My friends and I recently returned home after a fantastic two week visit to Tanzania & Zanzibar (Sep ’14). We selected Safari Infinity as our tour operator and couldn’t have been happier with our choice. If what you are looking for in a tour operator is one who is as enthusiastic as you are during the planning stages, is super responsive to every question asked (no matter how trivial), and has the local knowledge and experience to assist you in putting together an extraordinary and memorable experience, then I would highly recommend Safari Infinity!
As I had been on safari in Tanzania once before, my three friends were happy to leave the planning of this safari up to me. I had a general idea of the areas I wanted to visit. In addition, my preference was to work directly with a Tanzanian based tour operator (TO). Other than that, I didn’t know quite where to start. I started researching the web and found Trip Advisor to be a wealth of information. I spent hours on Trip Advisor’s Tanzania forum reading Tanzania/Zanzibar related posts. I truly appreciate the reviews, advice, and other helpful information people have taken the time to submit. Based on recommendations found on TA, I narrowed it down to an initial set of 10 tour operators to whom I sent a request for a quote based on the outline of the itinerary I provided. I received responses from 8 of them. I eliminated a few of them immediately based on their responses. The remaining ones I dropped into a spreadsheet and did a side-by-side comparison of the criteria that was important to me. In the end, I selected Safari Infinity (SI) as our TO.
I worked directly with Lucia Lee-Kombe, co-owner of SI. I can’t say enough about how responsive Lucia was to each and every one of our emails. Honestly, I don’t think she ever sleeps! Based on what I was looking for in terms of an itinerary, we came up with a route and accommodations (combination of tent camps and lodges) that worked perfectly for us. Following is the itinerary we settled on.
Day 1 – Arusha – African Tulip
Day 2/3 – Tarangire National Park – Tarangire Safari Lodge
Day 4 – Ngorongoro Crater – Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge
Day 5/6 – Central Serengeti – Lemala Ewanjan Tent Camp
Day 7-9 – Northern Serengeti – Lemala Kuria Hill Tent Camp
Day 10 – Depart by air to Zanzibar
Day 10-12 – Zanzibar – Hideaway Nungwi
Day 13 – Zanzibar Stone Town – Emerson Spice
Day 14 – Return to Arusha and travel home
It is not often that you can finish a trip like this and not have a single glitch. Everything was exactly as promised by SI. The vehicle they provided us was nice and clean. We had a lot of room for the four of us to spread out. SI provided us with a cell phone with numbers programmed that we could use to contact them at any time (though we never had any use for it, it was nice to know it was there).
In the end, we found all of our accommodation choices to be excellent, though our favorite place, without a doubt was the Lemala Ewanjan Tent Camp. One experiences the true feeling of being out in the African Bush in this traditional tented camp. (Being woken up by the sound of lions roaring in the distance was a highlight; it makes you appreciative of how close you are to nature). The staff was wonderful, the food was excellent and the tent accommodations were clean and comfortable. They serve meals family style which I prefer; what better way to share experiences from that day’s game drive. We loved the ‘Talking Showers’ whereby a bucket filled with heated water is lifted with a rope and pulley system to an overhead catch basin. You ‘talk’ through the tent wall if you need more hot water. There is no better feeling than a nice, hot shower to rinse off the day’s inevitable layer of dust.
I have to say something about our amazing driver/guide Robert! He took care of us from the time he picked us up from the airport until he dropped us back off again. There is no doubt Robert is a patient man! We must have asked him a million questions but he never tired of answering them. Robert is super knowledgeable about everything we came across in our game drives, animals, birds, plants, etc. He understood the behaviors of the wildlife and was able to predict many times what we should be watching for. He was great at pointing out unique photo opportunities and parking the vehicle so that we had the best vantage point. Once he knew what we liked to drink, he made sure the cooler was full with our favorites each day. However, I think what most impressed me about Robert was the passion he has for the Bush. It is immediately evident that this is not just a job to him, this is his life. I loved the fact that we always stopped to pick up a piece of trash if we came across it (while other vehicles drove right on by). I really can’t say enough good words about Robert. By the end of the safari, we felt like he was a good friend. If you are lucky enough one day to have him as your driver/guide, you will understand what I mean. I can assure you, there were a few wet eyes when we had to say our goodbyes!
Zanzibar was a wonderful way to wrap up our visit to Tanzania. I would highly recommend staying at least one night at the Emerson Spice in Stone Town. Emerson Spice is located right in the middle of the old part of town, a great location to set foot out the door and explore. Take the cell phone they provide in each room with you. It would be very easy to get lost in the narrow, twisting streets. Each room is unique in design. They leave the doors open when the rooms are vacant so sneak a peek into the other rooms if you can. They had an issue with water for a few hours after we checked in but not surprising as this is a very old building. The manager was very apologetic and bought us a round of cocktails to make up for the inconvenience.
Lastly, I wanted to mention a conversation we had with one of the bush pilots who flew us from the Northern Serengeti back to Arusha. This was not a non-stop flight, we had to stop a few times dropping off and picking up others along the way. We had been advised prior to arriving that for the domestic flights, our luggage would be restricted to 15 kgs. We took that to heart and stayed within the weight restriction by traveling with soft-sided duffle bags and backpacks. We were amazed at the size of the luggage some of the people brought out to the plane. The pilot just shook his head and said that the only reason he was allowing the larger suitcases on the plane was because the four of us were traveling light. He said he had been known to make people dump their belongings in a plastic bag and leave the hard-sided suitcases behind. Who knows if there was any truth to it but why push it. Besides, travelling light is so much easier when you are moving to a new location every other day or so, not to mention the fact that duffels pack easily into the back of the 4x4.
After months of planning, not to mention the expense, you can’t help but be a little bit nervous hoping you made the right choice of TO, itinerary, flights, etc. What a great feeling it is to look back and find everything happened exactly as planned. Asante Sana Simon & Lucia, Robert and the Safari Infinity Team!
Some pics from our safari: share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome…
Some pics from Zanzibar: share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome…