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Our Second Northern Tanzania Self-Drive Safari


21 Days in June, 2018



One of the things on my bucket list was to experience East Africa in the green season and photograph animals in greenery and flowers rather than in the bare and brown colors of the dry season. 

So I decided to plan a second self-drive safari to Tanzania and my husband agreed to go on this adventure with me and even self-drive and visit the Ngorongoro crater again, after having exclaimed that “once was enough”. 

My main reasons for going back to TZ were to experience the wildlife and camping among the fantastic wildlife and my DH loves to go for all the photographic opportunities. We support each other and work well as a team, which is very important on such a trip. 

We agreed to visit the same parks as we did in 2015, minus Arusha NP and to drop the Lake Natron route this time as it was just too difficult for us. 

I decided that the trip should happen in June which is the end of the rainy season with greenery and flowers, cooler temperatures, less crowds, but possibly less animal sightings and no Mara river migration. 

We contacted Serengeti Select Safaris owned by Nathan, an expat American, and they reserved the same Land Rover for us as well as our special campsites through TANAPA. They also booked a hotel for our first and last night in Arusha. 

Here a few numbers. You would think that camping in Tanzanian National Parks and doing all the driving and cooking by ourselves would be doing “safari on the cheap”. Not quite. 

We spent about $3000 in park entrance fees (incl 18% VAT) about $3000 in camping fees and about $3000 for vehicle and camping gear rental, almost $300 in vehicle entrance fees and about $200 for hotels in Arusha. So we spent a little less than $400 for two people per day on a 21 day safari. Add to this flights from and to Florida, (we flew Qatar) gas, and food costs. 




Here is the planned itinerary that later needed to be adapted for the Serengeti leg of the trip. 





Rather than writing a day-by- day account, I’m writing this TR as a summary with highlights and lowlights accompanied by our favorite pictures. I hope you will accompany us on our trip. 


We reach Arusha on June 5 and are getting picked up by the pre-arranged shuttle. We spend the night at the Outpost Lodge which I can’t recommend because the room was more like a garage or shed, than a room. The next day we are picked up and get to the depot of Serengeti Select Safaris (they also offer guided tours) and take over the same Land Rover we had in 2015. It has undergone some changes. It now had a hatch and the steering wheel was moved to the right side, which is a big improvement as the LR is now less dangerous to drive in left-sided traffic. 

We do our shopping at the Meat King which has a great selection of meat and cheeses, and the bulk of food and other items we purchase at The Allmart Supermarket at the Sable Mall on the way out of chaotic Arusha.




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Looking forward to the adventure sitting on the roof rack, as usual! Pen

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Lake Manyara NP, 2 nights


Lake Manyara is certainly green, green, green and there are flowers everywhere. The vegetation along the tracks is very thick and even giraffes appear shorter and ellies disappear within second behind the thicket. There is water in the rivers and I even spot a waterfall coming off the escarpment. Temperatures during the day are mild and the nights are cool. Just perfect. 

We spend the first night on Endabash public campsite getting organized. We are the only campers and it feels just great to be out in the bush again and we are looking forward to three weeks of sleeping in a roof top tent. For our second night we reserved Lakeshore special campground which is located in the open, close to the lake. Sadly, there are a lot of Tsetse flies around and after dark we get bugged by small moths. Also, we get stuck for a few minutes in grey mud on the access road to Lakeshore campsite and the car is a grey mess after that. 

One of the low lights of our visit is the absence of birds at the Hot Springs boardwalk and the elevated bridge at Hippo Pool has been washed away as well. In general, there is fewer game visible because of the thick vegetation.  But then again, who wanted to come here in June?

Our best sightings were watching the social interactions of vervet monkeys, a huge troop of baboons coming down the track, juvenile lions sleeping in trees, another pair of lions coming off a tree, ellies and giraffe in the greenery and a huge herd of buffalo in the swamp. We also appreciated being overnight in the park as we had it to ourselves from about 4 pm when everyone speeds north to get out and then again early morning till about 10 when the day trippers on their way to the crater arrive. 

Here are some sightings highlights from our visit to Lake Manyara.



Here they go again! Ready for our 8th Self-Drive adventure.AB21F90D-EAAB-4308-A62C-5ED9664D6075.jpeg.6878f455b406caf3205bc9980fbcfa72.jpeg

Endabash public campsite


Lakeshore special campsite 


Hurrah the roof top tent is all packed up. I’m the monkey in this team. 


Acces road to Lakeshore campsite





Edited by KaliCA
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Thanks for this trip report @KaliCA - especially the self-drive planning details.


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Thanks for reading! I’m trying to include some tips for future self-drivers. 

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Ngorongoro Crater 2 nights


After checking out of Lake Manyara, we refuel and buy fresh fruit and vegetables at the many market stalls behind the gas station in Mtowambu. This is made much easier with the help of a few enterprising youths that translate and  bargain for me. As a self-driver, I have to plan meticulously for the meals ahead. We have to bring enough food along to last for 14 days, as there are no villages or stores past Karatu to buy food. Since we flew with Qatar, we were allowed to bring 2 suitcases weighing 50 pounds each, so we brought along quite a lot of easy meals and things like peanut butter and soy milk powder. We even have to buy most of our drinking water, but I knew that the staff store in Seronera sells smaller bottled drinking water. So, as you can imagine, we are loaded for bear when leaving Mtowambu for the crater. 

We truly enjoy the drive to Karatu which leads through green hills and valleys with Masai people herding their live stock in the pastures. It’s after 4 pm when we reach Lodaware Gate and check into the NCA. (Ngorongoro Conservation Area)which abuts the Serengeti. 

Check in is fast and newly computerized.  We start the climb up to the crater rim via a narrow dirt road with the vegetation getting thicker the higher we climb. We briefly stop at the look-out and get our first view into the famous crater. Again, what a difference a season makes. It’s green not brown like in August of 2015 and there is lots of water visible in glistening lakes and streams. 

On our way to Simba Public Campsite we encounter a male and female lion by the side of the road. Wow, great surprise to see lions on the crater rim. 

We set up camp at Simba campsite which has a partial view into the crater. Here we will spend two nights in order to spend a full day inside the crater. It’s getting very cold after sunset, but we are prepared with base layers, two jackets, hats and gloves. 

Lowlight: As we are taking showers, our left-over hamburger as well as a black cooler bag get stolen, so no apples, avocados or cucumbers for the rest of our Serengeti trip. That is disappointing and upsetting. We are suspecting it was the Askari (armed guards) who helped themselves while patrolling in the dark. 

Highlight: We are camping at the rim of the famous world heritage site. 

The next day we drive through thick fog or clouds and enter the crater at Seneto Gate shortly after 6 am and we cruise around the crater floor till 5 pm. 

The beauty of this place is staggering. The fog/clouds are creeping over the rim and there are a few scenic crater lakes as well as a forest and many flowing rivers to admire.  There are fields of purple and yellow flowers where herds of ellies, buffalo, and zebra are frolicking.  A highlight was seeing a dozen Hyena trying to beach a hippo carcass while swimming and fighting over it. We also observe two different prides of lions, among them a cute little one, and another group of female lions walking on the road. 

Another highlight is being the only self-drive visitors and having the place to ourselves after 3 pm. All game drivers behave well and one even points out a rhino far away. Only during lunch at the picnic spot do we realize how many vehicles are driving around the crater at any one time, but thank goodness, there is never a huge  convergence of metal at any one sighting. A lowlight is the state of some roads having been “fixed” with small boulders in them and having to drive the ascent road in low 4x4 because it is very steep and the Land Rover has low torque. Go figure! But we make it back out and no one is checking permits or time, as we exit. We spend another cold night at Simba and buffalos are grazing outside our tent. Where are the guards? Eating avocados, cucumbers and apples....

Here a few pictures from our crater visit. 

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Daybreak over Lake Manyara on Lakeshore special campsite. 




Ascent to crater



Looking into crater 




Lion on crater rim




Simba Public Campsite 



Camping with view into crater!

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Early morning atmosphere inside crater 




















Lunch at Ngoitoktok picnic spot. Crowded!


late afternoon at same spot. Just the way we like it!








Next up: Moru in the Serengeti

Edited by KaliCA
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Very interesting report - I don't think I'd have the guts to self-drive on safari, although that's probably largely to do with a lack of experience 4x4 driving.  I'm impressed you ate outside at the Crater, we tried that once and were getting bombed by the kites.  Did you have to pick up a ranger to go down into the Crater?   

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4 minutes ago, Zubbie15 said:

Very interesting report - I don't think I'd have the guts to self-drive on safari, although that's probably largely to do with a lack of experience 4x4 driving.  I'm impressed you ate outside at the Crater, we tried that once and were getting bombed by the kites.  Did you have to pick up a ranger to go down into the Crater?   

Thanks, we didn’t have any 4x4 experience either in 2012.  And that was for Namibia and Botswana, deep sand driving there. So we learned by doing!

There were no kites bugging us, just starlings. 

They do have a rule that self-drivers need a guide to enter the crater. First time I convinced them I could do it no problem, second time no one asked! TIA...

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@KaliCA Thanks for this! I'm enjoying both the excellent photos and the storytelling. Glad you got the Land Rover dirty - that's the way they should be.....

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Really enjoying your report. We did a similar trip in July 2015, staying at Mbweha, Mumbi and Hondo Hondo in Tarangire; Lakeshore in Manyara; Moru 4, Lobo 2, Kogatende close to the rangers station and Sero 1 in the Serengeti. Amazed you are able to pack and spend so many days in a row living out of the rover, much respect for you! We stayed one night at a lodge in Karatu and one night at a tented camp in Bologonja to break up our nights. Looking forward to the rest of your report.

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12 hours ago, pomkiwi said:

@KaliCA Thanks for this! I'm enjoying both the excellent photos and the storytelling. Glad you got the Land Rover dirty - that's the way they should be.....



Haha ? you are so right, a dirty  vehicle is adding a touch of adventure to it. Plus it looks cool in pics. Glad you are reading along. Thanks.

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6 hours ago, Paul B said:

Really enjoying your report. We did a similar trip in July 2015, staying at Mbweha, Mumbi and Hondo Hondo in Tarangire; Lakeshore in Manyara; Moru 4, Lobo 2, Kogatende close to the rangers station and Sero 1 in the Serengeti. Amazed you are able to pack and spend so many days in a row living out of the rover, much respect for you! We stayed one night at a lodge in Karatu and one night at a tented camp in Bologonja to break up our nights. Looking forward to the rest of your report.


Wow, a fellow American self-driver! Almost unheard of. We are a special breed as you know. (Used to live in Madera, CA)We have stayed at many of the same places you camped, even in Kogatende and had a front row seat to 3 crossings within 30 hours. I feel that in Tarangire I don’t need a special campsite since the public one still has a certain wildness and animals walking through. Other campers  can be annoying though. So for quiet we do prefer those special places. Did you check out what happened to us at Sero 4 in 2015? See link below. 

As for the food, we did exact meal planning and brought along a bunch of  Knorr Pasta etc including 2 boxes of Mazah along to make up for the missing bread. The coolbox also froze half the stuff, so it was all good. 


Glad you are enjoying this TR. Greetings from Florida. 

Edited by KaliCA
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My favorite pic from the crater lions. And my wish came true: to see lions surrounded by greenery and flowers. 



Edited by KaliCA
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Moru area of the Serengeti 2 nights


After our successful crater visit, we leave via  Endulen and Ndutu for the Naabi Gate into the Serengeti. This is a back road and truly a first for us. It is a beautiful drive along old lava flows, through acacia forests and yellow bushes, past Masai bomas and friendly people waving to us weird tourists. But, the road is pot-holed and it’s slow going in places. We navigate with map.me as well as landmarks. We were told to head for the twin hills at the horizon and it worked!2BC7BD8F-F17C-4FB2-9529-99990FDA6C2D.jpeg.297b6c642ca71d2d6fa6729b14688d07.jpeg



We navigated by those twin peaks. The ranger said to find Ndutu just head for the two bumps at the horizon. It worked!




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On our drive we see zebra and huge herds of eland. We reach Ndutu, a very dusty wasteland, but can not continue via the back roads to Moru as planned, because the Serengeti check-in computer is down. TIA. So, sadly, we have to change plans and continue on to Naabi Gate without having time to visit the Ndutu swamps. We encounter many gazelles on the short grass plains on the way to the gate. 

At the entrance gate to the Serengeti we spend a small fortune paying  11 days entrance fees, camping fees, and vehicle fees. 

But we are back in the promised land!  What a privilege to fulfill this dream for a second time. We continue to the Moru area of the Serengeti by making a left turn about 12 km after the gate. We are heading for Moru 4, one of our favorite campsites of all times. As we get closer to Moru, we encounter more and more wildebeest and zebra. When we reach the hills, we see the savannah alive with thousands of animals, and then it dawns on us: those are not the normal herds stationed in Moru; this is the MIGRATION! WE HAVE FOUND THE HERDS. 

This is a huge and wonderful surprise. High-five! 

From checking herdtracker before our trip, I knew that the herds were slow-moving this year and most herds were still around the Ndutu and Naabi Hill area. But to have the herds AND us meet in Moru was such a wonderful coincidence. We observe many thousands of wildebeest and zebra milling around the hills of Moru and the Mbalageti river and it’s an incredible sight and we truly enjoy our Moru visit to the fullest.

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We camp up on Moru 4 for two nights while hearing the constant “gnu-gnu -gnu” honking of thousands more wildebeest in the valley below; all of them marching north in big numbers towards the Mara river and Kenya. Lions are heard roaring every night. My favorite sound while laying in the roof top tent. We also inaugurate the solar shower and wash our hair.1CE7DD59-0178-408D-926F-B2553D0C6076.jpeg.f91effa856011693d95d83e301596cfb.jpeg









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Our highlight is to witness huge numbers of wildebeest and zebra bunch up, form long marching lines,and then -after much milling around and debating should we or should we not- cross the Mbalageti river in a gallop. We witness 4 crossings of the river in total. It’s not as amazing as the Mara crossings, but they are “our” crossings as we are the only spectators and truly relish this spectacle of nature.

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