Tanzania 2012

The jewel in Africa’s wildlife crown, Tanzania is home to the greatest migration on the planet which sees millions of wildebeest, zebra, and other ungulates on an endless trek around the Serengeti/Ngorongoro eco-system in their endless search for green grass.  Taking advantage of this glut of herbivores on the move are the area’s many predators: lion, leopard, cheetah, hyaena and jackal.  As well as visiting the spectacular Serengeti National Park, our tour is timed to coincide with the birthing season of the wildebeest which takes place in the Ndutu area of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.  We spend four days here marvelling at one of the great wildlife spectacles as wobbly-legged wildebeest calves and their mothers struggle for survival against the predators.  We also spend time in Ngorongoro Crater, which is rated as one of Africa’s natural highlights, as well as exploring the beautiful National Parks of Arusha, Tarangire and Lake Manyara.

 Day 1;                                      April 1st

We arrive at Kilimanjaro Airport and transfer to our hotel in Arusha.  This evening we meet for our Welcome Dinner.

Day 2;                                    April 2nd   

After breakfast we begin our adventure in Arusha National Park, which nestles at the foot of towering Mount Meru.  On a clear day even Mount Kilimanjaro’s nearly 20,000 foot high snow-capped peaks are visible.  Arusha National Park is a great introduction to northern Tanzania, covering a variety of habitats including open savannahs, crater lakes and montane rainforest.  While here we look for black-and-white colobus, blue and vervet monkeys, as well as olive baboon, Burchell’s zebra, giraffe, common waterbuck and buffalo.  The park is also renowned for its birds with 575 species recorded.

Day 3;                                    April 3rd

Today we leave Arusha and drive south-west to Tarangire National Park, famed for its baobab-studded savannahs and large elephant population.  The baobabs of Tarangire are huge, reaching circumferences of up to 10 metres.  The oldest baobabs have been carbon-dated to more than 3,000 years of age.  Baobabs have fibrous wood, which can absorb hundreds of litres of water to help them survive droughts, as well as being a vital source of water for surrounding wildlife.  Baobabs have a different structure to regular trees, and can survive complete ringing by elephants which feed on their bark.  Humans also make use of baobab trees, using the pods for storage, the fruit to eat, and the fibres to make rope and cloth.  The seeds are even used to make a drink similar to coffee.

Day 4;                                    April 4th

We have a full day to explore Tarangire National Park, and its habitats ranging from grassland and woods to large areas of marshland.  In addition to elephants, we hope to see olive baboon, vervet monkey, eland, impala, warthog, giraffe, Kirk’s dikdik and Burchell’s zebra.  Lion are often seen resting by the river, and groups of dwarf mongoose and bat-eared fox are also possible.  Birds are plentiful, with colourful flocks of yellow-collared lovebirds flying over the heads of stately ostriches and ground hornbills.

Day 5;                                    April 5th

This morning we leave Tarangire, and drive to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which covers more than 8,000km².  This vast tract of protected land borders the Serengeti National Park, and includes the world famous Ngorongoro Crater.  Driving up the escarpment to reach the Crater rim we pass through wet highland rainforest, dripping with old man’s beard and echoing to the croaking call of the brilliantly coloured Schalow’s turaco.  The temperature drops as we reach the rim.  From the viewpoint we can look down into the Crater and see the tiny animals below.  The Crater is 19km wide and is almost perfectly circular, making it the world’s largest unbroken and unflooded caldera.  Some mammals do make the 600m climb out of the Crater to feed but most stay on the crater floor, and the density of mammals makes it one of the best places to look for wildlife in Africa.

Day 6;                                    April 6th

After an early breakfast, as the clouds are still rolling across the rim of the Crater, we drive down one of only two access roads to the floor of the Ngorongoro Crater for a full day’s exploration.  The Crater is home to large populations of lion and spotted hyaena, as well as herbivores including wildebeest, giraffe, zebra, Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles, and hartebeest.  There is a small population of black rhinos, which have survived the decades of poaching in areas all around due to the inaccessibility of the Crater.  The Crater is also home to greater and lesser flamingos which feed in the alkaline Lake Magadi, while vultures and other raptors circle overhead waiting for a meal.

Days 7 to 9;                          April 7th to 9th

From Ngorongoro Crater we drive across the Conservation Area towards the Serengeti National Park.  On our way we stop at Oldupai Gorge to visit the museum, and to hear about the early hominids which were discovered there.  The Rift Valley was the birthplace of mankind, and we can see some of the discoveries that have been made in the area by Louis and Mary Leakey since 1931.  Their most important discoveries were the 1.75 million-year-old Nutcracker Man (Australopithecus boisei), and the 3.75 million-year-old hominid footprints which were discovered in nearby Laetoli in 1979.

We continue our journey across the endless plains to Serengeti National Park, where we have three days to immerse ourselves in the incredible wildlife on offer.  Our destination is in the central part of the park, from where we can explore different parts of this enormous 14,763 km² protected area.  Together with the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, this park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the most important wildlife areas in Africa.  In our time here we hope to see predators including lion, leopard and cheetah, black-backed and golden jackal, and spotted hyaena, as well as elephant, giraffe, buffalo and zebra, amongst the many herbivore species.

Days 10 to 13;                     April 10th to 13th

We finally have to leave Serengeti National Park, and drive back across the border into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to our next destination: Ndutu.  The Ndutu area is famous for the vast herds of wildebeest on migration that gather here from February each year to give birth to their calves.  The female wildebeest have a clever strategy when it comes to giving birth, with all of them dropping their calves within a three to four week period, flooding the plains with up to a million calves and sating even the most voracious predator.  This strategy means that more wildebeest calves survive their first few weeks than would otherwise survive if their births were spread out across the year.  We have four days to experience everything that this area has to offer, and we can expect some mind-blowing photographic opportunities as we witness the struggle between predator and prey.

Day 14;                                  April 14th

We bid a sad farewell to Ndutu today and drive back across the plains, past the Ngorongoro Crater, and out of the Conservation Area.  Our destination is the small town of Karatu, located at the foot of the Crater escarpment, and home to the wonderfully tranquil lodge at Gibbs Farm.  Gibbs Farm is a working coffee plantation which backs on to the lush forests of the escarpment.  While here we have an opportunity to relax in this stunning location, and also to explore the forests of Ngorongoro Conservation Area in search of primates and birds.  Not far from the lodge there is a salt lick frequented by elephant and buffalo, and we may be lucky enough to catch site of these animals ingesting necessary minerals from the lick.

Day 15;                                  April 15th  

This morning we visit Lake Manyara National Park, which is famous for its alkaline lake and spectacular views of the eastern wall of the Great Rift Valley, which towers 600m over the lake and surrounding woodland.  The Park is home to a variety of mammals, including hippo, elephant, giraffe, and troops of remarkably tame and relaxed olive baboons which make wonderful photographic subjects.  After lunch we drive back to Kilimanjaro International Airport for our flights home.


Included:

  • All accommodation
  • All transfers and transportation, including transfers to and from the airport for the designated group flight at the start and end of the tour
  • All park entrance fees
  • All meals during the tour
  • Drinking water
  • Services of Holly Faithfull and local guides throughout
  • Tips for local guides, porters etc

Not included:

  • International air fare to and from Kilimanjaro International Airport
  • Beverages, other than drinking water
  • Items of a personal nature, such as phone calls, laundry etc
  • Airport departure tax
  • Trip cancellation or interruption insurance

What is the trip like?

Tanzania is an easy place to travel, with just normal good health necessary.  Flexibility, sense of humour, and open-mindedness are always required.  Wildlife viewing takes place from 4WD vehicles.  Accommodations range from comfortable hotels to luxurious lodges, all with private bathrooms, electricity, hot/cold water.  There is quite a bit of driving on this trip as it is the best way to get around and to see the country. Roads vary from excellent 2-lane paved roads to rough, unpaved roads. Rough road driving is compensated for by the beautiful scenery.

Climate

Average daily temperatures in northern Tanzania are between 70˚F and 75˚F, but it gets much cooler at night.  Most of the National Parks in northern Tanzania are at an altitude of approximately 1200m.  The highest place we stay is on the top of Ngorongoro Crater, at an altitude of 2300m, and you should be prepared for chilly evenings.


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