In February 2009 I visited Tanzania. I was on an East Africa safari trip, organized by Good Earth Tours, to visit Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda. Good Earth Tours is located in Tanzania, with an office in the USA. The organization of my whole trip by Good Earth Tours was impeccable. Everything worked out perfectly, I was very happy that organization. The local organizers in Rwanda and Kenya worked out very well too. I started the Tanzania part of my safari at the border between Kenya and Tanzania near Lake Victoria. My guide from Kenya drove me from Maasai Mara to the border, where the Tanzanian guide picked me up. There was a little delay at the border because the Tanzanian official told me I need to pay for the visa again, it was supposedly expired. That was not true, and it eventually got sorted out.
Just like in Kenya and Rwanda, I was fortunate to be the only person in the tour. I had a guide, who also drove the car, just like Kenya and Rwanda. Being alone on the tour is really great, it allowed me to stop anytime I wanted for pictures, go where I wanted to go, and be on time all the time. I was very happy about that, but I don't think that this can be expected all the time.
Our first destination was the Serengeti, a 5 hour drive, to stay overnight in the Ikoma Tented Camp, just outside the Serengeti National Park border. When I first heard about tents, I was a bit worried. I am too old for camping, my idea of roughing it is a black and white TV . As it turned out, these "tents" are permanent structures, sitting on a concrete floor. The front part is a canvas structure, like a tent. In the back is a solid structure that contains the bathroom and shower. It was very comfortable. I stayed at Serengeti Sopa for two days. The first night I went on a night game drive. It was interesting to see the different wildlife at night. During the day we did two game drives into the Serengeti per day.
One observation in the Serengeti, and in other areas in Tanzania (and kenya as well) were large blue sheets hanging on lower branches of trees. These are used to get rid of tsetse flies. Tsetse flies are attracted by dark blue colors and by movement (they don't use chemical cues to find their prey), so they are attracted by the blue sheets flapping in the wind. The sheets are treated with insecticide, which kills tsetse flies that land on it. I was told that you can see piles of tsetse flies under these traps.
After the second night we moved on to the Serengeti Serena Lodge, which is located inside the park. It is a first class lodge with very nice units. I stayed there one night and again did two game drives per day.
From the Serengeti Serena we drove to Ngorongoro crater. On the way we made a detour to Lake Ndutu to watch the Wildebeest migration. It was awesome to see these huge herds moving through the Serengeti. Another interesting short stop on the way to Ngorongoro was Olduvai Gorge, site of several hominid finds over the decades. I stayed overnight at the Ngorongoro Serena, another first class hotel. They had an acrobat show in the evening.
The next day was filled with a game drive through Ngorongoro crater. The highlight there was watching a wildebeest give birth. In the afternoon we continued on to Lake Manyara National Park. I stayed overnight at the Kiruruku Luxury Camp. Again, the "tents" were very comfortable permanent structures.
The next day was a game drive through Lake Manyara National Park. It is more wooded than the other parks. There were a lot more monkeys in that park than in the others. Plenty of bird life, with quite a few types that I hadn't seen before. It includes many of the larger animals that you see in the other parks, but in a different setting. It was a very nice half day excursion.
From Lake Manyara we drove to Arusha, where I stayed overnight, waiting for my flight to Rwanda the next morning.
The roads that I travelled on where quite good, but I didn't really travel on regular roads much. Most of the driving was in the parks, where there are no paved roads. As in Rwanda and Kenya, there is a lot of pedestrian traffic on the roads. Traffic was light everywhere. Even driving through Arusha in the afternoon was no problem.
Tanzania seems to be one of the few African countries that has gotten over their tribal differences. The first president after independence from the colonial powers, Julius Kambarage Nyerere, put a lot of emphasis on cooperation between tribes. He insisted that the people were Tanzanians first. He made sure that the government didn't give preferential treatment to any particular tribes. In Kenya it seemed the norm that whatever tribe a government official came from, received preferential treatment by that official. In Tanzania this didn't happen. There are even more tribes in Tanzania than in Kenya (over 100), but there are no tensions, everybody seems to feel Tanzanian first. I drove through the village from which the first Tanzanian president came, it was just like any of the others, nothing special was done there while he was president. This seemed to really have set a precedent and fostered very good cooperation among tribes.
Nyerere was a socialist. He wanted to build a more communist society. When he eventually saw that it wouldn't work, he didn't try to force his will on the country, he peacefully resigned, and allowed the country to enter its free market era.
The food in Tanzania was very good. It was mostly buffet style, with good selections and tasty dishes. The beer in Tanzania is a German style lager, which is just my taste. It was generally relatively inexpensive, about $3.00 for 0.6 liters.
I didn't see any major cities, my itinerary concentrated on wildlife, so I don't have any observations about city life.
In general, Tanzania was very clean. I flew out of Arusha to Rwanda. I was surprised how clean the airport was. The toilets in the airport were spic and span, something that is often not the case, even in affluent countries.
Tanzania came to the world's attention when Bernhard Grzimek and his son Michael in 1957 made the film "Serengeti darf nicht sterben" ("Serengeti shall not die"). Grzimek was the President of the Frankfurt Zoological Society in Germany. This film showed the world the problems that African wildlife was facing. It helped to establish the National Parks in Kenya and Tanzania. In the Ngorongoro crater is a monument in honor of the Grzimeks. I remember seeing that film as a child. Every since then I wanted to see the Serengeti. It took half a century, but now I finally did.
I think it was the best wildlife experience I ever had. As a single event, watching the Gorillas in Rwanda may have been more awesome, but the variety and abundance of wildlife over more than a week is unparalleled for me. Again, I strongly recommend the tour organizer Good Earth Tours, they were really great. The guide was superb, and the organization was impeccable. Being alone in the Landcruiser was fantastic. But even the small groups that they usually have are a lot better than being on one of the big buses that I saw in the Serengeti.
All pictures are © Günther Eichhorn
Serengeti National Park
Tanzania - African Wildlife in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater on guenther-eichhorn.com
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