Tanzania Safari – Part 1: Arusha

Arusha Serena Hotel Bungalows

I spent nine days in November on a Photography Tanzania Safari with over 7000 photos taken. I will be sharing my photos, stories, tips for packing, where to stay, guides, and photography in a 6-part post. So, if you don’t want to miss anything, go ahead and subscribe to follow my adventure on a Tanzania Safari.

Arusha Serena Hotel Bungalows


Planning for a trip to Africa for a safari takes a little time because you have to make sure you have the right gear, Visa, and vaccinations. I started planning for about six months before. I signed up to go on a Photography Expedition to Tanzania with Great Escape Publishing. This is a company I have traveled with before to Alaska to shoot the Northern Lights. So, I knew this would be an exceptional Tanzania safari. The itinerary was:

  • Arrive in Tanzania – Stay at Arusha Serena Hotel, Resort, & Spa (Part 1)
  • Drive to Tarangire to begin the Tanzania Safari – Stay at Lemala Mpingo Ridge Camp with Game Drives in Tarangire National Park (Part 2)
  • Drive to Ngorongoro – Lunch at Acacia Farm Lodge (Part 3)
  • Ngorongoro – Stay at Ngorongoro Serena Lodge with Game Drives in Ngorongoro Crater (Part 4)
  • Visit a Maasai Tribe (Part 5)
  • Drive to Central Serengeti – Stay at Lemala Nanyukie Camp with Game Drives in Serengeti National Park (Part 6)

Part of the planning was making sure I had all the necessary vaccinations for a Tanzania Safari. Since I was going to be very close to the border of Kenya, the CDC and WHO recommend the following vaccinations for Tanzania: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, cholera, yellow fever, rabies, meningitis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), chickenpox, shingles, pneumonia and influenza. My physician recommended going to Passport Health to get all the required shots I was going to need. Some of these vaccinations are given to us as children, but you need to check to see if you need to get an adult booster. The good thing for me is now I’m covered for life. So now I can travel without worrying about what I need to be protected.

What to Pack for a Safari

The gear you need for a Tanzania safari is a little different than other vacations. For one, you have to remember that animals can see bright colors so that khaki will be your best friend. Your best bet is to stick with neutral colors, khaki, olive green, brown, cream and gray. Try to stay away from the dark colors black and blue; the flies tend to gravitate toward those colors. One other girl and I were fortunate not to get bit, but the others on our trip were not so lucky. It looked awful, and they would tell you that all the itching was horrible. The other must-have is to make sure you spray all your clothes with Deet insect repellant. You can also pick this up at Passport Health. Or you can purchase clothing that has the insect shield built-in.

Small Prop PlanePacking can be a challenge, especially if on your safari you have to be flown in a small prop plane from the Serengeti back to Arusha. Check to see if there is a luggage weight restriction; ours was a max of 20kg (about 44lbs). This will limit your wardrobe choices. Think of packing layers and clothes that can be worn more than once. I was able to get my 3-4 days of clothes in one bag and my camera gear in a backpack by using compression packing cubes. But, I have always been an efficient packer. At the camps, there were laundry services that I was able to use every couple of days. Trust me when I say you will need it. The dust the jeeps pick up gets everywhere and remember they are driving without windows and sometimes a roof. And If a storm comes up quickly, you will get wet! It takes some time to put the windows coverings and roof back on.

Here is a simple clothing list for packing for an African Safari:

  • 3-4 t-shirts/tanks
  • Two long-sleeve shirts
  • One sweatshirt/fleece
  • Two pairs of cotton/linen pants
  • 2-3 pairs of socks
  • 6-8 pairs of cotton underwear
  • Two sports bras for women
  • One pair of comfortable shoes that can be slipped on/off quickly to stand on the jeep seats
  • One thin waterproof jacket
  • pajamas
  • sunglasses
  • hat for the sun
  • buff for neck and face to keep dust out
  • flip flops/sandals
  • swimsuit if your camp has a pool

If you need more ideas for what to pack on an African Safari, check out this blog for more Africa Safari packing tips.

Kilimanjaro Airport

Kilimanjaro AirportKilimanjaro Airport was surprising and not what I expected. They landed a huge plane (10 seats across) almost to the front door of the building. I walked out of the plane to what appeared to be chaos. Everyone was jammed in by the door and not moving very much. Once I got up there, I found out that the airport personnel was asking to see our boarding passes. And not everyone kept theirs in a convenient spot to retrieve. I guess this is their way to stop anyone from walking up and entering the airport from the tarmac which was completely open that I could see. The next huge bottleneck was the line to get your Visa. I was thrilled to have received my Visa earlier, and I breezed right past to customs. It was recommended to me to wait to get the Visa at the airport and that it would only take 30 minutes, but I saw people waiting for an hour and a half. How did I know that? Our group had to wait for the last people to get through that line before we could leave for the hotel.

Impressions of Arusha at night

Driving to the resort was an experience. The driver of our van was very knowledgeable and answered all our questions and boy did I have a lot of them. Some of the things I noticed:

  • They drive on the left.
  • There are speed bumps every so often that they call “sleeping police.”
  • There are lots of scooters which share the road with cars.
  • They will drive on the right to pass and stay in that lane for a bit before moving back to the left. Basically, they wait until a car is headed there way before they move.
  • There were several young men walking alongside the road & on the scooters ( I didn’t see any women on the ride to the hotel). Although during the day this is a different story.

Arusha Serena Hotel, Resort, & Spa

Arusha Serena Hotel, Resort & SpaArusha Serena Hotel Lobby

Arusha Serena Hotel walkway to BungalowsWe arrived at night, and the hotel was entirely lit up. Arusha Serena Hotel made everything bright and cheery and made you feel at ease right away. I was excited to see it during the day, and it didn’t disappoint. This was a great starting point for our Tanzania Safari. We left our bags with the porter to meet in the lobby for our keys and room assignments. Plus, they gave us a delicious mango drink to welcome us. Jambo! I was staying in room #26, which was one of the farthest rooms from the main building. The rooms are more like little cottages or bungalows. The beds are surrounded by mesh. There are two bottles of water left in the room for us to drink. Passport Health also recommended me to be careful and not get water in my eyes while showering. This was a bit difficult trying to use my hands as a curtain/shield so, water could not get on my face. Arusha Serena Hotel Bungalows BedroomArusha Serena Hotel Bathroom

More of Arusha Serena Hotel

Arusha Serena Hotel Bar/RestaurantArusha Serena Hotel Breakfast BuffetI woke up early to explore more of this resort since we were leaving right after breakfast, which was a fabulous buffet. The resort has tons of activities for you to partake in. Some of them include nature walks, mountain biking, and of course game drives. The spa has a full treatment menu that had at least ten different massage choices that I counted. Walking around the resort, I was enjoying photographing all the beautiful flowers and fantastic scenery. Plus, I saw where they grow some of the food for the hotel. I saw them plowing the field manually just how farmers used to do it before technology created huge tractors to do it for them.Arusha Serena Hotel view

Driving Through Arusha to Tarangire

I didn’t know what to expect when coming to Africa on a Tanzania safari. I was keeping an open mind to everything I saw and boy, were my eyes bugging out by all that was going on during our drive to Tarangire. It seemed quite the social scene with people hanging out on their scooters in front of the shops and people walking in groups along the road. All of the shops/stores were in sheds/buildings facing the street. I was fascinated by it all. Arusha shops

Another eye-opener to the African culture was to see the Maasai tribe moving their cattle or goats alongside the road. Most of the time, we saw young children shepherding these animals with only a stick. These animals seem to have the run of the place. You have to be alert when driving here.Maasai man moving cattle

Cattle crossing the RoadAnother facet that I witnessed was the guiding of the animals to/from the watering hole. I didn’t get any pictures, but it was quite the lively scene with herds of animals and people congregating around the watering hole. They walk a very long way it seems to get to the water. It makes you realize how much we take for granted by not realizing everyone is as fortunate as we are to have running, good quality water just by turning a tap in the kitchen. Girls walking with buckets on head

Stay tuned for part 2 on Tarangire National Park, which is also known as “Land of Elephants.” Besides Tanzania, if you are interested in visiting more of Africa, check out these safe places in Africa to visit.

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Further Reading

If you are coming to Africa or Tanzania for a visit, check out these posts for further travel inspiration:


  • Amy 18August2019 at 10:34 AM Reply

    We are heading to Tanzania in 18 days (not that I’m counting..) So great to read this post. Thanks!

    • Heather 18August2019 at 10:36 AM Reply

      So glad you found this right before your trip! You will have a great time! Don’t forget to check out the rest of my Tanzania posts. Let me know how your trip goes when you get back. I would love to hear all about it!

  • Diane Hollands 14January2019 at 11:37 AM Reply

    Good recap Heather. Looking forward to next issue. Btw I’ve started a website but it’s not published yet. Working on it now and should be ready by end of the week.

    • Heather 14January2019 at 2:21 PM Reply

      That is great Diane! I can’t wait to see it. Part 2 should be out this week.

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