2015 self-drive northern safari report

Johannes writes:

My wife, my 6-yr old son and me returned yesterday from a 2-week selfdrive journey through Northern Tanzania, and took your book with us(latest edition from May 2014 reprint). We have lived in Mbulu / Manyara for some years about 10 yrs ago, so we know the area a bit.

Thanks a lot for your book, which was very helpful for us, as it provided good and actual information! Here are some inputs, maybe you would like to include them in the next edition.

Accomodation in Karatu: we stayed in St.Catherines monastery, which I would rather sort in the „moderate“ section instead of „budget and camping“. To my knowledge there are not many alternatives in this price range in Karatu (only the high-price lodges and inexpensive local guest houses). We payed 90 US$ for a Double, including breakfast, dinner, tea/coffee and lunch box. Our son did not have to pay extra. Food is extraordinary fine, vegetables are taken from the own extensive gardens. Guests are accomodated in a tract separate from the nuns, and meals are also served in a separate room.

The location is perfect for those who are on the way to Ngorongoro and Serengeti – just 4 km before the gate, thus about 12 km west of Karatu town centre. Good especially for those who want to visit the crater only with an early morning start and return on the same day. Perfect also for those who look for a rural, quiet location and don’t have any concerns with the special, religious athmosphere.

The head nun (Sr. Scholastica) would obviously be happy about more guests. Her coordinates are: stelamatutina2002@yahoo.com, or matutinastela@gmail.com, (or the website http://www.safaringorongoro.com or tel.nr 0753-497886, as mentioned in your book.

Absolutely recommended in this price range!

Mbulu: we used to live there for 2 years, so we know the town and area very well. Only local guest houses, of which one is a little bit above the local standards: Sanu lodge, about 1 km out of town eastbound (at the old stadium). Rooms are 20-30’000 for a double, breakfast is 1-2’000 for a simple one (Chai, Chapati or toast) up to 5’000 for a complete. Meals are around 5’000. Hot water, self-contained bath rooms. Car can be parked inside.

you mentioned the „lovely setting“, which is absolutely true! We have done wonderful walks and hikes, especially in „Mama Issara“ (the highlands East of the town). A good stopover for those who are on their way to Haydom / Southern Lake Eyassi.

Self drive: I found it an attractive option, as we were absolutely independent. It’s expensive, though, and it doesn’t make a big difference to have or have not a driver.

We had good experiences with Fortes (http://fortes-safaris.com/car-hire/). We had a landcruiser with pop-up-roof, old but reliable, 7 seats, for about 170$ plus comprehensive insurance (about 30$), plus fuel, unlimited mileage.

At the end of the sort rainy seasons many routes were muddy, we never got stucked anyway. Although it is absolutely advisable to stay on the tracks, especially in the National parks where off-road driving is illegal anyway. In the NP’s but also outside the unpaved roads, especially in the morning after a nightly rainfall, can be challenging. Traffic in Arusha is annoying, but manageable. In the country side West of Arusha there’s not much traffic any more. The road until Ngorongoro is paved, same as to Tarangire (and now also South of Tarangire towards Babati).

self-organised safari: especially your information about Ngorongoro (273-274) was helpful. After depositing the exactly pre-calculated amount at the bank (Exim bank, or the mentioned Barclays bank) we did not manage to get the smart cards in the Arusha office of NCAA. For this we needed to go to the NCAA office in Karatu, which is about 2 km West of the town near Bougainvillea Lodge. There is also a Exim bank branch in Ngorongoro.

For the NP’s we also received the TANAPA cards from Exim bank, in order to avoid high credit card charges. Probably though it is easier to use the Credit card at the NP gates, as it gives more flexibility.

It was great to drive in the NP’s by ourself, without a guide. Thus we had the possibility to remain on interesting sights as long as we wanted to, and to explore remote areas – which has been sometimes a little bit „scary“ in the Serengeti, in case of a breakdown it could have taken time until someone would come for help. On the other hands we probably might have missed some „spectacular“ sights like lion prides, as the guides know where to go and communicate with each other by radio. A congestion of cars seen from far always means that there is something to see. Our best nature experiences we had though by ourselves in remotes areas, without a bunch of neighbouring cars around us.

I found little information about supplies and food in the Serengeti. We used public campsites. It’s definitely wise to stock up before, in Arusha or Karatu. There are local eateries and shops in the Serengeti (and also Tarangire and probably the other NP’s), as the rangers and their families live within the park. We were allowed to take lunch once in Ndutu lodge, and in Tarangire at Tarangire Safari Lodge.

Public campsites were much better maintained than expected. In Serengeti there were about 5 functionable in the Seronera cluster. Running water and cold showers were available. In Tarangire there are 2 public campsites nowadays, both in the northern part of the park.



Karatu updates

Crater Rim View hotel at Karatu was comfortable, lovely large beds (we were impressed–something to do with camping for previous 3 nights?) and reasonable restaurant. However overpriced at double $80 HB (104,000TSh), single $56. Beer was overpriced at 3000Tsh, two gin and tonics were 16,000Tsh (he poured double tot without asking) and the wine bottle price was the most expensive in all the places we stayed in TZ. Not worth the price if something else available.

Trouble with money at Karatu. NBC ATM was out of order and the one down the road on left (NMB?) and the one on the right (?Axim) did not take plain VISA or MC. However it did take Cirrus.

Rupert Gude

Serengeti National Park from Lake Victoria

Serengeti Stop Over. Pleasant adequate bandas. Restaurant a bit basic and staff relaxed (?boss away) . 100,000Tsh double seemed a bit expensive.

Serengeti. We hired a Toyota Landcruiser and tents to spend 2 night in Seronera and one in Ngorongoro Crater from Serengeti Expedition of Mwanza +255 282542222, +255 28 254000, +255 787319801, info@serengetiexpedition.com website: http://www.serengetiexpedition.com They were the cheapest of 3 Mwanza quotes (Fortessafaris.com and Dolphintours –mainly self drive) and they were very good, experienced and professional. The cost of 3 people for 3 night camping was $1600 plus park entrance fees. Kiroyera tours of Bukoba were about $1000 more.

Seronera public campsite had lovely tiled toilets and showers but no water until the tour operators refused to pay the camping fees. Inadequate provision and some showers were not working. Camping site has low priority as far as Tanapa concerned.

Simba A was fabulous situation on Crater rim and Male toilets and hot showers were fine in one block, Female toilets/showers were shambolic and unpleasant. However, the new toilet/shower block a short walk away was clean and usable. Be aware of buffalo grazing around your tent at night!

Rupert Gude

Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge and Children’s home, Ngorongoro

Rhotia Valley (http://www.rhotiavalley.com/) is an unique project consisting of a luxury tented lodge, with all the facilities you need, and a Children’s Home, meant for those, who don’t have family to take proper care of them. It´s official opening was in November 2008. By staying at Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge, you directly contribute to the wellbeing of the children of the adjacent Children’s Home. While staying at the lodge, a visit to the children´s home is possible. The lodge consists of 15 en suite, new, highly comfortable tented houses, including 2, 3 or 4 beds, its own veranda and a bathroom with hot and cold running water, shower and flush toilet. Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge is situated halfway the Rift Valley Escarpment and Ngorongoro Crater, three miles off the main road from Arusha to Ngorongoro Crater at 1700 m, causing breathtaking views of the adjacent Ngorongoro Conservation Area forest, nearby villages and the terraced fields of the local farmers, within the background lake Manyara. Because of the height, malaria risk is minimized. The lodge is built in traditional African style. It is in complete harmony with its surroundings. Yet, its spacious set up, personal and friendly service and its finishing touches, such as cosy sofas around the fireplace and warm decorative details, provide a perfectly balanced luxury.

Nicole Versleijen