We are all familiar with the term “once-in-a-lifetime’. Right? It is reserved for those epic bucket list experiences that you feel so fortunate to have even once during your life, that you can’t even imagine being blessed enough to be able to do it a second time. An African safari in Tanzania is one of those experiences—and I was blessed twice.
The Shadows of Africa team took me on two unforgettable tours, on two similar yet still very unique itineraries. From landing at Kilimanjaro airport to searching for rhinos in Ngorongoro crater to participating in the Maasai’s traditional jumping dance, being on safari in Tanzania will be surreal whichever stops and experiences you choose. But, here’s my ultimate itinerary for a trip you will never forget too.
About Shadows of Africa
My first time on safari in Tanzania was with Shadows of Africa, and it was insanely AMAZING. So, why would I go with anyone else the second time around? I wouldn’t. Shadows of Africa has decades’ worth of experience in designing and executing the ultimate safaris and tours. They are a well-rated agency which specializes in tailoring a safari to meet your wants and budget. Plus, they have even been honored with Tripadvisor’s Certificate of Excellence, proving that they are good at what they do.
Their tour offerings are diverse, fun and authentic—there’s something for everyone. The companies adventures aren’t limited to just Tanzania either, they offer tours and safaris in more than ten other destinations (how about a trip through Rwanda, Kenya or Ethiopia?).
Booking: As all of their trips can be customized to meet your needs, you can start booking your Tanzania safari or other holidays with them by checking out their itineraries on their website then sending them a free enquiry through their site for any questions or customizations.
Olerai Lodge is conveniently located haven about an hour from Kilimanjaro Airport and 15 minutes from Arusha airport for those domestic flights. After 32-hours of travel time (hopefully your journey will be shorter!) it was the perfect place to spend the night after landing (and again before the departing). The lodge, which was opened in 2019, is not just a comfy place to rest your head, it’s beautiful too. Originally a home, it still has that cozy feel, and the African influence decor only adds to that—think dark masks hanging on the walls, beaded chandeliers and chunky Dhow wood furniture.
The large rooms have all the modern amenities with toasty hot showers, comfortable mosquito-netted beds and fresh drinking water always available. Just make sure to keep the front door closed or else the morning monkey visitors may find their way inside!
The meals served at the lodge were also top-notch. One evening there was a tomato, cheese and balsamic reduction appetizer that I devoured (and I don’t even like tomatoes!). Tender chicken with rosemary cream sauce served with garlic potatoes was the main course and there was a caramel cream for dessert. A great way to start our safari! Book Here
There’s always something interesting along the roads of Tanzania to break up the drive between parks, and hitting up a local market is one of them. There are quite a few to choose from, but Nanja Market is in Arusha every Monday, and is a nice little stop on your way to Tarangire National Park. So, if you time your Tanzania safari right you can visit it.
If it’s anything like my stopover, green bananas will be plentiful, lots of vegetables will be displayed, the butcher will be hanging his meat inside a shed and rows Maasai shoes made from old tires will line the dirt ground. It’s just another fascinating peak into the Tanzanian culture.
Tarangire National Park
From Olerai Lodge, it was about a 2-hour drive to the gates of our first game drive destination. Tarangire is a 1,096 square mile National Park filled with an abundant mishmash of animals, including 550 species of birds. But, what it is best known for is having Tanzania’s largest population of African elephants. Besides seeing these gentle giants in their natural habitat, you will also see evidence of them in the big trunked Baobab trees. Many of these trees have large holes in the trunk because the elephants like to eat the soft bark.
We didn’t have to wait long after entering the park to see the very first animal, an Impala. And dozens of others followed; wildebeest, wart hogs, elephants, baboons, etc. One of my favorite sights of the day were the giraffes (and the mongoose, and the warthogs, and the lions—ok I liked them all!)
Tarangire National Park has a designated lunch spot for people on an African safari. It’s a place with a view and where the monkeys hang out waiting for accidental droppings, or if you are not careful they might just swipe something right from your plate!
You hear a lot about the “boxes lunches” on safari, but Shadows of Africa takes this meal up a notch by providing a hot lunch (not just a sandwich and bag of chips). On our day in the park, this lunch was a creamy pumpkin soup, curried chicken with white rice, pasta and an option for a glass of wine (you could imagine how happy I was about that!).
Ang’ata Tented Camp
We continued on our game drive for about eight hours (it sounds like a long time, but believe me, it flew by!) then we were taken to Ang’ata Tented Camp that’s right in the middle of the park. I actually had to be escorted to and from my room in case any wildlife was hanging around!
I’m the first to admit that I am not a camper, but glamping (fancy camping) I can do! My tent had three beds (I slept on the pretty animal print one), a toilet, sink and a shower. Plus, there was enough electricity to keep a couple lamps on in case you are scared of the dark.
A couple hundred feet away from my tent, there was one large gathering tent for wifi, major equipment charging, drinks and meals. And you’d be surprised what they can do in the kitchen! On my evening there, dinner was butternut squash soup, beef stew and mango with avocado mousse. Yum!
Alternative Safari Lodge: Osupuko Lodge
Osupuko Lodge is a paradise that overlooks Tarangire National Park, and where I stayed on my first safari. The luxury rooms are fully equipped, with a stunning view of Tarangire, and a possibility of an elephant to greet you at your door. The Maasai staff seemed to always be ready to help—walking each visitor to and from their rooms, transporting the luggage, and acting as security in the evening. You will be in lion and hyena land after all!
Many of the delicious meals at Osupuko’s outdoor restaurant are accompanied by a welcome dance show featuring the Maasai who performed their traditional dance which featured neck rings, chanting and a bouncing motion.
The hotel is run on a generator, so there was no electricity after ten, but you won’t mind at all because the best time is in the peaceful night listening to the animal calls.
Back to Tarangire National Park
Since the Tarangire park pass lasts 24-hours and not wanting to waste any of our precious time, we woke up early and did a short morning drive through the land. It proved to be fruitful—the first thing we saw was a lion just hanging out about 20 feet from us! There were also dozens of elephants, they were almost as common as temples in Thailand.
Though the most intriguing show on our return to the park was the hyena and vultures fighting over the carcass of a Cape buffalo. The vultures won.
From Tarangire National Park we headed towards Lake Maynara for the evening, which normally is about a 3-hour drive straight through, but we broke it up with a few fun and interesting stops.
Marango “B” Bar
You’ll see plenty of small Tanzanian bars along the route, and you should stop at one for a drink. We popped into Marango “B” Bar where the drink choices were a couple of local beers, Coke or Fanta. It was also a place where cows or goats might be sharing an outdoor table with you.
The music was blaring when we arrived, which added to the local vibe. Our bartender said that it had to be loud or else no customers will come.
Ol Mesera School
One of my favorite things to do in Africa is to visit with the children. I can’t get enough of their smiling faces! Our safari itinerary made a stop at Ol Mesera School, which is one of the Maasai schools that Shadows of Africa sponsors. What does that mean? It means that they are dedicated to providing the children with additional tools, supplies and resources needed.
The children don’t see too many outsiders, so when we arrived they were excited (so was I!). They crowded the windows and spilled out of the doors trying to get a peek at the foreigners. They slowly warmed up, joking and laughing, and surrounding me to get a selfie wearing my sunglasses.
On our visit we spent a little time in each classroom to see what was be studied, and I even learned some Swahili!
Ol Mesera Maasai Village
Living in northern Tanzania and Kenya, the Maasai are known to live a semi-nomadic lifestyle, often taking residence near national game parks. Their traditions, customs and clothes have made them internationally known.
There are plenty of Maasai villages in Tanzania, you will often see their grass and adobe huts in the middle of sparse fields. If that doesn’t give it away, then their vibrant red and blue wardrobe will. We visited the Ol Mesera Maasai village, a place where many of the school children we had just visited called home.
In this tribe there was one chief (who has since passed away). He had 8 wives, and a whopping 50 children! We were greeted by the chief’s sons and welcomed us into the inner circle of their living quarters, which consisted of about eight small huts. There was one for each wife and their children, plus one for the husband who alternated which woman stays with him each evening. Not only was their polygamist lifestyle interesting, but so was their farming capabilities, minimalist living and culture.
After a tour of the small village the whole tribe gathered around. We were immediately welcomed by the residents with a lively dance, which consisted of chanting in combination with the men jumping high and the women performing in a rhythmic bouncing motion. I was brought into the center of the group to participate into this tradition. There was lots of singing, dancing and laughing (mostly the Massai laughing at my lack of dance skills!).
Lake Manyara Kilimamoja Lodge
From the warm Maasai welcome to the infinity pool to the stunning views over Lake Manyara, Kilimamoja Lodge is something special. The main lodge literally looks like a movie set with its high ceilings, zebra patterned couches and crystal chandeliers.
My pretty bungalow room was pure luxury. It boasted three showers (one of them was outdoors!), a clawfoot tub, comfy bed and the perfect patio for watching the sunset over the Rift Valley. My only regret is that I was not there long enough to fully enjoy! So, definitely save yourself some extra time.
Ngorongoro Crater (aka: Ngorongoro Conservation Area) is where I became addicted to wild animal selfies. I just couldn’t believe how close they came to our jeep! In the caldera you have a chance to spot all of the Big Five, as well as marvel at the sight of flamingoes by the Lake Magadi. In general, there are over 120 mammal species can be found in the area. The highlight however, are the 20 to 30 black rhinos, an endangered species. On my first Tanzanian safari I didn’t see any of these elusive animals, and on the second one I saw 3!
It’s pretty crazy how you can be on an African safari in the middle of nowhere and then there’s a beautiful lodge that also pops up in the middle of nowhere! That’s pretty much what happens every night while on safari with Shadows of Africa, and a stay at Ziwani Lodge was no different. The safari lodge was a sophisticated oasis on the shores of Tanzania’s Lake Eyasi, and overlooking the Swift Valley. There are 7 cottages that all look like little castles and are decorated with a Moroccan influence.
Not only is it beautiful, it is also environmentally conscious. The eco-lodge is run solely by solar and wind power, plus it is 100% plastic free. Even the utensils for picnics are made of sugar cane.
Lake Eyasi Hadzabe Bushmen
One of the most fascinating stops on safari was a visit to the Lake Eyasi Hadzabe bushmen. The Hadzabe, consisting of nearly 2,000 individuals, live in huts near Lake Eyasi and continue to remain committed to their rugged hunter-gatherer lifestyle origins. Each day starts with the men getting together to discuss where to hunt and the women determining where to gather.
It is possible to get a glimpse of how the tribe’s daily life is lived, but be prepared. While it is tremendously intriguing, their lifestyle may also rush a wave of culture shock through you. When we arrived for our visit the males had just speared a baboon that they were cooking for breakfast. We watched as they dissected the animal, putting each part on the grill and then offering us a taste. I kindly declined.
Though this monkey was the meal on this particular morning, their diet consists of almost any animal that can be hunted with a bow and arrow. Some of the men in the group actually attempted to teach me how to use the weapon, something they expertly shoot every day to hunt for their food. It wasn’t an easy task—I couldn’t even hit the tree stump target!
While the men were cooking, the women sat a hundred feet away beading jewelry and making tiny cloth dolls. They had a small selection of goods for sale, and I chose two of the little dolls that now sit on my office desk at home.
After the Hadzabe visit we make a quick stop to a small Datoga village. The women greeted us in their pretty rust colored dresses that had a rainbow of beads flowing down the back, indicating they were married. The group are farmers, but are also known as “the blacksmith” people, and for good reason. Using just some heat, a mold and an ancient technique they can turn hunks of metal into beautiful bangles. The women wear these copper and bronze bracelets as protection against evil.
On our visit, we were invited inside one of their wood and mud huts to see how they lived. There were two very sparse dirt-floored rooms. In one was a make-shift kitchen and a bed made of sticks. In the other were a few long benches and a workplace where two stones could turn grains of dried corn into a finer flour.
After this village visit, we headed back to the Olerai Lodge in Arusha. This was a great place to catch some rest before heading to the Arusha airport for the hour flight to Serengeti National Park
Serengeti National Park
Over 90,000 travelers visit Serengeti National Park and there is no doubt why; it is stunning with its seemingly endless dusty plains that are spotted with wildlife. Tanzania’s oldest and most popular national park is a place that easily earns a spot on many people’s bucket list. It is not only an UNESCO world heritage site, but also home to one of nature’s grandest spectacles—the largest migration of mammals on the planet. The annual wildebeest migration is when more than a million land animals stomp the dry-grass plains in search of greener pastures. The wildebeest don’t travel alone; hundreds of thousands of Thompson’s gazelle and zebras join them in this trek, plunging through crocodile-infested waters in their effort to escape death from hunger, thirst, and predators.
Besides the migration, the 5,695 square miles of Serengeti is blessed with an abundance of animals, plus you can pay a visit to the hippo pool where several dozen are clustered together sloshing about. And this is where we not only spotted our first hyena on my first trip, but also saw the largest flying bird in the world, the Kori Bustard.
After spending a long day with cheetahs, gazelles and lions we headed to our Shadows of Africa lodging for the night, Osupuko Camp, tented camping at its finest. This is a mobile campsite where the wild animals are residents too. I typically don’t enjoy camping, it just seems like too much work. But, this was different. Staff prepared all the meals, set up the campsite and cleaned your living quarters. And my tent had a flushing toilet.
Going on a safari in Tanzania is every bit as incredible as they say it is, but what makes it even better is choosing the right tour company and putting the best places to stop on your itinerary.
Essential Tips for a Safari in Tanzania, Africa
Getting There: The Kilimanjaro International Airport, is a major airport in Northern
Tanzania that serves the cities of Arusha and Moshi, and most airlines will fly into it. You can
easily check for the best fare fare deals at Skyscanner, which also has the option to choose
‘cheapest month’ as the departure to find the lowest priced dates to fly to your
destination. The easiest way to get from the airport to the city center is by taking a taxi. The
ride will take approximately 45 minutes and costs $50 (USD). However, many airlines run a
shuttle service which ranges from free to $10 (USD). Keep in mind that if you are starting your safari upon arrival then the tour company will pick you up at the airport.
Where to Stay on your African Safari in Tanzania: If you’re looking for a hotel in Arusha that provides an airport shuttle service, the Olerai Lodge is a great choice. To add a luxurious camping experience to your African safari, check out the Ang’ata Tented Camp. For a hotel with a little more extravagance, book a room at the Lake Manyara Kilimamoja Lodge in Mto wa Mbu. If you’re looking for something off the beaten path, check out the Ziwani Lodge at Lake Eyasi. Or search some great deals on hotels of your choice at Booking.com. If you’re looking for more of a home atmosphere (or are traveling with a group of people), head over to Airbnb that has houses, apartments and even just a room for rent in every price range.
Insurance: It’s always a good idea to travel fully insured so you are protected in case of trip cancellations or medical emergencies. You can check out pricing at Travelex Insurance.
- Bring toilet paper, 50% of the time you will need it.
- Big breasted ladies, unlike me, wear a sports bra. The roads are beyond bumpy and your girls will be bouncing uncontrollably.
- Photographers, don’t forget to bring your longest zoom lens. Many good finds, especially the birds, are from afar.
- Layer your clothing, the weather can vary depending on the park and time of day.
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