Twelve big travel tips
Travel of a different kind takes place on the African plains is often referred to as the “Greatest Show on Earth.” The Great Serengeti Migration is one of the largest animal migrations in the world. It is a huge attraction for wildlife and bird watching American citizens who want to visit Tanzania. However, the foreign affairs office of the U.S. Department of State strongly advises U.S. Citizens to consider not traveling to Kenya at all.
The best times to visit Tanzania are January to March and June to September. If you are thinking of hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro while you are about, the warmest and most popular months are January and February. Rains come shortly after that making treks troublesome.
During the Great Migration, wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle cross the plains with the season’s change to move on to greener grasslands. The mass exodus attracts predators like crocodiles, big cats, and hyenas. It’s one of nature’s biggest showdowns, where predators square off against prey. Out of the 1.5 million wildebeest who make the journey during the Great Migration, an estimated 250,000 don’t make it.
The Great Migration takes place primarily in the Serengeti Plains in Tanzania and the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya. Danger is the name of the game if you’re an animal living on the Serengeti. The name of the game changes to amazing displays for people who travel to there to see the migration. Travel safety is first and foremost. Here are some things to prepare for to have a successful experience:
- Check with the U.S. State Department for warnings or travel alerts in the destination country at travel.state.gov. In June 2016, the U.S. Department of State warned U.S. citizens to avoid travel to the border areas of Kenya because of threats by the terrorist group al-Shabaab. At the end of October, Reuter’s reported al-Shabaab “rammed a military base with a suicide truck bomb, shot dead an intelligence officer and killed 12 people in a Kenyan border town in a series of strikes over 24 hours…” You can find information about Tanzanian crime in the 2016 OSAC report on the country.
- Register your trip in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Your US consulate cannot help you or contact you about risks to your health and safety if they don’t know where you are or how to get in touch.
- Vet your trip: Tourists and business people from the United States have become victims of scams involving volunteer visas and safari excursions. Check your guide or service’s references carefully. According to the United States Department of State, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Get to a travel clinic: Visitors are required to get yellow fever vaccines and are recommended to take a prescription antimalarial drug, use insect repellent and cover the arms and legs. See a health care provider four to six weeks before departure and bring proof of your immunizations with you. You can check out travel health recommendations at the Centers for Disease Control. Medical facilities in Tanzania can be limited or unavailable. Be sure you have everything you need for self-care before you go, and excellent travel insurance for medical evacuation if needed. Travel with a solid communication plan, perhaps a satellite phone.
- Be insured: It can cost upwards of $50-250,000 for air ambulance medical evacuation if you are hurt, or critically ill. Travel insurance is not optional. Read the fine print. There may be exclusions.
- Be aware of cultural differences: Ramadan is a 30-day fasting time from the end of April to the end of May 2017. Some city centers and markets are vacated at certain periods during the day, and remember to be respectful of your new friends and hosts’ religious needs.
- Dress appropriately: Guests are recommended to wear subdued colors. Light clothing works well for the daytime hours, provided your skin is protected against biting insects that may transmit disease. Nights in Tanzania can get cold. Bring a variety of clothes, so you have the right garment for any occasion. The State Department recommends wearing modest clothing, with upper arms and legs covered, and no bare midriffs. You should also bring:
- A flashlight
- A good hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen
- Something to do during your downtime, when you’re waiting for animal activity
- Insect repellent
- Copies of your passport
- Adequate funds, consider upping your credit card limit.
- Be patient: Unlike the Louvre or the Pyramids of Giza, the animals undertaking the Great Migration don’t stay put and wait for you to snap a photo. Seeing an unusual animal depends on a lot of luck. Be patient with your experience. Follow the advice of your guide. Keep your windows up and stay in the vehicle. Respect barriers intended to keep you out of harm’s way.
- Be respectful: If you’re in the Serengeti, your are in the inhabitants’ territory. They rule here. Most animals are skittish around humans and won’t pick fights, but give the animals space. Stay in your vehicle or behind any barriers when there’s an animal in the area. Be alert. There may be animals nearby but out of sight. Lions are a real threat in the African Bush. Stay with your guide. They are armed. Don’t run or turn your back. Pull yourself up to your full height, raise your hands in the air and shout.
- Don’t collect: Exporting animal parts is illegal in Tanzania. If you come across any abandoned skins, shells, horns or otherwise, leave them there. Don’t take them with you.
- For LGBTI travelers: Same-sex activity is illegal in the Tanzania mainland, punishable by long prison sentences. Be circumspect to avoid imprisonment or harassment.
- Be aware: Tanzania had not experienced a large-scale terrorist attack by an international terrorist organization since 1998 when the United States Embassy in Dar es Salaam was bombed. There is the significant threat posed by regional and domestic extremist groups in the country.
Download the Depart Smart free travel safety checklist at Depart Smart.org. Safe journey!