Tanzania or Botswana- How to Determine the Right Safari Destination for You
Why are you contemplating an African safari for your vacation? Is it because you’re addicted to the National Geographic Channel and want to see things “in the raw”? Or are you an animal lover that wishes to donate to the cause of saving the wild life? Many tour companies and lodges profit share with wild life conservation companies and local villages. Or are you the Ernest Hemingway of your group and want to big game hunt? Or is it simply another notch for your travel belt? I’ve been on 4 safaris and each time I’ve gone, I’ve gone for different reasons. Mostly for reasons #1 and #2. But as you continue to go, you learn that you simply love the countries, the animals and the people. I’ve been to Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and South Africa.
No matter what country or countries you choose for your safari, if you’re coming from the states, it’s a long haul. My sister and I just got back from a 13 day trip traveling to Tanzania. 9 of those days were actually on safari. She flew from Houston to Amsterdam and then on to Kilimanjaro. She spent, basically, 24 hours on her travel. I took a direct flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg. The flights arrive late in the evening so an overnight at your point of entry is usually a must. I spent a night at the Joburg airport and then it took another full day to get to Kilimanjaro via Nairobi (and that was right after it had practically burned to the ground).
When planning for your safari, you should update your vaccinations i.e. tetnus, flu shot, hepatitis A etc. When traveling to Tanzania, you do need a yellow fever shot. When traveling to Botswana, you may need one depending on which country you are coming from. If you are traveling directly from the United States, it is not needed. From South Africa, it is. You can go to a local travel health clinic to get advice on what you’ll need. But these guys are expensive and the experience could be a harrowing one. Harrowing because even though they recommend certain shots, they tell you the shots may cause kidney and/or liver failure, facial deformity, flatulence, growth of extra toes. You get the picture. Just decide which “optional” vaccinations you might want. But you will need malaria tablets. That’s a must.
So how do you choose between Tanzania and Botswana? They both have great lodges, great guides, great hospitality. But they are very different in their safari experiences. The main reasons to visit Tanzania are the Serengeti Plains and the Ngorogoro Crater. Both are teeming with wild life, large prides of lions, miles of wildebeest, huge herds of zebra, rhino, leopards, cheetahs. The downside? Large groups of animals attract large groups of people. A camp manager told us that one day 450 vehicles entered the Crater. That’s a lot of people trying to get a photo of a lone cheetah. Depending on your guide, you may spend up to 8-10 hours on your drive. And that’s in a vehicle unairconditioned and on very bad roads. But, heh, we saw lots of animals. The terrain is all very similar. Well, that’s why they’re called the “plains”. Another plus is that the Maasai call parts of Tanzania home. Great photo ops… if you have the right amount of cash to offer for that picture. In Tanzania, we flew and drove between camps.
Botswana offers a completely opposite safari experience. Plus side? The parks are smaller so the game drives are usually divided into two, one in the morning and one in the late afternoon. They’re usually about 4 hours each. Viewing of game is a more intimate experience. If you spot lions, it may be just your Range Rover and one other at the scene. The other positive aspect of Botswana is the varying terrain. It is the home of the Okavango Delta. We went from dry, arid conditions to being on a river to then being in the Okavango Delta and doing water safaris. Botswana is also a must for bird watchers, particularly in the Delta. The downside? You see what you came to see but not animals en masse. We flew between our camps. For some, this could be a negative. I loved it.
You’re going to spend a great deal of time and money to get there, so choose well!