From the snow-capped summit of Mount Kilimanjaro to the game-rich Ngorongoro Crater, from the endless plains of the Serengeti to the baobabs of the Tarangire, Tanzania is the safari insider’s hot tip. Boasting 14 national parks and numerous game reserves, this is home to the largest wildlife herds on the African continent, as well as the palm-fringed island of Zanzibar, ideal for post-safari relaxation. Many people do not realize that the famous Wildebeest Migration is in Tanzania for 8 months a year, giving birth around February and crossing the Grumeti River in June.
The Serengeti & the Ngorongoro Crater
Tanzania’s oldest and most popular national park, also a world heritage site and recently proclaimed a 7th world wide wonder, the Serengeti is famed for its annual migration, when some six million hooves pound the open plains, as more than 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson’s gazelle join the wildebeest’s trek for fresh grazing. Yet even when the migration is quiet, the Serengeti offers arguably the most scintillating game-viewing in Africa: great herds of buffalo, smaller groups of elephant and giraffe, and thousands upon thousands of eland, topi, kongoni, impala and Grant’s gazelle.
The spectacle of predator versus prey dominates Tanzania’s greatest park. Golden-maned lion prides feast on the abundance of plain grazers. Solitary leopards haunt the acacia trees lining the Seronera River, while a high density of cheetahs prowls the southeastern plains. Almost uniquely, all three African jackal species occur here, alongside the spotted hyena and a host of more elusive small predators, ranging from the insectivorous aardwolf to the beautiful serval cat.
But there is more to Serengeti than large mammals. Gaudy agama lizards and rock hyraxes scuffle around the surfaces of the park’s isolated granite koppies. A full 100 varieties of dung beetle have been recorded, as have 500-plus bird species, ranging from the outsized ostrich and bizarre secretary bird of the open grassland, to the black eagles that soar effortlessly above the Lobo Hills.
As enduring as the game-viewing is the liberating sense of space that characteristics the Serengeti Plains, stretching across sunburnt savannah to a shimmering golden horizon at the end of the earth. Yet, after the rains, this golden expanse of grass is transformed into an endless green carpet flecked with wildflowers. And there are also wooded hills and towering termite mounds, rivers lined with fig trees and acacia woodland stained orange by dust.
A trip to Northern Tanzania has to include the Ngorongoro, it is an exceptional place to interact with the Masaai and is one of the most beautiful natural wildlife safari sites in the world.
The advantage of staying at a hotel on the Crater rim is the view, the advantage of staying away from the Crater at nearby Karatu is that there are less people around, the lodges are smaller and more personal offering a range of activities such as walking and mountain biking.
The Ngorongoro Crater and surrounding highlands are one of Africa’s most beautiful regions. Volcanic craters form stunning backdrops to some of the richest grazing grounds in Africa. The most famous is without question the Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera; home to the highest density of big game in Africa. With 600 metre high walls and a rich volcanic floor that plays host to the big five, the Ngorongoro is one of the continent’s most famous safari destinations.
The Ngorongoro 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 home to strong populations of lion, leopard and hyena along with good herds of wildebeest, buffalo and zebra. Other game in the Ngorongoro includes serval cat, cheetah, jackal, Grant’s and Thompson’s gazelle, flamingo and bat eared foxes along with approximately 400 species of bird.