Fifteen Full Days: Rift Valley and Cultural Exploration Itinerary

With fifteen full days of adventure in Northern Tanzania, you can see more than most people will in a lifetime!  Take advantage of a more relaxed pace to see deeper into the heart of Tanzania’s amazing national parks and learn about the Rift Valley and some of the local cultures.

If you’re interested in exploring the great Tanzania Rift Valley and learning about local cultures while also exploring the great parks of Northern Tanzania, then this is the trip for you.

Including Arusha National Park, Lake Natron, the Eastern Serengeti, Central Serengeti, the Southern Serengeti, Lake Eyasi, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara National Park and Tarangire National Park, you will have seen all the highlights!  But at a pace that lets you soak up the areas you are visiting, and spend time with local peoples to learn about their culture as you pass through.  Experience the warm welcome as you get to know more about Tanzania than many visitors will ever see.

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 birds, 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.

  • Arrival


    Welcome and overnight in Arusha

    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.


    Arusha to Lake Natron

    Have a wonderful early breakfast at your hotel in Arusha and let the adventure begin on the road to Lake Natron (famous for its flamingo herds).  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 Lake Natron.  You’re likely to start spotting animals along the way; watch for giraffes, zebra, and warthogs.  Watch the scenery change as you safari (yes. safari is a verb in Swahili!).  As the day warms up, stop for a packed picnic lunch.  Pause for goat herds crossing the road in front of you, and drive through a river or two.  As you approach Lake Natron, you will see Ol Doinyo Lengai, the famous “Mountain of God” rising above you.  For the Maasai people, this mountain is the home of God.  It is also the only active volcano in the world that erupts natrocarbonatite lava.  Watch for kingfishers and other interesting birds at your lodge.





    Lake Natron

    Today you will almost certainly visit Lake Natron to marvel over the beautiful patterns the salt makes against the sand, and watch the gathered flamingos.  You may get out and explore on foot around the lake.  Also, count on a visit to a local village and a trip with the local people to a waterfall a short distance up.  See the crafts they produce and have a chance to interact with the enthusiastic children.  Then return to your lodge to relax for the evening, with a little light bird watching if that appeals to you.


    Lake Natron via Rift Valley to Serengeti

    Visit Lake Natron briefly as you depart, then continue on your way.  Today you will have a fascinating drive through the Rift Valley, as you climb up the Rift Valley and head over it towards the Serengeti.  It’s a full day’s drive, and dry and dusty along the way, but with fascinating scenery as you go up and up and up.  Watch for raptors and other birds high up in the mountains.   Your guide will point out interesting fauna and flora along the way. Enter the Serengeti via Klein’s gate (a moment to remember if this is your first trip to the Serengeti), and enjoy a game drive towards your accommodation.  Excitement builds from the moment you see the signs welcoming you to the Serengeti, and animals are often near the gate waiting to welcome you in!





    Explore the Serengeti

    Where you go in the Serengeti will vary depending on the time of year, and your particular interests.  If the Great Migration is your dream, then your guide will take you wherever the massed herds of the wildebeest are at this time of year (August-September, up in the Mara, other times of year in other parts of the Serengeti).  If you want to spot predators above all, you’ll head for the Southern Serengeti in March through May, and into the Seronera or Central Serengeti in June through September.  If you want to see crocs and hippos, your guide will take you to one of the big rivers (Mara or Grumeti) and the Retina Hippo Pool.  Or you can sit back and relax and simply soak up the atmosphere and all the wild animals of the Serengeti.  You will spot them everywhere as you travel!  From lions to cheetah to leopards to elephants, zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, Cape Buffalo; the wonder never stops in the Serengeti.

  • Full Day NINE

    Serengeti to Lake Eyasi

    Savour your last morning game drive in the Serengeti as you head down towards the Naabi hill Gate.  As you leave the Serengeti, you may want to walk the trail at the gate and enjoy your last views – and see what birds you can spot here!  Then head down towards Lake Eyasi, which fills with shallow water during the rainy season.  Your guide will help you identify the birds that come from far and near to breed in these waters.  See if you can spot a honeyguide; the birds that are said to help the Hadza tribes locate bee’s nests in trees.  Go out on a ‘hunting’ adventure on foot with the Hadzabe hunter-gatherers, one of East Africa’s oldest tribes who still live by hunting and gathering.  You will get to see their skill with bow and arrow, and how they follow tracks, and possibly even how they track mice by listening for movement under the sand.


    Full Day NINE



    Lake Eyasi to Ngorongoro Crater via Olduvai Gorge Museum

    After a relaxing breakfast, head to the Olduvai Gorge Museum, where you will find a beautiful scenic 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 morning here, and take advantage of the facilities and the lovely picnic area with its stunning views, then head for the Ngorongoro Crater, an extinct and exploded volcano caldera chock full of animals!  Your accommodation is situated right on the Ngorongoro Crater rim, with spectacular views down into the crater, from your room and from the terraces. Enjoy the view, meal and luxuries while you look down into the world-famous Ngorongoro crater.


    Ngorongoro Crater

    This day will be spectacular.  After breakfast, descend into the Ngorongoro Crater for a full day of game drives.  You will 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.  Your guide will point out birds as you explore, but you won’t need his or her help to find the masses of pink flamingos that congregate on lakes inside the crater!  The pink spectacle explodes all around you.  Stop for a delicious picnic lunch under the yellow fever trees, and then continue your game drives all afternoon.  Imagine the Maasai walking their cattle down into the crater for grazing for the day, and then back out again before nightfall!





    Ngorongoro to Lake Manyara via Mto Wa Mbu

    As you leave the Ngorongoro Crater, you may want to stop briefly at one of the viewpoints that look back down into the crater.  You get a spectacular view of the whole from up here. Watch for leopards, warthogs and various other animals as you drive out!  Then descend towards Lake Manyara.

    Your next stop will be for a tour at Mto Wa Mbu.  Mto wa Mbu is a farming community where representatives from all 120 Tanzanian tribes live in proximity 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!), travel on to Lake Manyara National Park.  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.  As the evening approaches, you will be ready to stop and relax for the night with a delicious dinner at your evening’s accommodation.


    Lake Manyara to Tarangire

    Spend the morning exploring Lake Manyara, with lots more opportunities to find the tree-climbing lions!  Stretch your legs at the boardwalk and hot springs, and watch all the hippos in the Lake.  Go for a walk high above the treetop canopy on a suspended walkway and see what more birds (and butterflies) you can spot as you look down on the forest canopy from above.  How many different colors of birds can you spot?  The malachite kingfisher is a glorious burst of color, as are the different types of bee-eaters.  As you game drive down the lake, you are already heading towards Tarangire National Park, your next stop.  The drive itself is fascinating as you watch the scenery change along the way from the Rift Valley Walls to the dryer land towards Tarangire, home of the elephant herds, Baobabs, and termite mounds.  You will see (and possibly drive over) sand rivers, and see the land change to slightly more cultivated land with small houses scattered across the landscape.  During the afternoon, you may even have the chance for a short game drive inside Tarangire.  Make sure you have your bird books handy – although you may or may not need them thanks to your guide’s expertise.  Still, it’s often fun to be able to look up the birds you see, and learn more about them. Many guests have said that Tarangire is really their favorite of all the national parks they visit; you might just find yourself among them!





    Tarangire National Park

    Enjoy a full day of game drives in Tarangire.  See how many different varieties of birds you can spot, as your guide is quick to point them out.  Watch for leopards if you’re lucky.  With a full day available to you, you may well 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 ever 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 the many natural wonders to be found in Tarangire.  Maybe spot banded mongoose stretched out over termite mounds enjoying their afternoon naps, or see a lost baboon calling for his tribe.  Discover what will become your most memorable sighting in Tarangire.


    Tarangire to Arusha

    Enjoy a morning game drive 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. After another picnic lunch and a last short game drive, when your mind is full of elephants, lions, and giraffes, it is time to head back on the road to Arusha for your departure.  If you have time after lunch, you may be able to stop at one of the local cooperatives near Tarangire and admire the products made by local people.



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