Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Size: 1,500 sq. miles (8,300 sq. km.) Best time to visit: Anytime

The Ngorongoro Conservation area, home to the famous Ngorongoro Crater, is not a national park and members of the Masai tribe do live within its boundaries; however, the wildlife in the area is overwhelming.

Thousands of animals can be found grazing on the open plains of the conservation area and many more live on the slopes that lead up to Ngorongoro Crater. The crater itself is 11 miles (18 km) wide and contains over 25,000 large mammals alone. It is thought that before the eruption that formed the crater, Ngorongoro may have rivalled Kilimanjaro in size. Lake Magadi, situated at the bottom of the crater, provides good wallowing for the huge water buffalo that gather at its edges. As you move through herds of these massive beasts, their stares can seem more challenging than disinterested.

You won’t see many giraffe or zebra here as competition for food is high in the crater; however, it is one of the best places to spot the endangered African black rhino as well as large prides of lions whose males develop striking black manes. From the rim of the crater it is possible to get a bird’s eye view of the animals and, with a good pair of field glasses, you can identify many of them from afar. There is no accommodation in the crater and the ascent must be made by nightfall but from the many campgrounds and lodges on the crater rim you may be lucky enough to hear the night time activities of the animals as they go about their nocturnal business.

Many types of bird make Ngorongoro crater their home and at times the lake is overed with thousands of greater and lesser flamingos. (Lesser flamingos are smaller, but have brighter plumage.) Sand-pipers, storks, the ever-present vultures and other birds will often be found floating overhead.

Archaeological sites

Olduvai Gorge is the famous home of 1.75 million-year-old “nutcracker man” – known to the scientific community as Australopithecus boisei – one of the oldest known ancestors of man. The remains were discovered by Mary Leakey who was carrying out archaeological work there with her husband, Louis Leakey. The Olduvai Gorge site is extremely rich in fossilized remains and has yielded many types of ancient flora and fauna including 50 different hominids. The site consists of five layers, ranging in age from 15,000 to 2.1 million years.

Other archaeological sites in northern Tanzania include the Hominid track way at Laetoli (the track way is now reburied for preservation, a cast of the track way can be viewed at Olduvai) and the spectacular ancient cave paintings north of Kondoa which can be viewed in their original state. For archaeology buffs, a visit to the 27 painting sites is a must.

The Masai

The Masai tribe is the predominant tribe in northern Tanzania and many of them call the Ngorongoro Conservation Area their home. The Masai people have been given permission to live within the Conservation Area boundaries and as you drive through the area you will often espy the traditional red garb of the Masai. The Masai have never been a hunting people – they live from the milk and blood of cattle – and as a result get along splendidly in this large wildlife preservation area. The Masai are generally distrustful of photographs but some traditional villages have been opened up to tourism and a visit can be arranged for a fee.
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Accommodation

Gibbs Farm

Situated between Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater, Gibbs farm (link) offers charming accommodations in rustic cabins in the gorgeous setting of a colonial coffee farm. The grounds are immaculate and nature walks can be arranged to view a majestic waterfall and the serene east African countryside.

Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge

The lodge is built on the rim of the crater, offering a breath taking view. 90 bedrooms, a lounge with panoramic windows and an observation deck make the wildlife lodge a scenic choice of accommodations.

Ngorongoro Serena Lodge

The Ngorongoro Serena Lodge (link) is built into the rim of the ancient crater, its design of rambling stone walls covered with ivy and plants blends beautifully into the crater environment. Most rooms have private terraces with views of the crater floor on which on can sometimes discern groups of animals. An observation deck with telescopes is a favourite place to relax in the shade.

Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge

Like the others, this lodge offers breathtaking views of the crater floor and lake. As all Sopa lodges (link), the Ngorongoro lodge features suites with two queen size beds as its standard accommodation.

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

This architectural wonder was inspired by the Masai Manyatta. Each suite is served by a personal butler, and are all include private bathrooms and showers with a private deck and lounge with fireplace.
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Lake Manyara National Park

Size: 127 sq. miles (330 sq. km.) Best Times: July-Oct. (mammals); Nov.-June (birds)

Couched between the impressive Rift Valley escarpment and the sparkling waters of the lake, Lake Manyara National Park is a lush little wedge of paradise. Baboons, elephants, zebra, hippos, flamingos, giraffe, monkeys, many types of antelope and the elusive tree lions make for an exciting safari.

The variety of wildlife in this relatively small area makes a deep impression on visitors. The variety of wildlife is due largely to the variety of habitats in the area. Acacia forest, swampland, grassland, the shoreline, and the lake itself offer a livelihood for many different types of mammals, reptiles and birds. You can sit under the rich green forest canopy and watch the antics of the baboons or venture into the open air to observe giraffe, antelope and zebra grazing against the stunning blue backdrop of the lake. The animals can generally be found in close proximity to the roads and are easily observed and photographed at extremely close range.

Did you know?

The word “manyara” is Masai for a type of plant. The Masai tribe uses this plant to create living corrals for livestock. Once the manyara matures, it forms a thorny wall that keeps livestock in, and the lions out!
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Accommodation

Kirurumu Luxury Tented Lodge

The permanent tents at Kirurumu feature modern plumbing and electricity while retaining a charmingly rustic atmosphere. The verandah at the bar sits atop the escarpment of the Great Rift Valley and the view over Lake Manyara National Park below is spectacular.

Lake Manyara Hotel

Built on the edge of the great Rift Valley escarpment the lodge also offers magnificent views of the national park below. Each of the 100 rooms offers a unique view of the beautiful surroundings.

Lake Manyara Serena Lodge

This 5-star lodge, also overlooking the soda lake, will delight birdwatchers with an opportunity to observe many colourful birds. All 62 bedrooms and the swimming pool offer wonderful views of the countryside and park. (link)

Gibbs Farm

Situated between Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater, Gibbs farm (link) offers charming accommodations in rustic cabins in the gorgeous setting of a colonial coffee farm. The grounds are immaculately kept and there are plenty of shady places to relax and soak up the African sights and sounds; nature walks can be arranged to view a majestic waterfall and the serene East African countryside.
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Tarangire National Park

Size: 2600 sq. km. Best times: July-Sept.

The permanent Taragire River makes Tarangire National Park a precious refuge for African wildlife. Particularly during the dry season, when even the best grazing areas dry up, Tarangire is home to gigantic herds of wildebeest, zebra, and elephants. In fact, during the dry season, Tarangire is second only to Ngorongoro crater for high wildlife concentration. Most of the park is savannah, ornamented by the spectacularly massive baobab trees, but there are also swamplands and wooded areas.

Tarangire is one of the few areas where the oryx can be observed. Visitors may also be lucky enough to spot a giant tree-climbing python in the acacia woodlands. Leopards are common in Tarangire but must be watched for diligently as they tend to sleep in the trees throughout the day and African hunting dogs may also be seen, although not in abundance. The elephant herds are particularly spectacular and can reach over 300 in number.

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Accommodation

Tarangire Safari Camp

Thatched roofs provide extra shade for the permanent tents at this camp and each one sports a private verandah overlooking the park and Tarangire river where animals can often be seen drinking.

Tarangire Sopa Lodge

Overlooking the Tarangire Hill, this is a five-star lodge with all the amenities. (link)

Tamarind Camp

The Tamarind Camp occupies 200 acres on the edge of Tarangire National Park. The Camp has 8 classic luxury tents surrounded by grassland and near a riverbed with spectacular baobab trees.

Olivers Camp

Each tent at this camp has wooden beds, coffee tables, wardrobes, wash basins and toilets/showers. The camp features a library where you can watch wildlife documentaries in the evening.

Tarangire Treetops

Fifteen luxury tents with bathroom facilities overlook the Tarangire Sand River. Each tent has a platform built right into one of the indigenous trees and the camp features a swimming pool and dining area near an elephant watering hole.

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Arusha National Park

Size: 325 sq. miles (137 sq. km.) Best Time to Visit: July – March

Arusha National Park is one of the most easily accessible of north-eastern Tanzania. Situated between the peaks of Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilimanjaro (less than an hour’s drive from Kilimanjaro airport and only 20 minutes from the city of Arusha itself) the park is home to many varieties of smaller game as well as giraffe, elephant, leopard, hippo, colobus monkey, water buffalo, bushbuck, and over 400 species of birdlife.

The views of Mt. Kilimanjaro are breathtaking but it is Mt. Meru that dominates the park. Excursions can be made to Meru’s summit (with an armed ranger because of the animals) and it is a popular “practice” run for those whose destination is the peak of Kilimanjaro. Although not as high as Kilimanjaro, the view from Meru’s peak is spectacular and includes a magnificent crater and eruption cone. The hike itself traverses a variety of landscapes including plains, forest and lava desert. For the less ambitious, Arusha National Park is one of the few parks where a walking safari is possible (also with an armed ranger). Walking safaris can be as short or as long as desired..

The slopes and summit of Meru are only one type of protected habitat in the park, others include the Momela Lakes region and the Ngurdoto Crater, all of which afford spectacular views of the African countryside and wildlife. The lakes are very salty and the animals do not use them for drinking but the high mineral content gives each lake a different colour and each supports a unique array of insect and bird life. The Ngurdoto crater, which measures nearly two miles across, remains undisturbed by humans. The views from the rim are magnificent and a variety of wildlife can be spotted grazing on the crater floor.

For those on safari, one of the unique aspects of the Arusha area is its dense population. It is possible to experience Africa as its modern inhabitants do by visiting one of the local communities that has initiated grassroots tourism. You’ll be charmed by the authentic African meals, songs and the hospitality of Mama Anna as she demonstrates her cheese-making techniques. You may also be able to purchase coffee – and even help roast and grind it using traditional methods! For a small fee, breakfast lunch and/or dinner can be provided.
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Accommodation

Moivaro Coffee Plantation Lodge

Built on a former coffee plantation, the Moivaro Lodge (link) features individual thatched cabins, beautiful gardens and a large colonial style verandah that can’t be beat for relaxing with a cool drink after a long day or breakfasting in anticipation of one. Moivaro has nature trails on the grounds and is optimally located near Arusha and Kilimanjaro airport.

Mountain Village

Similar to Moivaro, although somewhat older, the Mountain Village Lodge offers individual cabins and fantastic views. Nature walks can be arranged and the hotel is located near Arusha town and Kilimanjaro airport.

Novotel Mt. Meru

The Novotel at Mt. Meru is a large, western-style 1960’s hotel just at the edge of Arusha town. The Novotel is a pick-up point for shuttles to and from Nairobi and is slightly more central to the town and airport than the above-mentioned lodges.

Mountain Village

Similar to Moivaro, although somewhat older, the Mountain Village Lodge offers individual cabins and fantastic views. Nature walks can be arranged and the hotel is located near Arusha town and Kilimanjaro airport.

Dik-Dik

Named for the smallest of the African antelope, the dik-dik is a newer hotel, centrally located and features 18 double suites all with modern amenities. Typical east African flora can be viewed throughout the grounds.
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Mikumi National Park

Size: 3,200 sq. km. Best time to visit: Anytime

Mikumi National Park is one of the largest and most accessible parks in Tanzania (appx. four hour drive from Dar es Salaam) and is often a destination for students of ecology and conservation.

A variety of wildlife inhabits the park including giraffe, zebra, buffalo, wildebeest, eland, elephant, python, and the little-seen tree-climbing lions. African hunting dogs, which have become rare throughout the continent, can also be seen mainly in the southern end of the floodplains.

The landscape is dominated by open grasslands; at the northern end of the floodplains some areas remain swampy year-round. These swampy areas are separated by hard ridges that remain relatively dry and treeless. Swamp life includes monitor lizards that grow up to 6 feet (2 meters) long, frog-eaters and other types of large waterfowl.

The elephants in the area are small but have caused some areas of the park (including that surrounding the park headquarters) to become increasingly open through their taste for the Sclerocarya tree. The elephants like the fruits so much that they will shake and push the trees when there is no fruit to be found on the ground.
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Accommodation

Mikumi Wildlife Camp

Situated near the main park entrance, Mikumi Wildlife Camp has stone-built African cottages, spacious bedrooms, bathrooms with showers and verandahs with beautiful views.

Hotel Oasis

Located in Morogoro town, this mid-sized tourist hotel features 37 comfortably furnished rooms (link). All rooms are ensuite with bathrooms, telephones and televisions. The restaurant offers Indian, Chinese and Tanzanian cuisine.
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Saadani National Park

Size: 1100 sq. km. Best time to Jan.-Feb. / June-Aug.

Some people say that Saadani is the only place in the world to see elephant bathing in the Indian Ocean; to be sure, Saadani is the only coastal reserve in Tanzania. It is a very new park, previously a game reserve, and is located across from the Island of Zanzibar.

The park is fairly small but because of its unique situation it is a completely unique wildlife experience. Green turtles come to its beaches to breed and Roosevelt Sable Antelope, previously thought to reside only in the Shimba Hills of Kenya, have found a home in Saadani. Visitors can relax on the beach, take a walking safari or take a boat up the river to see the hippos, crocodiles and flamingos.

Different types of protected habitats in Saadani include tropical forest, coastal savannah, mangrove forests and coastal dunes.

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Accommodation

Saadani Tented Camp

The camp is situated on the beautiful sands of Saadani beach. Accommodation is offered in permanent tents with full bathroom facilities including shower, toilet and wash basin. The camp features a bar, library and restaurant.

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Selous Game Reserve

Size: 55,500 sq. km. Best time to visit: July-Oct.

Selous Game Reserve is the largest protected wildlife area not only in Africa, but in the world. It is an awe-inspiring African experience to visit this area, larger than the country of Switzerland and home to thousands of different species of wildlife, insects and plants.

One can view the wildlife by land, by water and by air. Boat safaris can be taken on the Rufiji River and visitors can take a cruise on Lake Tagalala. Meandering though the channels and rivers by boat is a unique way to experience the wilds of Selous and one may be lucky enough to catch some elephants bathing. Hot springs in a hidden ravine near Lake Tagalala have created a picturesque group of sulphur pools surrounded by lush greenery; one can soak in the pools but bathing in the Lake is not permitted because of crocodiles. The area is also rich in large wildlife such as zebra, wildebeest and lions.

Stiegler’s Gorge is another magnificent feature of the park and the boldest visitors might even decide to brave the cable-car trip across the river. Other areas of the park include hilly woodlands, wetlands, swamps and canopy forest. To describe the gigantic park in its entirety would be impossible, not surprisingly, visiting the area requires several days to soak up the grand surroundings and witness all that Selous has to offer. Mikumi National Park, just to the north, is more easily accessible and is also part of the Selous ecosystem but the experience is not nearly the same.

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Accommodation

Rufiji River Camp

Located in the north-eastern part of the Selous Game Reserve overlooking the Rufiji River, the tented camp accommodates guests in 20 comfortable tents. Each tent has ensuite bathroom facilities and a veranda facing the river.

Selous Safari Camp (formerly Mbuyuni Tented Camp)

Here you can sleep under canvas tents in the bush with all the modern comforts you would expect at a standard hotel.

Sand Rivers

Private cabins, stunning views of the Rufigi river and an excellent staff are only a few of the amenities to be enjoyed at Sand Rivers.
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