Tanzania: Grand Family Safari August 7, 2016 - QUESTIONS

We are super excited for our trip in August. It will be a group of 10 of us, ranging in age from my 11 yo son (who will be celebrating his 12th birthday at the Four Seasons stop) to my 76 year old father. I understand there are quite a few kids on the trip. I have a few questions for those that have done this trip before, especially in August.

What vaccines did you get? We have gotten HepA, HepB, tetanus, have typhoid pills to take b4 the trip, and have prescriptions for malaria (Malarone). I really don't want to do the malaria because of the potential side effects, which leads to the next question.

How bad were the flies and masquitoes this time of year?

Did anyone have issues with travelers diarrhea? I'm bringing Cipro and Imodium just in case.

Did you drink the bottled water only? What about cold drinks from an ice filled cooler, etc . . . Basically I guess I'm asking if the water used at the lodges for beverages and food prep is safe. Was there adequate supply of clean water? I was thinking of bringing a Sawyer filter, bleach or iodine for making more good water. Is it necessary?

How cold was it in the mornings/evenings? I've heard everything from "bring a parka" to "a sweatshirt is fine". I was thinking a fleece jacket and layers would be fine, any thoughts?

For the "personal" questions, where do you go potty when on on game drives? I hear it's a hole in the ground. Is there tissue?

I know, silly questions but with 10 people there are bound to be a few.???? I would appreciate any answers/suggestions you can offer.

Thank you


  • edited June 2016
    I have been to Tanzania twice, it's my favorite country. Don't just focus on the animals, enjoy the people and culture and the birds and vegetation, all fascinating. In fact, I will be meeting at a fundraiser in a couple of hours with a couple that run a medical facility in the Arusha area that I have visited and that is the charity we mainly support.
    If you take Malerone correctly, that is, not on an empty stomach, you should have no problems. There are several malaria medications, depending on the part of the world you are in, Larium was the one that gave the most problems. I personally would not go without my Malaria meds. People do return from Africa with malaria and it is a nasty lifelong problem thereafter that can flare up again and of course kill, but it is ultimately up to you after talking to your doctor who knows your health history, don't rely on people like me who you do not know. If I get a chance, I'll get some input today for you about Malaria there, but if I remember correctly, admission at the center for Malaria is near the top of the list, it only takes one bite from an infected mosquito after all. We had Yellow fever vaccines, latest research says a one off for life is now acceptable in most countries. Can't remember whether you need it for Tanzania because we have it so can forget about it now. If you are going to be going to other countries like this in the future, just talk to your travel doctor and get it out of the way before you get older which some say increase the risk of problems for it
    There are ample supplies of bottled water supplied for you to drink. All food is prepared with filtered water. We ate everything in the hotels and camps. One of the main reasons you do not want to drink the water in the Arusha area is because of a mineral present in the water there, I forget what, but it causes your teeth to turn a nasty yellow orange color, see if you notice some of the locals have weird colored teeth! Try to remember not to use the tap water for brushing your teeth. Some people throw a washcloth over the faucet to remind them, I use a hair tie that I twist around the cold tap as soon as we get to a new hotel / camp. Pour your bottled water into a cup and use the remaining water after rinsing your mouth to swish your toothbrush around in it to clean it.
    Temperatures, yes it can be cold on the early morning game drives. Our last visit was July two years ago, our favorite item for layering these days is a lightweight down jacket that weighs nothing and comes in a very small bag, it does not have to be an expensive brand, I have several from Costco and Uniqlo around $40. We just throw them in the suitcase. They also wash in the machine very well, a wonderful invention. Also have similar down vests. Both far less bulk than a fleece. When in the drawstring bag, you can tie it to your belt or on the strap of your backpack.
    Flies, varies, tsetse flies were a small problem last visit, they really hurt when they bite, are attracted to blue and black, so avoid wearing those colors. We find it better to wear long sleeve clothing and long pants both to avoid bites in general and avoid exposing as much skin as possible that also means you can use far less Deet repellent which is necessary but is a nasty chemical. By the way, that does not stop tsetse flies!
    Potty on game drives. Well, you make sure you go before you go on the game drives, they are only a couple of hours long or so. If it is one of the days where they give you a picnic in the bush, the helpers will have set up toilet tents for you. If you have to go, you will squat by the safari vehicle with the guide guarding you and everyone else looks the other way. Chill and get used to being basic. Always carry tissue in your pocket or shake yourself whether man or woman, you know, drip dry! Very few people seem to need to go on the maybe thirty or so game drives I have been on on various tours.
    Have a wonderful tour. We are on the Botswana tour later this year. I hope to go back to Tanzania!
  • Thanks British! We are really looking forward to the trip.
  • British has great experience and wonderful advice - so I would certainly listen to her!

    We also took this trip with a three generation family in August 2014 - and LOVED it!!! Really loved it!!!

    The trip is first class in every way - they take care of everything. People told us that, but I didn't fully understand until we got there and experienced it. I organized our trip and, like you, had lots of questions (especially being kind of responsible for everyone).

    Very few people on our whole trip got sick - but I would absolutely bring the Cipro and Imodium. They have bottled water everywhere for you - in your room/tent, the Land Cruisers, etc. So that was plentiful and always available. The water at the places we stayed was filtered for cooking and such. There is also plenty of bottled beer and soda. (My children don't drink much soda, but they took to Orange Fanta like crazy! What a thrill!)

    But British is right... it is the shower and brushing your teeth where people have issues. So follow her advice and do something to remind yourselves not to drink the bathroom tap water when brushing, etc. and be super careful not to get water in your mouth when showering. (Sounds easy... but you might be surprised, especially with the kids... I'd suggest they "practice" at home before you go.) I don't think bleach, etc. is necessary; we didn't bring it and wouldn't if we were to do it again.

    The food was also very good with lots of variety and plentiful... they even had snacks in the Land Cruisers, etc. Against advice (not necessary, attracts animals to the tent, etc.), I packed a bunch of protein/energy bars thinking we'd NEED them to keep hungry kids (or adults) from getting irritable or making sure picky eaters didn't starve... and most went uneaten - truly.

    The drivers stop routinely for breaks (whenever reasonable/available) at places with bathrooms (like the ones in the parks near a picnic area, etc.) - they are not always super clean and often don't have toilet paper, etc., so men and women all had a little supply of their own. The guides usually had a spare roll somewhere, too. I would bring small packs of baby wipes and hand sanitizer, along with travel toilet paper rolls or packs of tissue. When not near a bathroom, people simply ask to "check the spare tire" - which is code for and where you go to the bathroom when facilities are not available... no one can see you and everyone understands.

    I would personally not risk it with Malaria. From age 10 to 70+, we all took it and all did fine. To help remember, we made it a little ritual at breakfast to all take it together (taking it with food is key!). Like British said... there are very real risks with getting Malaria, too. Your travel doctor can help you make the choice.

    I got every vaccination possible for myself and the kids, but my husband did the minimum required. We all survived equally well. I'm a better-safe-than-sorry mom and figured they would come in handy for other travel and experiences, as well as this trip.

    The tsetse flies were especially crazy on one early evening safari... they were even biting through the clothes! Mostly we were fine with the bugs not being an issue, but when they do come out you want to be prepared!

    I agree, for sun and bug protection, go with full coverage. They make some terrific fishing shirts for men and women (i.e. Columbia) that are lightweight and comfortable. One example: Columbia® Women's PFG Tamiami II Long-Sleeve Shirt http://www.cabelas.com/product/Columbia-Womens-PFG-Tamiami-II-Long-Sleeve-Shirt/1358757.uts?searchPath=/browse.cmd?CQ_refinements=~c1%3dClothing~brand%3dColumbia~c2%3dWomen%2527s%2bClothing&CQ_st=b&CQ_search=women%2bfishing%2bshirt&categoryId=734095080

    DEET is the only thing that has any chance of being effective, but does not really repel tsetse flies (think biting horse flies/green heads... but smaller). But seriously... don't worry about that too much... it is not all the time and you work through it (i.e. shut the roof/windows if it is not too hot, etc.)

    Everyone will tell you that you don't need to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe, and they are right. However, I'd suggest you stick with the tan/natural colors to blend in, etc. - it helps to not frighten or confuse the animals, does not attract biting insects like black and dark blue, hides dirt/dust well, etc. (They've worn it for decades for good reason.) But will also tell you that some of the newer technical fabrics are great - i.e. the lightweight sun/fishing shirts.

    We each took a lightweight waterproof jacket/shell and an ultra lightweight "nano puff" type of jacket - you can weather just about anything with those two items... use one or the other for cold, wind or rain - or double up for maximum warmth. (My dad has poor circulation and is always cold, so he wore his puff jacket more than most.)

    Like British said, these great jackets weigh nothing and fold up/rool up into their own little pouch (making a pillow!) - this is a NorthFace example, but everyone makes their own version... https://www.rei.com/product/883279/the-north-face-thermoball-jacket-womens (The North Face ThermoBall Jacket - Women's) You can get very similar jackets and vests at almost any price point from different retailers. I happened to be at REI today and saw some great items on clearance.

    Bring a simple knit/fleece-type hat and lightweight gloves - you will be happy you did on the rare occasion you will really want them. You might even bring inexpensive ones and leave them behind... making room in your bag for bringing other things home! (I know of one woman who brought a thrift store wardrobe and pretty much left/donated most of her clothes along the way!)

    Some of the guys used a simple, traditional bandanna, but a Columbia brand "Buff" type neck-up was great for me/us... it helped with sun protection, kept dust out of nose and mouth sometimes, added a bit of warmth on occasion, helped once or twice with bugs, etc.

    This is the one I loved (from the fishing-type gear section)... http://www.columbia.com/freezer-zero-bandana-CU9499.html?cgid=women-accessories-summer-hats&dwvar_CU9499_variationColor=160#start=8 Columbia FREEZER ZERO™ BANDANA ---or--- Columbia Freezer Zero Neck Gaiter http://www.dickssportinggoods.com/product/index.jsp?productId=17447316&camp=CSE:GooglePLA:17447316:18094138-DSG:OUTERWEAR-ACCESSORIES_MENS-APPAREL-ACCESSORIES_MENS-ACCESSORIES&gclid=CjwKEAjwn7e8BRCUqZiP_vnrtBkSJAC_lp4H3XQfdCKui9seSHJgDcVBpvGS8vw8D-EQuxmSenMm0BoCWGTw_wcB

    But these are also very popular... https://www.rei.com/product/866014/buff-uv-insect-shield-buff Buff UV Insect Shield Buff

    FYI - I did not like (and returned) the Exofficio bug spray infused bandanna (it smelled awful!). Since this is so close to your face/mouth - make sure this particular Buff w/ insect repellent is OK for you.

    Speaking of which... I treated all of our clothing, gear, etc. with Sawyer Permethrin Insect Repellent - it is what they infuse the insect repellent clothing with that you buy. You can get it lots of places. You need more than you think to fully treat your items (check the directions/description) - but it did not smell for us at all. http://www.dickssportinggoods.com/product/index.jsp?productId=32484706 I will use is again for our next trip to Zambia, Botswana and South Africa this fall. I just laid the items out on the lawn and did it all at once.

    HINT: One couple was celebrating a big anniversary on our trip... and they provided a lovely cake after dinner one evening. You might ask, in advance, if they can do anything like that for the 12-year-old. What a great way to celebrate a birthday! (They have some delightful surprises along the way, especially for the "young travelers" - so if they know about the birthday in advance, they might work that into what they have planned, something you won't even know about, which could be very memorable.)

    That's my two-cents, Dlb1234... take it or leave it! ;-)

    Have a great trip!!!

    (((I have NO ties to any of these products or retailers... I was just trying to give you visuals/ideas for what I was referencing.)))

    NOTE: I noticed that they cut up/truncated some or all of the links I included... sorry! I'm not trying to sell or promote anything or anyone.

    Good luck!

  • We just got back from this trip, the first few weeks of July 2016.
    I'll not recap our trip, as it is important to make your own memories, but the trip was amazing. The tour director you will have will be great, and really help put you at ease and make the trip memorable. Our drivers were also awesome. This is exceptionally well organized, and you will not have anything to worry about.
    1) You will have more bottled water than you know what to do with...simply use it for brushing, meds, and anything that goes into your mouth. No need at all for water purification system.
    2) Bugs were surprisingly good. I never wore spray, but safari clothing (often light pants or rolled up sleeves). Only on the last drive did we happen to have issues with tsetse flies. I understand the lack of mosquitos is common for this dry time period. Do be prepared, but hope for the best
    3) Do bring meds for stomach/digestive issues. We had a few people with relatively minor issues, possibly due to food, travel etc. Cipro and imodium at the least.
    4) There is a ton of food, with lots of variety. I was surprised at the amount of Indian food, due to being a former british protectorate I guess. We were never hungry, and even younger kids had fare that they gobbled up.
    5) Temps were very nice...sweater/fleece in early mornings, but never hot when we were there, probably topped out in the high 70s/low 80s
    6) The balloon safari was incredible. We had some hesitant people in our group, and it turned out the be the highlight of their trip. Not just a ride, but the whole experience. I'll not spoil it, but it is not to be missed.
    7) Don't overpack. We thought we went light, but still had a few things we didn't bother wearing. Light weight safari type pants/shirts, sunglasses, tennis shoes. Perhaps a button down shirt & clean pants for dinner (men) or sundress thing for women, but not a jacket/tie/skirt type trip. There is a chance mid trip to have the hotel do laundry super cheap, very worth it. Also at the 4 seasons at the end we got $50 laundry credit's per night. I don't know if this is standard, but was certainly nice.
    8) If there are specific reasons to celebrate, do let the tour director know, we had several anniversaries and a birthday that were recognized, worthwhile and fun.
    9) If it is not too late, and you go through Amsterdam, spend an extra day checking out the city on your layover. It is not only nice to break up a few long days of travel, but a charming city.
    Have a great trip!

  • edited July 2016
    There is a lot of GREAT info in this thread. I do not disagree with any of it. Since we did K&T, I will add a recommendation from my own experience:

    Disclaimer- I am not a doctor and do not play one on TV.

    As far as taking Cipro and Immodium- good idea. Just a few comments- Don't wait to take them. At the first sign of trouble start taking the recommended dosage of BOTH. Don't just take Immodium- that stops the symptoms for sure, but will not/may not do anything for the underlying problem which can re-manifest itself in short order. You need to take the CIPRO for that. For that reason our TD even told me not to take Immodium- easy for him to say.

    I really think taking both is the way to go. I didn't bring Cipro, but was able to borrow some and took Immodium. Long story short, while my symptoms initially went away, I didn't take the Cipro for long enough and the problem evidently remained. I had to visit a doctor when we got home. 3 days on Cipro, and I was a new man!

    As always, check with your travel doctor.
  • Thanks for all of the great advice. We leave one week from today, and I can hardly wait. I'll just be glad to get all the loose ends tied up at work!

    We have our prescriptions filled, clothes sprayed, bags packed, etc..

    Hansmatt - great idea to stop and explore Amsterdam for a day. We have all been there before, so we were going to go to Paris on the way home. In light of recent events, we decided it wasn't worth the angst it was causing my 11yo son so we changed plans and are going to Iceland instead. Not as exciting as the safari, but still lots of natural beauty and perhaps a puffin picture or two.

    Baystater - you must be my sister from another mister :-) We think too much alike. Before I even read your post I purchased/prepared all of the same things you were suggesting. Iam a lover of bright jewel tone clothing, so I really had nothing appropriate - now I am fully outfitted with neutral Columbia PFG gear, including the Freezer Zero Gator, all of which has been sprayed with Sawyer Permethrin. all of our prescriptions have been filled and packed in the carry on, and I have had several conversations with the lovely group director at the Four Seasons who is taking care of the birthday celebration.

    Thanks again everyone,
  • This was very useful advice, thanks to all who contributed! We are leaving on this tour in a couple of weeks and are very excited!! Just curious how much cash folks brought? I assume we wouldn't need a lot since pretty much everything included in the tour. Maybe just for any souvenirs where vendors likely not equipped for credit cards? Anything else I'm not thinking of? Thanks much!
  • edited June 2017
    You will be fine with just dollars. But take them in small denominations for buying trinkets from the locals. Although it is perfectly in order to haggle to an agreed price for an item, don't be insulting and offer a fair price for craft items, it a good way to give straight to the people who made them and not giving to a charity, where you are unsure who or how much people actually receive. It feels really good to know you can make a difference for a family you actually met and invited you into their home. One of my most memorable moments is meeting a mom with a brand new baby. Another is seeing a little kid running around in nothing but a Sponge Bob t shirt. I particularly love the Maasai collar necklaces, the colorful talking sticks, oh and I have some great art too. On my first trip I had people begging to trade for my t shirt but I could not just walk around in my bra for the rest of the day! My dream is to take my grandchildren to Africa on this tour, it's the only one I have not taken with Tauck. We have just been discussing today when we could visit Africa again.
  • edited June 2017
    indygirl wrote:
    This was very useful advice, thanks to all who contributed! We are leaving on this tour in a couple of weeks and are very excited!! Just curious how much cash folks brought? I assume we wouldn't need a lot since pretty much everything included in the tour. Maybe just for any souvenirs where vendors likely not equipped for credit cards? Anything else I'm not thinking of? Thanks much!

    We didn't experience any problem, but others say take fairly new, crisp bills with no writing/marks on them. There are almost no places where you might shop that you can't use VISA or MC. I don't know if you can buy stuff at the Masai village you visit like we did on K&T, but if you can, there won't be any high dollar items, and once you negotiate a price, you pay the chief not the vendor, in cash.

    By far, the best place to buy souvenirs is at the Cultural Heritage Center in Arusha where you stop for lunch (and some shopping) on Day 10, your last day. It is a huge, private complex with multiple buildings and a really, really vast selection- rooms and rooms of everything from trinkets, to carved animals, to clothing, to painted art (the large, modern gallery building is claimed to hold the largest art exhibit in Africa), to expensive Tanzanite jewelry. You probably won't have enough time to see everything.

    Cultural Heritage Center art gallery building:


    A small look at just a few of the bajillion carved animals- any animal, any size- a 2" high hippo to an 8 foot tall giraffe- they have it!


    Want an African mask?

Sign In or Register to comment.