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Unique Features of Tanzania Safari

As I travel more in Africa and experience safaris in different countries, I start to pick up on the unique features of each country. In South Africa and Botswana, you are typically flying into an airstrip near your lodge and doing game drives in open air safari vehicles with guides that are based out of the game lodge.  In Botswana, you normally fly in a Cessna Caravan between lodges, hopping between different concessions.   In South Africa, you might fly from Joburg or Cape Town to one of the two airports in the greater Kruger area, then take a short van ride to your game lodge.  From there, you do game drives in the safari vehicles owned by your game lodge.

Albatros Safari Vehicles - Tarangire National Park
Albatros Safari Vehicles - Tarangire National Park (Kassandra Magruder)

Tanzania is a bit different.  It is possible to do a fly-in safari in Tanzania, but due to the number of parks in a small geographic area, most people have a private driver guide in a pop-top safari vehicle.  The reason that open air vehicles aren’t used as much is that you are often driving on highways between parks and you really don’t want to be doing that in an open air vehicle for a week.  When you are in the parks on game drives, your guide will pop up the roof, so you can stand up and take photos. 
There are both pros and cons of this approach.  For folks on their first safari, I suspect that this type of vehicle makes them feel safer and provides a level of comfort knowing that they have glass between themselves and the lions paying absolutely no attention to them.  I found it limiting from a photography standpoint.  In order to get photos, I had to stand up, which put another 3 feet of elevation between myself and my subject.  Add that to the 3 feet above the ground already accounted for by the Land Rover and the perspective on the photos is already 6 feet above the subject.  Not my ideal. 

The pro of having a pop-top vehicle: being able to run the air conditioning when it’s 100 degrees on the way to Lake Natron or run the heat when it’s 50 degrees on a brisk July morning.  Or close up the vehicle when it’s raining in April!  It’s great for managing weather. 

Tanzania Safari Vehicle
Tanzania Safari Vehicle (Kassandra Magruder)

You do spend a lot of time driving on safari in Tanzania, if you choose a driving safari.  With this approach, you get to see a lot of the landscape and villages.  You just see more of real life in Tanzania, even if you are just zooming by.  It takes anywhere from 1-3 hours to drive between parks, depending in the logistics of your itinerary.   If you don’t like the idea of loads of time spent in the Landy, please let your trip designer know, so that they can arrange for a fly-in safari instead.    

Another unique feature of Tanzania safari is that there aren’t as many private reserves like there are in South Africa and Botswana.  In the northern circuit, you have Grumeti, Loliondo and Mwiba.  Most of the lodges found in these reserves are very luxury oriented and cost a pretty penny.  Most people’s itineraries include the national parks, so you aren’t able to drive off road, do night drives or walking safaris.  It is possible to do walks in Tarangire National Park, but you can’t drive off road.  Because of these factors, I suggest that people bring a good telephoto lens with them on a Tanzania safari.  While I was able to get very close to wildlife on the private reserves in southern Africa, I was often too far away to get great photos of wildlife in Tanzania.  Again, bring a good telephoto lens, at least 300mm. 
Cheetah on kill - Tarangire National Park
Cheetah on kill - Tarangire National Park (Kassandra Magruder)


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