Safari Adventures in Tanzania
Situated in East Africa within the African Great Lakes region, Tanzania is a country that beguiles with enchanting national parks enticing affluent travellers from near and far with the promise of escaping the nuances of everyday life by immersing yourself in spellbinding natural landscapes. Boasting the highest concentration of wildlife per square kilometre in the world, you will never be far from spotting some of the planet’s most spectacular creatures. And if the multitude of sumptuous safari lodges are not tempting enough, off the coast in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean is the Zanzibar Archipelago composed of the stunning islands of Unguja, Pemba, Latham and Mafia where an idyllic island escape awaits.
Serengeti National Park
The word Serengeti immediately conjures up images of sprawling African wildernesses, birds circling the skies and swathes of magnificent wildlife. The country’s oldest national park and one of the top places in the world for sensational safari adventures, the Serengeti National Park allures all those with a sense of adventure eager to scout out majestic mammals and bewitching birdlife in their natural habitat. The park covers an extensive 5,700sqmi and is comprised of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the Maswa, Ikorongo and Grumeti Game Reserves as well as the Loliondo Game Control Area. The park is famous for the annual migration of over 1.5 million wildebeest and 250,000 zebras, arguably nature’s greatest spectacle as well as being home to a host of weird and wonderful animals such as the honey badger. Don’t be misled by the name, these surprisingly plucky creatures are considered to be the most ferocious predator for their size; fearless in nature, they are even known to have fended off lions!
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is home to an estimated 25,000 large animals and the breathtaking Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest intact volcanic crater that is a staggering three million years old. You really have to see it to truly appreciate its outstanding beauty. The crater is also probably your best chance at sighting the phenomenal ‘Big Five’ in all of their majestic glory. Watch in awe as the buffalo graze the land while lions lie in wait, ready to chase down their prey in a remarkable display of strength, speed and strategy. If you’re lucky you’ll be granted with the priceless moment of observing the endangered species of the black rhinoceros and African wild dog, a memory to cherish for a lifetime. Brightening up the landscape are the vibrant pink colour of flamingos and copious number of other tropical bird species commanding the skies, roaming the grounds or hitching a ride on a hippo or rhino’s back as the oxpecker so brazenly does.
Away from traditional 4x4 safari adventures, adrenaline junkies can put their fitness to the test and scale Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s largest mountain. Even though animals are not as common on the mountains as they are in the parks due to the high altitude conditions and presence of humans, you’ll still want to keep an eye out for the fascinating flora and fauna which does inhabit the area, particularly in the forests surrounding the mountain. Depending on which route you take, you may come across some of the elusive creatures hiding in the bush – amongst them the black and white colobus monkey, blue monkey, galago (better known as a bush baby) and the four striped grass mouse – which can survive at high altitudes. As well as focusing your attention at tackling the trek, transfer your glare into the skies and seek out gorgeous species of birds like the malachite sunbird which possesses a distinctive glistening green metallic chest.
From the heights of Mt. Kilimanjaro to the depths of Lake Tanganyika, Africa’s deepest and largest lake – and second oldest freshwater lake in the world – enchants with its diverse and varied marine life, boasting over 350 species of fish. In the west of the country, the lake is believed to be 15 million years old and the lush vegetation surrounding it makes it a hotspot for primates including the chimpanzee. In the shallow shores there is even the exciting prospect of snorkelling and swimming alongside a sparkling array of colourful fish. Aside from mesmerising tropical fish, lying in the lake is also the Nile crocodile, the largest freshwater predator on the continent. And for those of you who love crocodile myth and legend, you will probably already be aware of the notorious Gustave, a gigantic Nile crocodile that is believed to have killed as many as 300 people and is known to lurk in the northern shores of the lake.
The Great Wildebeest Migration
Every year, the beautiful and serene Serengeti National Park is momentarily disrupted with the thundering sound of millions of hooves stamping, treading and stomping the ground as wildebeest, zebra and gazelle chase the rain in an epic struggle for survival. This electrifying spectacle known as “The World Cup of Wildlife” is one of the greatest shows on Earth and reaches its height between the months of May and September. A physical manifestation of Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory, watch as the live-stock embark on their 1,000km (600 mi) long circular trek through the unfenced Maasai Mara and Serengeti in search of seasonal pasture and water with predators hot on their tails. Between July and late September the northern part of the National Park bordering the Maasai Mara Game Reserve and the Mara Triangle in Kenya are the best places to see the river crossing, often considered the most thrilling part of the migration; an incredible experience that sees masses of wildebeest attempt to cross fast flowing water whilst avoiding the grave threat of crocodiles lying in wait. The noise is deafening and the show is powerful as water splashes and dust rises in huge clouds.
Lions and leopards and cheetahs… oh my. With significant population numbers of these gorgeous creatures, it is no wonder that Tanzania is recognised for being the home of the African big cat as safari enthusiasts are presented with unparalleled opportunities to witness these endangered yet exceptional creatures in their natural element. Tanzania counts over 16,000 lions, the most of any African country, with an estimated 4,000 lions in the Serengeti National Park alone. The Serengeti is also the habitat of the East African cheetah, and with a high population of gazelle, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for this speedy mammal sprinting across the African plains. Tanzania is also habitat to the elusive leopard, arguably the most impressive of all the big cats as it dazzles with its stealthy hunting approach and incredible strength and athleticism that can see them drag prey up to three times their size up high trees.
Once you’ve exhausted the safari experiences on mainland Tanzania, head away from the main land to Zanzibar where idyllic white sand beaches, a vibrant food scene and even more opportunities to come up close with wondrous wildlife await. Similar to the rest of Tanzania, a visit to Zanzibar will present nature enthusiasts with yet more possibilities to catch a glimpse of even more captivating creatures. The wildlife on Zanzibar represents a welcome contrast to the traditional safari idiom that is synonymous with Tanzania. Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park is the island’s only national park where you’ll encounter a sparkling assortment of wonderful wildlife such as the Zanzibar red colobus, an adorable red monkey endemic to the island of Unguja. Divers will revel at the underwater paradise exploding with curious sea creatures, ranging from delicate sea horses and strange-eyed mantis shrimps to hawksbill turtles and blue spotted rays gliding across the ocean floor.
Tanzania’s main airports are Dar-es-Salaam, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar and are accessible from most destinations. Once in the country, tourists can usually catch a domestic flight to the specific park that they are visiting. UK and US citizens will need a tourist visa to enter Tanzania, which can be obtained from the Tanzanian High Commission or upon arrival, provided that you fulfil all the visa requirements. For wildlife sighting, the ideal time to visit Tanzania is during the dry season from late June to October.
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