Safaris don’t come much more epic than those found in Tanzania. One of the only places in Africa where it’s possible to spot The Big Five in one sitting, animal life leaps from every corner of the nation, whether it’s the amazing birds that fly overhead, the incredible species that gather at waterholes, from zebras to hippos, giraffes to lions, or even the smaller creatures that lurk in lakes and on leaves. A stay in Tanzania is the embodiment of living life on the wild side. Here are some things to note before your stay.
Outside of international flights, where you’ll be given around 23kgs of baggage allowance, for domestic flights in smaller planes that fly across Tanzania, you may have to squeeze down your belongings to adhere to a 15kgs rule. Luckily, it’s relatively straightforward to pack light for a safari, where practicality is prized higher than elegance and your belongings are usually laundered most days. If you’re heading to Mainland Tanzania there are differences in altitude and thus climate and it’s worth bringing a jumper and a few extra layers for chilly mornings.
In the bush, there are a few key principles to follow: never deviate from the commandments of the rangers. Never get out of a car outside of designated area. When staying in a camp, always wait for staff to come and get you before emerging from your tent. Hippos coming out of water points and passing through camps is a dangerous scenario that alone accounts for more accidents than any other African wildlife meeting.
Using all your senses while on safari is important – your detective skills will be put to the test when tracking elusive animals. Listen to your surroundings as they’ll give you multiple clues. Forget mobile phones and chit chat – to be victorious often means hours of pin-drop silence that eventually results in an incredible sighting. Don’t expect to see The Big Five in one go and on your first game drive though – despite the incredible expertise of rangers, animals are wild and unpredictable, exactly as we love them. Be patient and when you finally do catch sight of the lion you’ve been searching for days, it’ll feel all the sweeter.
A good ranger and tracker are worth their weight in gold as the success of your trip is in their hands. Tipping them following a safari is an appreciated gesture and around $10 USD per person per day is an appropriate amount. Tips can be made in the country’s currency, Tanzanian shillings, or US dollars. A small gratuity, around $1-$2 each per day, for other staff including servers, porters and the housekeeping team will also be very welcome – a tip box is sometimes installed at the reception for ease. Tipping in restaurants is usually 5% of the total.
Hotels, lodges, restaurants and shops almost always accept credit cards, although you’ll need cash for any purchases during trips and safaris. Haggling is widespread in Tanzania. All merchants will start at their highest, and most ridiculous price, often inflated for tourists, so don’t be shy in knocking them down. Offering a 50% drop isn’t a ridiculous starting point ¬– keep a top price in mind, and don’t go over. Bartering is all in the approach – done with a friendly smile and jovial manner and you’re sure to be met with good humour. As long as you’re willing to walk away, there are many deals to be had.
In Zanzibar, seafood reigns supreme, with delicious crustaceans and grilled fish a delicious daily presence. If you like cloves, you'll be in heaven where they, along with many other spices, are in plentiful supply. Zanzibar, like the rest of Tanzania, is a conservative nation and travellers should respect the culture and avoid bare arms and legs and public displays of affection.
Life on the beaches of Zanibar is lived according to the tides – at low tide it’s not usually possible to swim, so schedules are posted at hotel reception areas. Bring sandals or flip flops as when the tide does retreat, corals and sea urchins appear.
You’ll need a visa to enter Tanzania, which can be organised in advance or on arrival and costs $50 USD. An exit fee of $50 USD is also applied when leaving Zanzibar on international flights. It is also reportedly applied unpredictably to other flights, so we recommend carrying $50 USD per person to ensure you’re not caught unaware.
Finally, a ‘jambo’ is always better than a ‘hello’ in Tanzania. You'll attract the fondness of locals for your effort – Tanzanian people are friendly, welcoming and generally always willing to help. Attempt to conjure up the best images of Tanzania you can muster and we guarantee it won’t come close to the real deal – with its mesmerising natural wonders and rich culture, Tanzania is in a class of its own.
An Infrastructure Levy of $1 USD per night, per person is payable directly to your hotel.
In Zanzibar, hotels occasionally cash in on taxes and increase the levy. This is very difficult to regulate, so it’s worth checking ahead that your hotel only charges $1 USD.