East Africa has been on my wishlist of places to visit for a long time. I completed a budget overland adventure with Dragoman Overland to Southern Africa nearly 10 years ago (!), and have always wanted to return to the continent.
This time, however, I was looking for some real comfort. My wish came true when I headed to Tanzania in November, visiting Tarangire and Serengeti National Parks.
Let’s be honest, a luxury Tanzania safari is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. It’s definitely worth putting both time and money into getting it right. Over the years I’ve learnt that your safari camp really does play a hugely important part of any trip to Tanzania. Their location, guides and game drives can make or break a safari holiday.
Step forward Nimali Africa. This fantastic, locally owned and managed group of camps in Tanzania do sustainable, boutique luxury safari camps just right. I visited all three of their camps with a 2 night stay in each. This felt like a good duration, although you could add a night in Tarangire if you wanted to visit the Ngorongoro Crater.
Each camp has its own feel and design to it which I really liked. In each camp I was impressed by the consistently excellent service and standards of the Nimali brand.
Our first stay was in Tarangire National Park. One of the best parts of this camp is that it sits within a private concession. This means some of the more rigid park rules don’t apply. We could go on night drives, walking safaris and set up sundowners and lunch spots as we pleased.
Elephants are the big draw of Tarangire, there are hundreds of them. Our local guide here showed us the best spots and we got some great photos. One experience I’ll never forget was the dry riverbed breakfast. A herd of elephants stood watching us eat our delicious meal. It felt safe, incredible and truly magical.
The accommodation here is superb. I stayed in a large safari tent that was fully furnished and had an ensuite bathroom. This camp has a peaceful swimming pool to relax and watch the animals that visit the waterhole, just a few metres away. I was minding my own business when a herd of 60 elephants all showed up at once! Just amazing.
The camp is about 2 hours’ drive from Arusha. It is possible to come straight here from Arusha or Kilimanjaro Airport. However, I would advise an overnight stop first so you’re raring to go on arrival.
Our next stop was Serengeti National Park. We drove for 2 hours to Lake Manyara airstrip before hopping on an hour-long flight to Seronera. I’d definitely recommend taking the flight here. You can save yourself over 7 hours of driving and enjoy spectacular views from the plane. We could see Lake Manyara and its famous flamingos as well as the Ngorongoro Crater from above. Pretty impressive flightseeing.
We were met by the dynamic duo Daniel and Mohammed, who would guide and drive us over the next few days. It didn’t take long to realise that they were experts in their field. Daniel had an answer for every question we threw at him, and Mohammed was a skilled and safe driver. He negotiated some truly challenging African roads with ease.
Our safari began almost immediately. We stopped so many times on the way to camp to take photos. My highlight was pausing to watch a beautiful small pride of lions, our first big cat spotting!
Nimali Serengeti certainly has more of a feeling of being out in the wild. Everything is under canvas here with no permanent fixture, meaning the whole camp can be moved if needed. That said, the area it sits in is fantastic. Nestled in a quiet spot in a valley, away from the plains where most safari vehicles go. You will sleep well here!
It’s certainly more “outdoorsy” here, but still very luxurious, with outstanding service and food. I was visiting during the wildebeest migration, which was just spectacular. We saw a million of them slowly making their way south for better grazing and the mating season. The game drives here were fantastic – we spotted lions, leopard and cheetah.
The real highlight for me though, was the Hot Air Balloon safari. I cannot recommend this enough - it’s not cheap but it was absolutely worth it. Hovering silently over the migration below is something I will never forget. We can arrange this for you - this must be pre-booked in your holiday package to avoid disappointment.
Our trip ended at Nimali Mara. Don’t be fooled, you’re still in the Serengeti, but it’s named after the nearby Mara river to the North. This is Nimali’s newest camp and certainly the most luxurious of the three. To get here we opted to drive. It’s about 5 hours in total but is essentially a game drive the entire way through the Serengeti. Driving gives you a better sense of the vastness and scale of the area, as well as saving some money.
Nimali have created this fantastic camp on the rocky hillside and it certainly has the wow factor! The views from here are amazing - you can see for miles across the Serengeti. This camp has it all; a stunning restaurant and a great pool with views over the plains. The standout feature here though, are the bedroom tents.
Compared to the other camps, they have more solid permanent features. Floor to ceiling glass walls on three sides, meaning you can see right out over the park from any part of the tent. Waking up in the morning to the sunrise was breath-taking.
They have been designed personally by Harjot, the owner. Her stamp is all over it, not only with the unique furniture but also lovely little features too. I loved the free-standing copper bathtub with porthole window to enjoy African breeze while you soak away.
The reason to visit the Northern Serengeti is to see the Mara River where the wildebeest cross. Sadly, we didn’t experience the actual crossing but seeing thousands of them nervously gathering to the rivers’ edge was still so impressive. We were also cheered by a fantastic leopard spotting nearby where we were the only vehicle to be there.
This felt very special and was a great way to finish our fantastic safari experience. To return home, it was a short drive to Kogatende airstrip, where we caught a 2 hour flight back to Arusha.
Nimali Africa also take conservation and sustainability incredibly seriously. No plastic was used in any of the camps. We were given a reusable water bottle, which was always refilled with purified drinking water. All the camps operate on solar power and waste is recycled where possible.
They also do a lot of work within their community, employing local people in the camps and sponsoring local schools. It was fantastic to see all of this for myself first-hand and learn about the ways that tourism and conservation can come together to be more sustainable.
I came away from this luxury Tanzania safari having had a fantastic stay. Nimali Africa really are consistent across all their sites in terms of offering fantastic service, delicious food, exciting game drives and expert safari guides. I felt like I’d been really spoilt. I also came away with the feeling that I had seen a slice of local life and their communities. The small scale boutique nature of all three camps and their wonderful staff made the experience so special.
If you would like to plan a trip to Tanzania, give us a call on +44 1273320580 or request a quote. We are experts in planning tailor-made holidays and round the world flights, so we can work together with you until we’ve created your perfect trip.