Safari Questions & Answers
Many travelers have questions and misconceptions about traveling to, and within, Africa. We hope that the answers below will paint a clearer picture for you.
If you cannot find the answer to your question on this page you can always contact us for further assistance.
U.S. dollars (and to a lesser extent, Euros) are the primary form of currency during your safari trip. Prices at all of the lodges will be in dollars, and the locals actually prefer dollars over Tanzanian shillings as they hold their value better and are easier to transport (Tanzania's largest note is equivalent to about USD$6.
You will be able to exchange most major currencies upon arrival at Kilimanjaro International Airport. Arusha--the city you will be starting your safari from--also has numerous banks where you can exchange money into Tanzanian Shillings and ATMs where you can withdraw money using your debit card (be sure to call your bank to let them know you will be traveling to Tanzania).
You should exchange as much money as needed before leaving Arusha, as banks and ATMs are less plentiful outside of the city.
We do not encourage bringing travelers cheques, as they are not as widely accepted as they used to be.
The water in all the lodges is safe to drink, but do ask to make sure (there are occasional temporary pump/purifier issues). It has been purified but there is always bottled water available (at lodges and while on safari).
SAFARI RELATED QUESTIONS
SAFETY: Tanzania is one of the most stable democracies in East Africa and has very little violent crime. Crime against foreigners is almost unheard of, and when it does occur it is usually just petty theft (and not usually in any of the areas where we will be on safari).
WILDLIFE: Tanzania is a great place to see the big 5 (leopards, lions, cape buffaloes, rhinos, and elephants). Leopards are often pretty reclusive tree-dwellers, but most of our groups have the opportunity to see them on their trips. To see a rhino you have to be pretty lucky nowadays, so be sure to bring your binoculars. As for the other three, along with giraffes, all types of antelope, zebras, hippos, crocodiles, warthogs, etc., you won't be able to keep count of how many you see while on safari.
ACCESSIBILITY: The major game-viewing parks in Tanzania--Serengeti, Nogorongoro, Tarangire, and Manyara--are all within a few hours drive of the city you fly into, Arusha.
CONSERVATION: Tanzania has done a remarkable job preserving its wildlife populations through targeting poaching operations and limiting habitat destruction. Unlike many places in South Africa and even Kenya, you are not seeing animals flown in from other places and placed in a fenced-in preserve--what you are seeing is 100% wild.
A very important element of traveling to a largely unknown destination is the peace of mind to know that you will be properly taken care before, during and after your trip. At Pamoja Safaris we take a conservative stance in deciding which personnel to hire--they must have a lengthy and consistent record of truly exceptional service and come highly recommended.
While in Africa you will be met at each location and transferred from airports, to hotels to lodges and camps; your in--your guides are on call 24 hours a day to answer any questions you may have or to handle any eventuality--from medical emergencies to retrieving a bag that may have been left behind and having it delivered to your next destination.
There are many opportunities for cultural interaction. We can arrange tours to local schools, markets, orphanages, traditional craft workshops, and villages. Most of these visits last for a few hours, but an overnight visit in a village with your guide may be arranged ahead of time if desired. In some cases guests may be able to participate in daily chores such as planting crops, brewing beer, or carrying water.
Please note most safari camps and lodges are located in wildlife rich areas far from human settlement and offer little cultural interaction with locals (besides the staff that work there).
Tri-band and quad-band mobile phones work in most cities and towns, however you must check to ensure your service provider has an agreement with the local provider. Please check applicable voice and data rates as these can be up to USD$3/minute and up to USD$20/Mb data.
If you have an unlocked phone it is very easy to grab a local prepaid SIM card upon landing in Tanzania. Just ask your guide and they will be able to assist you in procuring one.
Please be aware that mobile phones occasionally do not work at safari lodges and camps as there are no cell phone towers.
Dress completely informal--there will not be any occasions where you need to "dress up". Neutral colors are recommended as they are less distressing to the animals compared with bright colors (red, orange, etc.). It is a good idea to bring a light jacket for evening time, as temperatures do drop after the sun goes down. Comfortable walking shoes and/or sandals for your footwear. Be sure to bring a swimming suit if you would like to take advantage of the outdoor pools that are standard in most safari lodges that we will be staying at.
Besides the clothing items discussed in the question above, bring be sure to take binoculars, camera/video camera, hat and sunglasses, sunscreen, and bug spray. (Please note that some lodges are situated within malaria-prone areas. It is recommended that guests consult their physician/travel clinic regarding obtaining appropriate malaria drugs before travel to Tanzania.)
Our general recommendation is to tip in accordance with the level and quality of service provided. The following guidelines are generally accepted practice (per person per day):
Head guides(s): USD$20
Cook (Kilimanjaro treks): USD$15
Camp staff (Kilimanjaro treks): USD$10 (as a pooled tip to be shared among the housekeeper, waiters, etc.)
The best times to travel depend on what you are trying to see as well as what your goals are for your safari. November and April are the least traveled months because of the dryness of the landscape (November) and higher than average rainfall (April).
If you are interested in a more leisurely experience with fewer tourists, off-peak season can be a very good time to visit. The lodges are less crowded and you will see the same number of animals as the peak months.
Check with us if you have specific time frames in mind for your travels and we can help you plan where to be so that you get the best possible game viewing experiences.
The mass wildebeest migration moves from Kenya to Serengeti National Park and back at different points throughout the year. Climate change and abnormal weather patterns are causing some changes in the timing of the migration, so please check with us if you are interested in seeing the migration and we will do our best to make it happen.
KILIMANJARO RELATED QUESTIONS
A climb up and down Kilimanjaro usually takes from five to eight days, depending on the route that you select.
Time to make it to the summit of the mountain depends on a few factors, such as age, health, and your body's reaction to high altitudes (which can affect everyone differently no matter what your current health condition or prior experience with altitude is).
We generally recommend that you take it as slow as possible in order to increase your chances of a successful summit and decrease chances of injury. For this reason, we generally discourage people from attempting five day treks (generally the absolute minimum number of days required to summit) in favor of a six to nine-day journey. Yes, there is a relatively small increase in cost, but we sincerely believe that the journey will be a more pleasant experience overall if you give your body extra time to acclimate to the altitude.
Most of the heavy gear (tent, mat, sleeping bag, etc.) will be provided for you and will be carried by one of your porters (however, you are more than welcome to bring your own specialty gear if you would like).
All you will be responsible for carrying on a daily basis is a day pack (please bring your own), and we encourage you to keep the weight down as you will be responsible for carrying whatever load you pack for approximately six to eight hours every day of the hike (15lbs/7kg or less).
Walking poles, sunglasses, wide-brim hat, sunscreen, insect repellent (for the forested areas near the base of the mountain), wind-repellent jacket, energy bars, re-hydration tablets, and anti-diarrhea medication is recommended to bring.
Remember, temperatures go down as you go higher in altitude (there are glaciers at the top), so we encourage you to dress in layers and pack a winter jacket, hat, gloves, face mask, and snow pants for the later days of the climb. A poncho is also recommended, as rain is not uncommon, especially during the first couple days of the hike.
For footwear you should pack a pair of comfortable, broken-in (previously worn) ankle-high boots, preferably of the Gore-Tex variety (water treated).
People of all ages and abilities have successfully summited Kilimanjaro. You don't need to necessarily have any experience or be in peak shape in order to do it, but it doesn't hurt.
Altitude sickness (otherwise known as acute mountain sickness, or AMS) is one of the biggest hurdles to making it to the top, and it doesn't matter how good of shape you're in--some people get it worse than others. The best prevention is to take it slow, and have some Diamox on backup in case symptoms start showing up (loss of appetite, vomiting, dizziness, etc.).
If you don't think you have what it takes, just take a look at how a man with no arms or legs was able to summit (albeit through a LOT of strength and determination).
Your support team will include a main guide, an assistant guide, a cook, and a team of porters to carry the bulk to the gear (tent, sleeping bags, food, water, etc.) up the mountain
Porters are mandatory and you will be assigned as many as are needed, depending on the size of the group (usually three per climber).
Competitive wages for all team members are included in the price you pay for the trip, but tipping a small amount per person and giving it to the main guide to distribute at the end of your journey is greatly appreciated by the team members and their families.
Your safety is our utmost priority, and we take accidents and signs of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) very seriously. Our guides are well trained in the symptoms of altitude sickness, so we ask that all climbers heed their advice when it comes to your safety. If your guide recommends that you stop your ascent to rest--or even go back down the mountain--please carry out their instructions.
In the case of a serious accident (very rare, but we must be prepared for anything), your team will carry you down the mountain on a stretcher to seek proper medical care.
We HIGHLY recommend that all climbers purchase proper medical insurance before they start their ascent.
Amazingly, yes. Of course, it depends on your carrier, and not all areas on the mountain will get reception, but a number of climbers have had decent enough reception at different points on the mountain to make and receive calls.
The answer to this differs depending on what you are aiming for.
Do you want to climb when their are less climbers? Don't climb during peak months (December, January, July, and August).
Do you want to climb when the temperature is warmer at the top? Climb during December, January, and February).
Do you want the best chance of a clear view once you reach the summer? Then climb during the colder months (July and August).
The best time of the year to climb Kilimanjaro is generally agreed upon to be December through February, but you'll be climbing with quite a few others that are also in the know.
Feel free to contact us to discuss when the best time for your climb is.
It's up to you! Many people choose to do a Kilimanjaro climb first and then move on to the safari for some R&R for the next week or so. Another alternative is to do the safari, climb Kilimanjaro, and then relax in Zanzibar after your climb--that way you get to do all three of the famous areas of Tanzania.
Most climbers go ahead and pack such drugs in case they start to feel the symptoms of altitude sickness (loss of appetite, vomiting, dizziness, etc.).
Keep in mind that the drugs only mask the symptoms and DO NOT TREAT AMS. The only cure for acute AMS is to quickly descend to a lower elevation.
Please consult with your doctor before heading to Tanzania so that they can prescribe the right treatment for you.
Most of our climbers are able to summit Kilimanjaro.
That being said, there are occasionally climbers who suffer from acute altitude sickness or suffer an injury and cannot continue on.
In such an event we are regrettably not able to process a refund to you, as the park fees have already been paid (and are non-refundable), and the staff has already been reserved for the dates you requested (and cannot usually find work to cover the dates on such short notice).
The fee that you pay to us covers all of the major particulars involved in climbing Kilimanjaro: permits and fees, accompanying staff members, a night's hotel stay at the beginning and end of your climb, tent, toilet, clean water, three meals per full day on the mountain, and rental equipment such as tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and walking poles.
The fee does not cover optional end-of-climb staff members tips.
Tip #1: Do some training in the months or weeks before the climb so that your body will be in good physical shape. Work on your legs in particular, as well as general endurance. If you can, train at as high of an altitude as possible.
Tip #2: Test out any new gear (walking poles, shoes, attire) BEFORE you bring it to the mountain in order to break it in. This is especially important with shoes--if you have ill-fitting shoes you won't have a very good time on your hike.
Tip #3: Study up on Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), otherwise known as Altitude Sickness. Learn warning signs and prevention techniques so that you will be ready in case your body starts to exhibit symptoms during the climb.