I knew I wanted to go on safari with the kids at some point, but I also knew I did not want to “rough it”. While I wanted a tented camp, I also wanted hot showers, flushed toilets, electricity, and oh, that “Out of Africa” feel would be nice.
Suffice it to say, I knew I was interested in a luxury safari. So, I decided to wait until it was a momentous year for us – which 2014 was. Our daughter graduated from college, our son graduated from high school and hubby and I both turned 50 – great things to justify a “splurge” adventure!! Also, I suspected this might be the last family vacation for awhile with all four of us, due to college and new work schedules.
If you have read my other posts you know when we travel I usually do all the planning by myself, however I did use a travel agent (a good friend) for our Israel/Jordan trip and I decided to contact her again for this one. I knew she had recently been on 2-3 safaris and she knows how we like to travel. With the myriad of options for where to go, safari companies to use, camps to stay at, it seemed a little overwhelming so a phone call to Carol seemed the place to start.
I began by stating we needed to go in June and wanted to do a South African Safari with a few days in Capetown. Her immediate response was “Capetown in June will be like San Francisco in the winter, and if you are looking for the ‘Lion King’ feel than I suggest you consider East Africa – namely Tanzania and/or Kenya.” Spending time in a cold/wet city was not high on our list for June, and of course I wanted that ‘Lion King’ experience!!
So, I started researching East Africa and decided on the Northern Circuit of Tanzania. I did not want the trip to be much more than 2 weeks as we were not sure what my daughter would be doing after graduation and did not want to close off too many job opportunities due to her being gone for a long time (as it was, the job she did get started a week before we arrived home, but they allowed her to start a week late – more time than that and I suspect it may have been tough). I did play with the idea of a few nights on the end in Zanzibar but in the end decided not to extend the trip for that.
Now it was time to pick locations and camps. I decided a mix of lodges and tented camps was the way to go. We went with nice, luxe and ultra luxe when picking our locations. Since our flight would not be arriving in JRO until 7:45pm in the evening, I determined that spending two nights in Arusha on our arrival would be important, particularly since we had just a 1.5 hr layover in Amsterdam. This would give us time to decompress after the long flights as well as give us an extra day if for some reason we missed the connection in AMS. This turned out to be an excellent idea – we did not miss the connection but really enjoyed the extra day to settle in before heading out on safari. I will give more details on each place we stayed in future posts but we ended up with this itinerary:
Two nights in Arusha at Machweo Lodge (this is actually just outside of Arusha)
Three nights Manyara Ranch – a permanent tented camp located in a private reserve (the Manyara Ranch Conservancy) between Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Park
Two nights at Exploreans Lodge by Ngorongoro Crater
Three nights at Singita Sabora a permanent tented camp in the private Grumeti Reserve just bordering Serengeti National Park.
Everything was booked through Naipenda Safaris which specializes in Tanzanian Safaris.
The US contact is Jo Bertone who is located in Texas and she was excellent always responding quickly to our questions. Israel Mwanga is the contact in Tanzania and while we did not have any interaction with him before leaving the US, he made sure we met him in person before heading out on safari, which was much appreciated. He was very professional and we were glad to know he was available 24/7 while we were in Tanzania.
We booked about a year in advance which was good since our dates were pretty set and we were staying at some smaller properties. We also had our friend join us who is the kid’s “big sister” and who traveled with us to Vietnam in Dec. 2011 (read about that trip here). Once these were all booked there was not too much else to research as on a normal trip where I would plan what we would see, do and where we would eat each day. This of course, left me open to obsess over what to pack/wear while on safari!! However, from the online travel forums I do not think I am alone in this. Next up – packing!! Click here to read on!