Tanzania Moving Out From Kenya’s Safari Show

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Farther south, there are even more emerging attractions and huge, game-filled parks that take a back seat to the Serengeti or Ngorongoro as far as the traveling public is concerned. “But then you look at the Selous Game Reserve in the south and again that’s an emerging destination that a lot of people don’t know about and we’re developing a lot of product there right now, as well as in Ruaha, which is another big park in the south. And then you’ve got all the Mahale Mountain chimpanzees,” Crockett adds, which is an affordable and more accessible primate program than the mountain gorilla tracking in Uganda and Rwanda.

Anne Bellamy, president of African Travel, Inc., relates that she was, “…going over some of our figures year-to-date and 2009 will be the first time our business to Tanzania has equaled or is on track to surpass Kenya. It was quite a shock to us because we’re used to Tanzania oftentimes being in addition to a Kenya trip. Tanzania is becoming more and more a stand-alone.” She adds that one of the main reasons is because of the “…amount of exposure Tanzania’s gotten, particularly on the nature channels with the Great Migration, people now seem to be aware of the Great Migration and what it’s all about,” and the fact that it lasts much longer in Tanzania than it does in Kenya.

“The other thing we’re finding that’s growing in popularity is an extension to Zanzibar,” Bellamy explains. “That’s great for the honeymooners because they want to end up on a lovely beach. It’s also great for people who want a little culture. They like the idea of the old Zanzibar slave trade, the silk and spice trade—all that. And then it also appeals to the younger crowd that like the idea of the diving and the snorkeling. So we’ve seen our Zanzibar business grow incredibly.”

And while Bellamy says Tanzania still has a long way to go to catch up to Kenya in terms of infrastructure, she points out that “…we are flying our clients much more between point A and point B now and there’s more air that’s come online—air accessibility and availability. And then, of course, you have some of the incredible high-end accommodations you didn’t used to have in Tanzania. You have the Singita properties now and then, of course, you have AndBeyond’s Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. So that’s attracting your super, super five-star that might have thought twice about Tanzania because of the infrastructure.”

Ian Swain, president of Swain Tours, recently returned from an inspection of the new Singita properties in Tanzania and he’s enthusiastic and enthralled by what he experienced. “You’ve got the three different lodges there and the experience is just incredible because Singita has done exactly what Singita does, which is just excellent work,” he says. “You’ve got the bush camp, you’ve got the tented cabin and you’ve got the lodge, and all three are very, very different experiences, so we’re selling them to our clients doing two or three nights in each to get those different experiences.”

Swain was particularly impressed with the way Singita set up these three different safari experiences and the seamless way in which his clients can move between the three. “You can get all three of these different experiences without having to fly anywhere. You get up in the morning, say it’s at Sabora, the tented camp. Perhaps you’ve done a couple of days there and you leave in the morning and after the half-day game drive, you end up at say, Faru Faru Lodge, which is the bush camp and that’s the transfer—you’re in a completely different area and you’ve done it by road. They’re only 45 minutes apart but it makes the whole experience—the transfer—not just a transfer, but part of the safari experience.”

Indeed, he adds, “I think it’s a perfect scenario what Singita has done. The Sasakwa Lodge is just unbelievable. You walk in there after you get out of the vehicle, you look out through the main window and there’s the Serengeti Plains—it’s breathtaking. And the service and quality, the efficiency—that’s what they’re really good at. They do everything so seamlessly.”

The game viewing, too, he says, is unforgettable. “We had some clients from London, they just absolutely loved it. They were down there for game viewing in July and August during the migration. They were in the tented camp and they woke up in the morning, there were wildebeest right outside their tent—there were so many of them.”