THE LAND OF KILIMANJARO
Tanzania offers incredible diversity and is perhaps the most beautiful country in Africa, from the Serengeti plains with their annual mass migrations to towering, jungle-clad mountains and paradise archipelagos. With the most magnificent park in Africa, the Serengeti has vast landscapes and prolific amounts of game and is famed for the annual migration. The Ngorongoro Crater meanwhile is a true Garden of Eden, with highland forest covering the sheer sides of the caldera, a spectacular barrier encircling the plains wildlife that roams the flat crater floor making it ideal viewing ground for a superb Tanzania safari.
The well-established ‘Northern Circuit’ safari of northern Tanzania offers some of the world’s most diverse safari experiences, consisting of National Parks, game reserves, conservation areas and private concessions. Among these are the world-famous and iconic Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, and of course their less well-known neighbours, Tarangire National Park and Lake Manyara National Park.
Serengeti National Park
There is such a variety of species in the Serengeti as to be too great to number here, which is why it is such an integral part of a Tanzania safari. The Serengeti’s main attraction is the Great Migration, consisting of up to 2 million wildebeest, 200,000 zebras and 350,000 thompson, impala and grant’s gazelles. The predator viewing here is exceptional with approximately 3-4,000 lion and huge numbers of cheetah, leopard and hyena. Other animals commonly found in the park include topi, eland, hartebeest, buffalo, elephant, caracal, serval, bat-eared fox, hyrax, genet, hares, porcupine, aardvark, giraffe, jackal, mongoose, crocodile, monitor lizard, aardwolf, many kinds of primates including baboons, vervet and colobus monkeys, and over 500 species of bird.
Lake Manyara National Park
The concentrations of game at Lake Manyara are not nearly as high as in surrounding parks, but there are a number of unique species that give reason enough to safari here. The park’s main attraction are Lake Manyara’s famous tree-climbing lions – why these lions habitually climb trees is still up for debate, but viewing a pride relaxing in an acacia tree is a remarkable sight! The park is also famous for its elephant and huge number of baboons, and its varied landscape supports an impressive range of other game including wildebeest, buffalo, hippo, flamingo, zebra, warthog, waterbuck, dik-dik and impala. The birding here is also very good, especially raptors.
Tarangire National Park
During the dry months the concentration of animals around the Tarangire river is almost as diverse and reliable as in the Ngorongoro Crater. However, the ecosystem here is balanced by a localised migration pattern that is followed by the majority of game that resides in and around the park. As a result, Tarangire is superb in the dry season but questionable the rest of the year. Elephants are the main attraction, with up to 3,000 in the park during the peak months. Peak season also sees good numbers of wildebeest and zebra as well as giraffe, buffalo, Thompson’s gazelle, greater and lesser kudu, eland, leopard and cheetah. The real prizes in the park are dwarf mongoose, oryx and generuk – but viewings are very rare. Tarangire is also one of Tanzania’s finest birding destinations.
Arusha National Park
Within the park there are three broad areas to be found: Ngurdoto Crater (surrounded by forest), the Momela Lakes (alkaline) and Mount Meru (lush forest and bare rock). These are all at varying altitudes and as a result have very different vegetation – it is all this that helps to make this such a diverse park to visit. Despite the small size of the park, common animals include giraffe, buffalo, zebra, warthog, the black-and-white colobus monkey, the blue monkey, flamingos, African elephants, lions and more. Leopards are present but rarely seen. Birdlife in the forest is prolific, with many forests species more easily are seen here than elsewhere on the tourist route – Narina trogon and bar-tailed trogon are both possible highlights for visiting birders.
Kilimanjaro National Park
Kilimanjaro is one of the world’s most accessible high summits, a beacon for visitors from around the world. Most climbers reach the crater rim with little more than a walking stick, proper clothing and determination. But there is so much more to Kilimanjaro than her summit. The ascent of the slopes is a virtual climatic world tour, from the tropics to the Arctic. Even before you cross the national park boundary (at the 2,700m contour), the cultivated foot slopes give way to lush montane forest, inhabited by elusive elephant, leopard, buffalo, the endangered Abbot’s duiker, and other small antelope and primates. Higher still lies the moorland zone, where a cover of giant heather is studded with otherworldly giant lobelias.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Any Northern Tanzania Safari should ideally include a visit to Ngorongoro Crater: it is one of the most beautiful natural wildlife safari sites in the world and an exceptional place to interact with people from the Maasai tribe. The Ngorongoro Crater is the best place in Tanzania to see ‘The Big Five’. A healthy population of black rhino and some of the largest tusker elephants left in Africa today are the prize spots, but the crater is also home to good populations of lion, leopard and hyena along with healthy herds of wildebeest, buffalo and zebra. Other wildlife here includes serval cat, cheetah, jackal, Grant’s and Thompson’s gazelle, flamingo and bat-eared foxes, as well as approximately 400 species of bird.