Author: Dawn

What is a Typical Day Like on Safari?

A question I get quite often is what is a typical day like on safari while in Tanzania?  Some different variations of the question are “how many game drives are there” or “how long do we spend on game drive each day”?  But the answer depends entirely on you! Such is the inherent benefit of enjoying a “Private” Safari!

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When is the Best Time of Year to Go on Safari in Tanzania?

Let’s face it.  An African safari is a big trip for most people.  It’s an endeavor which requires a significant investment of time, energy and money.  This really is a “once in a lifetime” type of experience for many folks who may never get the opportunity to go back to Africa again, so naturally everyone wants to get it right the first time. “What time of year is the BEST time of year to go on safari?” seems like a critical question, especially because so many places in Africa (and other parts of the world) can be so seasonal. You just don’t want to miss out on anything important simply because you lacked the necessary information to plan it right.

Zebra Migration – South Serengeti – Green Season
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Dawn’s FAQ of the Week: Liquids in my carry-on bag?

“I want to pack everything in my ‘carry-on’ luggage. But what about liquids?”

It’s certainly a challenge packing for a once in lifetime trip within the strict luggage guidelines imposed by most air carriers in Africa, which is typically 33 pounds per person including carry-on luggage. The two guiding themes here are “pack light” and “don’t forget anything important!”

A common packing strategy for ADS guests is to try and fit all their luggage into a carry on bag for the international flight to Africa.  This is not an easy task, but should you choose to travel this way you will be rewarded with no lost luggage, less hassle at airports and overall a lighter load to manage!

First of all, be sure you review your specific airline carrier’s requirements for carry on luggage.  Most airlines publish size and weight requirements on their website.  For example, here are KLM’s requirements:  KLM Carry-On Luggage Requirements

The worst thing that can happen is you carefully pack all your important items into your carry on luggage, only the have the airline make you ‘check it’ anyway because you exceeded their allowable weight or size requirements!  So if in doubt, go ahead and plan to check a bag.  Just be sure to put all of your really important items and at least 1 change of clothing into your carry-on bag, just in case your checked bag gets delayed by a day or two.

All that being said, if you decide to try and get everything in your carry-on bag after all, here are some tips regarding liquids, which is the most common dilemma I’m asked about regarding a carry-on:

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LIQUIDS FOR CARRY ON LUGGAGE:

• TIP#1:  Review current TSA rules for liquids 3-1-1 rule. TSA published 3-1-1 rules

• TIP#2:  Use hotel amenities. Most hotels and camps include complimentary toiletries such as shampoo and shower gel. Some hotels even include body lotion and hair conditioner, but if these items are really important to you I would consider bringing at least a small supply of your own.

• TIP#3:  Go Solid with Sunscreen. Like this one by Hawaiian Tropic.

• TIP#4:  Insect repellent pre-packaged wipes, like these OFF! Deep Woods Towlettes

• TIP#5:  Facial cleansing wipes instead of liquid facial cleanser, like these Olay Wet Cleansing Towelettes 

• TIP#6: Pack multiple small bottles.

•TIP#7:  Contact lens solution is considered a “medically necessary” liquid and is allowed in your carry-on luggage even if the amount is greater than 3 ounces.  You simply need to declare it to the TSA agent when you are going through security.

•TIP#9: For more helpful advice about specific products that work well as alternatives to liquids for carry-on luggage, you can read these helpful tips at the following link on Bootsnall website.

Happy Packing!

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Dawn’s FAQ of the Week: What are the distances between places, and how much transit driving can we expect?

“Transit driving” is a big turn-off for most people, and here at ADS we certainly don’t like it! Nobody likes to waste their precious moments in Africa driving from point A to point B without anything interesting in between. The whole idea behind our “fly in, drive out” program is to minimize transit.

Luckily, once you get to the Serengeti, most of the lodges are going to be logistically situated within an easy 1-2 hour drive from each other (if you were to drive straight without stopping that is). So there is some driving, but the vast majority of these drives are through the heart of the National Park so they are a “game drive”, not just a “transit drive”. (As a result, the drives themselves do take longer than they would have to, but that’s only because you are stopping to enjoy all the animal viewing opportunities along the way!) You have a private guide and vehicle to take you out on these game drives, between properties and anywhere else you might like to go.

There are two exceptions with longer drives, that occur on separate days on a traditional itinerary, 1) the day you are transiting between the Serengeti National Park to the Ngorongoro Crater (approx 2 to 2.5 hours, gate to gate), and 2) the day you are transiting from The Ngorongoro Crater to either Arusha or Tarangire National Park (3.5 hour drive, gate to gate). Most clients find these drives still quite doable, and also find the sights in between very interesting (villages, farmlands, etc.) But if you prefer we can also build in additional flights to accommodate these longer distances.

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Dawn’s FAQ of the Week: What is the difference between a “Deluxe” program and a “Luxury” program?

“What is the difference between a “DELUXE” program and a “LUXURY” program?”

When looking out our website, one is likely to eventually come across the CHOOSE YOUR SAFARI section of our website.  Super!  This is a great place to start.

But as one starts perusing the options featured there, a common source for head-scratching is the various categories of programs available to choose from, specifically “DELUXE” vs “LUXURY”.

First of all, the difference between a “DELUXE” program and a “LUXURY” program is simply the accommodations; there is no difference in the quality of your vehicle or the caliber of your guide. A luxury program simply features higher-end properties compared to a deluxe program, or sometimes just a higher room category at the same lodge.

As a general rule of thumb, LUXURY venues are typically the smaller and more intimate tented lodges (10-20 rooms), with a heavier focus on atmosphere, individualized service and gourmet food.  (One exception to this is the Four Seasons Bilila Lodge, which is a large  hotel (73 rooms) but still offers a very high standard of LUXURY, so we classify it as such.  But *usually* that former ‘rule of thumb’ holds true.)

Ironically, sometimes the LUXURY venues offer less traditional amenities compared to a larger DELUXE venues.  The various ‘tented lodges’ (ie, Swala Tented Lodge, Lake Masek Tented Lodge) are a great example of this; you may not have a TV in your room, but you may hear lion’s roaring in the distance!

With regards to the sample itineraries on our website, there is sometimes overlap between the various categories of lodging.  Let’s use the October 10-day program for example, you can see Buffalo Luxury Camp is featured in both the LUXURY sample program as well as the DELUXE sample program.  This overlap happens sometimes when looking at regions with limited choices for accommodations (such as the ‘North’ Serengeti), or when a particular property offers a very high-end type of experience at a very good value.  Another example is Mbalageti Tented Lodge, which offers different categories of rooms such as their flagship “presidential suite” that is featured in our higher end programs.

Similarly, our ULTRA-LUXURY programs simply feature the highest-end properties available in any given area (such as the Crater Lodge), but may otherwise feature many of the same lodges already featured in the LUXURY program.

Sometimes the sample programs on our website offer slightly different itineraries too (ie, some may feature Tarangire National Park while others skip Tarangire and focus more time in the Serengeti), but again these are just samples to show you what is possible; we can always customize any program to spend more time in areas that hold the most interest for you.

You don’t have to stick with the sample programs on our website, but often this is a great place to start. As mentioned above, we can always customize the program to feature your priorities regarding lodges, duration, budget and parks/areas visited. Just give us a call and we’ll be happy to help you get started!

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Dawn’s FAQ of the Week: What are the guides like at Africa Dream Safaris?

“What are the guides like at Africa Dream Safaris?”

At the end of the day, the single most important factor in our clients having a successful safari is the quality of their GUIDE. And boy do we know it. Our guides are all local Tanzanians, well educated and they all speak fluent English. We hire only the very best, and once we hire someone great we continue to invest in them and their training. It is important to us that our guides are the most educated and passionate in the industry. Our guides are well educated and happy to be working for ADS! Here at ADS, our guides are the heart and soul of our company. They are our employees sure, but they are also our family.

You will have the same guide-driver for the entire trip.  Your guide will be responsible for helping you plan your days by giving you suggestions, although ultimately the decisions are up to you. Probably the most important aspect of his job is that he is responsible for finding the animals – after all, that’s why you’ve come! Thus he must understand intimately the animals’ habitats and behaviors. It is important for your guide to have experience so he is not afraid to go off the beaten path for fear of getting lost, otherwise you may never make it far from the main road! It is important that he is well educated and a good communicator because he will be responsible for communicating information about the animals, trees, insects, ecosystem etc to his guests. It is important that he is a professional, and has a pleasant personality because you will be with him for the entire trip! It is important that he is passionate about his job, because we all know enthusiasm is contagious and can greatly enhance one’s enjoyment of the trip. This is the guide profile here at ADS.

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Another related question:  “Why is it better to have a dedicated ‘private guide’ instead of utilizing different guides that are employed at the various lodges?”

Some companies will shuffle you between different camps without a dedicated driver guide, and that means you will have a new guide at each location and you will need to go out on shared game drives with other guests. That means you lose the ability to control your own schedule and the amount of time focused on your interests. By the time you’re done shuffling between the various driver guides, you may have heard the same lesson on dung beetles 20 times, which is always repeated 1) because the driver guide is new to you and he doesn’t know what you’ve heard, and 2) for the benefit of other new guests in the vehicle with you. And you never do make it far from the driveway to find the leopard or cheetah cubs or other interesting animals that may be a little bit more difficult to find.

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Dawn’s FAQ of the Week: We would like to join a group of other people for the cost savings. Can you set this up for us?

We would like to join a group of other people for the cost savings. Can you set this up for us?

Africa Dream Safaris offers only “private” safaris.  It is a niche in the industry we have chosen to fulfill, because we believe in the result!

*Most* safari companies out there do the pre-packaged “group tours” which is a completely different type of product and is organized in a completely different way. To facilitate a “group tour”, typically a pre-planned itinerary is set up on specific calendar dates and a block of rooms are booked at specific lodges on those dates, and then various people can “sign up” to join others for that tour until the designated number of spaces are filled.

While out on safari with a “group tour”, strangers are shuffled together and must go along with the group’s decisions despite whatever individual interests they may have. Unfortunately this almost always leads to compromise and disappointment on what is already a highly emotionally charged trip for most people. In contrast, when designing a private safari, we customize the trip based on your schedule and preferences, with our expert guidance of course to make sure you don’t miss anything, and while you are out on safari you have the freedom to explore your specific interests at your pace without adhering to the whims of others. Here at Africa Dream Safaris, we don’t think anyone should have to compromise on a big trip like this one, and that’s the reason we do only private safaris! For more advantages to a private safari, check out the following link: http://africadreamsafaris.com/home_private.html

Consequently, because we focus exclusively on the “private safari” experience, our infrastructure does not lend itself well to matching couples or singles up with each other. Of course if we happen to know about another couple or family who is looking to travel with others at the same time of year as another couple or family who is looking to join others, we are happy to put them in contact with each other. But this hardly ever happens, since the majority of people who contact our company are already looking for a private safari, and the small number of folks who may be open to traveling with others will most likely have different preferences and scheduling requirements.

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Dawn’s FAQ of the Week: Do you have any Luggage recommendations of what or where to buy?

 

Do you have any Luggage recommendations of what or where to buy?

When choosing luggage for your safari, let the terms “lightweight” and “easy to carry” become your mantra.  Many people will bring a lightweight rolling duffle bag, since it has reasonable capacity and is easy to handle, but the bag itself doesn’t weigh much.  Remember – each person is allowed only 33lbs of checked luggage on the small plane flight to the Serengeti!  But any lightweight bag will do.  Soft-sided luggage is typically preferred because it is easier to pack in the plane and vehicle, as well as typically weighing less than hard-sided luggage.  ‘Wheels’ certainly aren’t required, but having wheels may make it easier to transport your bag through the airports, etc. en route to Tanzania.

Some luggage manufacturers to consider: Skyway; Tutto; Travelpro; Samsonite; Atlantic, Briggs & Riley; Eagle Creek; Swiss Army; Jourdan; JanSport; American Tourister; High Sierra; Traveler’s Choice; Tumi; Atlantic; Andiamo.

Some Internet sources for luggage:

www.ebags.com;  www.magellans.com;  www.travelsmith.com;  www.irvsluggage.com; www.luggageonline.com;  www.worldtraveler.com;   www.luggage-and-leather.com.

A simple approach is to go to Google.com (or your favorite search engine) and type in the search window what you are looking for, i.e. “lightweight luggage” for selection from many sources.

To help aid you at the airport to identify your checked luggage, remember that colorful tags, baggage straps or even ribbons tied to the handles of your luggage are a great way to quickly identify your bag(s)!

You might also consider bringing along an extra bag, tote or foldable duffle (like this one) to carry souvenirs home with you.  You can leave this extra bag, or any extra luggage for that matter (such as winter clothing you might have worn while in transit to Tanzania, etc.), with our staff in Arusha for safekeeping till you return from your safari.

 

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Dawn’s FAQ of the Week: I am bringing some cash to cover gratuities and souvenirs; do you have any advice about how to do this safely?

“I am bringing some cash to cover gratuities and souvenirs; do you have any advice about how to do this safely?”

Many guests express concern about travelling with cash, which is understandable. On a trip like this it is somewhat necessary, but luckily it is easy to keep your cash safe by following a few tips and by practicing common sense.

First of all, keep your money with you at all times. I recommend carrying your cash in a neck wallet or money belt, similar to those found at the following link:

http://shop.eaglecreek.com/money-belts-and-neck-wallets/l/312

Luckily most animals aren’t big on pick-pocketing, and since most of your time is going to be spent in wilderness areas without many people around, there is little occasion for concern there. But if you find yourself in a village, market, airport or other public place, simply practice common sense and don’t flaunt your cash or valuables.

While staying at the lodges or camps, don’t leave your cash or valuables laying out in plain sight in the middle of your room while you are out on safari. Most local Tanzanians who are employed at the various lodges and camps each value their  job in the tourist industry way too much to risk losing it for petty theft, but at the same time many of these good folks are far from wealthy and are often using the money they make at their jobs to support the needs of family members back home. It courteous to remember this and simply wise to not put the temptation out there for them. Many lodges or camps have security safes, but better yet just keep your money and valuables with you at all times.

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A few other frequently asked questions include:

“Why aren’t tips included in the price of the safari?”

Tipping may seem like an old fashioned tradition to some, but like other service oriented businesses (restaurants, etc.) it remains a cornerstone of the safari industry. Paying out tips ahead of time, even though it may be more convenient for guests who don’t want to travel with cash, really robs tipping of its original purpose.

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“Can we use a credit card to make purchases while we are in Tanzania on safari?  Are wine, beverages and laundry service included in the cost of my safari, and if not how much should I expect to pay?”

We encourage people to try and avoid using credit cards for small purchases, even at the lodges. It’s not a matter of the shop or lodge’s reputation, it’s a matter of computer security in general in Africa. (Just an aside, many of the lodges and camps ‘in the bush’ are unable to take credit cards anyway).   For more information on credit card use, as well as the cost of beverages and laundry service, please see the following link to my recent post on this very subject right here!

https://blog.africadreamsafaris.com/?p=9921

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Dawn’s FAQ of the Week: Can we use a credit card to make purchases while we are in Tanzania on safari?

 

“Can we use a credit card to make purchases while we are in Tanzania on safari?”

Many people are used to using credit cards in their day to day lives for the sake of convenience, so it’s understandable that many people want to continue using their credit cards while in Africa.

Credit cards can be a useful tool, and personally I do always travel with one for emergencies and other special circumstances.  However, we encourage guests to try and avoid using credit cards for small purchases while on safari, even at the lodges and recommended shops. It’s not a matter of the shop or lodge’s reputation, it’s a matter of computer security in general in Africa.  (Just an aside, many of the lodges and camps ‘in the bush’ are unable to take credit cards anyway).

The reason why we are giving this advice is because incidents have happened in the past where guests’ credit card numbers were being used for other purchases in Africa after they got home. That being said, the incidents have been few and far between, just a handful of guests had a problem out of literally hundreds that had no problem. But it’s good to be aware, at the very least. If you end up using your credit card, just keep an eye on your statement when you get home.

If you purchase a more expensive souvenir such as tanzanite, or a life-size giraffe wood carving from the Cultural Heritage shop for several thousand dollars, well, in this case you might need to use your credit card.  The message here is to try to use discretion.   It’s a good idea to travel with enough cash to cover gratuities, small souvenirs, drinks and laundry service as applicable (regular US currency is fine).  Some lodges and camps do provide complimentary beverages and laundry service in their rates, while others charge a nominal fee for these items.   You can find a list of such inclusions and exclusions here:

http://www.africadreamsafaris.com/pdf/ADS_LaundryBeverageList.pdf

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Another couple of “frequently asked questions” include:

“Why isn’t wine and other  beverages included in the price for all lodges?  How much should I expect to pay?”

All the lodges and camps are individually owned and operated, and we have little control over whether or not beverages are included in their rates.  Nobody likes hidden costs so we try hard to make it very clear upfront exactly what is included and excluded in each safari itinerary (see last page of your written safari itinerary, or simply check the list at the link mentioned above).  Wine can typically be purchased from the various lodge restaurants or bar by the glass or by the bottle.  Wine prices span a considerable range; premium wines are usually available as well as less expensive varieties and house wine.  I recall purchasing wine myself for around $7-$12 USD per glass (can’t remember exactly what kind).  It seems most of the South African wines offered run between $30 – $60 USD per bottle.  Other types of alcoholic beverages are available for purchase, including premium liqueurs, and you can basically expect to pay approximately the same as what you’d pay for the same type/brand at a typical bar or restaurant here in the US.  Bottled water and soft drinks ordered from the bar are typically just a few dollars each.

 

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“How much can I expect to pay for laundry service?”

Laundry service is available at almost all the lodges and camps.  If laundry service isn’t already included in the lodge rates (per the sane list at the link mentioned above), you can expect the costs to run typically around $2-$3 per item.  An example of one “item” would be one jacket, or one pair of pants, or one pair of socks, etc.  I recommend giving your laundry to the lodge as early as possible during your stay.  Since most of the laundry here is done by hand and air dried in the sun, you want to give them a fair shot at getting your items cleaned and dried prior to your departure from that lodge.

 

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Dawn’s FAQ of the Week: Are there any opportunities to purchase souvenirs? How much do they cost?

There are many wonderful places to buy souvenirs. You’ll have some opportunities along the way during your safari, such as local crafts and jewelry from the Maasai Village or the various lodge gift shops that often contain some nice hand selected local items. You’ll see some road side shops along the main road as you are driving from The Ngorongoro Crater to Arusha, near the town of Karatu; just ask your guide to help you find a reputable shop. But by far the most popular places to buy local crafts (woodcarvings, masks, artifacts, jewelry, etc.) is at the Kilima Tembo Shop in Karatu or the Cultural Heritage Center in Arusha.

Cultural Heritage is the largest of the two shops, and since it’s located in Arusha it makes a great “final” stop over place to pick up those last minute souvenirs before you depart for home, so that’s the one shop I’ll address in a bit more detail here.  The prices at Cultural Heritage are generally reasonable; probably not as cheap as the items you could find if you spent the day stopping at roadside shops, but the selection is out of this world. It makes a great ‘one stop shop’ place to purchase authentic souvenirs and has a HUGE selection! Sometimes they have local artists doing demonstrations too. You’ll have the opportunity to stop by Cultural Heritage Center on your last day but since you’ll have a few different activities competing for your attention that day, if you want to be sure and get some shopping in on your last day, please let your guide know early in the day that stopping here to get some shopping in is a priority for you!

The costs of souvenirs span a considerable range, you can buy a nice Maasai bracelet for $8-$10, or you may spend $20 or more for a more elaborate one. You can buy small and simple woodcarvings for a few dollars each, or you can spend hundreds of dollars on more elaborate woodcarvings made of ebony wood (a very hard and beautiful indigenous type of wood that is difficult to splinter or break). Usually the more detail, time and skill involved, the higher the price tag. Then of course there is Tanzanite, a very beautiful gemstone that can only be found in Tanzania; the cost is a function of size, color and clarity, and prices can range from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate as it’s often expected, and don’t be afraid to shop around a bit before making a final decision.  You may notice a wide variance in pricing from one shop compared to another for what seems like very similar items, so keep that in mind and try to take it in stride if you happen to see an item advertised for a bit less money than what you paid for it at a previous shop; it’s an inherent risk you run every time you buy something locally made like a woodcarving, basket or beaded Maasai jewelry.  Here at ADS we have no control over the advertised prices at the various shops, but we do strive to take you to reputable places with good selections.  If shopping is your goal, hopefully you will end up with a special souvenir to help you remember a very special trip!

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Dawn’s FAQ of the Week: If it is a full moon in my home country, is it also a full moon in Tanzania?

 

Yes. The phases of the Moon are the same all around the world. Any two places that can see the Moon at the same time will see the same phase. Each Moon phase happens at a precise point in the Moon’s orbit around the Earth, and hence at a precise moment in time. This is the same moment all over the world, but will be a different local time for every time zone in the world.

You can find out what phase the moon will be over your safari dates through a number of different websites. Here’s just one of the many out there, which you can see by clicking on the following link!:

http://www.moonconnection.com/moon_phases_calendar.phtml

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