To drive, or not to drive? That is the question! It’s one guests have been asking us for over 40 years as they consider a flying safari versus one on wheels. Our response has never wavered; we’ve always known that driving safaris are the best way to see Tanzania’s wildlife.
And yet, there’s a common misconception that flying between camps is practically mandatory for a good trip. That less time on the road means more time enjoying your destination. In countries like Kenya, Botswana or South Africa, where the wildlife lives in far-flung, isolated oases, that may be true.
But in Tanzania, flying from camp to camp means you’re going to miss out on many of the moments that make safari worthwhile.
Let us explain.
You Do Over 50% of Your Wildlife Viewing on Drives Between Camps
Driving between camps is where a huge part of your safari happens. The wildlife in Tanzania is so interconnected, and spans so much of the national parks–even beyond them, in places like the Eastern Serengeti–that “logistical” drives result in the best wildlife viewing in all of Africa.
Spend half an hour on the road in the Serengeti, and you’ll see what we mean. Over 3,000 lions live here–more than Kenya has in its entire country–and you’re guaranteed to see them on a driving safari with Thomson. That’s not to mention the Great Migration of 2 million hooved animals roaming the park. Nor Tanzania’s 500+ bird species. Nor its 60,000 elephants, 4,000 giraffes and roughly 1.9 million other animals.
“Speaking literally, a Tanzania safari is about the journey, not the destination,” Rick Thomson, co-founder of Thomson Safaris, said. “Driving from one camp to another is your chance to discover and photograph all these wonderful animals in action.”
These staggering wildlife populations mean that driving from camp to camp doesn’t feel like a chore–it feels like the best road trip on earth, where incredible new wildlife sightings await around beyond every river and hill.
Driving Makes It Easy to Bond with Your Guide
When you fly between safari camps, you say goodbye to your guide at Point A and say hello to another guide at Point B. While this is one way to experience Tanzania’s diversity of voices, it also means you’re not building a deep relationship with any of them. It’s simply not as rewarding as being with the same person from start to finish.
Driving from A to B, however, makes it possible to work with the same guide throughout your entire trip. You’ll build a strong relationship as your guide learns your pace, style and travel preferences. He’ll know what kind of photos you want, what’s left on your safari wish list and how to tailor the trip to your expectations.
“People really get to know their guides and build friendships with them,” Rick said. “Almost without exception, guests come home saying that the unexpected hit of their trip was that bond with their guide.”
Plus, your experience will be less repetitive; you won’t hear the same facts over and over as different guides explain the same things. Your guide will know what you’ve heard and will constantly surprise you with new information. It’s a powerful connection that leaves a lasting impression on Thomson travelers.
There are a few circumstances when flying in northern Tanzania makes sense. For example, almost all Thomson safaris feature a flight from Arusha to the Eastern Serengeti because there isn’t much wildlife on the drive. Other itineraries may use flights to avoid repeating too much of what you’ve already seen.
“To see a wide range of wildlife, one has to explore,” Rick said. “Driving instead of flying means you have a lot more time to do that. You’ll discover and observe the wonders of nature in the beautiful Tanzanian plains.”
We believe that the time you might spend in an airport and on an airplane would be better spent doing what you’re on safari to do: to spot wildlife and make memories.