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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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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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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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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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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