On arrival, your friendly guide will welcome you and take you to your accommodation, and help you get settled in. He or she will make sure you are all set for supper and will go over your planned itinerary with you to answer any questions you have. He or she will also want to hear about any special dreams you may not yet have mentioned, as all our guides want your entire experience to be superb. Once you are settled and comfortable, your guide will leave you to enjoy the evening and the sounds and smells of the Tanzanian night.
This particular itinerary is best enjoyed July – October when the wildebeest are migrating in the Northern Serengeti (Mara region).
If you have always dreamed of seeing the Great Migration, this may be the trip for you. You get to see the best of Northern Tanzania’s national parks (Tarangire, Lake Manyara, the Ngorongoro Crater and of course the Serengeti!) while spending three full days in the Northern Serengeti to enjoy all the details of the spectacle that is the Great Migration of the wildebeest herds. Then really get to know the Serengeti and learn about the history and culture of Tanzania (and the origins of humanity!) as you continue your adventures.
This safari is fifteen full days, where you arrive in the afternoon or evening beforehand. (You may discover that many ‘fifteen-day’ itineraries are actually fourteen full days plus your evening arrival…) You will see an amazing amount of wildlife, and, with our expert guides, enjoy a carefree and exhilarating adventure in this African wildlife safari. Soak up the experiences that just keep piling up as you explore with your private vehicle and guide. Look forward to bush lunches, photographic vistas, and big cats galore. Not to mention hippos, elephants, crocodiles, zebras, wildebeest – and so many more! Dream under the African stars, and hear lions calling in the night. Wildebeest munching right outside your tent while you listen in wonder is an experience you won’t find anywhere else in the entire world.
Full Day One
Have a wonderful early breakfast at your hotel in Arusha and let the adventure begin on the road to Tarangire National Park (famous for its elephant population and baobab trees). If this is your first trip to Africa, you’ll learn that the journey is half the fun! Watch for donkeys, cattle and all sorts of new flora and fauna on your way to the Park, then enjoy your first afternoon game drive inside Tarangire. You are likely to see elephants and birds of all stripes and colors. Likely, too, to see giraffe, zebra, impala; and possibly even lions. Dinner and overnight at a lodge at Tarangire.
Full Day One
FULL DAYS TWO AND THREE
Enjoy two full days of game drives in Tarangire. Watch elephants thundering down the hillside towards you, or Zebra kicking up the river water with their hooves. Watch giraffe running through the acacia, and see if you can spot a lion, just waiting for someone to come near. See how many different varieties of birds you can spot, as your guide is quick to point them out if you are interested. Watch for leopards if you’re lucky. On one day of your days, you may choose to drive down to the Silale Swamp where you can watch elephants and hippos eating their fill in the reeds, and see more birdlife than you have probably even imagined. Egrets, Egyptian Geese, storks, eagles, ducks, lilac-breasted rollers, and many more birds hang out near the swamp and enjoy the lush greenery and plentiful water. Stop for your packed lunch whenever the mood suits, and let your guide show you all the natural wonders to be found in Tarangire. Maybe spot the banded mongoose stretched out over termite mounds enjoying their afternoon naps. Many guests have said that Tarangire is really their favorite of all the national parks they visit; you might just find yourself among them!
FULL DAY FOUR
Leave Tarangire after a good breakfast and head up via the Rift Valley to Lake Manyara National Park, where you will look for the famous tree-climbing lions. The drive itself is fascinating as you watch the scenery change along the way. Cruise slowly along the lake and stop to stretch your legs at the hot springs, or the boardwalk. Watch for hippos, warthogs, zebras, Cape buffalo – and the ever-present baboons! You will find kingfishers, herons, spoonbills, storks, pelicans, bee-eaters, and many other species by the lakeshore. If you’re lucky you may even see the amazing fishing hunt/dance of the night herons. Enjoy Lake Manyara, and then as the afternoon goes on, head off on your way towards Ngorongoro, where you will spend the night. Enjoy the view, evening meal and luxuries from your accommodation perched high on the rim overlooking the world-famous Ngorongoro crater.
FULL DAY FOUR
FULL DAYS FIVE AND SIX
These two days will be spectacular. After breakfast each day, descend into the Ngorongoro Crater for a full day game drive and see the large numbers of animals living in this (relatively) small space, a World Heritage Site. The Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest inactive, intact volcanic caldera formed when the Ngorongoro volcano exploded some 2 million years ago. Some 25,000 animals live in the Crater, including Cape buffalo, hippopotamus, wildebeest, zebra, eland and many other species. You may even have a chance to see the endangered black rhinoceros. Visit the yellow fever tree groves, and ask your guide about them. Watch for flamingos on the lake in the middle of the Crater, and keep your eyes peeled for all sorts of animals – large and small. Then return to your accommodation on the Crater rim to download pictures, dream about your day, and eat a wonderful evening meal.
FULL DAY SEVEN
This morning you will head into the world-famous Serengeti itself. The drive through the Ngorongoro Conservation area is an experience in itself. Watch for Maasai villages, donkeys on the road, scenic lakes, and the dry, dry regions where any vehicle moving kicks up dust you can see an hour away! Pass through the Naabi Hill Gate into the Serengeti. There is a bit of a walking trail at the Gate if you want to stretch your legs and some amazing views from here. Depending on the time, your guide may take you on a brief tour of the kopjes (look for lions lolling in the sun). Then you will drive up towards the central Serengeti and your tented camp. Note that calling it tented fails to describe the luxury you will find; this is not camping but luxury accommodations under canvas in the midst of the animals!
FULL DAY SEVEN
FULL DAY EIGHT
The Central area of the Serengeti is full of wildlife, especially in the July-October period. You can expect to see the great cats; lions, cheetah and leopards, as well as many other animals: elephants, zebras, giraffes, warthogs, hyenas… The list doesn’t end there! And the birdlife is also likely to be amazing. Watch for francolins, red-necked spurfowl, raptors of various types, lovebirds – and again, the list could go on and on. Colours and sounds will call for your attention from all around you. Photographers will be in heaven with the amazing golden Serengeti light. Simply immerse yourself in the experience and enjoy your first Serengeti day!
FULL DAY NINE
After breakfast, you will start your journey up towards the Mara area of the Northern Serengeti. As you leave camp, depending on what time it is, you may well be able to spot lions or cheetah – as well as all animals that are now becoming old friends; impala, elephant, giraffe, and zebra. Maybe even a few wildebeest stragglers. And you’ll start to recognize a few birds now, too. The Serengeti is well on its way to feeling like home – although excitement still lurks around every corner. Enjoy the Seronera area, which is always rich in game at this time of year. Today the journey itself will be a large part of your adventure. Your guide will drive you towards the Ikoma gate, where you will temporarily leave the Serengeti and drive through the Ikorongo Game reserve. This road is bumpy and dusty but quite the adventure as you travel back towards the Tabora B Gate where you renter the Serengeti, now in the Northern Mara Area. You’ll start seeing larger and larger groups of wildebeest as you move into this area. You will likely pass the very small Kogatenda airstrip (watch for wildlife on the runway!) as you approach the Mara river and your accommodation for the next few nights. Depending on how much stopping you did along the way, you may even have time for a late afternoon game drive by the river.
FULL DAY NINE
FULL DAYS TEN AND ELEVEN
Depending on how you feel after the drive yesterday (and whether the wildebeest chewing near your tent or lions roaring in the distance kept you up in the night!), you may choose to relax a little this morning, or, you may be so excited you want to get up early and explore. Either way, your guide and the camp will be happy to accommodate your wishes. When you’re ready, you will head down towards the Mara river, seeking that first exciting crossing. You may have seen National Geographic or other videos of the great herds of wildebeest crossing the Mara River. They slowly make their way towards the river, and then a pathfinder will gradually test the waters and decide whether it is safe to cross. Once he makes up his mind, thousands of wildebeest will follow in a great explosion of dust and thundering herds. With the right timing, you may get to see this once-in-a-lifetime explosive crossing, with crocodiles and hippos lurking in the shadows. Whether you see a crossing or not (or more than one!), your game drives through the Mara region will show you distinctive landscapes and an abundance of wild animals. Watch for vultures circling to see where someone has eaten his lunch. Watch hippos coming out of the water and walking across the grass – but stay out of their way as hippos are actually the most dangerous animals in Africa! Look for hyrax or klipspringers in and around the kopjes, and smile at the banded mongoose who travel in groups and look like children’s toys. Enjoy a full day of game drives in the Mara region, and return to your tent at night ready for a hot meal and sundowners around the fire. Your second day can be a search for more crossings or you can head up the river exploring, or towards the triangle where Serengeti meets Kenya – either way, the sights and sounds will continue to fill your dreams at night!
Full Day TWELVE
Enjoy another morning game drive in the Mara area. You may want to seek out one more crossing, or you may be more interested in exploring along the river (hippos, crocodiles and river birds galore), or you may drive up towards the kopjes and enjoy the views out over the river and maybe find a klipspringer or some hyrax in the rocks. Either way, enjoy your final morning with the great herds of wildebeest, and then take the trip back down into the central Serengeti region. Along the way, stop at the Retina Hippo Pool for an experience you won’t find anywhere else. There can be multiple hundreds of hippos in this relatively small pool, and happily, there is a parking area above with an outlook so you can get out, stretch your legs, and enjoy the experience for as long as you like. Watch baby hippos bobbing, hippos getting in and out of the water, sloshing each other and sometimes play fighting or asserting their dominance. The stench can be outrageous, but you’ll hardly notice with all there is to see. Elephants and dik-diks often hang out around this pool as well, as do a variety of birds and – of course – monkeys, so keep your camera ready and any food in the vehicle! As dusk draws in, you will arrive at your evening accommodation, ready for bush T.V. and drinks and a good meal.
Full Day TWELVE
FULL DAY THIRTEEN
Enjoy another full day in the Central Serengeti. The animals may start to look familiar, but there are always new behaviours to observe, and new pictures to take. Sit and watch elephants playing in a river, listen to the chorus of the guinea fowl, watch a leopard jump up a tree in a flash, or sit and watch a pride of lions; the interactions between the cubs are especially entertaining. Find a watering hole and watch the animals who come at different times. You may see elephants rushing down towards the water trumpeting, and how fast all the other animals scatter! Or admire the beauty of zebras reflected in the still waters. Have you seen a Yellow Thick-knee yet? How about a Squacco heron? Enjoy the never-ending discoveries, and then return to camp ready to relax and share your stories with one another.
FULL DAY FOURTEEN
Enjoy a morning game drive as the sun rises over the Serengeti. Watch the hot air balloons waft overhead; you may even see lions or topi or other animals that appear to be watching them go. The balloons and the rising sun give a dreamy atmosphere to the morning. Being back in the central Serengeti, you are likely to spot plentiful game as you drive downwards and back towards the Naabi Hill Gates where you will exit the park. From the Naabi Hill Gates, you will head to the Olduvai Gorge Museum, where you can eat lunch in the lovely picnic area with very scenic views out over the Oldupai Gorge and towards the Ngorongoro Crater. This museum is a must-see for anyone interested in anthropology (and even for many who wouldn’t think they were!). Exhibits in the museum present some of the most significant anthropological discoveries about the evolution of humankind, including five significantly different types of human forbearers from different periods of time. The nearby lakeshore has just the right environment to preserve an amazing fossil record. Mary and Louis Leakey conducted digs in the Gorge for decades, where they found fossils from the earliest hominins, as well as stone tools, and fossilized footprints; some of which were more than 3.75 million years old! The Olduvai Gorge Museum has exhibits as well as guides who offer lectures. Spend the early afternoon here, and then continue to your next accommodation.
FULL DAY FOURTEEN
FULL DAY FIFTEEN
Your final day is a chance to tour Mto Wa Mbu. Mto wa Mbu is a farming community where representatives from all 120 Tanzanian tribes live close to one another. A local tour guide will walk you around the village and show you:
- how rice is cultivated & processed
- a banana plantation and how banana beer is made (you may even get to taste some!)
- a children’s school
- local artists, including painters and woodcarvers
- the colors, sounds and smells of the local market
After the tour of Mto Wa Mbu (always a highlight for our guests!), visit Lake Manyara National Park where you will have your picnic lunch. You are likely to see hippos, warthogs, Cape Buffalo, zebra, and giraffe. Possibly even the famous and unique tree-climbing lions, so keep your eyes open! Likely, too, to see all sorts of birds; egrets, spoonbills, storks, bee-eaters, lilac-breasted rollers, kingfishers, herons of various types, and many, many more. Stretch your legs at the boardwalk and hot springs, and watch all the hippos in the Lake. As the afternoon advances, head back to Arusha for your departure.