Words cannot capture the vastness of the Serengeti. Its natural abundance of wildlife provides incredible game viewing. On the open, grassy savannah, antelope species include eland, Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles, topi and hartebeest. In the denser bush and acacia of the central Serengeti, leopard sightings are among the best in Africa, cheetah and lion are abundant. In the rivers, hippo and crocodile are plentiful. Part of Tanzania's northern circuit, holidays in the Serengeti are always a real highlight. There is plentiful game here all year, but a safari during the migration period is a quite unforgettable experience.
Often called the eighth wonder of the world, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in northern Tanzania boasts a blend of landscapes, wildlife, people and archaeology that is unsurpassed in Africa.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area covers a huge area and includes, alongside its eponymous famous crater, the archaeological site at Olduvai Gorge, and huge expanses of highland plains, scrub bush, and forests
that cover approximately 8300 square kilometres. A protected area, only indigenous tribes such as the Masaai are allowed to live within its borders. Lake Ndutu and Masek, both alkaline soda lakes, are home to rich game populations, and surrounded by a series of peaks and volcanoes which create a stunning backdrop, completing the conservation areas unique and beautiful landscape. Of course, the crater itself,actually a type of collapsed volcano called a caldera, is the main attraction. Accommodation is located on its ridges and after a beautiful descent down the crater rim, passing lush rain forest and thick vegetation, the flora opens to grassy plains throughout the crater floor. The game viewing is truly incredible, and the topography and views of the surrounding Crater Highlands out of this world.
This truly magical place is home to Olduvai Gorge, where the Leakeys discovered the hominoid remains of a 1.8 million year old skeleton of Australopithecus boisei, one of the distinct links of the human evolutionary chain. In a small canyon just north of the crater, the Leakeys and their team of international archaeologists unearthed the ruins of at least three distinct hominoid species, and also came upon a complete series of hominoid footprints estimated to be over 3.7 million years old. Evacuated fossils show that the area is one of the oldest sites of hominoid habitation in the world.
The Ngorongoro Crater and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are without a doubt some of the most beautiful parts of Tanzania, steeped in history and teeming with wildlife. Besides vehicle safaris to Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge, and surrounding attractions, hiking treks through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are becoming increasingly popular options. Either way you choose to visit, the Crater Highlands are an unforgettable part of the Tanzanian experience.
The Cradle of Mankind
Olduvai Gorge is locally called "Oldupai", a name given by the Maasai for the Sisal growing in the Gorge. Known the world over for the fantastic archaeological discoveries made by Doctors Louis and Mary Leakey, including the skull of a humanoid, which is believed to be 1.75 million years old.
The cradle of mankind lies on the short grass plains of the Serengeti. Not only have fossils of humanoid origin been found but also fossils from prehistoric animals that lived around them.
The latest and probably greatest findings were made in 1986 by and American and Tanzanian archaeological team. They discovered human fossils including 302 bones and teeth belonging to a female some 1.8 million years old.
The Olduvai Gorge is located between the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti. Allow 1-1/2 hours from Ngorongoro and 2-1/2 hours from the Serengeti park gate.
Things to do
Located beneath the cliffs of the Manyara Escarpment, on the edge of the Rift Valley, Lake Manyara National Park offers varied ecosystems, incredible bird life, and breathtaking views. Located on the way to Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti, Lake Manyara National Park is well worth a stop in its own right. Its ground water forests, bush plains, baobob strewn cliffs, and algae-streaked hot springs offer incredible ecological variety in a small area, rich in wildlife and incredible numbers of birds.
The alkaline soda of Lake Manyara is home to an incredible array of bird life that thrives on its brackishwaters. Pink flamingo stoop and graze by the thousands, colourful specks against the grey minerals of the lake shore. Yellow-billed storks swoop and corkscrew on thermal winds rising up from the escarpment, and herons flap their wings against the sun-drenched sky. Even reluctant bird-watchers will find something to watch and marvel at within the national park.
Lake Manyara’s famous tree-climbing lions are another reason to pay this park a visit. The only kind of their species in the world, they make the ancient mahogany and elegant acacias their home during the rainy season, and are a well-known but rather rare feature of the northern park. In addition to the lions, the national park is also home to the largest concentration of baboons anywhere in the world -- a fact that makes for interesting game viewing of large families of the primates
Tarangire National Park is one of the hidden jewels of Tanzania. This park measures 2,600 sq kms and boasts a concentration of wildlife second only to Ngorongoro Crater. It features an impressive amount and array of bird life and plant life.
Situated only 160kms from Arusha, the park is nestled to the south of the large open grass plains of southern Maasailand. It is named after the Tarangire River, which runs directly through
the center of the park and is the only permanent water source for the animals. Along the banks of this river you will find herds of wildebeest and zebra, followed by Grants Gazelle, Thomsons Gazelle and many others. Lurking in the background lion and leopard keep a close eye on a possible meal. The park offers views of grass and floodplains with impressive baobab and flat ped acacia trees scattered throughout.
During the dry season the park may look quite ordinary, but activities continue even more earnestly due to the now increased competition.
Arusha National Park lies on a 300-kilometre axis of Africa‘s most famous national parks, running from Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater in the west to Kilimanjaro National Park in the east.
The park is just a few kilometres north east of Arusha, though the main gate is 25 km east of the city. It is also 58 km from Moshi and 35 km from Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA).
Arusha National Park offers many beautiful panoramic views, including spectacular views of both Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru. Arusha National Park is small but varied with spectacular landscapes in three distinct areas:
In the west, the Meru Crater funnels the Jekukumia River; the peak of Mount Meru lies on its rim. Mount Meru is the topographic centerpiece of Arusha National Park. Its fertile slopes rise above the surrounding savanna and support a forest that hosts diverse wildlife, including nearly 400 species of birds, and also monkeys and leopards.
Ngurdoto Crater is a volcanic crater that in the south-east . The grassland crater is 3.6 km (2.2 miles) in diameter at its widest points and 100m (109 yards) deep. The crater is surrounded by forest whilst the floor is a swamp.
The shallow alkaline Momella Lakes in the north-east have varying algal colours and are known for their wading birds.
Arusha National Park has a rich variety of wildlife. Despite the small size of the park, common animals include giraffe, buffalo, zebra, warthog, the black-and-white colobus monkey, the blue monkey, flamingos and more. Waterfowl are abundant here as well.
Lake Natron is the lowest point of the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania (600m / 2000 ft). It is also home to the only active volcano in Tanzania: Ol Doinyo Lengai (Mountain of God).
The lake is extremely high in sodium carbonate, algae, and zooplankton supporting vast numbers of flamingos and other water birds, especially during and after the rainy season.
This area is quite desolate and hot. Local, fresh springs form suprising oases in this landscape. On the drive between Lake Natron and the Arusha/Lake Manyara road, you can see many Maasai villages, termite mounds, gazelle, giraffe, zebra, baboons, bee boxes, and birds such as vultures, ostrich, starlings, Cory Bustards, and kites. On the drive between Lake Natron and the Serengeti, the vast number of Maasai villages and cattle is amazing.
This is a 20 minute hike up a river gorge. You will need non-leather sandals (soda harms leather). It is slippery and requires scrambling. It is an excellent swim in the river and under the waterfalls for a nice cool-down from the hot sun. There may be baboons or other wildlife in the gorge.
You will walk from the Ngare Sero Mountain Lodge or from the road out on the mud flats to the edge of the water. In the dry season, this may be a half-mile walk.
Full day game drive around the south and west side of Lake Natron.
There are many Maasai villages in the area to visit.
Lake Eyasi is a salt lake situated between the Rift Valley's Eyasi escarpment and the Kidero Mountains, the lake stretches for about 31 miles to the southwest. To the northeast the horizon is dominated by the impressive Crater Highlands and to the north the plains of the Serengeti.
The area around Lake Eyasi is home to the Hadza and Watindiga bushmen, some of the last remaining hunter-gatherers on the continent. The bushman live in groups hunting with bow and arrows and gathering roots, tubers and wild fruits.
Kilimanjaro. The name itself is a mystery wreathed in clouds. It might mean Mountain of Light, Mountain of Greatness or Mountain of Caravans. Or it might not. The local people, the Wachagga, don't even have a name for the whole massif, only Kipoo (now known as Kibo) for the familiar snowy peak that stands imperious, overseer of the continent, the summit of Africa.
Kilimanjaro, by any name, is a metaphor for the compelling beauty of East Africa. When you see it, you understand why. Not only is this the highest peak on the African continent; it is also the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, rising in breathtaking isolation from the surrounding coastal scrubland – elevation around 900 metres – to an imperious 5,895 metres (19,336 feet).
Kilimanjaro is one of the world's most accessible high summits, a beacon for visitors from around the world. Most climbers reach the crater rim with little more than a walking stick, proper clothing and determination. And those who reach Uhuru Point, the actual summit, or Gillman's Point on the lip of the crater, will have earned their climbing certificates.
And their memories.
But there is so much more to Kili than her summit. The ascent of the slopes is a virtual climatic world tour, from the tropics to the Arctic.
Even before you cross the national park boundary (at the 2,700m contour), the cultivated footslopes give way to lush montane forest, inhabited by elusive elephant, leopard, buffalo, the endangered Abbot’s duiker, and other small antelope and primates. Higher still lies the moorland zone, where a cover of giant heather is studded with otherworldly giant lobelias.
Above 4,000m, a surreal alpine desert supports little life other than a few hardy mosses and lichen. Then, finally, the last vestigial vegetation gives way to a winter wonderland of ice and snow – and the magnificent beauty of the roof of the continent.
Mt Meru is an active volcano located 70 kilometres (44 miles) west of Mount Kilimanjaro. It reaches 4,566 metres (14,980 feet) in height but has lost much of its bulk due to an eastward volcanic blast about 8,000 years ago. Mount Meru most recently had a minor eruption about a century ago. The several small cones and craters seen in the vicinity reflect numerous episodes of volcanic activity.
Mount Meru has a spectacular ash cone in her centre that has formed in the old crater. She is the topographic centerpiece of Arusha National Park whose fertile slopes rise above the surrounding savanna and support a forest that hosts diverse wildlife, including nearly 400 species of birds, and also monkeys and leopards.
The mountain offers excellent views across to her big sister Mt Kilimanjaro and is an excellent climb either as a standalone trip or as an acclimatiser before tackling Kilimanjaro.