A 'magical' time to visit Tanzania

Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

Every crisis has a silver lining or two. And for adventurous travelers with the means, the widespread shutdown in global travel has created opportunities for truly one-in-a-lifetime adventures.

"It's literally like having a private home overlooking the Serengeti," said Justin Stevens of the Four Seasons Safari Lodge.
"It's literally like having a private home overlooking the Serengeti," said Justin Stevens of the Four Seasons Safari Lodge. Photo Credit: Four Seasons

In Tanzania, for instance, one of the few countries Americans are allowed to visit without restriction, the solitude offered right now is like "going back in time," says Justin Stevens, general manager of the Four Seasons Safari Lodge in Serengeti National Park.

While the lodge won't  officially reopen until Sept. 1, it is opening its five pool villas this month for those seeking private stays and the chance to see the great migration on an almost exclusive basis.

"There is nobody here," Stevens said in a recent phone interview. "I just drove 10 minutes away from the lodge and came across a nice little pride of 11 lions, three adults and their cubs. I spent three hours with them and there was not a single other car."

August is normally one of the busiest months on the Serengeti because of school vacations and the chance to see the great migration's Mara river crossing, Stevens said. And that means there can be up to a dozen safari vehicles vying for views at any given time, Stevens said.

But now, there have been reports from across Africa of wildlife lounging on roads and generally out in greater display across the areas where safari vehicles normally roam. Tour operators have said safaris are popular products amongst traveler rebooking for 2021, meaning this year could offer a rare chance for travelers to experience Africa more exclusively.

"With the impact of travel restrictions and limited international flights seen this year, we expect the national park to be far quieter than any August in recent history, making our Private Villa Experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" he said.

In an early episode of the Folo by Travel Weekly podcast, editors Rebecca Tobin and Eric Moya discussed a Tanzania safari as the ultimate social distancing vacation, especially if travelers go in the off-season.

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Under the program,  each of the Four Seasons' five pool villas, which range in size from one to three bedrooms, comes with its own safari guide and butler, and personally curated meals will be delivered to the villa.  And while the main lodge is closed, guests can still arrange to use its facilities, such as its main infinity pool.

Since each villa has its own driver, guest cans do as many game drive as they'd like.

"It's literally like having a private home overlooking the Serengeti," Stevens said.

Stevens said most of the guests they have booked for near-term travel are flying private. But several airlines, including Turkish Airlines and Emirates are set to return this month.

"I know it's not the greatest time to travel, but it you can get to the Serengeti now it is absolutely magical," he said.


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