Where should I go on safari?

This is probably the question I get asked most, swiftly followed by  ‘and at what time of the year?’

The truth is, it depends on what you want from your safari, when you are able to go, and inevitably, how much money you want to spend.  The answer will be different if you’ve been on safari before, and whether you want to combine a safari with other areas and activities – the coast or Victoria Falls for instance.

But if the safari is the prime driver, to me there are two countries that stand out above all others: Tanzania and Botswana.  Yes, if you want mountain gorillas you must go to either Uganda or Rwanda, if you want vineyards or cage diving with great white sharks head for South Africa, for game walks and great chances of good leopard sightings Zambia is renowned and for spectacular desert scenery try Namibia, but for the whole safari experince I believe Botswana and Tanzania have the edge.

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Botswana offers great predator viewing, including good chances for the endangered wild dog, huge numbers of  elephants, varied safari activities and a pristine safari experience.  You can take game drives, including night drives in some areas, boat trips on the Chobe, Kwando and Linyanti Riverr, dug-out canoes in the Okavango Delta, and experience game walks in many areas.  It can also be combined easily with the fantastic Victoria Falls and South  Africa.  Good infrastructure and mainly small, high quality camps, easily accessed by light aircraft make for no long drives and safaris easily arranged for as few as two people.  Botswana is at its best, (with high prices to match) during the dry season from June to October.

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Tanzania on the other hand has the greatest density of large animals probably anywhere on earth; this is the country to see the huge herds of migrating wildebeest, zebra and gazelle, which in turn attract many predators particularly lion, cheetah, leopard, hyena and jackal.  The scenery of northern Tanzania is also hugely varied, from the bulks of Mts Kilimanjaro and Meru, across the Masai Steppe into the Rift Valley, over the Ngorongoro Crater Highlands and down onto the Serengeti Plains, and driving one way of this circuit gives a great insight into the country and its people.

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There’s no doubt though that Tanzania is becoming a more popular destination, so if you want to get away from the bulk of other visitors, and experience the magnificent wildlife, scenery and cultures of Tanzania in the best way, you need to plan your safari right.  Tanzania is at its best from December to March and from the end of May to October, but the recommended itinerary will be very different depending on the time of the year.

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For more help on planning your personal, perfect safari, get in touch at:

andrew@journeyintoafrica.com

For more information on the major wildlife areas on Tanzania and Botswana see: www.journeyintoafrica.com

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Trekking Mount Meru, Tanzania

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Just got back from Tanzania where we spent four days walking up Mt Meru before our safari.  If Meru was positioned anywhere else it would be a major trekking destination, but it has the misfortune to be situated 50 miles from its more famous big sister – Kilimanjaro, which attracts all the headlines and most of the visitors.

For Meru this is a pity, as it’s a stunningly beautiful mountain, more wildlife on its lower slopes than Kili, a lovely forest trail up the mountain and a more varied ascent to the summit, along a sometimes quite tricky path, with a bit of scrambling and a real pull to the top.  For those that do get up here, they’re rewarded by phenomenal views down into the Ash Cone, the sheer, rocky eastern face of the mountain the Masai call Ol Donyo Orok – the Black Mountain, and great views of Kili and across the Masai Steppe and into Kenya.

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We started at 5,000 feet, walking up a trail with colobus monkeys above and the crimson flash of turacos flying between the trees of the ancient nuxia and juniper forest, it’s a hugely atm0spheric place, festooned with lichen and mosses and you half expect an elf or goblin to appear from behind every tree!  Our first hut was Miriakamba Hut at around 8000 ft with fantastic views of the top of the mountain as the cloud lifted.

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The following day it’s a full morning’s hike through more beautiful hagenia forest up a good trail to Saddle Hut, from where you can take an acclimatisation walk up Little Meru in the afternoon, before an early night and a good meal prepared for you  by your cook, in readiness for the hardest day of all.

From Saddle Hut it’s the big push to the summit, done at night with a headtorch to reach the 15,000 ft peak at sunrise, and a huge sense of acheivement at the top.  Fron there it’s downhill all the way and you see the path that you ascended at night – good thing it was in the dark!  Congratulations Joyce, Nick and Shelly for summiting in style!

The final day is a different route down, stunning scenery and a lovely path.  Meru is a great alternative to Kilimanjaro, yes, it’s lower and it’s not the highest in Africa, but in many ways it’s more beautiful and it has the attraction of fewer people – so don’t tell everyone!

If you want to discuss a trek up either Meru or Kili, perhaps in combination with a Tanzanian safari, do get in touch at andrew@journeyintoafrica.com

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