Tanzania, where majestic Mount Kilimanjaro stands and where the largest mammal migration on the planet occurs, is the largest of East Africa's countries and the only one where you can travel from the sands of Zanzibar to the snows of Kilimanjaro without crossing a border. With more land dedicated to national parks and conservation areas than any other country in the world (77,200 square miles), a safari circuit through Tanzania's numerous parks offers travelers the opportunity to explore diverse landscapes and wildlife. This includes the huge Ngorongoro Conservation Area and legendary Serengeti National Park, where Maasai herdsmen still graze their cattle side by side with protected wildlife; the relatively unexplored Selous Game Reserve and Lake Manyara National Park, where huge flocks of flamingos mingle with the other wildlife that frequents the lake shores, just to name a few.
Serengeti National Park
Legendary Serengeti National Park with its vast, open grasslands and excellent wildlife sightings is classic safari country. More than 35 species of plains game, including wildebeest and zebra, as well as an extensive variety of birdlife, inhabit over 5,700 square miles extending to the Kenyan border in the north. The thundering hooves of wildebeest and zebra at the height of the annual Great Migration create a never-to-be-forgotten experience.
It was 1913 and great stretches of Africa were still unknown to outsiders when Stewart Edward White, an American hunter, set out from Nairobi. Pushing south, he recorded: "We walked for miles over the burnt out country...then I saw the green trees of the river, walked two miles more and found myself in paradise." He had found Serengeti. In the years since White's excursion under "the high noble arc of the cloudless African sky," Serengeti has come to symbolize paradise to many. The Maasai, who had grazed their cattle on the vast grassy plains for millennia, had always thought so. To them, it was Siringitu – "the place where the land moves on forever."
The Serengeti region encompasses the Serengeti National Park itself; Ngorongoro Conservation Area; Maswa Game Reserve; the Loliondo, Grumeti and Ikorongo Controlled Areas; and Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Two World Heritage Sites and two Biosphere Reserves have been established within this region. Its unique ecosystem, one of the oldest on earth, has inspired writers from Ernest Hemingway to Peter Matthiessen, filmmakers like Hugo von Lawick and Alan Root as well as numerous photographers and scientists. Early man himself made an appearance in Olduvai Gorge about two million years ago and some patterns of life, death, adaptation, and migration are as old as the hills themselves.
It is the migration for which Serengeti is perhaps most famous. Over a million wildebeest and about 200,000 zebras flow south from the northern hills to the southern plains for the short rains every October and November, and then swirl west and north after the long rains in April, May and June. So strong is the ancient instinct to move that no gorge or crocodile-infested river can hold them back. And so strong is the experience of seeing nearly two million animals on the move, words fail to do it justice.
Ngorongoro Crater is the largest unflooded caldera in the world, often referred to as Africa's "Garden of Eden." It is a 12-mile-wide volcanic crater, ringed with towering walls and sheltering forests, grasslands, fresh springs, and a large lake. This is one of the most spectacular game haunts in Africa, sometimes called the Eighth Wonder of the Natural World and, without a doubt, the most complete game-viewing spot in Tanzania. Within the crater, elephant, rhino, black-maned lion, cheetah, eland, Grant's and Thomson's gazelle, zebra, wildebeest, and an abundance of spotted hyena can be seen. Among the many types of birds are flocks of lesser and greater flamingos, Jackson's widow-bird, blacksmith plover, and crested larks. The base is permanently watered and supports a resident population of lion, elephant, leopard, black rhino, and buffalo year-round. Containing one of the greatest concentrations of game in all of Africa, it is a photographer's dream.
Lake Manyara National Park
Lake Manyara National Park has been described as one of the most beautiful places in Africa. As you progress into the park, the tall forest gives way to woodlands, then grasslands, swamps, and finally the alkaline lake itself. The birdlife is prolific with over 350 species. The park is also known for its tree-climbing lions.
Tarangire National Park
Wide panoramas of open acacia woodland and grassy savannah studded with large baobabs mark Tarangire National Park, a lesser-known 1,612-square-mile scenic gem located in southern Maasailand. There is an abundance of wildlife -- eland, zebra, oryx, rhino, giraffe, waterbuck, and wild cats. Most notable among the park's inhabitants are the huge number of elephants and tree-climbing African pythons. This unproclaimed jewel is also an ornithologist's paradise, with countless bird species.
For those who are returning to Tanzania for their second, third or tenth safari, we suggest a circuit through some of the country's lesser-known (though no less spectacular) parks and reserves.
The Selous Game Reserve is one of the largest and least explored wildlife reserves in the world. It covers an area larger than Denmark and yet has less than two thousand visitors a year. Situated in the north of the reserve, Sand Rivers' concession area gives exclusive entry to one of the most interesting and varied eco-zones of the Selous. The area contains one of the few remaining populations of wild black rhino left in the world and visitors are offered the very special opportunity of being able to track them on foot.
Mahale Mountains National Park
Mahale Mountains National Park is situated in one of the most remote locations in Tanzania, on the western border with the Congo, against the dramatic shores of Lake Tanganyika. Today the tropical rainforest that covers the mountain slopes is home to the largest group of free-living chimpanzees in the world. Habituated to human contact by 25 years of scientific research, the chimps can be approached to within a few feet as they feed, groom and wrestle on the forest floor. Primate-viewing here is less strenuous than a mountain gorilla program, though visitors should be able to walk on steep terrain. Although the nearby Gombe Stream National Park is more famous, the primate population in the Mahale Mountains is more numerous and sightings more regular and prolonged.
A trek through the rainforest takes you to Mahale's chimpanzees. Tracking the primates is all part of the experience of observing the nine species of primate, of which the endangered chimpanzee is the most famous. There is also the opportunity to observe leopard, bushbuck, bushpig, and a multitude of birds and butterflies. The waters sparkle with over 250 species of tropical fish.
Photos courtesy of: &Beyond and Nomad Tanzania
|Contact our Africa Department to discuss your safari to Tanzania. Program Manager Kathy Schulz has been an agent for 33 years, with numerous trips to Africa under her belt. Complementing her safari experience in East and Southern Africa, she has summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, sailed off the coast of fabled Zanzibar, gone cage diving with great white sharks off the coast of South Africa, and most recently completed one of her dream trips, trekking for mountain gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda.|