15 Tips for Better Safari-ing in Tanzania

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This is the second of twelve posts on our safari in Tanzania. Check out our other posts here:

  • One Week of Glorious Safari-ing in Tanzania
  • 15 Tips for Better Safari-ing in Tanzania
  • Moving in to the Maramboi Tented Camp
  • The Elephants at Tarangire National Park
  • The Start of the Great Migration: Lake Manyara
  • 2 Nights at the Kitela Lodge
  • A Close Encounter with a Lion at the Ngorongoro Crater
  • Safari-ing in the Ngorongo Park: Day 1
  • Glamping at Ndutu Under Canvas in the Serengeti
  • Simba and the Rest of the Pride in the Serengeti
  • Giraffe for Breakfast? Day 2 at the Ngorongo Park
  • Hippo Serenade: Sleeping at the Lake Masek Tented Camp

Mrs. Selfish and I spent an epic seven days safari-ing in Tanzania in order to catch the Great Migration, the migratory pattern of millions of wildebeests and zebras as they traverse the Serengeti.

An African safari is usually high up on people’s bucket lists, but for some reason was never on my radar. I guess I thought it would be rather boring, since you’re confined to a car for 10+ hours a day with nothing to do but stare at animals. I figured it would be like a portable zoo where the weather is over 90 degrees and there’s no air conditioning.

lion

The only that separated us from this guy was a 5-inch thick car door.

And while the experience on paper was very much like that, I can say that our safari was definitely one of the most awesome and most memorable things I’ve ever done and will likely ever do. Our experience was nothing short of 5-stars from start to finish, and we managed to see pretty much every African animal imaginable. Simply amazing.

If you’re interested in taking a safari of your own, know that it is definitely not cheap. There are no miles or points options. It can also be quite a feat to find the right safari tour group.

After much searching, and reading other people’s trip reports on flyertalk and tripadvisor we decided to go with Allan Tanzania Safari, which I highly recommend.

Not only were there prices very competitive (at 70% the cost of most places we found), but our guide, Francis, was extremely professional, knowledgeable, and just really darned likeable. Even better, the entire tour was private – meaning Mrs. Selfish and I were able to do everything on our schedule.

There’s also very little planning involved once you’ve found a tour group to your liking. Once you’re booked, all you have to do is show up.

That being said, there are definitely some things you can do to make your experience better. Here’s our top 15 tips for better safari-ing in Tanzania.

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One Week of Glorious Safari-ing in Tanzania

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This is the first of twelve posts on our safari in Tanzania. Check out our other posts here:

  • One Week of Glorious Safari-ing in Tanzania
  • 15 Tips for Better Safari-ing in Tanzania
  • Moving in to the Maramboi Tented Camp
  • The Elephants at Tarangire National Park
  • The Start of the Great Migration: Lake Manyara
  • 2 Nights at the Kitela Lodge
  • A Close Encounter with a Lion at the Ngorongoro Crater
  • Safari-ing in the Ngorongo Park: Day 1
  • Glamping at Ndutu Under Canvas in the Serengeti
  • Simba and the Rest of the Pride in the Serengeti
  • Giraffe for Breakfast? Day 2 at the Ngorongo Park
  • Hippo Serenade: Sleeping at the Lake Masek Tented Camp

Mr. Selfish and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out if we wanted to go on a safari at all. After speaking with friends and family, who had been on a safari, we started doing research about safaris we could take in February.

Immediately, I saw that the Great Migration starts in Tanzania in February. Then, I realized that it was the “life” part of the Great Migration, wherein nearly half a million wildebeests are born. This was distinguished from the “death” part of the Great Migration where tens of thousands of wildebeests are killed crossing the Mara River. I started making arrangements to book a week long safari for late February.

I contacted Allen Tanzania Safaris and after going back and forth a little via email, we settled on the following itinerary:

Tanzania Map

Day 1 – after arriving on a evening flight into Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO), we drive to Maramboi Tented Lodge and then explored Tarangire National Park.

Day 2 – we have another safari day at Tarangire National Park.

Day 3 – we have a game drive in Lake Manyara National park and then drive to Kitela Lodge.

Day 4 – we explore Ngorongoro Crater and spend another night at Kitela Lodge.

Day 5 – we drive through Ngorongoro Crater and Seregenti South Ndutu area and spend the night at Lake Masek Tented Lodge.

Day 6 – we have a full day game drive in Serengeti South and spend a second night at Lake Masek Tented Lodge.

Day 7 – we safari in both Ngorongoro Crater and Seregenti South again and spend a night at Ndutu Under Canvas.

Day 8 – we drive to Arusha for lunch and depart from JRO.

It was a lot of driving, but it was entirely worth it. We saw tons of wildebeest babies and even witnessed the birth of two. It was epic (us slowly tracking two momma wildebeests while in a Landrover and then watching them give birth).

Serengeti 009

It’s cuddle time little baby wildebeest!

Tomorrow, Mr. Selfish will go over some general tips for safari-ing in Tanzania. Then, we’ll start our trip report in earnest.

Triple the Jetlag to Taiwan and Greece!

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Over the last week we’ve been moving all the crap I never thought I’d see again out of a 16’ x 8’ x 8’ container into a space roughly 3/5 the size of our Orlando house. The amount of stuff we have has been so daunting, that we have to put our Tanzania trip report on a brief hiatus.

box o crap

Man, I hoped I’d never see this stuff again.

After living out of a suitcase for the last 20 months, it’s been a pretty draining experience. “Why do we have so much clothes? Why did we buy all of this stuff? Who bought this???”

So I’m really looking forward to our upcoming trip to Taiwan and Greece next week.

Yes, Taiwan & Greece. One trip. 2 continents. 3 bouts of jetlag.

We are literally flying around the world this time.

Triple the Jetlag for 120,000 miles!

Triple the insanity for 120,000 US Airways miles each!

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Lounge Deathmatch: Turkish Airlines vs. Cathay Pacific

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This is the final post out of eleven posts on Istanbul. Check out our other posts here:

Ever since we got into the miles and points game, Mrs. Selfish and I have made it a personal goal to cash in all of our miles and points for experiences we would never pay cash for. Like staying in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora or flying Lufthansa first class home from Europe.

While these redemptions have been pretty awesome, we usually get the most value for our miles flying international business class. While your average international flight is expensive – international business class is ridiculously expensive.

Like $3000 one way expensive, if you’re doing it right. And while the flights themselves tend to be great, one side benefit of flying business that we rarely talk about here at the Selfish Years is the lounges.

In the States, airline lounges mean free wifi, edible food, a moderately clean bathroom, free(ish) booze, and a room packed to 70% of capacity. Outside of the States, however, it’s a whole other story.

Let me show you by comparing my two favorite business class lounges, the Turkish Airlines flagship lounge in Istanbul and Cathay Pacific’s “The Wing” in Hong Kong.

Decor & Features

Most international business class lounges are pretty similar. They tend to be swankily decorated. There’s free wifi. There’s usually a showering facility filled with amenities like shampoo, lotion, and tooth paste. There are often free magazines, computer stations, and TVs playing movies.

Lounge Deathmatch 001

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Crossing the Bosphorous Strait: A Day Trip from Europe to Asia

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This is the tenth of eleven posts on Istanbul. Check out our other posts here:

Istanbul has the distinction of being in two continents. While the old historic part of Istanbul is in Europe, the Asian side is merely across the Bosphorus Strait. Mr. Selfish and I love the idea of being in both Europe and Asia in one day, so we opted to take a day trip from Europe to Asia.

Day Trip

Starting in Europe: Dolmabahçe Palace

Right near our hotel and on the European coastline of the Bosphorus Strait is Dolmabahçe Palace. Construction on the palace finished in 1856 and cost approximately $1.5 billion USD in today’s currency. It was built to replace Topkapı Palace as the Sultan’s residence and is considered to be the Versailles of Turkey. The palace was a significant factor in the decline of the finances of the Ottoman Empire, which eventually slid into bankruptcy. Needless to say, it is quite elaborate and ornate.

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Istanbul’s Other Sights: The Topkapi Palace & Basilica Cistern

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This is the ninth of eleven posts on Istanbul. Check out our other posts here:

Generally speaking, Mrs. Selfish and I are bad tourists. We like to hang out in a foreign city to soak up the ambiance, but we rarely spend much time in museums. Just haven’t built up the endurance, I suppose – I similarly get exhausted shopping for more than an hour or so.

That being said we do like to walk, especially in the old parts of town. There’s just so much to do, see, smell, and eat that you miss out on with faster modes of travel.

And so it was that we decided to stroll on over to the Topkapi Palace and Basilica Cistern, two Istanbul attractions that get a little less love than the big boys.

The Topapki Palace

Topkapi Palace and Basilica Cistern 001

The Topkapi Palace was constructed in the mid 1400’s, and was the primary residence of the Ottoman Turks for over 400 years. It’s a large complex with 4 main courtyards and several small buildings. It’s not Versaille big, or Forbidden City big, but it would probably take you a good 15 minutes to walk from one end to the other.

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Shopping at the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar in Istanbul

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This is the eighth of eleven posts on Istanbul. Check out our other posts here:

I love Daniel Craig as James Bond. I mean, he’s no Sean Connery, but in my opinion, he is the next best James Bond. So, while in Istanbul, Mr. Selfish and I rewatched Skyfall, because the opening sequence is set in Istanbul. Although it didn’t seem quite geographically accurate, there is an awesome chase scene near the Grand Bazaar.

James Bond

Unfortunately, I didn’t spot James Bond on a motorcycle at the Grand Bazaar. Nevertheless, it is still quite epic. The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. It is quite large with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops. I was pretty surprised as to how large it was.

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Suleymaniye Hamami: A Mixed Gender Turkish Bath

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This is the seventh of eleven posts on Istanbul. Check out our other posts here:

Since Mr. Selfish and I had a lovely hammam experience in Morocco, we figured we would try a Turkish bath while in Istanbul. There are tons of hammams all over Istanbul but we opted for a mixed gender hammam near the Süleymaniye Mosque. The hammam was called Suleymaniye Hamami, and you can make a reservation online.

Hammam 001Hammam 002

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Turkish Food is Quite a Delight!

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This is the sixth of eleven posts on Istanbul. Check out our other posts here:

I already went over the delicious cheap eats we had while in Istanbul. This post will go over some of the “fancier” food we had.

Zubeyir: The Best Adana Kebabs Ever!

I know I said in the last post that Turkish food was much more than kebabs, but we had to sample some while we were in Istanbul. After some Internet research, I discovered that Zubeyir (located at Şht. Muhtar Mh., 34435 Beyoğlu) is reputed to have some of the best adana kebabs in Istanbul.

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When we walked in and saw the grill in the middle of the restaurant, I knew that we had made the right decision. Mr. Selfish and I usually order different things when going to a new restaurant in order to diversify and try more than one dish. We didn’t do that here. We both ordered the adana kebabs, and I’m glad we did.

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Istanbul’s Magnificent Mosques

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This is the fifth of eleven posts on Istanbul. Check out our other posts here:

One of the reasons I was excited to visit Istanbul was to check out the numerous mosques that dot the city. A thoroughly modern city, Istanbul is an excellent blend of contemporary conveniences and ancient architecture. Coming from the States, it’s utterly bizarre to walk past a Starbucks, turn a corner, and find yourself face to face with a 500 year old building.

It also helps that the mosques are stunning.

Biggie Istanbul 061

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Cheap Eats in Istanbul!

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This is the fourth of eleven posts on Istanbul. Check out our other posts here:

When I started researching the food in Istanbul, I was overwhelmed by all the different types of Turkish food of which I was unaware. Turkish food is so much more than just kebabs. Mr. Selfish and I knew that we had to try as much Turkish cuisine as possible.

This post will outline some of the cheap eats we had in Istanbul. Mr. Selfish and I sampled as much as possible from the street vendors and more economical restaurants.

Red and White Carts: Give Me Pastries!

The first thing I noted was the abundance of pastries available from street vendors in Istanbul. I loved seeing those little red and white carts, because I knew a tasty treat was in store for me.

Cheap Eats 01Cheap Eats 02Cheap Eats 03

We especially loved simits, which are circular bread covered with sesame seeds. The sweet donut-like treats weren’t too shabby either. Each treat cost about 1 TL, which is about $.48 USD.

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Hagia Sophia: Church, Mosque, and Now Museum

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This is the third of eleven posts on Istanbul. Check out our other posts here:

When Mr. Selfish and I landed in Istanbul, one of the first things we did was take a taxi to the Hagia Sophia. I had been compulsively checking the weather forecast for Istanbul the week prior to our trip. Unfortunately, it was to be rainy and cloudy the majority of our stay in Istanbul – except for that first day. So despite our jetlag, we immediately left our hotel room and headed for the Hagia Sophia.

We weren’t disappointed. The sun was gloriously shining, and the view of the Hagia Sophia was amazing.

Hagia Sophia 001

There are several benches and even a fountain in front of the Hagia Sophia. You can just sit and enjoy the view.

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4 Nights at the Magnificent Park Hyatt Istanbul

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This is the second of eleven posts on Istanbul. Check out our other posts here:

After a grueling 2 connections and 20 hours of flying, Mrs. Selfish and I finally arrived in Istanbul. A good 10 hours ahead of our home time zone, Mrs. Selfish and I were pretty beat, but there were places to go, things to see, food to eat.

Having recently attained diamond status through the Hyatt Diamond challenge, I was pretty excited to check out the Park Hyatt Istanbul. Mrs. Selfish and I have stayed at the Park Hyatt Zurich, Sydney, and Tokyo (where we pumped iron with Arnold Schwarzenegger), so I was looking forward to seeing whether or not the Park Hyatt Istanbul lives up to those other fabulous hotels.

Park Hyatt Istanbul 003

Short  answer: it does.

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Introduction to Istanbul

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This is the first of eleven posts on Istanbul. Check out our other posts here:

After a holiday hiatus in the States, Mrs. Selfish and I started planning our next big international trip. Having only visited Morocco during our Selfish Year abroad, Mrs. Selfish and I decided an African safari trip in Tanzania was in order.

With the United devaluation looming, we burned our stash of United miles for two tickets to Africa in business class. Prior to February 2014, these tickets cost 120,000 miles each, but once February hit the price jumped to 140,000!

map

120,000 UA miles in January, 140,000 miles in February.

Since United has a rather generous award policy, allowing for a stopover and an open jaw or two stopovers, we determined we should stop somewhere on the way to recover from jetlag. Having always been fascinated with Turkish food and architecture, Istanbul seemed like the perfect location.

Istanbul Introduction 005

Ahhhh, Istanbul.

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The Selfish Guides to Australia and New Zealand are Up!

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I know it has been a while. I have no excuse, other than that we’ve been enjoying our time in SF. I assure you that Mr. Selfish and I are hard at work at our trip reports for Istanbul and Tanzania.

But in the meantime, we’ve finally finished our Selfish Guides for Australia and New Zealand.

Check out the Selfish Guide to Australia here.

This is the Bay of Fires in Tasmania, which was our favorite place to visit in Oz.

Check out the Selfish Guide to New Zealand here.

Milford Sound 23

This is Milford Sound near Queenstown. Take the private jet there. Trust me, do it.

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