The Serengeti is a trip of a lifetime!
Have you been dreaming of going on a safari in Africa? Do you want to see 100’s of animals up close? The Serengeti will not disappoint. We saw 100’s of elephants, zebras, wildebeest, diks diks, hippos, lions, antelopes, baboons and 6 leopards and 10 cheetahs, 10 hyenas, 10 warthogs, 1 sable cat, 1 rhino, 1 huge white owl, 25 secretariat birds, 100s of flamingos and several real ugly huge birds and at least 25 giraffes. This was a trip of a lifetime. It does take some planning and here is what it was like for us in July 2017.
What to wear?
I remember googling what to wear on a safari and this one gal recommended getting cargo pants from Nordstrom’s for $368.
Now you can go by $368 cargo pants and be decked out in designer clothes but with that money you could donate to a school or donate to a safe water maker for 9 families. Our money can do so much good in this poor country.
They tell you not to wear black or blue colors. These colors attract the bites of tsetse flies. So kaki, light green and brown are the colors you are supposed to wear. Some sites tell you no white or bright colors but many of our travelers wore very colorful outfits.
Dress in layers. I had a tank top and a short sleeved top and then a lightweight jacket and usually long pants.
I went to Good Will and got many pair of pants in a kaki, green and light brown colors. I bought tops and jackets to match. Over a 6 month period I probably bought 20 items at about $4 an item. Good will separates clothing by colors. I narrowed it down to just a few items for the trip. Most of the time I wore my hiking boots or orthotic sandals.
I did bring a couple of nice things to accessorize with them. At the end of my tent camp I folded up ¾ of the clothes I did not want to take home and left them for the tent attendants who were quite pleased. They were going to take it to their wives or sisters.
The last night we stayed in a coffee lodge where we had a dinner in someone’s home. I packed up most of the rest of my hats and clothes and gave it to that woman who hosted us for dinner. She promised me she would send me a picture of her kids every year. She sent me an African blessing on What’s AP that I really loved. She cooks outside on the ground yet she has What’s AP on her phone?
Definitely a hat. A hat is a must.
Polarized sunglasses are also a must as well as a small scarf to wear around your nose and mouth during dusty drive.
Try and be respectful and stay somewhat covered. Short shorts and short dresses really are frowned upon. When we visited a home the host asked one of the ladies to cover up her legs with fabric. That she was not properly dressed. Be respectful.
I did go sleeveless at times in the jeep on game drives. I always had a long sleeved shirt to cover up in markets and towns.
You can wear some make up. You get up at 5: 30am and it is dark and you have one little mirror in your tent.
I used the head lamp on a hanger to shine the light on the little mirror so I could get ready every morning. There is no electricity in your tent. You do have a light bulb that works off of solar. You’re not going to get to blow dry your hair or roll it for 4 days. That is why a hat is good and scrunchies too.
As always dress in layers. The mornings were cool and by afternoon you were hot. Mostly I wore my hiking boots just to stay stable and keep bugs off of me. I wore long pants and a couple of times I wore a skort.
Always wear sun repellent and spray your feet and shoes with bug repellent.
Game drives-what really happens
You get up and go by 6 am usually. The roads are awful. I am not saying bumpy, I am saying GOD awful. I held onto the hand rail so tight during these rides that I felt like I was pulling my wires out of my pacemaker.
Honestly my pacemaker started to hurt so I switched sides in the jeep to give that arm a rest. I had bruises on my arms from hitting the sides of the jeep. My husband had little cuts on his head from hitting the top of the van yet, we would not trade a minute of the game time drives. One day my husband announced that this was the best day of his life, even after hitting his head on the top of the jeep.
You are going to eat dust!!!!
Not only are the roads beyond bumpy but there is a drought going on in Tanzania and the dust just rolls in the windows. You can feel it in your teeth. Your face will be covered in dust.
Our guide told us that your memories will last lots longer than the road. He was right. Usually you are back for late lunch and then go out again for a couple hours before dinner. Everyone has to be back in their camps by dusk by Serengeti rules. Then you spend some time around the campfire, take your showers, eat and are escorted back to your bent where you stay until they wake you up in the morning with JAMBO.
The sun rises very quickly and sets very quickly. The stars are amazing and you can see the Milky Way. It was hard for me to recognize any stars because they are upside down from the states.
Nighttime I would awake to munching outside my window. I could not see who it was but grass eaters are always welcome. When I shined my flashlight it was just little dik diks. Then I could see eyes of the hyenas. I also was awakened by the roar of the antelope right next to my tent. A whole family of baboons was crawling over the tree next to me.
I felt like a little prairie dog because I am a light sleeper and I would wake up and pop my head up and look both ways at any noise. We kept our windows unzipped all the way so we could experience all the sounds.
No food in the tents. Really no food in the tents. Unless you want visitors.
The two twin beds were really very comfortable.
They clean up your tent every day and give you fresh towels but no wash clothes.
If you take your shoes off and walk around the tent your feet are going to be black.
Yes you should do it. 16 people in each basket. You will be surprised how therapeutic it is to see the morning this way. Stunning views!
What I found helpful
– Oil of Olay wash clothes, Little hydrating masks at night
– Head lamp, Scarf for face to cover your nose and mouth
– Wet wipes, Toast in a baggie every morning to help motion sickness.
– Little oatmeal and chocolate cookies that they sell in most markets in Tanzania.
– Pepcid ACS and Tons of Advil
– Tylenol PM
– Cell phone for pictures
– My hat
– Vaseline for lips
– My cloth foldup bag for game drives to hold cameras, jackets, wet ones, cookies, toast, pills, fan toilet paper and scarf or mask for face. Keeps your purse clean and can be washed and used for a second carry on bag.
– Ear plugs for fellow travelers who are in your jeep and think they need to talk continually.
– Ginger ale when you could find it.
– Duct tape when my suitcase ripped at the airport coming home.
– Extra straps to hold suitcase together, Suitcase locks
– A good light weight binoculars such as Nikon 8 x 25 travelight. I used them a lot.
– Packing cubes, 2 gallon baggies for clothes and organization.
– Nose spray and eye drops.
What is a tent camp like?
Nicer than I expected but you are going to get dirty. Let me just say it is impossible to get squeaky clean.
My husband kept teasing me before we got there that we were going to have a talking shower. Well he was right in one way.
You tell one of the tent attendants that you want a shower and then he loads up a hot 5 gallon bucket and heists it up in the air. Then you shower under water flow that is a little better than a heavy trickle.
They tell you to soap up and turn the water on and then turn it off and soap up your hair then turn the water back on to rinse. Meanwhile you are standing on a wood pallet thing in your tent. They do zipper up so you can have privacy.
You would be surprised at how long a 5 gal bucket will lasts. Really it could do 2 people if needed. At our camp they would do it right before dinner but not after dinner. All water has to be put up before dark. I missed the first night shower because I thought I could do it after dinner.
They also had two little tent baskets in the front that you could wash in one and rinse in the other and then a clothes line to hang up to dry. Everything including chairs had to be put up out of sight at nighttime. Even clothes had to be put up in your zippered tent.
Why you ask?
Because the animals are all around you at night. Our tents had only been up for two weeks so many animals lived in the area and pretty much were unafraid of us. At nighttime we could see the eyes of the hyenas. After watching them crack bones and eat the leftovers of lions during the day you knew to be afraid of these guys. One even tried to push a zipper open on one of our tents. They ended up eating the soap for washing clothes that was left outside.
Another woman got a rat in her tent. They give you a whistle and tell you to blow if there is a problem but that you are never to leave the tent without an escort. Just whistle. So this gal whistles and whistles and one of the tent attendants comes and he steps on the rat and kills it and picks it up and takes it out of the tent. She then made him clean up the blood.
The next morning I see this tent attendant and say I hear you are the best rat killer around. So he tells me no I just step on the rat and lift him by his tail and throw him outside. I say really because that not what the gal told me. So he says” you report me” I say report you for what? He says that it is against the law to kill any animal in the Serengeti even a rat. I say so what if a lion is in my tent you’re going to say go away little lion?
The tour leader told us how they handle encounters with animals. One time a whole heard of elephants surrounded this one guy’s tent. So all the 5 helpers and 3 tour guides got into their jeeps and surrounded the tent and told him to stay in the tent , stay in the tent, the elephants are just drinking your bucket of water. The elephants moved away. Another time a lion was going in front of each tent and drinking the washing water from in front of every tent. Again they drove their cars down and said stay in your tent stay in your tent. After that they made it a policy to always put up every bit of water before bed.
The food was fabulous in the tented camp, even though hyenas were constantly around. I don’t know if it was the thrill of seeing animals all day or just how camping food always tastes better, but our food was the best we had the whole trip! Every night was a feast.
Yes you have a toilet on a wood pedestal that worked but it was very hard to flush anything down. It has its own little zippered compartment too but you are in a tent. If you are short like me then it is a little difficult to get up on the pedestal but I was glad it was there.
Malaria Pills OMG they have side effects
Our tour guide told us that Malaria pills cause problems on the 4-6 day of taking them. I had this problem with diarrhea and so did 4 people out of 15. It is over quickly. Usually just one full day and you are better.
One great tip is every morning before you go on a game dry they will serve breakfast. Toast is always on the menu. Pack up 4 pieces of toast and put them in a zip lock bag with your back pack. That way if you start to feel queasy the toast will help.
Of course you do not want to get Malaria so you take the pills 2 days before your trip and 7 days after you get home.
You will be thrilled once you stop them as they give you WILD DREAMS, STOMACH ACHES AND BAD HEADACHES.
Make sure you bring plenty of your favorite stomach pain medicine because you will not be able to get it there.
We went to a pharmacy in Arusha and they did not have any Tums or anything like it for the stomach except one pill. When we read the instructions it was for ulcers. No pain medication available even at the pharmacy. Really just a little room with very few pills to choose from.
I did see women in the market selling lumps of clay that they said was for stomach aches but really are you going to chew on some block of clay?
Headaches were almost round the clock. Yes you can get rid of them with even just one aspirin or Advil. But you will do this all day almost every day.
Wild dreams oh yea! Crazy and wild is all I can say.
They need everything. The kids did not even know where the USA was on a map. Our guide even asked them have you not heard of Obama land. No one in the class knew about the world or geography. Bring maps for each classroom. Bring any school supplies. They need everything.
Albinos -Witch doctors in Africa say that if you want to be wealthy or have good luck you should cut off a body part from a live albino. Little albino kids cannot go to school because of fear of someone coming and chopping off a hand. The woman on my left started this place called Albino Peacemakers in Arusha Tanzania. Albino sewing is a safe place for these women to work and make money.
A boy is circumcised at 13- 16 years old in front of his tribe. He cannot make a sound or even grimace. Once this is done he wears white paint of his face to let everyone know he is now a man.
Female Genital Circumcises is against the law for 7 years; this was normally preformed on girls about 12 years of age. Many women have trouble delivering babies later on in life from that surgery.
The Market place– here is where you shop for food. Your trip of a lifetime is right around the corner. Have a great time!