Serengeti National Park

Size: 5,700 sq. miles (14,800 sq. km.) Best time: Dec-July (wildebeest); June-Oct (predators)

The word “serengeti” is derived from the Masai word for “endless plains.” Without a doubt the vastness of the Serengeti, Tanzania’s largest national park, will leave you breathless. To the south and east, the plains roll unbroken for hundreds of miles, providing an ideal habitat for grazers like zebra, gazelle, and wildebeest who spend much of their lives migrating within the boundaries of the Serengeti. Literally millions of animals can be seen on the plains of the Serengeti; when the grazing is good, you’ll be sure to spot wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, ostrich, cheetah, hyena, jackal and vultures.

Lions also frequent the open plains because of the abundance of food. The Serengeti is home to many lion prides that tend to live on and around the kopjes – rocky outcroppings that dot landscape. The rocks provide a shady place to lie in the hot afternoons as well as a nice place to hide and wait for unsuspecting antelope and wildebeest. Naabe Hill, one of the entrances to the park, has been the base for much of the lion research that has been conducted in the area. In fact, many of the lions you see will be wearing radio collars and you can read up on their personal histories!

In the centre of the Serengeti lies the Seronera Valley. This area is greener and wetter than the plains and is home to a different set of wildlife. Leopards might be sighted lounging in a sausage tree, hippos can certainly be found wallowing in the hippo pool and a variety of antelope bound in and out of the brush. At the brand new visitor centre (opened in 2000), you might be amused by the antics of curious vervet monkeys who will gladly steal your lunch if given a chance. Also in abundance are hyrax, mongoose, and baboons although these tend to keep their distance.

To the west, the Grumeti Western Corridor sees the great migration move through in June and July. The Grumeti river is home to the famous Nile crocodiles – giants that grow up to 18 feet (6 meters) long! As the migration moves through the area, the crocodiles snap up animals that stop to drink and cross the river. The crocodiles may not eat again for a full 12 months until the herds return again next year.

Of course, many of the animals of the Serengeti only come out at night and these are difficult to find since night safaris are not permitted. Early risers may be lucky enough to catch the “tail end” of nocturnal activities but some animals such as the genet cat, serval, bushbabies, and pangolins are a really rare treat.

Visitors to the Serengeti may arrange for a balloon safari and experience the wonders of the great ecosystem from above. Accommodations are available within the parks boundaries and along the edges. Excursions into the Gol area to the east can be made off road with a ranger specially trained in the behaviour of lions.

Why do zebras have stripes?

There are many theories about the zebra’s stripes. Some people say it is to confuse predators, others say it is a kind of display like the peacock’s feathers. The official website of the Serengeti relates a different story.

“While studying buffalo and wildebeest in Serengeti, Dr. Sinclair would watch these animals at night with ‘night vision’ goggles. On starless nights, the ground appeared black and the sky a greenish colour on the screen. Animals appeared as either black or grey shapes silhouetted against the sky. Strangely, every now and then, a wildebeest would just disappear and then re-appear a few seconds later. After watching this occur a few times, a powerful spotlight was brought into play. Standing among the wildebeest were a group of zebra, invisible on the goggles. Since then, technology has improved, but the zebra remain invisible at night.”
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Accommodation

Seronera Wildlife Lodge (TAHI group)

The Seronera lodge is situated in the centre of Serengeti National Park near the visitors centre and hippo pool. The lodge has seventy-five rooms with private bathrooms and offers a spectacular vantage point from which to observe the wildlife of the Serengeti; it’s central location makes it ideal for accessing various areas of the park.

Lobo Wildlife Lodge (TAHI group)

Deservedly earning a reputation as one of the most beautiful lodges in Tanzania, the Lobo wildlife lodge is built into a large rocky outcropping overlooking the Serengeti Plains. The Lodge features a swimming pool and is located ideally for game drives.

Serengeti Serena Lodge

Serengeti Serena Lodge is set atop a hill that provides awe-inspiring views of countless zebra, buffalo, gazelle, wildebeest, and other species. Big game feed in full view of the lodge. Inspired by traditional African architecture, the lodge design is charming, offering accommodation in individual cabins that are rich in atmosphere and indigenous touches.

Serengeti Sopa Lodge

The buildings of this Sopa Lodge (link) are inspired by the Maasai, with rounded corners and flat roofs. The lodge is situated in an acacia woodland near year-round springs. It’s elevated position provides scenic vistas and cool breezes.

Loliondo

Located just inside the north-eastern edge of the Serengeti near the Masai Mara in Kenya, Loliondo is a semi-permanent camp located in the shadow of massive kopjes where wildlife frequent the waterholes. Guests are attended by the permanent camp crew and can expect the highest level of service.

Grumeti River Camp

Located in a hidden valley in the western corridor of the Serengeti, the Grumeti Camp overlooks a tributary of the Grumeti River, home to hippo and crocodile. Ten self-contained tents are available, each with private shower and toilet.

Kirawira Cam

Located on the Kirawira hills in the western corridor of the Serengeti, the Kirawira Camp also overlooks the famous Grumeti River – home of the giant Nile crocodiles. 25 double tents are available, each one with its own solar-heated shower.

Kliens Camp

This camp is at a private ranch on the north-eastern edge of the Serengeti and offers high standards of comfort to guests in eight individual thatched-roof cottages.

Migration Camp

Built into a rocky outcropping near Lobo, this camp also overlooks the Grumeti River.

Classic Camping

Classic camping can be arranged and is a truly rewarding experience for those who want a closer look at the Serengeti ecosystem. Generally, food and supplies are provided and you will be accompanied by a staff to assist with the logistics of camping in the Serengeti.

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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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Mahale Mountains National Park

Size: 1,600 sq. km. Best Time to Visit: Oct. – May

Located on the shores of Lake Tanganyika on the western border of Tanzania, Mahale Mountains National Park combines elements of eastern and western African flora and fauna.

Walking is the only way to get around in this research and conservation-oriented park, which is home to nine different species of primates including the last wild chimpanzees in Tanzania. The park is home to lions, leopards, and African hunting dogs as well as eland, kudu, buffalo and hundreds of insect species including a striking array of butterflies.

The sunsets over Lake Tanganyika are stunning and the park is hailed as one of the most beautiful in the country. Snorkelling and fishing in the lake can also be arranged. The park itself is one of the least accessible in Tanzania, requiring long journeys by boat and train/automobile unless you arrange for a private charter flight.
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Accommodation

Nare Sero Luxury Tented Lodge

The tented lodge at Mahale is brand new and promises to deliver one of the only luxury accommodation experiences available in western Tanzania.

Camping in the park

There are rudimentary camping facilities in the park, bring your own tent and supplies.

Kigoma Hilltop Hotel

Overlooking the blue waters of Lake Tanganyika from a rocky outcropping above, the Hilltop Hotel offers 30 luxury cottages each with hot/cold water, ensuite bathroom facilities, satellite TV and beautiful views.
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Ruaha National Park

Size: 12,950 sq. km. Best time to visit: Anytime

Located in central Tanzania, Ruaha is less accessible than many other parks and largely untouched by human interference; It has only recently been developed for tourism and its unbroken peace is one of its main attractions. It is home to over 350 species of birds that are not found in northern Tanzania and attracts photographers with its spectacular gorges and massive baobab trees.

Ruaha is home to over 8,000 head of elephant as well as Lion, African Hunting Dog, Hippo, Crocodile, Ostrich, Cheetah, Gazelle and a large Leopard population. The Mwagusi and Mdonya Sand Rivers are dry rivers of sand for most of the year, but in the rainy season they turn into tributaries of the Ruaha River. The area is home to hundreds of different animal types and makes for a wonderful safari.

The Tragedy of Poaching

The animals of Ruaha have been particularly damaged by illegal poaching. In 1973 the elephant census reached 25,000 but today only 8,000 remain. The rhinoceros has disappeared from the area completely. Other parks in Africa have similar problems that are often due to an impoverished local population who seek not only the valuable horns, hides, and tusks, but who in some areas hunt for food in protected areas. The tragedy of poaching endangers the livelihood of the African people both by eradicating species that are used to sustain local human populations and by diminishing the potential for income through the tourist trade.
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Accommodation

Ruaha River Lodge

Overlooking the mighty Ruaha River, the lodge is designed to complement the environment, allowing guests to feel right at home in the midst of the African wilds. Inspired by the African ‘bandas’, the individual cabins, built from local stone and thatch offer a great place to relax and observe the animals.

Mwagusi Camp

Located inside the Ruaha Park boundaries on the banks of the mighty sand river, the Mwagusi Camp (link) offers 16 beds with ensuite bathrooms and hot showers. The architecture is inspired by traditional African ‘bandas.’

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Amboseli National Park

Size: 390 sq. km. Best time to visit: April – May

Amboseli is a popular destination and prime location from which to view and photograph Mt. Kilimanjaro. Directly on the Tanzanian border, the park lies near the road from Arusha to Nairobi. The park’s clean and constant water supply is maintained by melting snow and ice at the peak of Kilimanjaro that filters through hundreds of feet of volcanic rock. The ubiquitous dust is actually volcanic ash that remains from the eruptions of Kilimanjaro thousands of years ago.

Amboseli is one of the best places to view elephant, which congregate in large numbers and whose bulls sport some of the longest tusks in all of Kenya. Other wildlife includes lions, leopards, impala, dikdik, giraffe, wildebeest and many others. Bird life also abounds and bird enthusiasts will be happy to espy pelicans, bee-eaters, kingfishers, African Fish Eagles, Martial Eagles and Pygmy Falcons.

A curious attraction at Amboseli is the lake bed during the dry season, upon which visitors will be sure they see herds of zebra, wildebeest and gazelles; in reality these images are far away horizons projected as hovering mirages.

Did you know?

“Amboseli” means “salty dust” in the Masai language. Amboseli and the surrounding lands have been important to the Masai tribe for centuries. Today the Kenyan government works with the local Masai elders to develop eco-friendly tourism that will benefit local people.

Accommodation

Amboseli Serena Lodge

Situated in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Amboseli Serena Lodge features natural architecture and beautifully-kept grounds. 96 rooms in separate cottages all offer private bathroom facilities and a unique African decor. The Lodge also features a lighted waterhole and salt lick.

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Aberdares National Park

Size: 676 sq. km. Best time to visit: Anytime

The Aberdares National Park takes its name from the majestic mountain range that runs through it, stretching due north from Nairobi. The park also protects a tract of forested land known as the Salient, which stretches to the east of the range; it is in this area that the famous Ark and Treetops Lodges are located.

The forested Salient is the best place to see animals and provides a home for elephant, rhinoceros, warthog, giant forest hog, dikdik, bongo, several types of monkey and cats such as lions, leopards and serval. The park is also home to many brilliantly coloured birds and insects. Although not as rich in large animal life, the Aberdare mountain range offers dream-like vistas, deep valleys and towering peaks.

Aberdares National Park is one of the best places to catch a glimpse of night time wildlife thanks to the Ark, which is a game lodge built over a waterhole and salt lick that have been lit up to allow guests to witness the secret night time activities of the African bush.

Accommodation

Aberdare Country Club

The Country Club features 46 luxury rooms/cottages, many of which offer views of the Aberdares, Mt. Kenya, or the wide-open plains below. Horse-back riding, swimming, golf, and tennis are all available on the grounds.

The Ark

Overlooking a lighted waterhole in the heart of the Aberdares National Park, the Ark offers unique opportunities to observe African wildlife at night. 60 luxury rooms with (small) bathrooms and showers are available complete with buzzers to announce the arrival of big game in the night.

Treetops

Built as a two-room treehouse in 1932, the Treetops is now a unique 50-room lodge overlooking two waterholes where copious wildlife can be observed and photographed at close range. Accommodations include suites with private bathroom facilities and private twin or double rooms with shared bathroom facilities.

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Mount Kenya National Park

Size: 700 sq. km. Best time to visit: Jan.-Feb., July-Oct.

Mt. Kenya National Park has got it all… from icy glaciers to bamboo forest. The mountain can be climbed by trekkers of many different skill levels and always offers breath-taking views.

Wildlife at Mt. Kenya is diverse and includes many of the safari favorites including black rhino, leopard, Black and White Colobus and Sykes monkeys, bushbuck, buffalo, elephant, baboon, waterbuck, giant forest hog, genet cat, and hyena. Because of the ever-changing altitude, the plant life in the park is varied as well; among park plants grow the striking Giant groundsel and Lobelia. Habitats like mountain forest, bamboo forest, high-altitude heath and moorland all support a variety of animals and birds.

Another attraction associated with Mt. Kenya is the equator, which runs across the mountain’s slopes. There are many places to pay a visit to the equatorial boundary and snap a few pictures straddling the hemispheres.

Did You Know?

According to the Kikuyu, Mt. Kenya is the home of the supreme being, Ngai. The Kikuyu word for the mountain is Kere Nyaga, meaning Mountain of Brightness.

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Accommodation

Mount Kenya Safari Club

Elegant cottages, manicured lawns and decorative ponds provide a backdrop for the jet-setting crowd that frequents the Mt. Kenya Safari Club. With 114 luxury-class villas, cottages and suites and unparalleled gourmet dining, the club is sure to satisfy the most discerning guests.

Sweetwaters Tented Camp

Located outside of Mt. Kenya National Park, in a private 24,000 acre game reserve, Sweetwaters offers spectacular views of Mt. Kenya. En-suite luxury tents under thatched roofs ensure a pleasant stay while photographing the animals that come drink at the floodlit waterhole ensure an exciting one.

Lewa Downs

On the northern slopes of Mt. Kenya lies Lewa Downs, one of Kenya’s original colonial ranches and home to the Craig family. Wilderness Trails, the Craig’s safari operation, caters for 12 guests in comfortable cottages. Horse-back riding, nature walks and night game drives are all available.

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