Overland Safari Adventure Trip

The Ngorongoro crater I'd say was the absolute best part of the safari adventure trip. There were elephants down there with tusks that looked like woolly mammoths, these elephants had massive tusks because they are really old and they don't come out the crater.

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Tips & Advice
Safari & operator rating

You probably stayed in campsites mostly. How was that?

Yes. The campsites were very good.

We always had ablution blocks where you could shower, and we had flush toilets and 99% of the time you had hot running water. There was the odd one where you had only cold water but they were very few and far between. Most of the places you had a pub you could go to.

I was shocked for Africa, the campsites were so fantastically organised, even ground to camp on, always flush toilets, ablution blocks with hot showers, a little pub or an area where you can socialise and go and have a drink and things like that.

The other thing they did which I thought was brilliant was like in the Serengeti, they would do what they called an upgrade. When we got into Serengeti, it was slightly low season, they had these 4 and 5-star hotels which weren't full.

The safari adventure tour operator would approach this hotel and say "I've got 30 people here, your hotel is empty - would you like us to stay?" Upgrades would cost us 5 or 7 US dollars - remember you're paying for your whole tour now.

But if you pay them 5 or 7 US dollars, you ended up in a 4 or 5-star hotel in the Serengeti with a dinner, bed and breakfast, with a swish bathroom and bed and everything, and we did that about 3 times.

We had it in Serengeti, we had this fantastic hotel on the lip of the Ngorongoro Crater - absolutely outstanding, we all had drinks on this balcony overlooking the crater - absolutely, I can't even tell you, absolutely outstanding.

And they also did an upgrade in Lake Malawi. That was a nice one because it was this long building with a wooden structure on stilts, it was like a dorm. There were 8 beds in it and it just had like a canvas thing that rolled up in front so you would lie in bed, in this dorm, and look at the - we called it the sea, it was like the sea because there were waves crashing in. That was 2 or 3 US dollars to upgrade from staying in a tent. So let me tell you, every opportunity to upgrade, we jumped at it.

And of course in Zanzibar, there is no camping. It was like a free thing on Zanzibar. They took you over there on the ferry and said "Knock yourselves out for 3 or 4 days, do whatever you like, we'll meet you back at this point in - you know, 3 or 4 days time."

We got together as a group and in Stone Town we hired this big dorm with 4 or 5 beds in it and we all shared, we stayed in one dorm, guys and girls you know nobody was hassled, because then you obviously split the cost for a dorm than have a single room.

We stayed in Stone Town for a night and went on a spice tour which was fantastic. We had this traditional meal in one of the township-like things in one of the towns in Zanzibar.

The next day we went up to the north to Nungwe Beach which was like paradise. There you could hire self-catering little chalet things for US$7 with 2 beds, plus your own bath and toilet and everything en-suite, and that was US$7 a night and you got bed and breakfast. I thought that was pretty good.

All you need is a bed to sleep in, because it's such a spectacular place, Zanzibar. You just want to be out on the beach all day, the sand is snow white and the sea is this turquoise blue, so you don't really want to be inside. The accommodation - as nice as it was - was just a place to sleep at the end of the day.

But it was nice that they offered you those upgrades, especially when you stayed in a tent on the ground for a few nights, and then you get offered this upgrade for 5 dollars - brilliant.

Did they provide breakfast, lunch & dinner?

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Yes, the safari adventure guys would stop at the major cities, like Dar es Salaam and all the major areas. John the truck driver and the tour guide Mishe, they would go and organise all this food.

There wasn't a fridge on the truck so they had to buy fresh every day, basically. I don't know how they did it, but I tell you we had the most fantastic food. You could eat yourself to a standstill!

You had this full on breakfast, I'm talking about bacon and eggs and toast and cereal and coffee and the whole business. And this massive lunch with salads and cheeses and breads and...really' I don’t know how they did the catering. The guys would just throw the wood down' throw the charcoal down and they would just have this full-on meal prepared all the time.

Oh, and the other thing was you got your own cup, plate and bowl and you had to make sure you washed your own plates and things. You know you can't expect the guys - they've just cooked this full-on meal for you, now they must still wash up for you. But I mean, that's easy - you just wash your own things and put it in the communal thing and then they pack it back in the truck.

But I thought for guys that were cooking on barbeques every day - they would throw the charcoal down with a grid on top, there were no kitchens for them to cook in and they'd put out tables and they prepare the stuff. I thought it was outstanding; I was very impressed with them.

From the catering side: I said to them I could have kidnapped their cook. They had a Swahili cook, his name was John, and he was outstanding. He used to stand there every night and he would read you the menu and would say "Right, for starters tonight, we're going to have..." - and it was always a soup.

The first night he'd tell you it was tomato soup or onion soup or something and then we kind of clicked that every night it was a different soup. And then we had to guess what soup it was. Then you'd have a main course and dessert, then coffee and that. I tell you, he was absolutely outstanding; he made the most brilliant food out. Excellent, it was really good.

Did you see a lot of wildlife?

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We did see a lot on this safari adventure. In the Serengeti it was low season, it wasn't migratory season. Where ever you looked there were animals. We actually saw a leopard, which they don't often see. We were there for about half an hour, looking at this leopard.

But the most animals, it was like out of National Geographic, were in the Ngorongoro Crater. The animals go down into the crater, but they don't come out again, they stay in the crater.

And this salt pan that we went down onto with the Land Rovers, and thousands and thousands and thousands of pink flamingos - only like something you'd see on National Geographic. And thousands of wildebeest and zebra and hippo, everything that you want to see.

The crater for me was more impressive than the Serengeti. The Serengeti I loved, but when I went to the Ngorongoro Crater, I thought that was just outstanding. I can recommend that Ngorongoro Crater to anybody. It was gorgeous. But you have to go with these guys; it's only accessible through Land Rovers. You all actually stand up in the Land Rover, with your head out the sunroof, you know - they open up the top. So you're out in the sun and the wind and everything.

It's so nice; they drive you round the crater like that. You don't sit in the Land Rover, you actually all stand on the seat with the top open and they drive you round. Absolutely outstanding Bruce - highly, highly recommended.

Any disappointments or things that didn't meet your expectations?

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Everybody on the safari adventure trip got sick. The guys rented some motorbikes in Zanzibar and they were a bit "macho" and they fell off these motorbikes. One guy nearly lost his leg, he got blood poisoning. For some reason when you're up in Africa, the wounds on these guys wouldn't heal.

But they were quite good in that the guys that hurt themselves badly, they did take them to hospitals up in Africa. Obviously you can't expect a first world hospital. I think they did look after them pretty well.

The problem was, in some cases you weren't even allowed to brush your teeth in the water because it was so bad. And I think what happens as well, because they had this big tank under the truck. If that water got a little bad, and you got a bug in it, that was the water you were drinking.

You could buy bottled water at certain places but because you had access to this water in the truck, you tended to drink that. I don't think one person actually escaped getting sick on the trip.

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What tips and advice would you give to people planning a similar safari?

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I would say don't rely on the local water that they take with them; I'd say take extra money and drink bottled water all the time.

And I probably made the mistake in that I was given water purification tablets but I thought the "water" was pure so I didn't bother to put the tablets in, which I should have done.

And people should take quite a comprehensive medical kit. Take bandages and dressings, anti-diarrhoea medicine, antiseptic ointment, sterile dressings - which I did, but I probably could have taken more anti-diarrhoea medicine.

Also, when you go on a safari adventure in Africa you have to have major injections, and I think maybe also at the end, because I was getting so tired - remember you're travelling all the time, and you're travelling miles and miles in an open truck basically - you start getting exhausted.

I only started getting sick towards the end of the trip - I know when I get tired, my whole immune system goes down. And I also got cold in the truck because I didn't have enough warm clothing - it got really cold in parts, one part we were staying it was freezing, I was absolutely freezing the one night. And it was April, so it wasn't you know, winter or anything.

So I would advise that people take warm safari clothing and a comprehensive medicine kit. And when you start to feel sick, start medicating yourself as soon as possible. I think I left myself too long and that I also got exhausted and then everything that was going to attack me, attacked me.

The other thing is, I took my Amex card - beforehand they said to me worldwide, you could get whatever. I couldn't get anything out of Amex in Africa. I put all my money in my Amex but couldn't touch it.

Luckily I took my Visa card, the only money I got was a few bucks in my Visa card and eventually the Australians and Americans had to lend me a few dollars to get by, because the only money I had was all the money I withdrew from my Visa card. I found Amex completely useless in Africa, and I wouldn't recommend anybody taking any Amex cards up Africa. I had a lot of money in my Amex card and I couldn't access a cent of it.

So rather take your Visa and MasterCard, then you can go to the ATMs there. They've got Standard Bank Arusha there. There's a lot of ATMs you can draw from, but the main thing you could draw from were Visa and MasterCard

I thought Amex would be fine, but it wasn't. Take valid credit cards, take US dollars and take travellers cheques. That you can use up there quite happily.

What were the highlights of your trip?

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Zanzibar was like an island paradise. White white, clean beaches with turquoise blue seas. We went and had cocktails on the Roof of Africa House. And the sun was setting, this gold sun, and you're all sitting there, smoking your hookahs and drinking your cocktails and these dhows come floating by. It's fantastic.

I lay in that sea for about two hours until I shrivelled up and I actually had to come out. Very warm. I've never actually felt the sea so warm, like in Zanzibar. And so crystal clear, that you can actually see your feet when you look down through the water and you could see all these fish swimming. I mean, for people that snorkel it must be fantastic. And pristine white beaches, it was beautiful - very, very nice.

And even Lake Malawi was spectacular. You feel like you're actually at the sea. You know what was weird? In Zanzibar there are no waves, the sea is calm, you got these little washes of water but no waves, you just walk into this crystal blue sea and just lie there in the swell, there's no waves. So you're kind of thinking the sea is like a lake. Then you get to Lake Malawi and you get these huge waves crashing onto the shore and you keep thinking that the lake is the sea and the sea is the lake, you know you get completely confused in your mind!

So how would you rate your safari adventure and the safari company you used overall?

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Very well Bruce, I must say if I had the opportunity to do another one with this group, I would definitely recommend it.

They do give you warnings, they do tell you what to do and what not to do, they're very organised, they got all the tents and set up for you, take you to good campsites with good facilities and, just a very nice trip.

But besides getting sick, I'd say highly recommended, I'd recommend it to anyone. There's a lot of overland tours going across so you don't feel isolated, there's always these trucks going through Africa. There are a lot of them. But I found this Umkulu Adventure tours very good, and I would rate it say 8 or 9 out of 10.

I loved this safari adventure trip and I'd recommend it to anybody.

Safari Location: Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe
Safari Company Used: Umkulu Adventures
Duration: One month in 2005
Traveller Details: Daryl Lawrence, South Africa
Rates & Availability: Plan your own safari. Make a safari adventure enquiry

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