You may not know this about me, but I have a serious medical condition. It requires me to plan trips on a near constant basis. While most people find the endless internet searching and forum scouring involved with planning a trip tedious, I actually enjoy it/require it for medical reasons. As part of my treatment, my doctor recommended I start a new category on my site: itineraries! And since I’ve taken and planned tons of multi-city trips ranging from under a week to over five months all over the globe, it only seems natural to share some of my wisdom with my devoted readers…for free! And just remember, you’re helping my health in the process. As a matter of fact, I feel better already. Without further ado, here is Kenya, an African safari itinerary including the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, AND Zanzibar in under two weeks.
Cost of Flight: $1409
Travel Expenses: ~$1300
Amount Under Budget: $290
Comfort Level: Flashpacker
Day 1: Land in Nairobi
You will be disgustingly exhausted after two eight-hour flights and a layover in some random European city. We flew DC > London > Nairobi. I was also more hungover than I have ever been in my life, to this day. We arrived late, and stayed at the Milimani Backpacker’s hostel, which our friends had found ahead of time. The chef at the hostel is simple, but I highly endorse the tomato grilled cheese. I think I had five over the course of two meals.
Evening plans: Drink Tusker, meet strangers, early morning departure
Wildlife: A rooster that started crowing in the wee hours of the morning
Day 2: Nairobi to Lake Naivasha
If you make your way to the mess of matatus in the center of Nairobi, grab one heading for Naivasha. From there you can pick from a number of different campgrounds and guesthouses from which to explore the lake. Definitely negotiate with the matatu driver for a deal. But don’t negotiate to the point that one of your friends is about to vomit and then pass out and die in said vomit. There’s some etiquette to negotiating: if you’re arguing over 50 cents, just pay the man.
As soon as you get settled in Naivasha, get out on the lake and see them hippos! We stayed at Crayfish Camp which had options ranging from renting camping gear to private bungalows.
Day Plans: Take a matatu, find accomodation, get a boat out onto the lake.
Evening plans: Drink and watch for hippos. See hippos. Get bikes for the next day. Ride bikes back to camp in complete darkness, try not to die.
Wildlife: HIPPOOOOSS! Also, horses, and literally 400 different birds.
Day 3: Hell’s Gate National Park, return to Nairobi
Hell’s Gate is the only safari park in all of Kenya in which you are permitted to ride bikes. Take advantage of this. From Crayfish Camp where we stayed, it was a few miles before entering the park. Here is a very important tip: bike into the park on Gorge Rd. Explore the gorge. If a man is there to offer a guide: accept it.
Now here is the most important part: EXIT THE PARK THE WAY YOU CAME! The Olkaira route leading out of the park in something of a loop is a gravel road that does nothing but ascend and descend at ridiculous inclines for its entire length. Also, this route takes you past the geothermal power station. The smell is overwhelming to say the least, and you will see no animals. Only Kenyans walking back from their jobs at the plant. Trust me on this one.
Day Plans: Bike through the park, climb the gorge, bike back the way you came, wash all the dirt off you, enjoy many cold beers.
Evening Plans: Grab a matatu back to Nairobi, crash for the night.
Wildlife: GIRAFFES! ZEBRA! WARTHOGS! OLIVE BABOONS! No lions just yet…
Day 4: Nairobi, Kenya to Arusha, Tanzania
Grab the earliest bus you can get yourself on from the bus station at the center of town. Whatever hostel or guest house you’re staying at should have this information for you. You’ll cross the border and arrive in Arusha hopefully in early afternoon. Find yourself a hostel (we stayed at Arusha Backpackers Hotel, which was nice and had a great rooftop bar) and then explore the city in all the ways it struggles, and fails, to be modern. You will be booking your safari and departing from here in the morning. We went with Sunny Safaris and didn’t have a single complaint.
Day Plans: Arrive, find hostel, wander, book safari
Evening Plans: Get drunk with your friends, meet people at the hostel, don’t wander the streets.
Wildlife: Mostly goats and cows
Day 5: Serengeti Safari Begins!
You will meet at the safari office early in the morning before being taken to a grocery store to procure supplies for the journey. The safari we booked provided all camping gear except for sleeping bags, cooked us hot meals three times a day, as well as offered free water and juices. But of course we wanted to load up on beer, cigarettes, whiskey, extra water, and some snack foods for munching. Beware while camping, those noises in the grass aren’t just the wind.
Plans: Enter the park, have a picnic, safari all day, camping all night!
Wildlife: LIONS! MONKEYS! HIPPOS! ELEPHANTS! ZEBRA! WILDEBEASTS! Still no leopards or rhinos…
Day 6: Serengeti Camp to Ngorongoro Crater Rim
Witness The Great Migration of a million wildebeests and two hundred thousand zebra. Never be the same again. Then camp on the rim of the Ngorongoro crater and realize that camping will never be the same again.
Day Plans: Realize that you are in the most amazing place on the entire planet, remember what life is all about, think about quitting your job and traveling the world as soon as you get home.
Evening Plans: Have the most incredible camping experience of your life, meet people from everywhere in the world, see every single star in the sky.
Wildlife: A leopard in a tree! Oh shit, an elephant just walked right up to your truck. Then a buffalo stood in front of the bathroom at the campsite so you decided you didn’t have to pee that bad anyway.
Day 7: Explore Ngorongoro Crater, return to Arusha
You thought your whole life changed yesterday, huh? Well wait until you see a million pink flamingos all in one place. The inside of the crater is a verdant, fertile paradise. Be amazed. And then have a picnic while you all discuss how amazed you are.
Day plans: Descend into the crater. Decide never to use the word amazing again unless you really mean in.
Evening plans: Head back to Arusha, sort out bus tickets for early morning bus to Dar es Salaam.
Wildlife: Flamingos! And a rhino! And you are actually bored by zebra now because they are fucking everywhere.
Day 8: Arusha > Dar es Salaam > Stone Town, Zanzibar
OK, this is going to be a little hectic. The last ferry to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam leaves around 4pm and you have to catch a crack of dawn bus from Arusha, and then a taxi from the bus station, and pray you make it on time. We squeezed in on the last boat with about 15 minutes to spare. You can always spend a night in Dar es Salaam if you like, but we were much happier to spend it in Stone Town instead.
Day plans: Be completely exhausted while busing across half of Tanzania.
Evening plans: Check into the Zanzibar Hotel and enjoy a nice dinner at Mercury’s on the beach.
Wildlife: The homeless people living under The Big Tree in Zanzibar can get a little rowdy.
Days 9 – 12 Stone Town to Kendwa, Zanzibar
You’ve been traveling nonstop for the last 9 days. You’re so used to being busy with plans that you’ve almost forgotten how to relax. Well now is the time. Take a private van or taxi to Kendwa beach and pick from any one of the glorious bungalows to soak it all in. Before we left Stone Town we did a spice plantation tour which was actually much more interesting than I thought it would be. You must buy some Zanzibar pepper. It’s like no other pepper in the world.
Once we arrived at the beach, we stayed at Kendwa Rocks Hotel and had a perfect experience. Days are endless with no itineraries in sight. Go scuba diving, go snorkeling, get drunk on the beach, stay sober on the beach: whatever floats your boat. The water is immaculately clear, the sunsets are the best show in town, and you’ve got nowhere else to be.
Day Plans: Whatever
Evening Plans: Whatever
Wildlife: Crafty monkeys and soooo many fishies!
Day 13: Time to Fly Home
If you’re anything like me when you travel, you will get really drunk on your last night, unknowingly book flights with a non-operating airline, and then rush to catch the only ferry that will get you to the airport in Dar es Salaam 15 minutes before your flight. Luckily, in Africa you can still get on a plane 10 minutes before it departs. Even more lucky for you is that you’re nothing like me and don’t trust in plane tickets that don’t involve a flight confirmation. Be sad to leave Zanzibar, be happy that your sunburn will soon fade into a tan, and spend a night laying over in London because, why not?
Day/Evening Plans: Wonder why you are going back to that job you hate in that town you only kind of like. Drink pints in London pubs in March while wearing a sundress because you didn’t know the airline would keep your luggage on an overnight layover.
Wildlife: All the crazy people in Heathrow