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Leopard in a Tree

Leopard Photos copyright
Ross Warner,

A Tanzania Safari

No trip overseas anywhere in the world compares with the Tanzania Serengeti Safari. The Serengeti National Parkin north Tanzania is a must just for the sheer exhilaration of its wildlife experience. The Serengeti safari is so spectacular that it deserves more time to explore and absorb its full-blown beauty.

The Serengeti National Park is the kingdom of predators, while the huge herds of the Migration thunder across the plains of Tanzania in countless numbers.

A unique way to see the Serengeti is a safari by hot air balloon. Leaving your lodge in the central Serengeti at 5 am, this is the one time to drive in the Serengeti in the pre-dawn. Night drives are not allowed inside the Serengeti National Parks. Take off is at dawn, ascending as the sun rises and floating silently in whichever direction the winds of the morning takes the balloon; sometimes flying at treetop height, sometimes lower, offering a unique perspective and great photographic opportunities of the wildlife below.

At times, ascend to 1000 meters or more to see the enormity and wonderful panorama of the Serengeti. The hot air balloon is to travel along the Serengeti in silence apart from the natural sounds below.

Questions to consider when planning an Serengeti Safari.

The cost to travel to and safari in the Serengeti is a major consideration for most people. The Serengeti is not cheap – with park fees alone are US $60 per person per day. There are some lodges that cater for budget safaris in the central Serengeti and if you also travel in low season then costs are reduced considerably.

How long should a safari be - the Serengeti alone is so vast months could be spent exploring. Five days spent in the central and southern Serengeti or the central and northern Serengeti depending on the time of year is the minimum time to get any real feel or enjoyment for the area.

What time of year is best for a safari? The dry season in the Serengeti National Park is July to December with the short rains in November. The long rains are from March to mid June. However, the weather does not always act predictably. Some years we have had more rain in January and February that the whole of the wet season. It may be better to say the rains are from November to June with a drier period from December to mid March. Low season is both cheaper and the Serengeti National Park has less tourists.

It all depends on what you want from your Serengeti Safari and to work closely with your tour operator will help. I would try to avoid late July to the end of September for the sole reason it is just too busy.

Getting to the Serengeti - If you are a seasoned traveller, there is no reason why you should not arrive here and organize your safari with a local operator. This way your itinerary may be more interesting and you will save money. However if you do this late July to September you may be disappointed as the lodges at this time are fully booked [in some cases up to one year in advance].

The safest option is to book through and agent or tour operator. To join a group or a private safari. Joining a group will be cheaper; the cost saving being the only advantage in joining a group. To take a safari and have a vehicle to yourself will give you more privacy, is more relaxing and there will be more flexibility with the itinerary.

What to take - travel light or dress for dinner. This depends on your itinerary, what time of year you travel. Your tour operator will give you all this information. The more questions you ask the more successful will be your safari. The quality of the answers you receive to your questions will also indicate how interested your operator in Tanzania is on the success of your safari verses simply making a profit.

One last remark will be to relax whilst on safari – take off you watch as it simply will not be needed. There is not the same urgency in the Serengeti as back home so relax and enjoy the adventure.

Health Issues Whilst on Safari

When on a walking safari, mountain climbing or walking round the camp, it is advisable to be aware of the following guidelines on health an\d safety in the African Bush.

Altitude related Illness: These illnesses can kill you and every year tourists die from altitude related illnesses. Higher altitudes are colder even in Africa; there is less oxygen and to walk slowly is essential especially for hikes or climbs above 1,500 to 3,000 meters above sea level. You should be breathing easily with no panting and no extreme physical excursion. Drink water regularly and eat a light diet with lots of carbohydrates. It is essential to keep warm.

Hypothermia or exposure: this is life threatening condition with a lowering of body temperature and can occur with a temperature as high as 10 c [50 f]. Usually caused by cold wet clothing or simply poorly clothed for the conditions. The signs/symptoms include clumsiness, stumbling, apathy, lethargy, confusion, disorientation, and eventually unconsciousness. Treatment for this is to immediate warm the patient in a warm dry environment - a sleeping bag is ideal with one or even two people inside the sleeping bag with the patient. Warm energy rich drinks help as does rest with a return to camp as quickly as possible.

Acute Mountain sickness: This affects many people above 2,050 meters [or 10,000 ft] signs/symptoms include headache nausea fatigue, malaise, loss of appetite, restless or no sleep. The treatment is to slow down, remain in camp, drink water, and rest your body. It is important to adjust to altitude slowly. In case of severe headaches, loss of coordination, breathing difficulties evacuate immediately for medical attention. This condition kills tourists every year in Tanzania!

Hiking in hot or sunny weather often causes heat exhaustion the signs/symptoms are weakness/fatigue, headache, vertigo, thirst nausea/vomiting faintness high body temperature. The treatment is to lay flat in shade, remove clothing to cool the patient, soak the body with cold water, re-hydrate patient and monitor body temperature

Heat stroke is more serious with the signs/symptoms being delirium, coma, rapid pulse, rapid breathing; skin hot and dry, body temperature above 40c [104 f]. Treat as for heat exhaustion but this condition can be fatal so seek medical assistance quickly – evacuate if possible.

Wildlife; try to avoid interaction; normally the wildlife will try to avoid you. Buffalo or elephant may attack if surprised or provoked. When hike in forest or dense bush clap often or call out if met by an aggressive animal; at all times follow the instructions of your armed guide. Never feed wild animals with baboons and monkeys being highly dangerous and they can steel by force as they have learnt to get food from the tourists.

Weather in Tanzania has a rainy season November through to May with sometimes a dryer season January to March dividing the season into short and long rains. It never rains all the time. The dry season June to October, the coldest month being July with high altitudes reaching temperatures bellow freezing.

If you get lost remain where you are; your guide will look for you and find you quicker if are on the trail – this sometimes happens in fog or dense forest. A day pack should include instant body shelter, warm clothing and a water proof jacket, matches or lighter, a mirror or whistle for signaling, food and drink [esp. water] basic first aid, torch and a compass.

Some areas have stinging nettles, no shorts in these areas with stings causing temporary but painful irritations

Safari ants are small shiny brown ants move rapid in columns across trails – they are common and carnivorous, they crawl up your trouser legs and start to chew. Tuck trouser into socks and watch where you step and especially where you stand.

Acacia thorns “cat claws” of the wait-a-bit thorn tree rip skin and clothing – the thorn is long and straight and can pierce soft soled shoes and even car tires so take care and try not to wear sandals.

Ticks may be found long grass, to remove a tick grasp head and jerk out of skin.

Snakes will usually avoid humans; one exception is the puff adder. This snake is sluggish and slow to move. When moving around in the dark use a torch to avoid a most unwelcome encounter with the puff adder.

Scorpions lurk in the dry country under rocks, behind bark and sometimes climb into boots, clothing or equipment left out at night. The sting from a scorpion can cause severe pain for several hours.

In conclusion to protect yourself – dress right and drink right. Climbing in mountains or highland prepare for extremes. Watch your self day time temperatures can reach 35 c with little shade and may well be freezing at night at higher altitudes. Fine weather can turn into fog or rain quickly. Always carry a waterproof and dry clothing in a plastic bag to keep warm wool and synthetics are better than cotton or down – to keep cool cotton is the better option. Protect yourself from the sun with a hat, sunglasses, skin protection also drink plenty of water and eat a diet high in carbohydrates for energy. Avoid alcohol at high altitudes.


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