animals. This will likely startle them and they will either run off or take offence! You should also be careful not to ‘rock’ the vehicle (shuffling in your seat or unnecessary movements) when the other occupants are attempting to get that perfect photograph.

5. Be patient

There is no script on safari and it may be that you need to wait by a waterhole or stop to scan the horizon to find something of interest. Be patient (and vigilant) – the next great sighting is likely just around the corner.

6. Do not hog the guide

By all means take the opportunity to learn from your guide by asking questions…but be careful not to hog his/her attention at the expense of the other guests.

7. Be prepared

Do try to be self-sufficient in terms of binoculars, storage cards, warm clothing, sunblock, bottled water etc.

8. Talk quietly (rather than whisper)

This is important not only so that the other participants can enjoy the outdoor experience, but also so as not to disturb the wildlife. Do not whistle or bang on the vehicle to attract an animal’s attention. This is very poor form!

9. Advice for smokers

Don’t automatically assume that because you are in the great outdoors that your smoking habit will not bother the other passengers. Try to be considerate and request a ‘smoke’ break/stop – perhaps while the others are taking their ‘comfort’ break. And please DO NOT leave your cigarette ends stomped into the dirt. Put them in your pocket and dispose of them when you get back to camp.

10. Advice for families

If you are a family with small children, be aware that others in the vehicle may not think that little Johnny’s antics are very conducive to an enjoyable safari! Where possible, it is always advisable to arrange, or at least request, the sole use of a safari vehicle if you have a family with young children.

10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Tanzania

There truly is something to suit every kind of holidaymaker in Tanzania. From incredible game reserves teeming with wildlife to glorious beaches, luxurious accommodation and incredible culture and food. Here are just 10 reasons why you should think about spending your next holiday there.

1. The Great Migration

Africa is full of amazing wildlife experiences but one of the most spectacular to witness is the Great Migration. A once in a lifetime experience and on the bucket list of many a traveller to Africa, none can surpass this incredible spectacle: a million wildebeest crossing the plains of the Serengeti in search of fresh grass while braving predators and perilous river crossings.

2. Mount Kilimanjaro

Located in North Eastern Tanzania, Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and can be seen from far into Kenya. The mountain represents a powerful life force for the local Chagga people and all those who have made their lives around the mountain, providing rich volcanic soils for agriculture and an endless source of pure spring waters. 75,000 people climb Kilimanjaro every year so it is not the most untouched mountain, nor is it the most arduous, however it is still an awe inspiring sight to behold and highly recommended for anyone with even a vague interest in mountaineering.

3. Zanzibar

What better way to round off a safari adventure through Tanzania than to spend some time relaxing in Zanzibar on one of its beautiful white sand beaches. Known as the “Spice Island”, Zanzibar has brought visitors from other lands since time immemorial – Persians, Chinese, Arabs, Indians and many more have all sailed their vessels into Zanzibar’s harbour over the centuries, bent on trade and sometimes plunder. Make sure to visit Stone Town to explore its spice markets and superb Arabic architecture. If diving is more your thing then learn to dive at one of the many dive centres the local resorts boast – the waters around the island are very clear and host a huge diversity of marine life.

4. The Food

Tanzanian cuisine is a mix of traditional African food, with a strong Arabic/Indian influence, especially along the coast and in Zanzibar. Surrounded by the ocean, Zanzibar is renowned for its seafood with most hotels in the area offering a fantastic variety of fresh seafood menus. For the ultimate foodie experience, visit the Stone Town night food market. Offering a variety of delicious eats, this lively market is a must-see to experience the local people and culture.

5. Outstanding Accommodation Options

Tanzania provides visitors with a variety of choices when it comes to accommodation. For the ultimate luxury safari experience there is the Four Seasons Serengeti, for those looking for an authentic tented safari experience there are are camps like &Beyond Serengeti Under Canvas and Selous Serena Camp and for honeymooners or couples, Zanzibar offers a plethora of luxury resorts such as Hideaway of Nungwi and Ras Kutani.

6. The Maasai People

The Maasai people of East Africa live in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania along the Great Rift Valley on semi-arid and arid lands. They’re well known for the special red cloth they wear which is called a Shuka and their highly energetic customs. They openly welcome visitors to the area to experience their culture and lifestyle first hand.

7. Wildlife and Birdlife

Tanzania has the largest concentration and diversity of animals in Africa and there are over 1000 bird species to spot in the country. Tanzania is home to some of the world’s most treasured national parks and game reserves including the Selous Game Reserve, which is the world’s largest game reserve and home  to more than 120,000 elephants, 160,000 buffalos and 2000 rhinos. Selous is also home to large concentrations of hippos, crocodiles and wild dogs.

8. The Ngorongoro Crater

A jewel in Tanzania’s crown is the Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera and haven to a wondrous array of animal life which makes the crater a “must do” on any visit to Tanzania. The backdrop of the crater walls makes for some stunning photographic opportunities as you see the animals wander through the grasslands on the crater floor towards the lake.

9. The Western and Southern Safari Parks

Southern and western Tanzania are very often overlooked by travellers intent on visiting the more well known parks of the north, yet these regions are highly regarded among serious safari-goers. The southern parks of Selous and Ruaha offer seriously good wildlife, plus a wider choice of activities and much better value for money than can be found in Northern Tanzania. The remote western parks of Mahale and Katavi are expensive and more difficult to get to, however they do both offer a unique safari and African wilderness experience

10. Chimpanzees in Mahale National Park

The small and remote Mahale Mountains National Park is found in the very West of Tanzania and on the shoreline of Lake Tanganyika. Chimpanzee treks are the main draw card here and seeing them in their natural habitat is a truly magical experience. When you are with the chimps you will be able to observe their very human-like behaviour as the younger ones play in the trees and the adults observe and squabble amongst themselves.