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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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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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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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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Masai Mara National Reserve

Size: 1510 sq. km. Best time to visit: July-Sept. (migration); Anytime

The Masai Mara is one of the finest wildlife reserves in Kenya. It is the ecological continuation of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the south and provides a home for millions of Wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebra at the northernmost point of the great migration.

At this time of the year the abundance and concentration of life is overwhelming as the grazers fill the plains and the predators come to share in the time of plenty.

Fantastic arrays of large mammals and over 450 species of birds can be observed in the Reserve year-round. From the peacefully grazing zebra, to the nervous gazelle and cantankerous hippopotamus and rhino, the Masai Mara offers wildlife for all temperaments. Roan antelope, bat-eared foxes and topi are among the less common animals that can be seen in the Masai Mara.

Accommodation

Mara Safari Club

Located in the Ol-Choro Oiroua Conservation Area on the edge of the Masai Mara National Park, the club offers 50 luxury tents that feature electricity, four-poster beds, private verandahs with views and complete bathroom facilities. Activities include nature walks, Maasai dancing and talks on ecology and local culture.

Mara Serena Lodge

Set in an ideal place to watch the great migration, the Mara Serena Lodge is constructed like a traditional African village. The lodge offers accommodations in 74 individual luxury cabins overlooking the plains.

Governor’s Camps

Four camps in the Masai Mara feature luxury tents in the classic style (link), each tent has its own en-suite bathroom with constant hot and cold running water and flushing toilets. Lighting is by gas, kerosene lantern and candlelight.

Siana Springs Tented Camp

The peaceful atmosphere and 38 charming luxury tents set among the trees offer a beautiful setting in which to relax after a long game drive.

Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp

45 luxury tents with en-suite facilities and twin beds and several thatched cabins are available at this tented camp on the banks of the Mara River. Views of the plains are excellent and game-viewing is prime.

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Nairobi National Park

Size: 117 sq. km. Best time to visit: Anytime

The park is home to black rhino, buffalo, eland, Maasai giraffe, plain’s zebra, wildebeest, coke’s hartebeest, Grant’s and Thompson’s gazelles, impala, waterbuck, bushbuck, warthog, lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, jackal civet and genet.

Over 400 species of birds have been recorded as well. The park is unfenced to the south and migratory animals move in and out according to the seasons. The park serves as a sanctuary for black rhino, which provides a certain opportunity of seeing the rhino in its natural habitat. Over 50 rhino have been moved to the park from areas where they were endangered by poaching.

Nairobi Animal Orphanage

At the main gate of the park, the Nairobi Animal Orphanage provides a safe home and upbringing for baby animals orphaned by poachers or other disasters. The orphanage only allows viewing for an hour a day while the animals are being fed. These orphans are not zoo animals; once they have matured, the babies will be reintroduced into the wild.

Karen Blixen Museum

Made famous by her autobiographical Out of Africa – also an academy award winning film – Karen Blixen‘s stay in colonial Kenya was a constant adventure. Her love of the country and its people is now world-famous and her house, which has been made into a museum, can be visited on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Giraffe Manor

Giraffe Manor (link), a rambling stone residence built in 1932, has become a haven for the endangered Rothschild giraffe. The giraffes roam about the grounds freely (along with a few resident warthogs) and guests at the manor can feed them through the windows and doors of the building. Adjacent to the manor is the giraffe sanctuary, where anyone is welcome to pat, feed and even kiss the giraffes!
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Accommodation

Giraffe Manor

Guests at Giraffe Manor (link)can pet and feed the Rothschild giraffes that wander freely about the grounds. These giraffes are part of the adjacent giraffe sanctuary (on Giraffe Manor grounds) but are by no means the only reason to stay at the Manor. The resident owners of the rambling stone manor, Jock and Bryony, will welcome you as their guests and you’ll enjoy the finest cuisine and most comfortable lodgings in their home. The location is just a few miles outside of downtown Nairobi.

Ngong House

A truly unique and luxurious lodging, Ngong House is located on the land once cultivated by Karen Blixen. Guests stay in one of five wooden houses raised on stilts with views of the misty Ngong Hills and the surrounding countryside. Gourmet cuisine may be served in the main dining room or under the trees in the open air. There is also a further bedroom within the original house.

Grand Regency

A brand new, elegant Western-style hotel in the city centre, the Grand Regency is a favourite among heads of state and other important visitors to the city. An all-weather pool, conference rooms and exquisite cuisine ensure that no Western comforts will be missed during your stay.

The Norfolk

One of the original colonial hotels, the Norfolk has been visited by many a famous historical figure. Luxuriously decorated and beautifully maintained, the hotel offers all the modern amenities of a world-class hotel in an historical setting right in the heart of Nairobi.

The New Stanley

Like the Norfolk, the New Stanley (link) is one of Nairobi’s original hotels that has been maintained impeccably and now offers all the modern amenities as well as a charming atmosphere and ideal location.

Nairobi Serena

Another of the finest hotels in Nairobi, this is the flagship of Serena hotels. With colour TVs in every room, a beautiful pool area, lush gardens, and international cuisine the Serena Nairobi is definitely a luxury accommodation.

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