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What’s it like to go on safari now?

A Timbuktu traveller reveals what it's like to travel right now

Africa’s starting to open back up to travel (hurrah!) but you might be wondering what it’s actually like to take a holiday right now. Well, one of our guests, wildlife photographer Pedro Ferreira do Amaral, recently took a dream safari in Tanzania and was kind enough to answer some questions we asked him, in the hope that we might be able to allay any fears you might have. Read on to find out exactly how Pedro found travelling to Africa right now and how, in some ways, it was even better than before!

Pedro himself and a beautiful cheetah he photographed. Credit: Pedro Ferreira do Amaral

Where in Tanzania did you travel to and why?
I spent two days in the Ngorongoro Crater and another 10 nights at two different locations in the Serengeti. Tanzania is one of my favourite countries in the world (this was my fourth visit!) and I love returning to places where I’ve enjoyed incredible safaris in the past. The northern Serengeti, however, was new for me and I chose it specifically to witness the wildebeest migration and river crossings.

What was the highlight of your trip?
I am a big fan of predators and felines in general and, as such, seeing the abundance of cheetah (including a successful hunt) around Namiri Plains, and a leopard mother with two young cubs at Sayari in the Northern Serengeti, was very special.

We had a fantastic sighting of Manja, the melanistic serval, at Namiri Plains. I knew about this cat from photos I’d seen on social media, and even though this was not my main reason for traveling there, I have to admit that I felt absolutely elated that I got to see and photograph him on my very last game drive at Namiri Plains.

Of course, witnessing three wildebeest crossings of the Mara river was spectacular. Even though I have watched it so many times on video, seeing it live and in person was absolutely thrilling and a completely different experience.

Wildebeest crossing the great Mara River. Credit: Pedro Ferreira do Amaral

What surprised you the most?
How normal everything was in spite of the pandemic. With everything that’s happening I did have some concerns about how much my safari might be affected but it was brilliant. Whilst there are safety measures in place (and it’s very reassuring that there are), my safari wasn’t impacted at all.

How was traveling in this period?
It was fantastic. To get to enjoy Ngorongoro and the Serengeti during high season with very few visitors and other vehicles around is a real treat. Once it became clear to me that travel to and from Tanzania was possible again, I didn’t hesitate to jump at this opportunity. Who knows when I’ll have the chance to experience these places virtually all to myself ever again. Of course, I know that these are very tough times for everyone who depends on international tourism, but for someone who enjoys the feeling of seclusion in the African bush, this was very special.

I stayed at three different Asilia camps and I am familiar with their high operating standards from previous visits. I had seen their COVID protocols even before I confirmed this trip, so I really had no concerns at all on that front.

How did you find the enhanced screening and safety protocols in the international airports
Very sensible and reasonable, and I did not find that it impacted the journey at all. Everyone should be aware that these are times of a global pandemic, so everyone needs to adhere to certain measures (e.g. wearing a mask during the flight) to protect oneself and everyone else.

Manja, the melanistic serval. Credit: Pedro Ferreira do Amaral

How were the transfers on arrival?
Very professional. You can see that the procedures and protocols are clear and taken seriously, and that every member of staff is well trained on how to conduct themselves.

What was flying between the safari camps like?
The same as before, the only difference being that your temperature is checked before departing and upon landing, you have to wear a face mask during the flight, and fill out a few simple health forms.

Did you feel comfortable at all times?
Absolutely.

Did you feel that the extra precautions taken by the lodges impacted your experience?
Not in any negative way. Let’s put it like this: you know that if you choose to travel internationally right now, things will have to be different compared to pre-Covid times to a certain extent. But from a guest experience, my safari was just as enjoyable as any other. To give specific examples of what was different: staff wear face masks at camp (guests don’t have to), there is no more communal dining, no handshaking with staff, and you have to sanitise your hands upon reaching camp after game drives. But these are all very reasonable measures.

A young leopard surveys its territory. Credit: Pedro Ferreira do Amaral

Did you manage to social distance from other guests easily?
Yes, especially as I was not sharing a vehicle with other guests during game drives. You still get to see and speak to other guests at camp if you want to, but there is enough room for everyone to social distance.

Any advice for people thinking about taking a safari now?
I would advise anyone to check with their local health and other relevant authorities about the implications of traveling right now. Even though Tanzania doesn’t require a negative COVID test before allowing you to enter, I took one anyway just for my own peace of mind, which I think is always a good idea.

For me, safaris are trips where you can easily social distance and forget the pandemic for a bit. My experience in Tanzania was that there is a very concentrated effort from the government and tourism operators to make the experience as safe and enjoyable for guests as possible. If I could take this trip all over again I would, and I think this is a great moment for those who can travel right now to enjoy a much more private safari.

Majestic elephant set against the striking backdrop of Tanzania. Credit: Pedro Ferreira do Amaral

Was there any negative impact to your trip from travelling at this time?
Not at all. In fact, I would like to thank and congratulate everyone I interacted with on this trip for how professionally they managed the current situation, and for providing me with such an enjoyable experience.

Thank you so much to Pedro for answering all our questions. You can also check out more of Pedro’s adventures on his instagram and Flickr.

If you fancy visiting Tanzania, check out our trips and special offers. Or chat to a safari expert to help you plan and answer any questions you might have.

Read our guide to stay up-to-date with which countries are open. 

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