This winter I had the amazing opportunity to experience a 3 day 2 night Tanzania safari at Mikumi National Park, the closest safari destination to Tanzania’s capital city of Dar Es Salaam. This is on the low end in terms of duration for a safari, but I found it to be just enough to satisfy the need for a “in the bush” experience. The excursion was booked through Sam’s Car Rental – including accommodations at the Mikumi Adventure Lodge, a full day game drive, and a visit to a traditional Maasai village.
The (Long) Route to Mikumi
Any Tanzania safari will require some form of transfer, with the most common “ports of call” being Nairobi, Arusha, or Dar Es Salaam. For us this journey would be a close to 7 hour traffic ridden drive east of Dar on the A5 motorway. Our chariot was a dated but comfortable Toyota Landcrusier, they type you see often across Africa.
To me, this leg of the journey was almost as fascinating as the actual safari. Seeing how starkly different these people live is an enlightening experience.
There is a drastic lack of infrastructure by western terms. It seems like the A5 is the lifeblood of these communities. Local life thrives around the road, with every 5 or so miles opening up to a vibrant hub of buildings resembling transportation hubs – with buses and motorcycles lining the roadway.
Mikumi Adventure Lodge: Home Sweet Home
It was the slow season for a Tanzania safari, so we had almost the entirety of the Mikumi Adventure Lodge to ourselves. The service was exceptional – all of the lodge employees were pleasant and helpful. The accommodations were also solid, likely some of the best appointed rooms available close to the park.
There was a pool that was under construction, which did not help us at the time but should be an amazing future edition. There is no air conditioning in the rooms, but there are large circulating fans on the ceiling. These worked surprisingly well, and kept the rooms comfortable and cool in the afternoon.
As you can see, the rooms are well appointed and homey. Each cottage style space includes comfy beds and amble space for two or a family, with some rooms including a smaller bed for children or other additional guests. What you should expect from your Tanzania safari, like much of Africa, is that you will more than likely not always have access to electric power. Due to a lack of infrastructure and reliability, most resorts run diesel generators to either supplement or totally replace their utility company.
One of my favorite parts of getting back to the Mikumi Adventure Lodge in the evenings was the dining. There has an extensive menu that served both local and western favorites, always cooked to order and fresh. The wait and kitchen staff were very receptive to your requests and everything came out absolutely delicious. Plus there was no lack of local beers for your choosing…I became quite a fan of the “Safari” brand. It also happens to be the strongest…
The Game Drive & Seeing the King of the Jungle
The Land Rover Defender is an iconic vehicle and represents the pinnacle of off-road durability. (Sidenote: The military grade 80’s Mercedes Geländewagen is a close second). These are also quite prevalent in Africa, with ours having a ridiculous extended chassis and open passenger deck. When I first saw it, I was in absolute awe at the imminent experience of driving around the bush in this car. (Sidenote 2: This beast would also be very appropriate for cruising around Malibu…)
Obviously, the most exciting thing about a safari is seeing the animals in their natural habit. It’s almost kind of nerve racking — one wonders if any of the “big 5” (elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion, and leopard) will even be out during our drive. Luckily for us, we hit the jackpot. Our Tanzania safari driver Richard was a young man that was very knowledgeable on the animals and very familiar with the park. With his help, we were able to see the king of the jungle, the African Lion, within the first two hours of our safari.
Maasai Village Visit – Tanzania Safari Highlight
On the last day of our Safari with Sam’s, we were meant to take a tour of a traditional Maasai village. I was initially a bit hesitant about this, as I’m not a huge fan of this sort of “human tourism.” However, after going through the experience I would recommend it to everybody. This is certainly a unique experience that you will not get on a typical Tanzania safari. Our guide was one of the Mikumi Adventure Lodge staff, and an actual member of the village. We showed up somewhere around 8am, and where able to see the village stir to life in the morning.
The people were very welcoming, showing as much curiosity to learn about us as we wanted to about them. All were dressed in the traditional cloth dressing and lent us a pair to fit in. We went a long with it, but let’s just say it’s probably not the best look for me. There were a mix of cows, goats, and chickens roaming the area around the village with some corrals in the middle for the various animals. One of the cutest things I’ve ever seen is when a little boy stole a baby goat away from it’s mother and ran to us for safety while the mother was in hot pursuit.
The homes were basically built out of tree shrubs and mud, with typically 3 separate rooms in each structure. One of the traditions that the Maasai hold are starting fires from the brush, something that is much easier said than done. Also fascinating, is the traditional dance that they performed for us. It entails standing in line and chanting Swahili phrases I did not understand and periodically coming up in front of everyone and jumping in place. Words don’t do it justice, but it was an impressive feat to witness.
Our guide had told us that the area in which the village was located was often frequented my lions looking to mate. Bow-chicka-wow-wowwwww. Now, seeing a lion on your Tanzania safari is certainly a priority, but probably not this intimately. We were told that lions often lurked around the village at night looking for food, particularly during the dry season when Mikumi park had a lack of other game to hunt. They would on occasion try to kill the village cows, and the Maasai have to essentially fight them off with spears. That. Is. Bad. Ass.