Honeymoon Part II: Tanzania Safari in the Serengeti

As I mentioned in my original post about Planning a Safari in East Africa, there’s really not much to do since the Safari company you select organizes the entire thing [at least that was our experience]. We simply provided a rough budget, ideal travel dates, where we were coming from [the Seychelles] and where we were going after [Zanzibar] and andBeyond did the rest! It really is ideal for a honeymoon since so much planning goes into the wedding and reception.

September 30, 2018 – Travel Day [Seychelles to Tanzania]

We arrived in Tanzania at Mount Kilimanjaro airport around midnight and were greeted right off the plane by someone from andBeyond. We immediately felt at ease with him as he swiftly unburdened us of our carry-ons, provided our completed visa paperwork and helped expedite us to the front of the customs line. He then collected our checked bags and introduced us to our private driver who would deliver us to Onsea House Country Inn and Guest Cottage for the night. [The drive from Mount Kilimanjaro airport to Arusha took approximately 50 minutes.] We were transferred comfortably in a Lexus GX with plenty of bottled water and a friendly, English speaking driver who gave us the lay of the land – even though it was too dark to see anything.

Onsea House
{Onsea House Country Inn and Guest Cottage in Arusha- our first stop after arriving in Tanzania}

[Make sure to do your research on vaccinations required to visit Tanzania. We initially were not going to get the Yellow Fever vaccination because we were told by Passport Health that it wasn’t required since we were not traveling from a Yellow Fever country and our layover in Kenya – which is a Yellow Fever country – was less than 12 hours and we weren’t leaving the airport. In the end, I was too paranoid about weird travel hiccups to risk anything happening so far away from home and on our honeymoon that we went back to get it and I’m glad we did because we were asked for proof of Yellow Fever vaccination as soon as we disembarked from the plane. I have no idea what would have happened had we not had it – probably nothing – but it was worth getting it to not find out. Now we’re vaccinated for life!]

October 1, 2018 – Serengeti Safari Day #1

Despite our late arrival, we had an early start the following morning to catch our flight from Arusha Airport to Kogatende in the Serengeti where our Safari properly began. We spent less than 12 hours at Onsea House but we enjoyed our experience all the same. Compared to the Six Senses in the Seychelles, the rooms felt a little underwhelming but they were perfectly nice and very clean. The staff was friendly and generously carried all of our luggage and served us welcome drinks even though we arrived well after midnight. They also were up early to ensure we had a fresh breakfast before setting off on the next leg of our journey.

Onsea House
{Sunrise views of Arusha from the breakfast patio at Onsea House}

Once again, we were comfortably transferred via private car service to Arusha Airport which is basically a small shack on the side of the airstrip. andBeyond took care of everything with our luggage and ticketing [which I think ended up being more complicated than usual since my bag was way over weight…oops]. Then we boarded a teeny tiny airplane and I sent up a few prayers that we would survive the trip. However, my fear was quickly displaced with awe and wonder at the beautiful landscape of the Serengeti below us. [We flew Coastal Aviation arranged by andBeyond. The flight took about one hour and we did make one stop on our way to Kogatende.]

coastal aviation plane
{The first of many small planes we flew around while on safari in Tanzania}

When we landed at Kogatende in the Serengeti, it was nothing but a dirt airstrip in the middle of a vast National Park. There’s no “airport” or “traffic control tower” [yes, I did actually ask] just a guy with a flag and a clearing in the trees – pretty wild! As soon as we landed, we were greeted by Felix, our Safari Game Guide, from andBeyond who collected our bags and brought us over to a little table near our jeep laden with the welcome sight of coffee, tea, cookies and snacks.

andBeyond jeep
{Welcome reception at the Jeep before the start of our Safari with andBeyond}

[Our Jeep was actually a Land Cruiser and decked out with USB outlets, blankets, fly swatters and a mini fridge filled with beer, wine, water and soda. Despite the bumpy ride, it was extremely comfortable. It had plastic windows which mostly stayed unzipped and a moon roof that opened. We learned that unlike in South Africa, animals in East Africa do not fear humans because they have not been hunted. They look at the Jeep as a big metal animal in their kingdom that doesn’t appeal to their senses so they leave it alone. There is no rifle perched on the dash like you often see on South African Safaris.]

Shortly after, we set off on our first game drive of the Safari. Being first timers, it didn’t take much to impress us. A few impala, a lone zebra in the distance, a crocodile sunning itself on the river bank and we were ecstatic! Little did we know just how quickly things would escalate. As I mentioned in my first post about Safari’s, where you go and what you see is largely dependent on the season. We traveled in early October, the dry season, during the Wildebeest’s Great Migration from Kenya to Tanzania in search of greener pastures. And as luck would have it, we were able to witness the Mara River crossing on our very first day, an incredible and rare spectacle. Felix told us that people sit for hours, even days, following the migration and waiting at the river to witness such an event. It is definitely a bucket list item for any Safari junkie and I’m still in awe that we got to witness it right out of the gates.

We were on such a high after seeing the Mara River Crossing that we didn’t think our day could get any better. We continued to meander around the Serengeti and saw herds of Elephants, Birds and Lizards of all colors [African Fish Eagle, Lilac-Breasted Roller, Agama Lizard], Thompson Gazelles, Warthogs, Topi, a pair of Giraffes and a couple of sleeping Lions. Towards the end of our first day, as the sun was beginning to set, we came across three Leopard Cubs playing in the rocks. Another rare sighting considered ‘good fortune’ to see.

Elephant sighting on safari in serengeti
{Elephant sighting on Safari in the Serengeti}

As we were turning back towards camp, Felix received a radio message and we were off on the chase once more. Turned out to be an adult Leopard sitting alone amongst the rocks. Right after we pulled up, he jumped down and walked right past our jeep, literally brushing the side of it as he passed. So close we could have reached down and stroked his back. We tailed him for a bit as he walked into the sunset and then we made our way to camp for the night. This sighting was definitely one of the highlights from the entire honeymoon!

{Lone Leopard sighting among the rocks in the Serengeti}
Leopard sighting in the serengeti
{Lucky leopard sighting in the Serengeti while on Safari}

We had just had the best Safari day you can dream up when we pulled up to andBeyond Serengeti Under Canvas and were greeted by the happiest group all singing and dancing. We were offered a warm towel to wipe our hands and a cool, refreshing drink – exactly what we needed after a long day. We then were introduced to our butler and shown to our tent which was appointed like a five-star resort. Maybe not quite the Six Senses but it was large, clean, chicly decorated, had “electricity” in the form of light and power outlets, a separate space for a bathroom including a flushing toilet, “running” water and an outdoor shower filled on-demand with warm water. I’ve never been glamping but I imagine it can’t get much better than this.

andBeyond Serengeti Under Canvas
{Our tent at andBeyond Serengeti Under Canvas}

After a quick shower and freshen up, we radioed our butler who picked us up from our tent. [Since you are technically camping in the middle of the Serengeti, there are still animals all around. You are safe in your tent but are not allowed to leave at night without an escort who carries a torch and gun.] We were seated for dinner next to a large campfire and served the most delicious food and bottomless drinks of our choosing. I’ll admit here that I was a little skeptical about the food in Africa. I tend to be picky about how my food is prepared and in what environment but I loved it so much I found myself asking the Chef for his recipes.

We returned to our tent a few hours later, slipped into the most cozy bed, warm from a hot water bottle that had been slipped in while we were at dinner and fell asleep to the sound of animals all around us – a little scared but also immensely happy and exhausted from an incredible first day.

October 2, 2018 – Serengeti Safari Day #2

The next morning we were woken early by our butler delivering tea and coffee in preparation for our next game drive. We only had two days in the Serengeti so we wanted to maximize our time as much as possible and planned to spend the full day out driving. andBeyond generously packed us breakfast and lunch to make a picnic while on the go – both equally as delicious as dinner the previous night.

andBeyond under canvas tent
{Coffee & tea in our tent at andBeyond Serengeti Under Canvas}
andbeyond breakfast spread in Serengeti
{Stopping for breakfast during a game drive in the Serengeti}

The highlight of the second day were the Lions! Our first sighting of the day was a pair of lazy male Lions lounging in the early light. Then we came across a large pride of female lions camouflaged in the tall grass. However, the most memorable sighting happened later that afternoon as we were casually driving along a small river. It was a lone male Lion, still quite young with a coat and mane beautifully intact [some of the Lions look like they’ve been in a scuffle or two] who was clearly not as familiar or at ease with humans. He kept laser focus on us the entire time and looked ready to pounce at the first opportunity. We slowly backed away to give him his space but there was something majestic about the sighting that I will never forgot.

In addition to all the fantastic Lion sightings, we saw Hippopotamus’ wading in the water, endless Wildebeests all making the Great Migration, Giraffes, Cape Buffalos, Water Bucks, Hyenas and Vultures feasting on a freshly abandoned carcass. We saw multiple varieties of Gazelles – Thompson, Topi, Impala, Grand – Vervet Monkeys, Baboons, Bat-Eared Foxes, Jackals, Cape Buffalos and more Elephants, Zebras, birds and lizards [Secretary Bird, Monitor Lizard]. We even got to watch a Crocodile take down a Wildebeest as it tried to cross the river which was equal parts exciting, fascinating and horrifying.

hippopotamus sighting in serengeti
{Hippopotamus sightings in the Serengeti while on Safari}
wildebeest during great migration
{Wildebeest making Great Migration across the Serengeti in Tanzania}
giraffe sighting in serengeti
{Giraffe sighting in the Serengeti while on Safari}

We also went on a wild goose chase looking for Cheetahs. Our hunt took us all the way into the neighboring Masai Mara region of Kenya before we eventually gave up and made our way back to camp for the evening. On our way, we made one final stop to see some Lion Cubs playing happily with their mama. It was a long day of driving but filled with so many incredible memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Kenya boarder in Serengeti
{Stopped at the Tanzania/Kenya boarder on our search for Cheetahs in the Serengeti}

That evening, andBeyond surprised us with a private candlelit dinner hidden in the bush. They set up our very own bonfire and had chilled champagne waiting at the table when we arrived. I suppose it was as romantic as camping gets but, I’m not going to lie, half the time I was worried a Lion would come charging out of the bushes and finish us and our dinner off! Luckily, that didn’t happen and I’m still here to tell the tale.

candle lit dinner at andbeyond serengeti
{Private candlelit dinner for two in the bush while camping in the Serengeti}

October 3, 2018 – Depart andBeyond Serengeti Under Canvas

The following morning, we were scheduled to move to andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge so we slept in a bit and enjoyed a relaxing breakfast at camp which we had all to ourselves. Then Felix took us back to Kogatende Airstrip for our flight to Lake Manyara Airstrip. [We flew Coastal Aviation arranged via andBeyond. The flight took about 45 minutes. The drive from Lake Manyara Airstrip to andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge took about two hours.]

breakfast at andbeyond
{Breakfast at andBeyond Serengeti Under Canvas before departing}

Continue reading Honeymoon Part III: Tanzania Safari in Ngorongoro Crater next!


Accommodations & Country Specific Details

Stay: andBeyond Serengeti Under Canvas

This entire post is basically a review of andBeyond Serengeti Under Canvas so I won’t repeat my thoughts all here again but quite simply, we LOVED our experience. I honestly wasn’t expecting much going into it and thought of it as the “budget portion” of our Safari. I never imagined loving it as much as I did – the staff, the food, the tent, the ambiance – literally everything. All this being said, I wonder how much of it was due in part to my low expectations. Regardless, andBeyond did an exceptional job making us feel welcome and special and we hope to return one day to andBeyond Serengeti Under Canvas.

Transportation:

To Tanzania: Getting to Tanzania from the Seychelles is harder than you might think considering they aren’t that far from each other, distance wise. Unfortunately, there’s no direct route and flights are only offered on certain days of the week so be sure to consider that if planning to link the two together. In total it was more than 12 hours of travel and included boats, cars and several flights [Felicite Island (Six Senses private boat) > Praslin Island (Taxi + Seychelles Air) > Mahe Island (Kenya Air) > Nairobi (Kenya Air Layover) > Mount Kilimanjaro (andBeyond private transfer)].

Around Tanzania: As soon as we arrived in Tanzania, andBeyond took care of all our transportation needs around the country and while on Safari.

Currency: Tanzanian shilling (TSH) but most vendors also accept USD and EUR. Honestly though we had no need for money while we were there. However, we did tip our Safari Guide and Butler at the end using the USD and EUR we brought. [andBeyond recommends $20 USD per couple, per day for Safari Guides and $15 USD per couple, per day for Safari Butler.]

Language: Swahili but could communicate using English in most cases. Did learn a few fun words including: asante (thank you), karibu (you’re welcome), jambo (hello).

Outlet Adapter: The standard voltage is 220-240V. The standard frequency is 50 Hz. The power sockets that are used are of type D & G. That said, everywhere we stayed had USB outlets or standard US power sockets type A & B.

Passport/Visa Requirements: U.S. Passport valid for at least six months from date of travel. Visa is required to enter Tanzania but can be acquired upon entry for $50 USD. Visas can also be issued ahead of time by applying online.

Vaccinations/Medicines: List of vaccinations recommended for Zanzibar, Tanzania found here. We both got Yellow Fever to be safe [we had a layover in Kenya which is a yellow fever country but since we were only in the airport for less than 8 hours, it technically wasn’t required], we also received updated Typhoid and DTaP vaccines and Malaria Pills. We’ve both already completed both Hep A & B series vaccines.

Weather: We visited Tanzania in early October, their late spring. It was warm and sunny for the most part during the day but we also had a brief rain shower one afternoon. In the evening, it definitely cools down so bring layers especially since you eat outside and sleep in a tent. You will also want layers for early morning game drives before the sun comes up as it’s a great time to see the animals active.

3 thoughts on “Honeymoon Part II: Tanzania Safari in the Serengeti

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