Back in August 2017, I took on the challenge to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with my friend Alicia. And our adventure did NOT just end there! We spent another week in Tanzania visiting a local town to see their various co-operatives, a Maasai village, and the most anticipated of all for me – SAFARI.
If you’re interested in such an adventure, here’s some information on my experience which was one in a small group and living at the safari park campsites. Experience will be vastly different if you have either a private guide, or you live in the resorts.
The Tour Company: Gadventures
The Tour Package: Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Route & Serengeti Adventure (Safari only options are available on the website)
The Duration: 3 half day game drives, and 1 full day game drive (spanned over 4 days)
The Group Size: 14 people split 7 per car (honestly not the most ideal as we had to take turns with the back middle seat which would have no window access)
1) Lake Manyara NP
2) Serengeti NP
3) Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The Animals: All of the African Big 5 are in Tanzania – lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and cape buffalo. These species made the Big 5 list based on the level of difficulty that would be required to hunt them and also based on the degree of danger that would be involved – not based on their size. I got to see all except for the rhino which are extremely rare due to all the poaching.
The Ride: A land cruiser type car which has a pop-up roof so you can take pictures from the windows or in the space given when the roof is up. Probably only meant to be used for us when the car is stopped, but there are handles to hang on to that we managed to stand and look out while the car was on the move. Quite windy and dusty though.
The Day: The main times for game rides are at dawn and at dusk when animals are most active. As such the morning game ride would start around 7am (wake up would be 6am) and end around lunch, and then an afternoon game ride around 3/4pm until dinner time. Game rides are about 3-4 hours long so it’s quite a long day as it surprisingly takes a lot of energy to try to spot animals (usually the guide finds its first) and then photograph them well. We even got up at around 5am once to photograph the sunrise – worth it!
The Guide: Our driver was great – very knowledgeable and talkative (Sampson from Gadventures). He was also basically our tour guide and animal expert too. We were lucky he was extremely patient and always stopped for us each time we saw something interesting. He also tried his best to bring us to the best spots or to wherever he hears information that there is a more ‘rare’ animal from other drivers (ex. cheetahs, leopards, lion prides on the move).
The Living Accommodations: Something in between glamping and camping. The tents itself were huge for just 2 people like a small room, we had mattresses, a pillow, and even a fleece blanket on the colder night to go along with our sleeping bag. But the shower facilities were not the best as you would need to bring your own toilet paper and sometimes the showers did not work, or the water was cold. As I spent 7 days hiking where the washroom situation was worse, it was a major improvement and I couldn’t ask for anything more.
The Food: Food was always delicious and plentiful. They always ensured we had a balanced meal consisting of soup, rice or pasta with some sort of protein, vegetables, and fruits. Hot drinks were always provided as well as popcorn as a snack.
The Camera: Canon Powershot G3X. I had an iPhone 5S at the time which was definitely not the best camera out there, but overall I believe having an actual camera would be best for the optical zoom. I picked this camera specifically for this trip and it worked well for me as I was able to zoom quite in (further than most in the group) and it being digital made it easy as I did not have to change lenses. The downside, however, would be the weight of the camera as the superzoom lens is attached. I did use a polarizing filter and a hood to help counter the strong sunlight.
The Feedback: For me, 4 days was a bit too much since game rides last about 3-4 hours each. I was getting quite tired on the last day from the early mornings, long hours in the car and late nights (I slept at 7 or 8pm the entire week prior during the Kilimanjaro hike). As the days went by seeing the animals became more lackluster unless it was a new species we did not come across before, and there were only so many photographs you can take of a lion. On our last game ride where we tried to search for a rhino, I even fell asleep!
Overall though I thoroughly enjoyed being able to witness animals in their natural habitat and much more up close than at any zoo. It was a great feeling to be able to enjoy them without being too involved and affecting their environment. However truth be told, with the number of safari vehicles going through each day, especially at popular parks like Serengeti, we are definitely still making an impact on their lives. At more special sightings such as a pride of lions attempting to catch prey, there would be about 30 cars parked along the road to catch a glimpse. But still, a bit better than them being held captive I suppose?
Advice on if you are unsure if this trip is right for you: As most of the trip is literally sitting in a car trying to scout for animals, and then spending a lot of time taking photos of the animals from inside the car, I would say you have to be either really interested in animals or really interested in (animal) photography. At times we spent up to 30 minutes to an hour at one spot as we wait for something interesting to happen (ex. pride lions going after prey) which can end very anticlimactically, or simply because we are waiting around to get the ideal spot amongst other safari vehicles. If that is not really what you are interested in, I would definitely suggest a more private tour so you have more control of how your day goes, or just 1 game ride.
Every Sunday I share an image from my safari adventure on my Instagram – check it out!