If you're considering a safari holiday in Africa, there are so many potential options! Combining a Tanzania safari with gorilla trekking in Rwanda is one idea that offers a mix of wildlife encounters, spectacular scenery and that ‘once in a life time’ experience of getting up close to the animals of Africa.
A safari holiday doesn’t need to take place at a manic pace, with guests being herded from place to place - which is what some travellers envisage. We can organise a tailor-made safari itinerary to suit you, building in plenty of opportunity for you to unwind. You’ll get that coveted, first-hand experience of incredible wildlife, untamed landscapes and the unforgettable sunsets over the plains of Africa, but come away feeling refreshed too!
High in the mountains of Volcanoes National Park in northern Rwanda is the best opportunity to spot the native gorillas. Hidden away on the Rwandan/Uganda border are the mountainous silver back gorillas who (for their own protection), can only be visited as part of an organised tour.
I took a 2 day, whistle-stop tour to visit the gorillas. My itinerary also includes a tour of the genocide museum in Kigali which was sad to explore, but I would recommend visiting if you want to truly understand this country’s past.
Day 1: Arrive in Kigali and head to your hotel (we stayed at Gorilla City Center Hotel Kigali )
Day2: Kigali to Volcanoes National Park. We had a very early start with a 4am breakfast before our English-speaking guide arrived to collect us in the safari vehicle. We then drove to Volcanoes National Park, to arrive by 6.30 for a gorilla briefing at the park’s HQ. After this, we headed out into the jungle to search for the gorillas – which can take 2-6 hours depending on the movement of the apes in their natural habitat.
You’re allowed to stay close to the gorillas for a maximum of one hour, so you can take plenty of photos and videos. After this, you’ll descend back down and collect your gorilla trekking certificate. We then had dinner and stayed overnight at the Gorillas Volcanoes Hotel.
Day 3: Volcanoes National Park - Kigali International. For the last day of the tour, we took another early breakfast, then boarded the safari vehicle back to Kigali. This morning we had the chance to visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial – which is a tough experience. We had lunch at the end of the tour, before heading back to the airport.
After a couple of days in Rwanda, we crossed into Tanzania for the safari part of our trip. Combining the two countries is easy and offers the opportunity to see a wide diversity of native African wildlife.
Our first stop was Tarangire National Park where we stayed for a night at the Tarangire Safari Lodge which is known for its huge herds of elephant and the beautiful, bottle-shaped baobab trees. We visited in dry season from late June to October which is the best time of year to see thirsty antelope and elephant trek the hundreds of kilometres to drink at the Tarangire River. Whilst on Safari we seen plenty of wildebeest, elephants and a leopard in a tree taking some rest in the mid-day sun.
Our next stop was at Lake Natron, a spectacular soda lake (salty lake) high up at an altitude of 610m. I visited in August and from this time until October, you’ll see the amazing sight of a ‘flamboyance’ of pink flamingos who come here to breed - East Africa’s only breeding ground for millions of these colourful, charming birds.
From Lake Natron, we drove to one of Africa’s most popular parks - the Serengeti in north eastern Tanzania. This is a park you cannot miss whilst on safari in Tanzania, as it’s one of the best places to see all of the ‘Big Five’ in a very short space of time.
Between June and October, the Serengeti is the site of the annual migration over a million wildebeest who migrate along the western corridor of the park looking for fresh watering holes and grazing on the Africa plains.
Ngorongoro Crater is a huge volcanic crater which is home to more than 40,000 Masaai farmers whose cattle graze the land in this area. The Ngorongoro crater has to be my favourite park in all of Tanzania because the wildlife and scenery of the park are breathtaking, so it’s a good place to end your Tanzania safari. We finished with a stay at the Sopa Lodge which is located right at the top of the crater - watching the sunrise over the crater the morning was a beautiful experience I’ll never forget.
Safari accommodation on varies from simple tented camping around a bush fire, to ‘glamping’ options which involve ready-erected camp sites set up by a tour operator or hotel or at the top end; deluxe lodges which can even include swimming pools overlooking the water holes where thirsty wildlife stops by for a drink. Every safari we arrange can be tailored to your own style and budget. We can talk you through the different options to choose from, to find one that’s perfect for you.
When I visited Tanzania in June 2016, I chose to stay in a selection of lodges and ‘glamping’ tented accommodation (which comes with a private toilet and shower). I chose the glamping option for a few nights simply to make the cost of the safari more affordable, but also so I could experience sleeping in a safari park, up close to the wildlife. During the night and safely tucked up in bed, you’ll hear the sounds of wildlife close by and the chuckles of hyenas from your bed – another classic and memorable experience of your time in Africa!
Whilst a trip like this can initially seem expensive, it’s worth remembering that the price includes a lot of 'extras'. It will include all accommodation, game drives with a local guide plus all meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner). You’ll won't incur many additional expenses besides drinks and tips (at your own discretion).
In order to make the most of this once in a lifetime trip, I decided to travel with a private guide and vehicle for the safari. Travelling this way lets you go at your own pace in each park and allows for plenty of time for the guide to explain about the wildlife.
The local guides are very experienced and our guide, "Good Luck" certainly lived up to his name and reputation! We saw plenty of wildlife, particularly in the Serengeti, including a close-up view of a cheetah who was lying in wait in the long grass for an opportunity to pounce at any passing prey.
Although it's more expensive to use a private guide/vehicle, for any once-in-a-lifetime trip it's definitely worth the cost. Travelling as part of a group can also be a great experience, but it can sometimes limit your viewing window as everyone will need to take turns.
Many travellers choose to finish their Tanzania safari with a short beach break before returning home. The Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar is ideal for a few days of post-safari relaxation.
Zanzibar offers a fantastic range of accommodation choices, and I’d particularly recommend staying in the north of the island where you’ll find fantastic beaches and snorkelling opportunities. I stayed at Diamonds La Gemma Dell’Est; a fantastic all-inclusive resort which was the perfect place to relax on the beach and enjoy some cocktails before returning home.
If you’re interested in a Tanzania safari, gorilla trekking in Rwanda or a Zanzibar beach break, I can tailor-make your entire trip. I can talk you through the different options and styles and plan a trip that’s entirely suited to you. To start planning your trip – contact David.