“Tanzania tops East Africa with its spectacular to-do list: from the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater to snow-capped Kilimanjaro and the spice island of Zanzibar.”
There are many excellent travel destinations in East Africa, but none more so than Tanzania. Here the wide plains of the Serengeti, the lush pastures of the Ngorongoro Crater, the snow-capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro and the mythical isle of Zanzibar will entice travelers to return time and again.
The lush Mahogany treed jungle in the north-eastern highlands blankets the foothills of the sheer rock walls of the Great Rift Valley which in turn forms an impressive backdrop to the great lakes of Victoria, Manyara and Tanganyika. The Great Rift is a 3,000-mile geological fault stretching from Syria in Asia to Mozambique in lower East Africa and offers the visitor stunning scenery of Africa’s highest mountains and deepest lakes.
To the west of Kilimanjaro are the Serengeti plains, well-known for their huge concentrations of migratory animals. This mosaic of grassland, swamps, riverine forests and savannah habitats is host to 70 larger mammals, of which more than a million herbivores participate in the circular migration, spurred on by the need for greener pastures. In excess of a million wildebeest (gnu), accompanied by 200,000 zebras congregate on the Southern Serengeti plains from December until March to start “the biggest show on earth”. Slowly, but surely they move in a westerly and northerly direction, and come July to October they are confronted by the Grumetti and Mara Rivers, dramatic setting for the well-known river crossings. In these rivers huge crocodiles lay in wait. The large herds stay in the Masai Mara Nature Reserve, until the smell of the new rains in the south draw them back to their breeding grounds in the Serengeti. The challenge is to be at the right place at the right time, to enjoy the awesome sight of savannah grassland, speckled with thousands upon thousands of animals. The precise timing of the migration depends on the rain and it is an extremely unpredictable and spontaneous natural event.
The Serengeti’s vast endless plains are sprinkled with Acacia trees, with kopjes (granite outcroppings) and ant mounds dotted all over, which serve as vantage points for predators. The vast, flat central plains, made fertile by the ashes of the prehistoric volcanoes, are characterized by huge skies and shimmering heat hazes, but also with delicate wild flowers blooming after the rains.
The jewel in the crown of the greater Serengeti area is the Ngorongoro crater. Big 5 game viewing and photography in the caldera is something special, with the crater walls forming a perfect background to the images of animals and nature alike. Accommodation is outside the crater and a number of lodges on its rim offer spectacular views of the crater floor below.
Regarded by many as the eighth wonder of the world, the Ngorongoro Crater, a volcanic caldera which forms a natural enclosure of a mere 260 kilometres, is home to the highest concentration of wildlife on the planet. It sits high on a mountain, above the escarpment of the Great Rift Zone. The crater rim is at 7 500 feet, surrounded by clouds that break every so often to provide jaw-dropping views into the crater, and down its outside walls. It feels like driving on top of the world! On the crater floor, the rich pastures and permanent water supply support a resident population of some 25 000 ungulates, along with, reputedly, the highest density of predators in Africa. Since most of the crater floor is grassland, grazing animals predominate: gnu (wildebeest), zebra, Grant and Thompsons gazelle, buffalo, eland, hartebeest and black rhino. During our visits to the crater floor, seeing a lion kill is a likely occurrence.
Away from the popular Serengeti lies the smaller wildlife enclave of Lake Manyara. This area is renowned for its diverse terrain: from the shallow alkaline waters of “the loveliest lake in Africa”, home to thousands of pink Flamingos, to groundwater forests, acacia woodlands and open floodplains. The sheer rock walls of the Great Rift Valley serve as spectacular scenery. Manyara National Park, described by Hemingway in the “Green Hills of Africa”, lies within the Great Rift Valley, and spreads out in a shallow depression at 1 000 meters above sea level. Its terrain contains a rich mosaic of different habitats, which include groundwater forest, the acacia woodlands, extensive marshlands and of course the lake itself.
Lake Manyara supports a cornucopia of wildlife, including buffalo, elephant, giraffe, impala, hippo and even tree-climbing lion! Most importantly, however, are the 380 species of birdlife: spoonbill, stork, teal, pelican, hornbill and cormorant, by the thousand making it the perfect choice for a bird watching tour. Like most Rift Valley lakes, the water is alkaline, which attracts vast flocks of greater and lesser flamingos, which form a pink cloud against the silver background of water. The best time to observe these birds is in the late afternoon and early morning.
A trip to the national parks and conservation areas of Tanzania is an experience of a lifetime and an essential item on the bucket list of any nature lover. For the true wilderness
enthusiast, Tanzania has become more popular than Kenya, in the past regarded as the true haven of unspoilt nature. The Tanzanian wildlife areas have become more accessible for tourists, with many three- to five-star lodges and tented camps spread across the region. Although these establishments cater for different budgets, they have one thing in common – they afford the visitor the opportunity to enjoy some of Africa’s most stunning scenery and wildlife.
For the opportunity to visit the Serengeti and other African travel deals see our Serengeti special at www.wildsunsetsafaris.co.za or email your enquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.