Tanzania’s Classic Safari Country
Emerges from Neighboring Shadow
By Jeff Burdick
Quick geo quiz. Which East African country is home to 1.) Kilimanjaro? 2.) Serengeti National Park? 3.) Zanzibar? If you answered Tanzania to any of these, pat yourself on the back. If you answered Kenya – Tanzania’s neighbor to the north – well, you’re not alone. Despite Tanzania being home to some of the most recognizably African travel icons, few travelers associate Tanzania with its premier unique attractions.
Yet, Tanzania has seen its tourism star rise precipitously, and visitors have discovered a refreshing throwback. Animals freely wander parks the size of whole U.S. states, and small-scale safari camps are left open to the largest wild populations in the world.
Notes Hon. Mme. Shamsa S. Mwangunga, Tanzania’s Minister of Natural Resources & Tourism at a recent Sullivan Summit Conference of thousands of influential foreign and local leaders held in Arusha, Tanzania, that, “Estimates are that more than 750,000 tourists will visit Tanzania this year, and expectation is that the sector will earn a record $1 billion (USD) for the economy this year. We also project that by 2010, Tanzania will receive one million tourists, up from 719, 031 of last year, 2007. Further estimates are that by 2011, travel and tourism will account for $7 trillion (USD) of combined tourism and related economic activities worldwide, and, as an effect, 260 million jobs will become available within and outside of Tanzania.”
High Expectations Fulfilled
While Tanzania can’t boast the decades-mature tourism industry of Kenya, luxury travelers need not lower their expectations. Among the newer up-scale operators upgrading Tanzania’s reputation is Renaissance Safaris. Established in 2005, Renaissance Safaris specializes in personalized tours both in Tanzania’s well-known northern parks – such as the Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Arusha – and within the lesser traveled jewels along the country’s “Southern Circuit.”Visit www.renaissancesafaris.com
In the Serengeti, this includes semi-permanent camps like Sayari that move with the famous migrating herds of hundreds of thousands of wildebeest. The camp’s six large, luxurious tents are attended by a staff of 20. They fill each tent’s bucket shower with heated water per the guests’ schedule, and the turndown service includes hot water bottles that take any mountain chill out of the beds.
Let ‘Em Roam Free
Like most camps in Tanzania, the Sayari camp is fenceless and open to the wilds. This is a significant difference from most Kenyan properties that are surrounded by electrified fences to keep animals out. To keep the guests safe, the camps typically employ Masai warriors who patrol the camps and escort guests to their tents after dark. Hearing your first lion’s roar in the middle of the night can be unnerving as is the discovery of an array of strange footprints circling your tent in the morning. But it is all part of that classic safari experience.
Whereas the Serengeti is notable for its wide-open plains and large herds of wildebeest, elephants and giraffe, the Selous adds classic rivers filled with hundreds of hippos, crocodiles and colorful cliff-clinging birds.
Jax Fax stayed at the Rufiji River Camp. The camp features 20 permanent tents, a canopied pool, central restaurant and library, and an enviable location overlooking the river, hippo pools and offering great sunset views.
From July to October, at high season, rack rates for full-board double accommodations at the Rufiji River Camp are $310 per person per night; single supplement $100. This includes park fees, conservation fees and daily excursions. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
About 90 minutes west of the Selous by bush plane is Ruaha National Park, Tanzania’s second-largest park–nearly the size of Connecticut. More forested than the Serengeti‘s wide-open plains, Ruaha features the largest elephant populations in Africa, widespread leopards and cheetah, and over 520 species of birds.
The Ruaha River Lodge is beautifully situated with all accommodations on the river and an excellent open-air restaurant. The 18 accommodations include 10 newly built “bandas” with large bathrooms, high-ceilinged bedrooms, a front sitting area, and a front porch. During high season, rack rates for full-board game packages are $320 per person per night, including park fees and tax. E-mail email@example.com.To reach Renaissance Safaris about luxury itineraries, rack rates and guide services, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kenya Airways offers the fullest network of flights throughout East Africa, including into Kilamanjaro, Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam via London, Amsterdam and Paris. Call 866-748-2529 or visit www.kenya-airways.com
Qatar Airways announced that it has increased its passenger capacity on the Dar es Salaam-Doha route by more than 1,000 seats per month. Qatar has undergone a phenomenal expansion period, with an average of 35% growth year-on-year for the past 10 years. Visit www.qatar.com
Within Tanzania, Coastal Aviation offers a dependable schedule of flights into bush airstrips of dozens of safari camps. Visit www.coastal.cc.
For information visit the Tanzania Tourist Board at www.tanzaniatouristboard.com
May 2008 Feature
Tanzania Outlines its Own Mission
By Maria Lisella
When USA Today released its prestigious list of the Hottest Travel Trends for 2008, Tanzania’s famed Mt. Kilimanjaro swept the newspaper’s “Exotic Adventures” category. This highly competitive list was compiled with extensive input from travel experts with news that reaches upwards of three million readers daily.
What’s in Tanzania?
Tanzania, the largest country in East Africa, is focused on wildlife conservation and sustainable tourism, with approximately 25% of the land protected by the Government. It boasts 15 (Mkomazi was recently added) National Parks and 34 game reserves. It is the home of the tallest mountain in Africa, the legendary Mt. Kilimanjaro; The Serengeti, named in October, 2006, the New 7th Wonder of the World by USA Today and Good Morning America; the world-acclaimed Ngorongoro Crater, often called the 8th Wonder of the World; Olduvai Gorge, the cradle of mankind; the Selous, the world’s largest game reserve; Ruaha, now the largest National Park in East Africa; the spice islands of Zanzibar; and seven world Heritage Sites. Most important for tourism, the Tanzanian people are warm and friendly, speak English, although Kiswahili is the national language, and the country is an oasis of peace and stability with a democratic and stable government.
What the Future Holds
Managing Director of the Tanzania Tourist Board, Peter Mwenguo has high expectations. “About $ 1 billion is expected from tourism activities this year, an increase of $862 million over last year.”
Among the country’s economic priorities are tourism, mining, Tanzania is the third largest mining center producing diamonds, gold, and the rare blue diamond, emeralds and other gem stones; and finally, agriculture is the third portion of the economic triangle. Surveillance of poaching has been successful as there is currently little or none, said Mwenguo.
To keep Tanzania as a premium destination, the tourist board is determined to keep the number of arrivals lower, achieve greater spending to keep the natural resources for future generations. “If you go for mass tourism, you will ruin the place, so we focus on less volume of people and more money spent,” he adds.
What is paramount is that tourism revenue is put to good use – it is applied to health programs, building schools, advancing water supplies as well as into the tourism infrastructure. There is a movement afoot to raise the bar on compulsory education from the 7th grade to the 10th grade, another key to strengthening the destination as farmland still accounts for 60% of the land.
According to Hon. Prof. Jumanne Maghembe, Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, it is expected that “the tourism sector, which currently contributes 17.2% to the economy of the United Republic of Tanzania, will reach even higher levels quickly.” The Minister notes that the country’s main markets are Britain, the U.S., Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Scandinavia. The U.S. market is extremely strong, and is predicted to outreach the others in the next few years. Additionally, Tanzania is beginning to attract more foreign investments from big travel names like Richard Branson and many others.
Getting to the Top
“I’m hearing more people say ‘I want to climb (Tanzania’s) Mt. Kilimanjaro now, while it still has glaciers,’” Marian Marbury, owner of the woman-only Adventures in Good Company is quoted to explain one reason why this mythic mountain factors large and is considered a particularly desirable Exotic Adventure this year.
“There’s a sense that many places and wildlife we’ve taken for granted are disappearing,” she continues. “And the changes are happening now, within our lifetime.”
Admittedly, it takes about 16 to 17 hours to reach Tanzania. Usually travelers stop over in Amsterdam in the morning and arrive in Arusha or Dar es Salaam by 8 or 10 p.m. respectively, which is why Mwenguo recommends planning for at least a 10 to 14-day stay. “During that timeframe you can factor in some game viewing, or visit our beaches on Zanzibar.”
At the moment Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain on the African Continent at 19,336 feet, remains ice-capped, snow-spread and majestic in glacial splendor. When that may change is a matter of scientific dissension. In a recent New York Times article featuring a first-person account of a climb up the majestic mountain’s summit titled, “On Africa’s Roof, Still Crowned With Snow,” writer Neil Modie quotes experts who say that the mountain’s glaciers are disappearing due to climate change, but also describes his own observation and experience of snow, ice, and diverse “spectacular” ecological zones throughout the mountain.
Steeped in legend, capturing the compelling beauty of Tanzania, Mt. Kilimanjaro holds a special place as one of Tanzania’s famed tourist sites. For many tourists to the East African country, a climb up Kilimanjaro is the highlight of their lives. These climbers contribute to the booming tourism economy.
According to Gerald Bigurube, Director General of the Tanzania National Parks, “At the moment, between 30-35,000 people climb Mt. Kilimanjaro annually.” The trek may be rigorous or accessible, depending on which of six different paths are selected.
“The best time of year for the climb,” notes Bigurube “is January through February and mid-June through mid-October.” Climbers may choose a variety of different camping arrangements on their way to the top of the mountain, ranging from simple to elaborate, the latter providing guides, porters and overnight camping sites with dining facilities.
For more information visit www.tanzaniatouristboard.com
October 2007 Feature
Southern Africa’s Classical Deviations
Classical Southern Africa programs often combine Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana, dubbing the itinerary, ZimZamBot. Today, that itinerary often deviates with increasingly accessible transportation among the countries in Southern Africa and can include other destinations such as South Africa and Namibia and sometimes even Malawi. Below are a few updated products operators have introduced to their 2008 program portfolios.
Situated on the banks of the Zambezi River, the Chiawa Camp, known for its abundant land and water-based game viewing, has added a third tent to their collection of Superior Tents. Chiawa’s Superior Safari Tent could be a romantic retreat for honeymoon couples, those celebrating special occasions, or for those who simply want to experience Zambia’s finest tented safari accommodation. Equipped with indoor and outdoor showers, an oversized tub with Molton Brown amenities, a super-king sized bed draped in pure cotton linens all on a timber deck with a view of the Zambezi River and its escarpment, the Superior Safari Tents at Chiawa make for the ultimate safari under canvas.
Superior Safari Tent rates are $895 per person per night, sharing, all seasons and includes all meals, game drives, canoe trips, laundry, beverages, car fees, airport transfers, and taxes. Singles are from $1,165. E-mail email@example.com; www.chiawa.com
Robin Pope Safaris in South Luangwa, Zambia, has teamed up with Matemwa Lodge on Zanzibar Island to offer travelers the ultimate Bush and Beach vacation package. For $4,820 per person double, travelers will spend seven incredible nights in the heart of the African bush at Robin Pope Safaris then head to Zanzibar Island for a four night tropical beach getaway at Matemwa Lodge. The rates include all inter-Africa flights, accommodation, meals, game viewing, bar, laundry, National Park fees, taxes, transfers to/from Mfuwe Airport, guided reef dives, and village walks. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; www.robinpopesafaris.net or the Matemwa at www.asilialodges.com
With the purchase of a circuit of five safari camps and lodges in the country’s most outstanding wildlife park, Abercrombie & Kent’s Sanctuary Lodges & Camps are expanding into Zambia. Founded by Abercrombie & Kent to operate on an environmentally sustainable basis, Sanctuary Lodges & Camps include Olonana in Kenya’s Masai Mara; Swala in Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park and Kusini in the Serengeti; Gorilla Forest Camp in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest; and four properties in Botswana -- Chief’s Camp, Chobe Chilwero, Stanley’s Camp and Baines’ Camp. A&K’s spokesperson advises, “Walking safaris were pioneered in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley; if you have only seen animals from inside a vehicle, you will find walking with big game a thrilling experience. Night drives are also a specialty and the best means of seeing some of the more elusive nocturnal species, including leopard.”
Currently, The Sanctuary Portfolio in Zambia includes: the 10-treehouse Sussi Lodge built among huge ebony trees, just upstream from Victoria Falls in the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park; the Lechwe Plains Tented Camp in the Lochinvar National Park, north of Lusaka, is set on the Chunga Lagoon, a World Heritage Wetland offers incredible birdlife and tens of thousands of Kafue Lechwe (antelope), an aquatic antelope; the eight tents at the Kulefu Tented Camp are set on platforms at the edge of the Lower Zambezi National Park, which is on the wildest stretch of the Zambezi; the Puku Ridge Tented Camp in the South Luangwa National Park is located on a ridge overlooking game rich floodplains offering exciting wildlife opportunities; and the Chichele Presidential Lodge’s hilltop setting in South Luangwa National Park overlooking plains teeming with wildlife. Call 800-652-2405; www.abercrombiekent.com
Don Forster, Product and Marketing Manager for Goway’s ADVENTURESIncorporated, has enhanced the company’s Zambia offerings with an Elephant Safari when agents book select tours. “From experience, I can recommend this up close and personal safari. The opportunity to spend time with such large, powerful and majestic animals is truly an experience I won’t forget in a hurry” said Forster.
Located near Thorntree Lodge, approximately 10 km from Livingstone, Zambezi Elephant Trails has established Zambia’s first “Elephant Camp” - offering a once in a lifetime insight into these gentle giants. Together with this ecologically friendly style of game viewing, a strong emphasis is placed on an Elephant experience rather than just an Elephant ride and guests are encouraged to interact with these majestic and intelligent African mammals.
The free Elephant safari is offered in conjunction with the Southern Experience or Northern Experience African Safari. These memorable 20-day trips start from $1,995 and are the most popular safaris, offering the best way to see the most spectacular features of Southern Africa.
New in Botswana are the Ichobezi Luxury Safariboats (the Moli and Mukwae) which sail both the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers. Since one of the best ways to see Botswana is by water, the safariboat provides an ideal platform to view the abundant wildlife of the Chobe National Park. Being on the river allows you to get closer to the large variety of game including elephant, buffalo, giraffe, kudu, waterbuck and the shy Chobe bushbuck.
With only 4 twin cabins aboard, the Safariboats offer an intimate and exclusive experience. The boats also offer a range of facilities such as dedicated tender boats, an entertainment deck, plunge pool, fully stocked bar and menus to please every palate. Every comfort and need is well looked after onboard.
Ichobezi Safariboat, a four-day itinerary on the safariboat priced from $1218 per person is available with roundtrip transfers from Victoria Falls or Livingstone Airport and includes meals on a full-board basis, sightseeing, services of professional tour guides, park entrance fees and on-board activities such as fishing, walking safaris and mekoro (dugout canoe) trips.
The Safariboats can be easily combined with AFRICAExperts’ three-day Victoria Falls Package or three-day Livingstone Package which include roundtrip airfare from Johannesburg, airport transfers, walking tour of the Falls and sunset cruise. Prices start at $795 per person.
September 2007 Feature
East Africa Tanzania is No Longer Kenya’s Little Sister
By Maria Lisella
For years Kenya and Tanzania were coupled as a neat little package to East Africa, but the tide of popularity and tourism planning is shifting and the two destinations are being sold often independently of one another.
At the same time, the winning combination has its fans especially for first-time visitors to Africa.
Among them is Susan Neva, Operations Manager and Africa Specialist at SITA, “East Africa is the ultimate choice for your first-time safari client. They will see game in abundance, which is what they expect when choosing an African Safari for their vacation.” Her advice to agents: She strongly recommends that agents pre-book clients up to a year in advance. Call 800-421-5643; www.sitatours.com
New Takes on Accommodations
As the Los Angeles-based U.S. Rep for a group of small, owner-operated lodges in five countries in Africa: Zambia, Malawi, Namibia, Uganda and Kenya, Caren Banks, president of Caren’s Best favors particular ways of visiting East Africa.
There was a time when the only way to go on safari was via mini-buses with driver-guides, using the same old itinerary over and over, perhaps substituting a Serena lodge with a Sopa lodge. Amboseli, Lake Naivasha, Samburu and, of course, the Masaai Mara.
“Then, in the early 70's, Phil Osborne (ex-Bush Homes of East Africa, now Unchartered Outposts) was visiting Lewa Downs Ranch in Central Kenya, and Phil came up with the idea of putting together a few family-owned ranches so tourists could visit as "guests" of the owners to experience a variety of daily activities,” says Banks. Some owner-operated ranches are represented by companies like Bush & Beyond (www.bush-and-beyond.com), Cheli & Peacock (www.chelipeacock.com), Private Wilderness (www.privatewilderness.com). These camps include Ol Malo, Kitich Camp (where you go elephant tracking on foot), Rekero, Ol Donya Wuas. Call 800-504-7377; www.carensbest.com
Today, safari seekers may want to take a look at Tanzania all by itself. Says one Africa specialist, “Tanzania has really blossomed in recent years. Tanzania is hot. Tanzania rocks. Get the point”? There are many five-star camps and lodges now, but capacity is an issue in the high-season at all levels, say operators.
“At the same time, the Tanzanians are trying to promote the southern circuit, which is wonderful. Instead of overbuilding in the Serengeti, they are allowing seasonal camps—kudos to them, which will force tourism traffic to skirt the areas and preserve them. Presently, about 12% of the country is national parks and 25% is protected in some form or another,” says Kent Redding, president of Africa Adventure Consultants. Call 866-778-1089; E-mail email@example.com
Tanzania’s tourism leaders prefer low volume and high-quality tourism; 25% of the land is devoted to wildllife conservation, more than any other country in the region and Tanzania vies with South Africa in that it counts as many World Heritage Sites – seven in all.
“Tanzania is often perceived as a slightly more expensive destination, but it offers the best value for money,” says Peter Mwenguo, Managing Director, Tanzania Tourist Board. “Our low volume/ high yield policy has kept the crowds low and protected the quality of the visitors’ experience.”
Kent Redding, President, Africa Adventure Consultants, and his wife lived in Arusha, Tanzania note new trends. “The big change for Tanzania is that in the last 10 years it has gone from an add-on to Kenya to a stand alone, as it delivers safe, diverse and quality tourism.”
Keeping Safaris Affordable
And for the travelers who are counting their pennies, there are now the most amazing lodges owned and operated by locals, such as Il Ngwesi (www.lewa.org/ilngwesi.php) and Tassia Lodge (www.borana.co.ke/tassia-lodge.html). Again, one is the guest of the owners, and really become involved in the areas and communities.
Says Goway’s Forster, “East Africa can be affordable. With camping options and overlanding - which ADVENTURESIncorporated offers - you can easily keep your costs down and really, camping in East Africa is the “true” experience. Mid-priced lodges enable the traveler to keep the budget under control. Why come to such a special place and cocoon oneself in large resorts or in impersonal transport”? Call 800-245-0920; E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; www.AFRICAExperts.com
Insiders say Kenya Airways has improved its serviceand Virgin recently started flying daily from London. [See Jax Fax June issue for Cover Story on Kenya.] Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is stretched past its limits making Kenya the easier entry point for U.S. visitors. Kilimanjaro International Airport, which is the most convenient in northern Tanzania, counts just one carrier (KLM) that flies direct from Europe. Agents can route clients from other gateways: Johannesburg, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Dubai, but it requires an extra stop; other flights operate out of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
Contact the Kenya Tourist Board, 866-445-3692; www.magicalkenya.com; contact the Tanzania Tourist Board 212-447-0027; www.tanzaniatouristboard.com