Over 75,000 British wildlife lovers visit Tanzania every year lead by the wish to see the stunning “Big 5” – Cape Buffalo, Elephants, Leopards, Lions, and Rhinos – up close or to witness the annual great migration in which thousands of those beautiful creatures make their way from Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to Kenya’s Masai Mara in search of water and green grass. No wonder, it is so famous. Tanzania is one of the best spots to do a safari and ranked high on the world travel bucket list with its 16 national parks, three-game reserves and two marine reserves.
Around one-third of the Tanzania’s total land area is protected. The management is overseen by the Tanzania National Parks Authority. Many of Tanzania’s most visited national parks and reserves are located along the northern safari circuit. There are also smaller and less frequented parks in western, central and southern regions like the Arusha National Park. Those are especially inviting for bike or walking safaris – a more relaxing and suatsinable way to do a safari away from the crowded safari vehicles. Every park and reserve are remarkably beautiful and unique.
Apart from the Big 5 you can also see many, many birds. Birdwatching might not bee the first thing you think of when you hear safari but there are around 1,100 different bird species that can be found in Tanzania.
Fortunately, most visits and safaris are trouble-free but just to make sure you are prepared for your once-in-a-lifetime Tanzania adventure (safaris are usually expensive and something you do not do every weekend), here is your guide for a sustainable safari. So you do not miss out on anything and know how to behave in order for everyone to have a relaxed journey – you, the other tourist and the animals.
1. You are not visiting a zoo
Do not expect to see everything on the first day. Safaris are not just day excursion for a reason. You might not spot all of the Big 5 on your first day out or not even one of them. Your guides and drivers will do the best to track down wildlife for you but that is what the animals are after all wild. The National parks are ginormous and the animals unpredictable. Moreover, do not just chase for the big animals. You do not have to stop at every single impala but take and enjoy what the Tanzanian bush has to offer.
2. Stay in the vehicle
Never, never and literally never get out of the vehicle if not told so by your guide or driver. No matter how tempting it might be to have a closer look or take a photo. As mentioned before, the animals you are viewing are wild. Do not be fooled by their peaceful and relaxing when they do grass or drink a few meters away from you. As soon as they feel threatened or expect danger, they will react in an unpredictable way. This does not necessarily have to be aggressive but an elephant or a hippo can cause damage – they are a lot heavier, bigger and stronger than you or the vehicle. Always listen to your guide.
3. Do not just watch the animals through a lens – sit back and relax
Too many people nowadays have thousands of wildlife pictures when they get home but cannot reconstruct the feeling of their adventure. They just shoot through a lens instead of enjoying the moment. If you have a chance and encounter a migration, ask your guide to just park the vehicle close to it. Turn of the engine and your camera and enjoy.
4. Ditch the cell phone
On the same note, switch off your cell phone or mute it at least if you are using the camera feature. A ringing cell phone can destroy the whole experience, not only for you but for the whole group. Leave it in your camp or lodge if you do not need it.
5. Mute your voice and the camera
Again, for the collective and social wildlife experience, mute your camera and resists the urge to view and edit every picture you have just taken right away. You will have enough time to do later in the camp, just as Facebook and Twitter will wait for you. On top of that try to keep quiet. You can be enthusiastic when you see an animal but restrain yourself from screaming “giraffe” and jumping up and down. Animals are distracted by noises and sudden movements and will move away when they sense something. In that regard think twice if you want to bring your youngsters along if they can’t sit still for a few hours.
6. Get to know the culture
A safari should not just be about animal seeing, you are not in the cinema. Try to understand the real issues of Tanzania, see how people live and how they act and why they do so. Learn a few native words and practice them on your guide or the lodge staff. Hearing a welcome and thank you in their own language will make them smile.
7. Visit your GP and stay healthy
Visit your GP at least 6 to 8 weeks before your departure to ensure that you are up to date with all the necessary vaccinations. Do not forget to take malaria prophylactics while on safari in Tanzania or at least take an emergency set with you. The cities have good health facilities, but the rural areas can only provide the most basic healthcare. Thus, a comprehensive travel insure is essential.
Our tip: Make a note of the local emergency telephone numbers for each country you plan to visit.
8. Do not drink tab water
Staying hydrated throughout your safari is key. Only drink water when it is boiled or bottled.
9. What to pack: Wear long sleeves and sun protection
The sun in Tanzania is merciless and the steppe only provides little shadow. Wear long sleeves, trousers and insect repellent at all times to prevent insect bites. There are numerous insect-borne diseases here, including dengue and sleeping sickness, carried by tse-tse flies. Those long sleeves can also come in extremely handy at night. Because Africa is not always hot. Indeed, at night the temperatures drop drastically. It can become freezing cold, especially while travelling in the winter months from May until September. But be aware: Even in cooler temperatures it is still easy to burn fast as you are close to the equator – cover up, wear high facto sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses.
In general, only pack the most necessary. There’s no real need to go out and buy safari jackets with a zillion pockets or pants that zip off into shorts. They can be useful, but you usually have a washing machine at the camp site. And not all your clothing has to be khaki or brown as you probably know it from all the movies. Even though it has a true ring to it, a bright pink will scare the animals away. Just go for something decent but nothing dark blue. That is known to attract Tsetse flies.
10. Be your charming self
Meaning: Don’t be rude. Traditional Africans can be much more formal, polite and courteous. Always ask before taking a photo of some Maasai and cover your shoulders and knees, also when you are not on safari. Islam is one of the two major religions in Tanzania. Hence, respect their beliefs and dress code. But it is not only the Muslim community, also rural Africans can feel offended. Tanzanians are more conservative in the way they dress and in their way of living regardless of origin and believes.
Attention: homosexuality is stigmatised and even illegal in Tanzania and can be punished with an imprisonment for life. Sam sex couples are advised to be aware of the local laws and customs to avoid any security procedures or bad experiences.
11. Do not leave any litter
That is very much self-explainable. Leave everything as you found it.
12. Don’t forget to tip
Last but not least do not forget to tip your guide and driver if you liked the safari. The tip is a big part of their income. If you stick to those rules and listen to your safari guides and drivers, you should have an amazing, adventurous, educational and enriching experience that everyone can enjoy.
If you have time also check out Tanzania’s rich anthropological history. In the Olduvai Gorge fossilized human remains have been uncovered that can be dated back about two million years. That makes scientists believe that Tanzania is one of the oldest continuously inhabited countries on earth.