Planning your own safari can be a huge challenge. With so many different things to contend with you’ll need a little help if you want everything to go as smoothly as possible. One great way to save yourself a substantial amount of money is by cutting out the middle agent and getting directly in touch with a local safari tour company.
But how do you know what to expect or whether the extra work is worth all the savings?
We spent 5 days on safari in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater with one of the best tour operators out there – Roy Safaris, and to say we had the trip of a lifetime is an understatement!
If you want to have the most magical experience, then you’ll find everything you need to know in this review of the best safari tour operator in Tanzania.
How did we find Roy Safaris?
When we say we are fussy, we really mean it! Planning a dream safari trip can take a long time, especially if you have extremely high standards.
We started by looking at popular itineraries for 5-day safaris and then got directly in touch with the top 20 local tour operators (most of which were used by well known international travel agents).
After several months of back and forth emails and tweaking of itineraries, accommodation and prices, you get to know the person you are dealing with fairly well.
Trust was a major sticking point for us. Afterall, we would be sending a large sum of cash to a company who did not come personally recommended or had solid reputational foundations in the country we were booking from.
Susan Pandit, who was the person we were speaking to from Roy Safaris, was thoroughly professional and always responded promptly to any queries. She never got tired of our constant demands to change the itinerary and was courteous throughout.
With a little more online research to back up what we already thought we knew, we felt comfortable selecting Roy Safaris for our dream getaway.
About Roy Safaris Limited
Roy Safaris was established in 1989 with only one safari vehicle. Currently, they now operate 26 vehicles thanks to the scale at which their popularity is rising.
Their offices and team are located within the beautiful African Tulip Hotel in Arusha, which is the starting point for most safaris in Tanzania.
They have been running personalised, tailor-made private tours for over three decades, with a large proportion of their bookings from repeat customers.
READ MORE: Safari Packing List – The ONLY One You Need!
Planning Your Tour with Roy Safaris Limited
Once you have submitted a request for a quote on their website, a member of the Roy Safaris team gets in touch via email. They may discuss the logistics of the route you have suggested or recommend the best selection of parks for the time of year you are travelling.
The final itinerary is custom made based on your preferences.
Want to minimise your time in Arusha and maximise your experience in the Serengeti? They can help with this!
The booking process is smooth, with an initial 20% deposit payable by bank transfer or credit card and the remainder due on arrival at their offices in Arusha.
Why Consider A Private Safari?
A private safari experience is extremely different to a group tour.
With a private tour, you have complete control over where you go, how long you spend there or whether you need to head for a quick rest break without annoying the rest of your group.
Most safari vehicles can seat a minimum of 6 people in the back. So if you’re sharing this space with other people you will not have a 360 degree viewing angle when it matters the most. Fighting for space or binoculars does not make for a luxury experience!
Find out exactly how we planned our 5 Day Affordable Luxury Safari in Tanzania!
Why Choose Roy Safaris Limited?
Apart from their first-class customer service, Roy Safaris are extremely competitive when it comes to pricing. You will always find cheaper, but pay for a cheap safari tour and a cheap safari tour you will have!
For everything that is included as standard with Roy Safaris, you will be hard pushed to find a better price.
Their Price Includes:
- Very experienced tour guide
- Totally private tour
- 4×4 vehicle with pop-up roof
- Well maintained and comfortable fleet (with air-con)
- Unlimited mileage and game drive
- All meals included
- Tea and coffee making facilities onboard
- Fridge to keep drinks and lunch cool
- 1 litre bottled water per person per day (in vehicle)
- Use of binoculars
- First aid kit
- All park entrance fees
- A selection of accommodation options
- Transfers to and from airport
- A choice of guides (chatty/good sense of humor/bi-lingual/specific knowledge)
The Best Safari Guides
Roy Safaris has a great reputation in Tanzania. As a result, most guides aspire to work with them, which gives Roy Safaris the edge when it comes to recruiting the best experience and talent out there.
They do not employ foreign guides, only locals who know the areas extremely well. To top this off, they also train all of their guides in automotive engineering which is extremely valuable when running into any issues on a game drive.
One thing that still amazes us is how the guides can spot wildlife from what seems like miles away with the naked eye. You’ll be standing there with your binoculars like “WHERE?!”
Our guide grew up as a ‘bushman’ and spent a considerable amount of time learning skills that are becoming more difficult to find nowadays. He always spotted a fabulous photo opportunity and knew exactly the sorts of things we were interested in and those that we weren’t.
We would love to name him here, however, at his request we have chosen not to as understandably, they cannot cope with large numbers of people requesting specific guides!
What we can assure you is that we have met several other guides that work at Roy Safaris and they are all just as charming and knowledgeable as the one we had.
Any Accomodation Pairing
If you have got your eye on a particular camp or lodge, Roy Safaris will make it happen.
Although they do have regular places that they can offer at fabulous discounts, you can essentially choose wherever you’d prefer to stay.
Before we got in touch with Roy Safaris, we had an idea of a couple of camps we would like to experience and knew the rough cost per night of each one. When we heard back from Roy Safaris, they gave us a quote for our preferred options plus a few additional extras that were great value.
In the end, we opted for their recommendations as it was difficult to justify the additional costs of the ones we had found versus theirs.
A great tour operator will also let you know if there are any potential issues with the accommodation you have sourced. For example, Roy Safaris had recently been receiving poor feedback from one of the camps we had sourced ourselves, which was handy to know before we made a decision.
The last thing Roy Safaris wants is to provide outstanding service only to be let down by the camps or lodges that they take you to.
Sustainable Travel at its Best
An important aspect to Roy Safaris is their ethics and values when it comes to making sure they contribute towards the local communities and regions that help them to prosper.
They have planted over 20,000 indigenous trees near Ngorongoro as part of their reforestation program and their commitment to the wildlife and environment around them is highly admirable.
They support the provision of funding for the construction of classrooms, school fees, and clean water and are extremely respectful to the needs of the Masaai Tribes who live around the National Parks that they roam.
Yes, they are a business, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that they were a non-profit organization doing great things for their country.
A Typical Day with Roy Safaris
Your safari itinerary will be completely bespoke to your needs. If you are fairly laid back and prefer a couple of hours game drive once in the morning and again in the afternoon then your typical day will vary vastly from that of a wildlife photographer’s.
For us, we spent 5 days on safari in Ngorongoro and the Serengeti, wanting to maximize every minute on game drives. Our main aim was to experience as many wildlife interactions as possible and to witness a ‘stalk and kill’ was the ultimate dream (although quite challenging during dry season).
Our typical safari day would start at the earliest opportunity, which for us, was 6am when breakfast was served. You can always ask for a packed breakfast in order to head out earlier, but this was perfect timing for us.
After re-confirming the schedule for the day, we went out in complete excitement.
NOTE: Safari rides can get very bumpy! We preferred standing throughout our drives which made the experience miles more fun and also gave us a little core body exercise. Your guide can drive to your preference, if you prefer smoother roads in a seated position then that’s totally possible.
Your Guide Will Make or Break Your Safari Experience
Our guide at Roy Safaris was fantastic.
A great storyteller who could captivate you with his life experiences, making it easier to remember and explain to others. Just what we had asked for when initially booking our trip.
With his wealth of knowledge, we could trust that he knew exactly where to take us for the ultimate action.
Out on Safari
On our first day in the Serengeti, our guide took us off the beaten track to vast plains where he had spotted a cheetah resting on an extinct termite mound.
Within minutes, he had seen a lone grand gazelle in the distance and asked for our patience if we wanted to see something spectacular.
45 minutes later, we were watching scenes that people can only dream of when out on safari.
The cheetah had stalked and cut off the grand gazelle from its group, giving chase at lightning speeds before successfully taking him down.
The most amazing part of all of this is that the animals in the Serengeti are not put off by the presence of vehicles. In fact, whenever you drive past any big cats they are likely to walk towards the vehicle for much-needed shade.
Our guide explained that animals had not been hunted in the Serengeti by humans for decades, and so there is no reason for animals to fear us.
With this, you are able to get up close to watch whilst they tuck into their well-earned meal.
Evenings in Camp
We would typically head back to camp just before sundown, grab a drink at the bar, and a quick catch-up with some of the other guests before heading back to our tent to freshen up.
Dinner started at 7.30pm and we were so pleased that our guide was able to join us. We could discuss how the day went, the moments we loved and the types of things we were still longing to see.
With this, he could plan our itinerary for the next day.
Our guide would return to the staff quarters of the camp straight after dinner, leaving us to spend the evenings however we wished.
Tips and Advice for Custom Made Safari Tours
There is a huge amount of satisfaction in planning and custom building your own itinerary.
- If this is your first time planning a safari, take a steer from your guide as they know far more about what is realistically achievable.
- Having an honest discussion about what you like and what you don’t will mean they can provide the best experience for you.
- Spend a little time looking at online reviews and check out different sources. Tripadvisor is a great place to start but you can also take a look at their social media accounts to see the level of engagement from their customers.
The single most important factor in ensuring you have a successful safari trip is down to the tour operator you choose.
You will be spending a significant amount of time in a vehicle with your guide. If they are not what you expected then you can kiss goodbye to that once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Roy Safaris was not easy to find. They are not the first to come up in search results when looking for Serengeti Tour Guides, just like most reputable safari companies based in Tanzania.
Their selection of the best guides makes them stand out from many others, together with the personal service and attention they provide to all of their customers right from the start. And they managed this for a very competitive price that we were extremely happy with.
We spent a huge amount of time making sure that we could trust Roy Safaris to deliver the best experience for us, and we’re pleased to say that ‘deliver it’ they did!
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