What’s on the top of your travel bucket list? An African safari belongs on every list of the top adventures to take in a lifetime. It’s really something that you need to do at least once in your life, especially if you love animals and nature. Imagine this: you’re staying in a luxurious accommodation in the middle of the wilderness. Every day is a safari. You venture out on game drives daily to spot creatures that you’ve only seen on episodes of Planet Earth. Once you’ve spotted lions, leopards, and elephants, you’ll head back to your accommodation for a delicious, chef-prepared meal under the stars. That’s exactly what we experienced on our luxury safari in Tanzania with Yellow Zebra Safaris.
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If you recall, I won a travel blogging contest for this African safari in Tanzania, hosted by Yellow Zebra Safaris. The trip itinerary included one night in Arusha (to relax and overcome our jet lag), three nights at Tarangire National Park, and three nights at Serengeti National Park. I’m going to go into detail about every aspect of our adventures to show you exactly why this is the best safari in Tanzania.
Planning our trip with Yellow Zebra Safaris
Even though our trip was planned through the contest offered by Yellow Zebra Safaris, we experienced what it was like to be their clients. From the start, a representative from YZS emailed us with our travel itinerary in a PDF. If you were a client of YZS and you didn’t know which Tanzania safari to book, one of their knowledgeable agents would help you determine your itinerary, based on your interests.
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We booked our flights from Toronto through the travel agents at Yellow Zebra Safaris. They provided us with a few different options, and we decided to fly from Toronto to Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania, via Addis Ababa Airport in Ethiopia. Closer to our trip, an agent at YZS sent us detailed information about our trip, what to bring on safari in Tanzania, how to tip the lodge and guides, and how to obtain a Tanzania visa. Also, be sure to get the necessary shots and malaria pills before your trip. I recommend that you visit a travel clinic or travel doctor for the correct information regarding the shots you need for Tanzania.
Then, we received a unique and detailed itinerary, along with printed travel documents from Yellow Zebra Safaris. This was mailed to our home address. We really appreciated having a specialized pamphlet about our safari experience that was tailor made for us. Having this information printed into a small booklet was so valuable. It definitely kept us organized with all of the details for our journey.
Best time for safari in Tanzania: Our safari in October
There are pros and cons to going on a safari in Tanzania during various points of the year. We went on our African safari in October. This is a fabulous time of the year for luxury safaris. In October, we found that the weather was less hot throughout the Tanzania national parks. I brought a pair of shorts and never wore them. Wearing layers is key. I wore a sweater and pants in the mornings and evenings, and I rolled up my pants and wore a tank top in the afternoon. However, the first signs of rainy season do begin in October. We had lots of sunny days, but we also experienced some rain.
At the same time, there are less visitors in October. The elephant herds are at their largest in Tarangire National Park. As the rain falls pick up, the wildebeest herds begin to migrate in greater numbers to the south, meaning that there are more opportunities to view river crossings of the Great Migration. I believe that October is the perfect time of year to travel to Tanzania. If you’re expecting a really hot, African sun, you might be a little disappointed. I personally don’t like to be too, too hot, so I found the weather to be more manageable and preferable.
Other times of the year for safari
The dry season months of July, August, and September are also spectacular for wildlife viewing and experiencing the Great Migration. In November, there are more light rainfalls in Tanzania and the prices begin to drop, although you can still see lots of animals. December gets to be a trickier month for big game viewing, but you can still witness the Great Migration in northern Serengeti.
In January, February, and March, both Tanzania and Kenya don’t experience the heavy rains like many other countries in Africa. Going to the Serengeti is a great decision throughout those months, especially in February because it is the birthing month for wildebeest calves. You can also see many cheetahs during these months in the Serengeti. April and June are also great times to visit Tanzania, and May is when the country receives its heaviest rainfall. Basically, most times of the year are fabulous for a luxury safari in Tanzania. I’d probably avoid December and May, and consider September and October to be the best months.
What to bring on safari in Tanzania
Not sure what to bring on safari in Tanzania? It might be daunting to know what to pack for an African safari. You’ll have weight restrictions, luggage limitations, and multiple layers of clothes to consider. Yellow Zebra Safaris sent us some great recommendations in advance for our packing list. We’ve put together the ultimate African safari packing list with everything you need to know.
Visa requirements for Tanzania
It might be possible for some to obtain a visa upon arrival in Tanzania, but I recommend applying for one online in advance. You might have to wait in a longer line if you don’t buy an eVisa ahead of time. You can easily apply for a visa at the official Tanzania visa website. Some citizens of countries do not require a visa for Tanzania. As Canadians, we paid $50 USD for a Tanzania visa through the website. After a few days, we received our visa approval through email. US citizens have a similar process, although they must pay $100 USD for a visa. You can read more information about Tanzania visas here.
Travel insurance for Tanzania
I always recommend purchasing travel insurance when you’re visiting another country because you never know what could happen. You could have a medical emergency or perhaps you’ll need to return home sooner than expected. Yellow Zebra Safaris asks that you purchase travel insurance ahead of time and forward the documents to them. I suggest comparing travel insurance prices online to get the best rate.
How much is a luxury safari in Tanzania?
The prices for luxury safaris varies depending on the length of the trip, the destinations, and the lodges. You can browse the Yellow Zebra Safaris website to see the overall cost of a trip or speak to any agent to find a trip within your budget.
Tipping on an African safari
We recommend that you tip the lodges and the guides throughout your trip. Thankfully, Yellow Zebra Safaris puts together a recommended tipping guide for your trip. We decided to tip our guide, our house keeper, our server at meals, and the lodge tipping box individually. However, YZS suggests tipping your driver and contributing to the overall tip box for all other services. It really depends on the level of personalized service and your individual experiences on your luxury safari in Tanzania.
Flying to Tanzania for our Safari
Our journey began in Toronto at the Toronto Pearson Airport (YYZ). From there, we had a layover at Addis Ababa in Ethiopia before continuing to Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania. On the way home, we flew back through Addis Ababa for a layover. Then, on our way to Toronto, we needed to make a stop in Dublin to refuel and switch airplane staff (we didn’t deplane, but simply sat on the runway until we were ready to go). It was a long journey from Toronto to Tanzania, but it was well worth it!
How to Travel Between the National Parks
From Arusha to Tarangire National Park to Serengeti National Park, we had to take small, commuter airplanes from private airfields. We flew with Coastal Aviation between these destinations. The planes are small, 10-seat aircrafts with two pilots. Depending on the passengers each day, you might make multiple stops on your journey towards your final destination.
For instance, we were the only two passengers on the plane between Arusha and Tarangire National Park, so it was a direct flight. On our trip between Tarangire National Park and the northern Serengeti, we had a full plane and made multiple stops on the way. Passengers got off the plane and others boarded at these airfields. Expect that your plane will make multiple takeoffs and landings on the way, and it’s all part of the adventure. It’s also possible to see wildlife from the plane: we saw elephants roaming the grasslands at Tarangire National Park from the plane window!
You can also travel by car between Arusha, Tarangire National Park, and Serengeti National Park, but the distances are long. It will take you all day to travel from one to the next by car. I don’t recommend doing this unless you have a lot of time on your hands or you’re looking to take a road trip. Yellow Zebra Safaris arranged all of our internal flights as part of our luxury safari in Tanzania.
Day 1: Arusha from Kilimanjaro Airport
After a long day of flying, Justin and I reached the Kilimanjaro Airport to begin our luxury safari in Tanzania. We wouldn’t be visiting Kilimanjaro National Park or climbing the mountain this time around. It was all about relaxing, napping, and getting a proper night’s sleep before the start of our safari adventures. A representative from Lemala greeted us at the airport and transported us to one of the Lemala Villas in Arusha.
Staying at Lemala Villas in Arusha
Before embarking on a Tanzania safari, it’s a good idea to rest and relax, especially if you’re visiting from far away. Our Lemala Villa was the perfect place to unwind and feel right at home. These beautiful homes in Arusha are right on the golf course, although we were in no state to participate in any activities. Perhaps if you decide to stay for a couple of nights here, you could enjoy the golf course or relax by the pool for an extra day.
There are three bedrooms at this Lemala Villa, although we were the only ones staying there and had our choice of rooms. We chose the spacious bedroom on the second floor with its own balcony. The huge bathroom has a shower, a bathtub, and two sinks. Like all Lemala properties, there are premium toiletries in the bathroom, like shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. This Lemala Villa has a large living space for all guests, a swimming pool, and both an indoor and outdoor dining area. Coffee, tea, and filtered water is always available.
Two staff members stayed on site throughout our stay. One helped us to our rooms and assisted us whenever we needed, and the other was our chef. We really felt quite pampered at the start of our luxury safari in Tanzania, even before the safari truly started.
Vegan Meals at Lemala Villas
The staff at Lemala Villas can cater to any dietary preferences or food allergies. In the afternoon, we were a little bit hungry before dinner, so they made some vegetarian samosas with dipping sauces for us. At dinner, we savored hearty veggie curries with rice and steamed vegetables. The next morning at breakfast, we enjoyed a buffet of fresh fruit, roti, vegan mandazi, breads, and coffee. Everything was absolutely delicious and very fresh. It was no problem to accommodate for vegans at Lemala Villas in Arusha.
Day 2-4: Tarangire National Park
Tarangire National Park is a very special place in Tanzania. It’s the sixth largest national park in Tanzania, so it’s a little off the main safari tour path. I hadn’t heard of Tarangire before this trip, and there are fewer visitors than the popular Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater. You’ll enjoy a more intimate experience at Tarangire National Park with far fewer jeeps than elsewhere.
There’s an abundance of wildlife at Tarangire, including lots of elephants, giraffes, lions, and over 550 species of birds. It’s famous for its baobao trees, dotted across the classic African savannah landscape. You’ll have incredible wildlife viewing opportunities at Tarangire National Park.
Throughout both trips to Tarangire National Park and Serengeti National Park, we had our own guide in a 6-seat open-air jeep. The best safari in Tanzania combines a trip to both Serengeti National Park and Tarangire National Park for two amazing experiences.
Luxury Safari in Tarangire National Park
If you take a luxury safari in Tanzania, I highly recommend spending at least a couple of days at Tarangire National Park. We stayed at the Lemala Mpingo Ridge Lodge for three nights. Our guide, Freddy, drove us all over Tarangire National Park to search for wildlife. For two days, Freddy was our private driver and he transported us around the park, pointing out the wildlife. On one day, we shared our jeep and Freddy with a group of four Brits who were particularly interested in both the big cats and birds. It was interesting to see how Freddy catered the trip to the wildlife that we wanted to see the most.
Animals of Tarangire National Park
I noticed that there are a lot more elephants at Tarangire National Park than anywhere else. It was easy to spot several herds of elephants on a game drive, and they’d get quite close to our vehicle. As long as you quietly observe the animals, they aren’t going to approach the jeep or try to hurt you, don’t worry! There are also lots of giraffes, vervet monkeys, baboons, warthogs, impala, dik-diks, and lions. At Tarangire, we witnessed a rare sighting of two lions sleeping up in a tree. We spotted a few zebra, buffalo, and wildebeest at Tarangire, but not nearly in the numbers that we saw at Serengeti. There are also leopards at Tarangire, but we only saw them from afar up in the trees.
Birds of Tarangire National Park
The amount of bird species at Tarangire is quite phenomenal, from ostriches and birds of prey to little, colorful birds. Freddy was amazing at spotting the birds, telling us their exact species, and then pulling up information about each bird on his phone (including their bird calls). We could listen on his phone to the sound of the bird, and then listen for these sounds in the wild. It was such an exhilarating learning experience to find each bird, learn something about its mannerisms or habitat, and see it flying around at the national park.
Staying at Lemala Mpingo Ridge Lodge
Lemala Mpingo Ridge Lodge is a beautiful property at the top of an escarpment, overlooking the Tarangire River below. It’s possible to sit on the patio of your tented suite with a pair of binoculars to find elephants and giraffes right from the lodge. To call our room a “tent” is a bit of an understatement. It’s partially made of tent materials, but it’s actually a spacious and highly luxurious suite in the middle of the national park. There are 15 tented suites in total, all with sweeping views of the park. It’s also the perfect place to enjoy the sunrise each morning of our luxury safari in Tanzania.
Each room features a private sunken deck with a couch that can turn into a bed for an afternoon siesta. There’s also a private bathtub on your deck. Talk about savoring a bath with a view! There’s also a large bathroom in the tented suite with two sinks, an indoor shower, an outdoor shower, and another bathtub with large windows to soak up the scenery. There’s a king-sized bed, a living room, a little fridge, and a coffee and tea station. If you plan to take a luxury safari in Tanzania, staying in an amazing accommodation like this one makes all the difference.
At the main lodge, there’s a huge lounge and bar, a fireplace, areas to relax and play board games, and both indoor and outdoor dining areas. There’s also a spa and a swimming pool overlooking the vast expanse. At night, you’ll walk between the main lodge and your tented suite with a member of security or a member of the Maasai tribe. Since the lodge is right in the middle of the national park, dangerous animals might be lurking in the darkness. Even though there’s a lit walkway between the rooms, it’s reassuring and safe to have a trained staff member guide the way.
Vegan Meals at Lemala Mpingo Ridge
All meals and drinks (including alcohol) are included in your stay at Lemala Mpingo Ridge Lodge. Much like all Lemala properties, the staff members can help you with any dietary restrictions or preferences. We informed Yellow Zebra Safaris ahead of time that we’d like vegetarian and vegan meals, and they were happy to pass along that information. Once we arrived at Lemala Mpingo Ridge, we filled out a form with our details and dietary preferences, too.
For breakfast, we had a buffet each day with fresh fruits, cereals with soy milk, and breads. The kitchen staff also prepared some vegan muffins for us, as well as vegan pancakes. Dining with such a stunning view of the national park was such a treat.
For lunch, we dined at the lodge for our first day. Most of the time, Freddy liked to take us out for a full day game drive, which meant packing a picnic lunch to enjoy at a picnic area within the park. This meant that we could drive farther for wildlife sightings each day. The staff made sure to include vegan options in separate containers, although most of the meal tended to be vegetarian and vegan anyway (vegetables, potatoes, and pasta salads).
At dinner, our server presented us with multiple options for starters, main courses, and desserts, along with bread and dips each day. There was always a vegetarian option for each meal that could be made vegan. The meals at Lemala Mpingo Ridge were so fresh and delicious, and the service was excellent. We loved pairing our meals with wine or local beers (like Serengeti beer or Kilimanjaro beer!). Our luxury safari in Tanzania was made extra special with the fine dining meals each day. And there’s no need to dress up – just wear your safari clothes like everyone else!
Day 5-7: Serengeti National Park
From Tarangire, we ventured aboard a small plane to the Kogatende airstrip at northern Serengeti National Park. The Serengeti National Park is so large that you can really only visit sections of it at a time. The southern circuit of the Serengeti is more easily accessible, so we were happy to experience the northern, less traveled region of the national park. For this reason, we encountered fewer tourists and less jeeps. There was only one occasion where it felt a little crowded when several jeeps were attempting to observe a lion and her cubs, tucked away on the side of a rocky cliff. For this reason, I recommend both northern Serengeti and Tarangire National Park for a luxury safari in Tanzania.
We spent three days traveling throughout northern Serengeti National Park with our guide, Hassan, as well as a couple from Mexico. It was wonderful to make new friends and go out searching for animals together. Hassan is an expert at tracking animals. Once, he looked out towards the horizon and noticed that the wildebeest and zebra were only in one area, but not another. He drove the jeep towards the barren landscape where we discovered a group of seven lions!
Luxury Safari in Serengeti National Park
When you take a luxury safari in Tanzania, Serengeti National Park is most likely the destination at the top of your list. Wildlife sightings here are abundant and plentiful. While at Tarangire, you can go for stretches without seeing many animals, there are animals almost everywhere you look here. The terrain of the Serengeti changes, depending on where you visit, too. We drove around giant boulders and cliffs, across flat savannah plains, and along the edge of the lush riverbed. There are different animals that frequent each landscape, so there’s an impressive array of creatures and wildlife that I haven’t seen anywhere else.
Animals at Serengeti National Park
During our luxury safari in Tanzania, we witnessed so many species of animals, including many of the Big Five animals. Justin and I saw lions, leopards, elephants, and buffalo. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to spot any rhinoceroses, but they are quite difficult to find in parts of the Serengeti.
Fortunately, on this luxury safari in Tanzania, we saw lions, leopards, elephants, and giraffes every single day. We were lucky enough to spot a cheetah one day, too. There was a leopard and two cubs, lions and their cubs, and even a warthog with her babies. We also saw hippos, crocodiles, and tons and tons of wildebeest and zebra. And there were even more species of antelope here than we spotted at Tarangire. All in all, the wildlife sightings at Serengeti National Park are absolutely amazing, and you will likely see just about every African animal on your bucket list.
Much like Tarangire, there are a lot of different varieties of birds at Serengeti National Park, too. However, I think there were likely more opportunities to view birds at Tarangire than Serengeti. During the Serengeti portion of our luxury safari in Tanzania, we focused mainly on the big cats, elephants, and giraffes.
The Great Migration of the Wildebeest
Viewing a river crossing of the Great Migration is something you need to see at least once in your lifetime. It’s a magical experience if you’re taking a luxury safari in Tanzania. The Great Wildebeest Migration happens every year as wildebeest and zebra travel between Kenya and Tanzania in search of water. Essentially, these animals follow rainfall patterns because that means more water and food for grazing. Once they migrate to the southern Serengeti, they’ll have their babies (between January and March). Then, they’ll travel back up north for the summer before venturing back down south again in the fall.
When we traveled to Tanzania in October, it was the perfect time to view a river crossing of the wildebeest migration. It’s difficult to predict when it will happen, and you can spend hours waiting to find that they decide to stay put or retreat away from the river. Our amazing guide, Hassan, helped us view this incredible natural phenomenon. At first, we spotted a group of wildebeest near the edge of the river. Here’s the problem: if one wildebeest in the pack gets scared and runs away, all of them will follow. But, it can also work in our favor. If one wildebeest decides to go for it and run across the river, they’ll all follow him, too.
Our Experiences Witnessing the Great Wildebeest Migration
When we booked this luxury safari in Tanzania, I was thrilled at the possibility of watching a river crossing of the Great Migration. We waited for a short while to see if one group of wildebeest were going to cross (and I’m talking hundreds and hundreds of them!). One of them started to run away, and the rest followed. So, Hassan decided that we should continue on our way. Eventually, we came across another massive group of wildebeest. All of the jeeps stayed at a distance, as to not scare the animals. All of a sudden, one of them decided that it was a good time to make the river crossing. One by one, the wildebeest approached the water and started to leap through it. Hassan positioned our jeep in a fantastic location so we could watch them make the river crossing.
The wildebeest leaped through the air and into the water. The water often came up to their necks. It’s very dangerous for them to make a river crossing. They could easily drown, take a misstep and slip on a rock, get eaten by a crocodile, or break a leg on the rocks. Many wildebeest don’t survive when attempting to cross the river. Fortunately, we didn’t see any injured wildebeest or any casualties from this journey. They chose a very excellent place to cross the river to the other side.
Over 1.5 million wildebeest make this journey each year and about 250,000 die along the way. The entire trek is about 1000km in total. Even if they survive the river crossing, they might be hunted down by lions, leopards, and cheetahs along the way. Justin and I were amazed to observe the wildebeest crossing the Mara River. This luxury safari to Tanzania was entirely worth it just for that one moment, even though we had hundreds of incredible memories throughout the entire trip.
Staying at Lemala Kuria Hills Lodge
If you’re taking a luxury safari in Serengeti, the Lemala Kuria Hills Lodge will surely impress you. Much like our other safari lodge at Mpingo Ridge, we enjoyed sweeping scenery of the grassy hills from our private lodge and public spaces. There’s a swimming pool and spa here as well, and it was possible to spot grazing zebra in the distance as we ate breakfast each morning.
There are 15 glass-fronted tented suites with their own decks and private plunge pools. The interior of the Lemala Kuria Hills suite looked very similar to our accommodation at Mpingo Ridge with similar amenities. The main difference was the plunge pool in place of the outdoor bathtub. Regardless of where we stayed with Lemala, their tented suites made our luxury safari in Tanzania so special and memorable. It’s truly one of the nicest places we’ve ever stayed, and it’s in the middle of the wilderness.
The main lodge’s lounge is perfect for enjoying a drink and snacks after the evening game drive. There’s an indoor and outdoor dining area, too. Also, there’s complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the main building and the tented suites at all of the Lemala properties that we visited, so there was no need to purchase any additional SIM cards or overseas data packages. Furthermore, a member of staff will always walk you to your room from the main lodge, no matter the time of day. There’s a great abundance of wildlife roaming around the tents, including buffalo, so it’s best to be safe.
Vegan Meals at Lemala Kuria Hills
It was no problem to request vegan meals at Lemala Kuria Hills throughout our luxury safari in Tanzania. Much like Mpingo Ridge, we enjoyed a buffet breakfast each day with a beautiful view of Serengeti National Park. For lunch, we returned each day to Kuria Hills to dine at the property, rather than taking a picnic lunch out with us. Hassan preferred to split up the day into a morning game drive and a late afternoon drive, which we enjoyed a little bit more. This allowed us to enjoy the property of the hotel in the afternoon or have a little nap. For lunch, we enjoyed veggie burgers, vegetable tarts, salads, and other delicious culinary creations.
For dinner, we were provided with vegetarian and vegan options on every menu. These ranged from vegetable curries, soups, salads, vegetables and potatoes, and more. The meals tasted great, and we were very grateful to have such skillful chefs preparing delectable dishes for us every day.
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Would we recommend a luxury safari in Tanzania?
Yes, yes, yes! Of course, we highly recommend taking a luxury safari in Tanzania. Out of all the luxury African safari tours, I can’t imagine it getting any better than this. If you’re looking for what to do in Tanzania, going on wildlife game drives is at the top of my list. Even though that’s pretty much all we did in Tanzania, that’s exactly why we traveled there.
Trust me, it never gets tiring or boring to see all of those amazing African animals. Finding them in the wilderness is always a thrill, and observing the animals in their natural habitats is incredible. A luxury safari in Tanzania is the ultimate animal lover’s dream vacation, and I’d take this holiday over and over again, if given the chance.
Thanks so much to Yellow Zebra Safaris and Lemala Camps & Lodges for the brilliant trip. Going on a luxury safari in Tanzania is a trip that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. There’s really nothing else in the world quite like going on an African safari. I hope that you get to experience this truly breathtaking holiday, too.