Africa was calling our names. It’s on our bucket list to see the pyramids in Egypt, ride a camel, eat delicious Moroccan food, experience the “Lion King” in real life, and more. It’s one of the continents that we haven’t visited yet.
For this trip, our main goal was to go on a safari, and while researching, the trip evolved to include a hike on Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa! This was also a family trip as we had my sister, Justin’s mom, and sister join us for the trip.
Where to go
We researched various countries to visit – Kenya, Tanzania, and Botswana for a chance to see the Big 5 animals, and also Rwanda and Uganda to see the gorillas. We decided to visit Tanzania as the country has a more developed tourism industry with many national parks containing various animals, the Great Migration in the Serengeti, and Mount Kilimanjaro, one of the Seven Summits.
When to visit
Research began in September 2015, with our flights and tours booked in May 2016 for travel from December 25, 2016 to January 14, 2017. Due my annual December company shutdown, we took advantage of the holiday week to travel internationally. This allowed us additional time off afterwards since the beginning of the year’s workload is usually slower.
Anytime is a good time to visit Tanzania. Our guides mentioned that March to May was a slower time due to the rain, but it is a good opportunity as there will be less people for the mountain or safari.
Group vs Private Tour vs Solo
What are you interested in? Having a large group of 10+ strangers or a smaller private tour with the people you know? Solo travel?
During the inquiries with local tour operators in Tanzania, all of them quoted a private tour. We asked if there were opportunities to join other pre-scheduled tours, and they said “no.” We had a pre-scheduled group tour for our Machu Picchu hike where we were with 6 other hikers. If you want a group setting with other people, then consider a large tour operators such as G Adventures.
We didn’t mind a private tour since it would be tailored to our group. The private tour cost was surprisingly less expensive compared to a non-private group tour with a larger outfitter, although it depends on the type of tour style (budget vs luxury) and lodging options (camping vs. lodges). Fortunately for us, there wasn’t an option for lodges or luxury option for the Mount Kilimanjaro hike! I suppose a luxury option could be fancier tents and food. For the safari, we decided to splurge for one night at a lodge during the middle of our safari to balance the camping and have hot water for showering.
We reached out to our friends and families via email and Facebook to gather interest with the tour. Many said that they would love to go on the adventure, but couldn’t commit to the time off.
If you’re very adventurous, consider the solo route with self-driving and explore the various safari locations on your own. It’s possible to drive a 4WD vehicle through some of the locations. Our friends at TraveLynn Family did the self-drive and even traveled to Tanzania with their kids to experience the wildlife. Anything is possible!
We had five people total for our trip. My sister, Justin, and I signed up for the hike, while Justin’s mom and sister joined us in Tanzania for the safari portion only.
We decided to hike Mount Kilimanjaro first and then relax for the remainder of our time in Africa with the safari. Our original schedule was:
- Moshi upon arrival, and relax the rest of the day
- 1 full day in Moshi to acclimate/relax
- 8 days for the Mount Kilimanjaro hike
- 7 days for the safari (1 day Lake Manyara, 4 days Serengeti, 1 day Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and 1 day Tarangire)
- Overnight in Moshi before departure
Our schedule changed slightly throughout the trip. Our first day of relaxation became a coffee tour and a short hike to the Materuni waterfall. In addition, we finished the hike faster than expected, planning for 8 days and finishing in 7. The changes didn’t affect the overall itinerary and were welcomed.
Other Logistics For Tanzania
- Purchase your visa on arrival at the Kilimanjaro airport. Cost is $100 USD for U.S. citizens. Ensure that you have one full page available for the visa. Practice patience as the visa line takes a long time; it took us over an hour in the hot and stuffy airport. You’ll wait in three lines after filling out your entry forms:
- 1) For payment
- 2) To take a picture for your visa. You don’t need to bring passport photos anymore.
- 3) To receive your completed passport with visa
- It is recommended to have proof of yellow fever vaccination or a waiver. One person stood at the airport entrance to check. We didn’t take a vaccination since our hospital provider said that we didn’t need one coming from the U.S. with a layover in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia less than 12 hours. We brought exemption letters and were excused.
What are your tips for planning a family vacation? Share them below!