Twelve Full Days: January to March Calving Season/Birding Tour Itinerary

The vast majority of Serengeti visitors come during the high season from July to October.  But there are wonderful secrets to be found by those who come in the January to March period as well.  From seeing thousands of wildebeest calving on the Ndutu plains to opportunities to see predators like no other time, to the birding opportunities and the chance to see these landscapes lush and green, there are many reasons to visit Northern Tanzania in the very early spring.  Birding enthusiasts will be in their glory!

This safari is twelve full days, where you arrive in the afternoon or evening beforehand.  (You may discover that many ‘twelve-day’ itineraries are actually eleven 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.  Visit hidden corners, see the hotspots, and linger along the way.  You have plenty of time to see these places that many can only dream of.

  • 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.

  • Full Day One

    Arusha to Lake Manyara National Park

    Have a wonderful early breakfast at your hotel in Arusha and let the adventure begin on the road to Lake Manyara National Park (famous for its alkaline lake, birding and tree-climbing lions).  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 Lake Manyara National Park.  You are likely to see hippos, warthogs, Cape Buffalo, zebra, and giraffes.  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.


    Full Day One



    Lake Manyara to Ngorongoro

    Spend the morning birding around 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.  After a very tasty picnic lunch, head out of Lake Manyara National Park.  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 the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, where you will find your lodge looking down into the Ngorongoro Crater.  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 Crater to Olduvai Gorge Museum

    Enjoy a final morning game drive in the Ngorongoro Crater, then 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 back 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 on to your next accommodation in the Ndutu Plains.  Enjoy a relaxed evening, as the next morning you will likely want to be up and out early to see as much as you can!


    Ndutu Plains & the Southern Serengeti

    Today you will see the massed herds of wildebeest that make up the Great Migration.  Too many hundreds and even thousands to count.  You may feel like you’re in a National Geographic or BBC nature documentary, but you will discover how different these scenes are when experienced with all your senses, ‘in real life!  The smell of the wildebeest may not be the most pleasant, but you certainly know where you are!  Hear them bellowing and calling to each other.  Watch the grass fly under their hooves.  If your timing is spot on (and there’s no way to control this as the precise timing of the calving depends entirely on the rains each year!) you may see wildebeest calving in their thousands.  Watch how the herds circle around and protect the mother and baby.  See how quickly the baby is up and moving!  Try to imagine how the babies can distinguish their mother’s calls from all the other mothers calling around.  You’re also likely to see large numbers of predators who come to feast on the newborn wildebeest.  You may not know whether to cry or to cheer them on, but the excitement is undeniable.  Spend your entire day moving from one sight to the next – and make sure you keep your camera batteries charged with the charger in your safari vehicle!





    Ndutu Plains & the Southern Serengeti

    Spend another day exploring the Ndutu plains or other nearby areas; the Hidden Valley, Lake Masek, the Naabi hills, or even as far as the Kopjes where lions and cheetah often gather.  You’ll have a good chance of spotting a number of the larger birds as well; the Kori Bustards, the secretary birds, ostriches, and a variety of raptors, vultures and storks.  Keep your bird lists and your camera handy!  This will be another full and exciting day, as you follow the herds, or explore a little further afield, whichever takes your fancy.

  • Full Day SEVEN

    Ndutu to Central Serengeti

    Today head up into the Central Serengeti, a hot spot for animals and birds.  Depending on when you come exactly, you may even find parts of the Great Migration herds moving through the Central Serengeti area.  Enjoy a drive around the Kopjes and see what you can spot on the rocks.  Lion and cheetah often hang out here.  Watch for Grey-breasted Spurfowl, Fischer’s lovebirds, D’Arnaud’s barbets, Verreaux’s Eagle-owl, Sandgrouse, Rufous-tailed Weavers, Grey-Crested helmeted shrike, and many, many more birds as you pass through the various types of terrain on the way to and in the Central Serengeti.  If there’s a particular bird on your wishlist, let your guide know as he or she may know particular areas that are good for spotting that particular bird.


    Full Day SEVEN

  • Full Day Eight


    Serengeti Delights

    Today is full of choices; you may stay in the Central Serengeti and explore; you may head up towards the Retina Hippo Pool; you may head into the Eastern Serengeti, or into the Western corridor.  It all depends on what you want to see, and what animals and birds are most likely to be found where.  Regardless, this day will be full of Serengeti delights as you travel these great plains.  Enjoy every moment.

  • 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 trial at the gate and enjoy your last views – and see what birds you can spot here!  Then head down towards Lake Eyasi, which during the rainy season fills with shallow water and 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




    Relax over breakfast as long as you like, then, when you’re ready, set off for Tarangire National Park, home of the elephant herds, Baobabs, termite mounds, and, at this time of year, more birds than you can imagine!  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!



    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, head back to Arusha airport for your departure.

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