September 30 – October 12
Serengeti National Park (rating: 8/10)
For any fan of the Lion King (and who isn’t a fan of the Lion King?), this would seem to be a must-see. While we enjoyed our time driving the open plains and viewing all the different rock formations (a la Pride Rock), we thought the Masai Mara was a better park for a game drive at this time of year. That being said, if you can visit both parks, please do. There were incredible sunsets and seemingly millions of zebras and wildebeests. And if you can catch the Great Migration in August, it sounds like there’s nothing quite like it.
Ngorongoro Crater (rating: 5.5/10)
The possibilities of this game drive made us as excited as any other, but on the day we went we just didn’t see all that much. The idea that so many animals are packed into a relatively small crater is very enticing, but as we’ve said before your experience depends on a lot of luck (we’ve spoken to many who really enjoyed the crater). We would highly recommend viewing the crater from its rim, but it is not necessary to do a game drive here if you’ve already visited the Serengeti and/or Masai Mara.
Meserani Snake Park (rating: 6.5/10)
People from far and wide come here after being bitten by a snake. There are rows of glass cages containing seemingly every snake species from the region and if that’s not enough for you, there are crocodile pens and exotic bird cages as well. It’s a fun place to visit, with one caveat: snakes seem to enjoy just sitting there. They weren’t really all that exciting. However if you do get bitten by a snake in East Africa, we strongly encourage you to go here.
Masai Village (rating: 8/10)
We visited many Masai villages – some were in the plans and others not. It was the unplanned stops (usually due to vehicle breakdown) that were the best as they were at the more traditional Masai villages, not so heavily influenced by tourism. It’s amazing how resourceful the villagers are, and also how open they are to share their lifestyle with you. At one stop we even did participated in a traditional Masai dance.
The Indian Ocean by Dar es Salaam (rating: 8.5/10)
This rating is probably influenced by our Americanness (and the fact that we have never seen the Indian Ocean), but the Indian Ocean is great. The water is so warm, and the moon rising over the ocean is so beautiful (unfortunately we left before sunrise the next day). We were even able to share a romantic nighttime beach dinner with our 20+ person tour group.
Stone Town, Zanzibar (rating: 8/10)
Just a short ferry ride from Dar es Salaam, Stone Town is the quaint part of Zanzibar fit for eating and shopping. We bought too much local artwork and had a nice meal overlooking the harbor. If you go, do not miss the night market, a nightly conglomeration of food stands all serving the same, probably unsanitary food on sticks. I wouldn’t eat here too often, but it made for one fun dinner.
Zanzibar Beaches (rating: 8/10)
The clear water here made for grade snorkeling, or so we heard from the rest of our tour group. We chose to take the day off and relax on the beach, reading and playing Scrabble. Although dampened by a morning rainfall, the beaches are lovely and the beachside resorts are nice and relatively cheap (well, at least Sunrise Bungalows was). If you are looking to go somewhere in the world for its beaches, look elsewhere, but if you’re touring Africa this stop is a nice change of pace for a few days.
We can’t stress enough how happy we were with the Acacia tour we did. We bumped into many independent travelers along the way, and there’s no way we would have been able to kick off our world trip navigating Africa on our own. Sign up for the longest Acacia tour you can afford then don’t worry about anything except showing up with the right stuff – you won’t regret it.
Also, don’t wear white. Kevin wore a white shirt for ten minutes before it had turned completely tan from the dust.