Tanzania is still the Africa you might have read about in an adventure story from yesteryear. Its vast wilderness areas lull with a sense of the unexplored, and its wildlife offering is world-class, making it truly the king of safari destinations
A Tanzania safari should, by necessity, be repeated two or three times. The sheer size of the place demands it, and there is so much to experience that a single visit will not do it justice. The drama of the annual wildebeest and zebra migration in the Serengeti National Park easily fills a week. Climbing Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest point, fills another. Then there’s Tarangire, Katavi, Ruaha and Selous - all iconic and remote African parks.
The Ngorongoro Crater is a must-see for its ridiculous geology, and a wildlife performance that leaves you open-mouthed. The Tarzan-like magic of Mahale in the west seduces from afar, and Zanzibar, a jealous lover, will not let you off with less than 5 nights attention.
Well-established air links do work well to get you around, and the lovely camps and lodges provide welcome respite from the travel. Be warned though – Tanzania will infect you with a need to keep coming back for more.
Planning your safari…
The Best Time To Visit Tanzania
The Serengeti migration is a year round event. Depending on where the herd is at any given time, and what the rains are doing, you will be treated to a particular aspect of the “Year of the Wildebeest”
In the Selous, Ruaha and Katavi, the best time to come is the dry season in June to October when the wildlife concentrates around dwindling water sources.
Mahale, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar are year-round destinations, except in April and May, due to the heavy rains.
Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Manyara and Tarangire
This “Northern Circuit” of parks is defined by the geology of the Great Rift Valley that slashes through it from north to south. Periods of ancient volcanic activity are responsible for the Ngorongoro Crater, the worlds largest intact caldera, and a wildlife sanctuary with some of the highest predator densities in Africa. The Serengeti and Loliondo plains, with their two million resident wildebeest, are the product of repeated prehistoric ash falls, whereas further south, the Tarangire river provides the only permanent source of water for hundreds of miles, drawing in huge herds of elephant and other large herbivores in the dry season. Together, these parks undoubtedly give you one of the best game viewing experiences on the planet.
Africa’s highest mountain is also the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. Our 8 day Kilimanjaro climb avoids the crowds by utilizing the northern Shira Route, and increases your chances of reaching the summit by maximizing the acclimatization period. The route traverses a wilderness area not seen by many, and affords a “grand traverse” of Kili from west to east, with stunning views and a superior standard of service throughout.
Katavi is one of Tanzania’s least-visited parks, but this remote corner of Africa, almost forgotten in a time warp, gets on and performs its magic regardless. Only accessible in the dry season, the park harbors huge buffalo herds, along with elephants, antelope, zebra, giraffe, and lions that congregate around the Katuma river. The park’s most notable feature are the hundreds of hippo that concentrate in muddy pools when the seasonal water sources dry up.
Mahale in Tanzania’s remote west can only be accessed by air, and this can make it expensive to get to. Once you’re there though, the setting on the shore of crystal-clear Lake Tanganyika, complete with sandy beaches and palm trees surrounded by dense rain forest makes it all worthwhile. Throw in the superb chimpanzee tracking in the Mahale Mountains and the romantic Greystoke Mahale lodge, and you will soon begin to realize what an incredibly special place this is.
Ruaha National Park and Selous Game Reserve
The two southern parks are often unjustifiably overshadowed by the northern circuit, but for many, they are what really makes Tanzania special. Their scale is awe-inspiring: The Selous at over 21,000 square miles, is Africa’s largest protected area, home to large numbers of elephant, buffalo, hippo, lion and African wild dog. Game drives, game walks and boat cruises on the Rufiji river are the available forms of locomotion. Ruaha, though smaller, at 7,800 square miles, is still enormous. This park is quintessential Africa – dense woodland, baobab, seasonal water courses protecting greater and lesser kudu, sable and roan, often watched over by large prides of lion.
The very name “Zanzibar” has always conjured up impressions of fantasy, mystery and adventure, and not without good cause. The history of the island is a colorful one, and has been tied with that of Arabia, India and the African hinterland for thousands of years, resulting in an intoxicating mix of influences. Mainly though, Zanzibar has some of the most achingly gorgeous white powder beaches, fringed by the warm aquamarine waters of the Indian Ocean. The island’s intimate beach resorts offer the perfect end to a dusty safari.