One of our Zicasso travel specialists, Jessica, recently returned from a safari in Tanzania. Having planned countless safaris for our travelers, she came home to the United States ready to encourage a last-minute trip in 2020. As the story of her weeks-long safari unfolded, we were struck by how easily, and safely, she was able to enjoy the wonders of the Great Migration in the Serengeti. A perfect vacation option for a post-Covid world, a safari is inherently Covid friendly, being outdoors and remote. The wildlife viewing is even more than you can imagine, and currently the airline and lodging discounts are unprecedented. Whether you have been thinking about traveling or not, what is happening right now in Tanzania is why you should consider a last-minute trip for 2020.
With safety a paramount concern for many, the reality is that we can travel both responsibly and comfortably on a safari. Properties across Tanzania have prepared for visitors in this new era. “I did it myself, traveling from California to Tanzania to prove it is possible,” Jessica says. “I wanted to see what they were doing on the ground to make sure our clients would be safe.” (Learn more about Jessica’s air travel experience here, covering how safe it is to travel through airports and fly in practically empty planes.)
With any challenge, tourism in Africa has persevered by honing their level of understanding, approach to tourism, and the ability to welcome visitors safely and responsibly. “My heart is with you wherever you are in this pandemic,” says Jessica. “I didn’t make this decision to travel to Africa during a pandemic lightly. I am a bit neurotic when I travel in a good year...I researched everything very early on, trying to find out how this could work.”
A safari is the ultimate way to social distance and spend most of your time outdoors when traveling. “Your whole experience is outdoors unless you are inside your room sleeping, which creates a real feeling of safety. Your experience is tailored to your comfort level,” Jessica explained. Safari properties are equipped to handle your concerns and personal requests, whatever they may be. From dietary needs to particular requests, African hospitality and service are second to none.
One of the most incredible events put on by nature, to experience the Great Migration is a trip of a lifetime in any year. This year, however, brings a once in a lifetime opportunity. As millions of animals make their annual journey, the Great Migration of the wildebeest, accompanied by the likes of zebra and gazelle, is a spectacle unlike any other.
While a last-minute trip may seem ambitious, the effort is absolutely worth it to be nearly alone with millions of animals. The animals cross back and forth through 10 different river crossing points along the Mara River in the migration period. The usual experience has you alongside 50 to 100 other safari groupings to view the wildebeest as they lunge into the water. Instead of the typical crowds, Jessica enjoyed the spectacular scenes nearly alone, only seeing five other Landcruisers at any grouping during her entire safari experience.
For any interested in seeing the Great Migration, this can be a silver lining of travel in 2020. It is not too late to book and arrive in Tanzania before the middle of October to catch it. If your schedule does not allow for that quick of a decision, you can travel through 2020 and into 2021 and continue to have the Serengeti much to yourself to observe the unusually relaxed nature of the wildlife after months without travelers.
Jessica noticed the wildlife to be extremely relaxed, which led to delightful scenes across the savanna. “Leopards came down on rocks, which is unusual for them, to sit and stay. Usually, leopards are in trees, but they are currently playful and relaxed. Animals were so chill, and it was fun and beautiful to see the change in their behavior.” Travelers can now enjoy sites like the Ngorongoro Crater, typically too crowded in high season, nearly on their own.
Many travelers have postponed or canceled their trips for 2020, resulting in lodges offering low season rates through the remainder of the season. Low season rates are less than half of high season rates. “They aren’t even putting groups together,” Jessica says, noting that it is likely to have a safari vehicle entirely to yourself.
Some properties have reduced their rates by up to 76% to encourage travelers to visit. “If someone is ready to go for it and you have your passport, you are healthy, and you can catch a flight, you could leave tomorrow morning. We can make it happen,” Jessica confirms. “There might be no other time where you could have things to yourself--you just cannot believe it when you are there. Everyone is ready and waiting for you to come.”
While Jessica has one family who opted to take advantage of remote schooling for their children and do so in Tanzania, those needing to wait for a school break can consider Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. “November is typically one of my favorite times to be in Northern and Central Serengeti. You will not have the big herds of wildebeest, but you will have all of the other wildlife, super relaxed. I highly recommend going this time of year, and of course, there are always animals to be seen in the Serengeti.”
While November is traditionally a light time for travel to Tanzania, it is the short rain season. The landscape is lush and green, and absolutely beautiful for photography. Known year-round for its leopards and other big cats, the region never disappoints. While April and most of May bring more rain, the wildebeest's birthing season begins between mid-February and mid-March and is another option for early 2021.
As we look into the summer of 2021, things will get a bit tricky. “Postponed trips from 2020 will kick in. There will be space, but it will be complicated, and likely you might not get your first choice. It’s best right now to look at this rare opportunity in 2020, or to look ahead with a Tanzania travel specialist,” Jessica confirms.
The world is full of joy and excitement, adventure, and beauty ready for you to experience and explore. Tanzania is only that much more compelling in its current feeling of isolation, in how you can feel a lion’s roar shiver through your bones, in how the pounding of millions of wildebeest pours like thunder through the sky, in how the solitude lets you explore the wilderness at your pace--to linger with lazy leopards or search deeper in the brush for elusive rhinos. This isn’t just a trip of a lifetime; this is an experience that cannot be replicated. “This was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my entire life,” Jessica says, as she reflected on her last-minute trip just days ago.
Jessica’s experience is not just meant as a case study for why to take a safari in 2020 but has already been an inspiration to other travelers. Here at Zicasso, our own founders, husband-and-wife team Brian Tan and Yuchun Ku, decided to book their own trip to Tanzania with plans to depart next week. A long wished-for trip, they are inspired to begin stepping back out in the world as we encourage our Zicasso travelers to do the same. “Our plans came together over the weekend after talking with Jessica. From booking our flights to securing a dog-sitter, we knew it was meant to be,” said Brian, Zicasso’s CEO.
“From an experience and cost perspective, this is a major opportunity,” shared Yuchun, our COO. ”This is also an opportunity to support wildlife conservation and tourism.” The hospitality of Africa is second to none, and the chance to relax amid a challenging time is worth considering. “You have to experience it to realize how safe you can feel. The appreciation you will have for space, and fresh air cannot be understated. Lean into this moment. Let the people of Tanzania take the lead,” encourages Jessica.
If you would like to learn more about how to make a last-minute trip to Tanzania or any other destination happen, our Zicasso team is here to help. You can speak to a travel specialist by filling out a Trip Request form or talk to a Traveler Care specialists at 1-888-265-9707.