Ruth and I enjoying Singita EXPLORE camp overlooking the Grumeti Reserve.
Did you know that the Giraffe is the national animal of Tanzania?
One of our expert guides preparing drinks and snacks at “Sundowner”. Each sun down that you witness is truly spectacular!
Outside ay Singita Serengeti House over looking the watering hole. If you look closely, you can see some zebra gathering for a drink.
Not my most fashionable look but certainly practical for a photo safari. I’ve linked everything I wore at the bottom of this post. I love my boots and I am wearing them in Dallas too!
How all transportation happens. You will quickly find your favorite spot on each game drive. Mine was in front right behind the guide. Ruth likes to sit in the back so that she has a view from a higher view point.
Just call me ‘Safari Tanya’.
My beautiful room at Singita Faru Faru Lodge. During turn down service, they will arrange the mosquito net over your bed.
We were so lucky to witness two crossings at the Mara River. I now know where the term ‘herd mentality’ comes from. The wildebeest literally line up and follow each other in a single line across the river. It’s a very dangerous journey as there are lots of crocodiles in the river.
This is a lion pride of 17 members. They had just finished eating their kill of a zebra and wildebeest and weren’t interested in us humans. Thankfully!
“Everything in Africa bites, but the safari bug is worst of all…” ~ Brian Jackman
Today on the blog, I am recounting our recent trip to Tanzania. We visited the Grumeti Reserve and the Serengeti National Park and I’m pretty sure that I left part of my heart and soul in Africa. The trip of a lifetime is an understatement! If this is on your #bucketlist or a destination you have been thinking about, you will want to read and bookmark today’s blog post. Let me take you to the Serengeti for an amazing photo safari.
If you read the What to Pack for a Photo Safari Trip to Africa blog post then you will know that I was with my dear friend Ruth M. on this extraordinary adventure. So let me say off the bat, this blog post is not sponsored in any way. I was her plus one and feel so fortunate that I got to go. We’ve traveled together for several years – mostly to film festivals. In fact, we have a nickname for this BTBE (Best Travel Buddy Ever). Ruth and I just get each other. We’re easy, no drama type gals who like a very detailed plan. Fortunately for me, Ruth has been to Africa many times and this was my very first trip. So I was elated that she planned every detail from start to finish and I basically showed up. Lucky me!
Our entire trip we stayed in Singita properties, focusing on the Grumeti Reserve (Singita Grumeti) and the Serengeti National Park (Singita Lamai). Singita Luxury Resorts operate properties in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. You can book your stay directly with them. Next year, they are opening Rwanda at Volcanoes National Park to add the Gorilla experience to their portfolio. I want to point out that September/October is not traditionally the migration, yet we saw all the animals you would typically see if the migration were happening. All to say, anytime is a great time to visit Tanzania! Getting there is a bit of a planes, trains and automobiles journey. Our flights are detailed below.
Let me start with I went into this trip with no expectations. I knew a little bit about the conservation project Ruth was invited to participate in through the Singita Grumeti Fund (Elephant Collaring Project will be detailed in a separate blog post) but other than that, I was hoping to see a few animals in the wild. From the very beginning, the entire trip exceeded my imagination. The moment you are picked up on the private air strip on the Grumeti Reserve to the moment you depart, you are basically on a game drive. Within five minutes of driving down the dirt road, we saw zebras and wildebeest everywhere – by the thousands! From that point on, it just continued to get better.
We were there for ten days working on the elephant collaring project for the first four days and then enjoying game drives and resorts the rest of the time. The wild animals you see in the Serengeti are those that you would see at any good Zoo. Elephant, lion, cheetah, leopard, wart hog, zebra, wildebeest, hippopotamus, cape buffalo, crocodile, baboon, giraffe, hyena, vulture, ostrich, many different birds, topi, impala, eland, dik-dik and more. Did I mention that you will see termite mounds that are four feet tall? Our expert guides were not only well versed in conservation efforts but they are also animal experts. Ask them anything while you are on a game drive and they will know the answer. You will do two game drives a day – one in the early morning and one in the late afternoon.
The Grumeti Reserve is 350,000 acres on the western side of the Serengeti National Park. Singita is dedicated to conservation and therefore, there is no hunting on this reserve (which made me extremely happy). It’s amazing to stand back and watch the circle of life play itself out right in front of you. Truly, it all works and keeps itself in check when left alone. Every animal, insect and plant serves a purpose in the ecosystem!
By staying in any Singita property, you are helping the conservation effort. Dedicated to environmentally conscious hospitality, sustainable conservation and the empowerment of local communities, Singita, meaning “place of miracles,” was founded in 1993 with a single lodge. It now operates 12 lodges and camps across 3 countries with Rwanda coming in 2019. The staff members are mostly locals who speak excellent English. I loved getting to know them during our journey. They were always happy to answer any question I had and I loved learning about their native language – Swahili. Can you say ‘Hakuna Matata’?
Travel details and tips:
Air: Although there are lots of ways to get to Africa, you will probably want to book with a carrier that you have miles with or get great airfare pricing. The journey is far and there is no way to do it non-stop. Getting the upgrade to business class really makes a difference on this trip. We traveled with Delta/KLM and this itinerary was great:
1) Dallas –> Atlanta; 2) Atlanta –> Amsterdam (you will arrive the next morning); 3) Amsterdam –> Kilimanjaro (you will arrive at night); Overnight at a local hotel/lodge and continue travel to Grumeti Reserve the next morning via Grumeti Air. It’s about 25 hours of travel to get there including layovers and an 8 hour time change. Wear something comfortable! My Soma leggings, t-shirt and wrap sweater were perfect for the long journey as I could easily sleep in what I had on.
Food: All Singita properties include all food and beverage. The meals are EXCELLENT and they will accommodate any dietary needs/restrictions. We were never hungry and I loved getting to try many spectacular South African wines. If you want to spend more time on a game drive, your guide will have the chef prepare the meal to go. We did this several times with our breakfast and would break during our early morning game drive to enjoy hot coffee and delicious breakfast sandwiches. “Sundowner” is always offered by your guide which includes snacks and beverages at sundown. Oh, they also offer ‘tea time’ every afternoon in the main lodge.
Accommodations: Luxury at its best! Beautiful rooms/tents with lush bedding. Laundry service is included and I used this often. All beds have a mosquito net and you will use this as a precaution. If you stay in one of the tents/camps, sleep with the “windows” open for a lovely breeze at night and the sounds of all the animals on the land. YES, you will hear lions roar! This stay was booked directly with Singita and we did not use a travel agent.
We stayed at 4 different properties during this trip. Singita Explore camp, Singita Serengeti House, Singita Lamai (for the Mara river crossing experience) and Singita Faru Faru Lodge. If you can’t decide between a luxury camp (tents) or structure experience, I suggest booking several nights at 2 properties to experience both. I loved all 4 of these properties for various reasons.
Packing list and other essential information: I detailed the vaccinations you need, travel Visa, passport information and my packing list in this blog post. You will only need these shots one time so you are set for many years if you decide to go to Africa again later.
Other: Tips are given to your guide, waiter and the property staff (3 separate tips) at the end of your stay. They gladly accept US dollars or you can put it on your credit card.
Let me answer a question I got many times on social media – YES, I felt completely safe during the entire trip! There are guards on every property to protect you from the animals. You will always walk escorted by a guide at night or in the early morning. Wild animals roam everywhere and this is just a safety precaution.
I highly recommend this trip sooner rather than later. You will not regret a single minute of it! Hopefully this blog post was helpful in preparing you. Have you been to Africa? Leave me a comment and let me know about your journey.
Hakuna Matata! – Tanya
P.S. Stay tuned for a separate blog post about the Singita Grumeti Fund and our elephant collaring experience.
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photo: Tanya’s iPhone