Tanzania Safari on the cheap

7 Dec

Tanzania is arguably the best Safari destination this continent has to offer, it’s estimated that 40% of the country is game reserves, Selous Game Reserve being the biggest in the world, the amazing Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater and many others are there too. I have visited Ngorongoro Crater part of the greater Serengeti Conservation area, I cannot begin to compare to the exceptional beauty i have seen with other Game Reserves I have seen around the continent.


The main challenge with visiting Tanzania Game Reserves especially Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater Conversation Area is that they are extremely expensive they were not made for a budget traveller, if visiting Tanzania going to the game reserves, swallow large chunk of your budget, when I was there it costs approximately $650 per person to visit the game reserves, to be fair this was a packaged deal for 3 days that included 2 other parks Lake Manyara and Tarangire Game Parks, if you want to do a single day trip it was impossible and the costs did not differ that much from a 3 day packaged deal.

Part of my backpacking trip from Joburg to Kenya by public transport did not include going inland to Arusha, I had planned to visit Zanzibar back to Dar and to Mombasa by bus, unfortunately the Scandinavian bus company operating from Dar to Mombasa was no longer operating and I had to change my plans to go to Nairobi via Arusha, its was long treacherous, reckless bus trip on a bus called “Skyline Express” it took about 8 hours or so to get to Arusha. One thing that hit you when you get to Arusha is the amount of Safari 4×4 cars and touts selling you deals to visit Safaris, it’s perverse and bothers on intimidation. I knew that since I am here I am going to have to visit one of the Game Reserves but damn they were expensive and some plain ridiculous, big name operators where the worst.

My time in Arusha was limited and as I tried to find the easiest way to visit some of the parks I realized that it was not gonna be enough to do 3 day packaged Safari so my friend and I decided that instead of calling numbers given by touts, we are going to flag one of the many Safari 4×4 cars driving around town and take our chances, many guys we approached referred us to their operating companies while others flatly refused, so we decided to flag unmarked 4×4’s as luck will have it we found a guy willing to take us there for a day.

I had already established compulsory park fees $200 for a car, $50 entrance fee per person this we were prepared to pay, our negotiations with transport guys was for taking us there for a day. We ended up agreeing on $75 per person when they wanted $150 per person, we cancelled food which they wanted $20 per person. In the end we agreed pay a total of $225 per person to visit Ngorongoro Crater. If we had extra two people our costs were going to be $50 cheap. Thats me than half of the amount we should have paid on “proper” visit.

We paid half the amount after we agreed and the other half when we finish the trip, we were continuously warned via notice boards never to pay any amount in advance, because of rampant theft by unscrupulous operators, the half the amount we paid, we were prepared to lose should our guys decide not to pitch up in the morning.

In the morning around 5am the car arrived and we were ready to begin 2 hour journey to the park. While negotiating with the Safari guys they were bringing a newer car to our meetings but in the morning they had brought much older car but still a 4×4 tried to squill but when you know you have fought hard bargain with people it’s always fair to forgo such comforts. The trip to the park on the older car was not without drama as the first pothole we drove on racked up the car and gave me whiplash, there were no handles to hold on to apart from the front seat.

When we got to the entrance of the park, our guides (Bonfas and Andrew) tried to pull another trick with the park authorities, they asked to pretend that I am a Tanzania and instead of paying $50 for foreigners I will only pay $5, and we can share the change. I told them I don’t need any change and if they are lucky they can have money, that all went according to plan and they threw a quick crash course in Swahili to help me say hello, we reached the boom gate to enter the park, they explained to the security that I am a Tanzanian as indicated on the receipt, the security did not buy the story, my mawhawk and fancy camera gave me away. The security did not buy it, they dared him to talk to me to see himself, their worst nightmare arrived, the security said few things in Swahili and I could only repeat what he said, there was cold silence in the car, our guides just realized their plan has spectacularly failed and now they have to pay extra $20 dollar fine on top of $50 they have to pay for my entrance, the security guy refused to take bribe and promised to arrest them on the spot. Me and my travel partner could not stop laughing at the incident as our guides left to pay fines and whatnots, to say they were peeved it’s understatement, they just saw their profit margins disappearing.

Nothing ever beats the spectacular view of the Ngorongoro Crater from view point on the road to Serengeti plains it’s a 20km radius and 600m deep caldera of the amazing geological feature full African beasts. It becomes clear when standing on top why it’s worth every cent you pay to visit the place. Just standing on top is enough to appreciate the beauty, we then continued on the trip to go inside the crater, we drove down until we reached the footwall of the crater where animals roam around and Masai people herding their live stock inside the crater within full view of predators, only carrying a spear to protect themselves and their animals.

When drove to the bottom of the crater, our guide Bonfas climbed off the car, opened the top and this gave us one spectacular game viewing the rattling and discomfort of the car turned into the most blissful moment, since we were only two in the car we had enough space to both view from the top unlike “fancy” operators that had to many people inside. We enjoyed spectacular viewing of of the game, since we came in the right season the the grass was green, yet very low you could see animals ankles, the salt lake in the middle of the crater was pink with flamingos, within a short distance you could seem lions, buffaloes and Rhinos, Lions etc.

When it came to lunchtime our friends who wanted to charges us $20 only had biscuits and water for lunch, fortunately we asked for lunch packs from Arusha Backpackers and it was enough to share with them. We thoroughly enjoyed the the crater, game drive, drama and everything that it offered. Having see the Game Reserves in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, I will bet my last dollar that visiting Tanzanian Safari is incomparable experience.


2 Responses to “Tanzania Safari on the cheap”

  1. Celiwe January 16, 2012 at 5:32 pm #

    You know you’re a seasoned traveller when you call Dar es Salaam just ‘Dar’.
    I love it.

  2. mokhathi January 16, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    I love Dar

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