By Bruce Ingram
You’ve seen it in countless movies and wildlife documentaries set in Africa—a wealth of wildlife unmatched anywhere else in the world.
And now you can see it for yourself, reasonably up close and personal, when Toto goes on safari this April in Tanzania. With an extension to the island paradise of Zanzibar as an optional bonus.
If big game in abundance (and an abundance of additional exotic species) is what you’re looking for, then Tanzania, without a doubt, is the place to be. Why? Because it has done more than any other African country to preserve the natural environment of its wild creatures. Nearly one third of Tanzania’s land is protected by law. And that applies especially to the northern safari circuit we’ll be visiting, featuring the vast Serengeti plain and the ancient Ngorongoro Crater. Each of them supporting robust populations of every major safari species.
Wildebeest? Check (lots and lots of wildebeest). Zebras? Same. Ditto for giraffes, hippos, antelopes, jackals, cheetahs, hyenas, gazelles, monkeys, baboons, ostriches, flamingos and even the most-prized Big Five among big game spotters: lions, leopards, buffalos, elephants and black rhinos.
The extraordinary features of the tour begin right away during our first night’s stay at the Lake Duluti Serena Hotel, which is designed in the style of an African village, complete with thatched huts for cottages. Each with a magnificent view of the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro.
The next day we’ll explore the first of three examples of the real thing—the Mto Wa Mbu village near Lake Manyara (one of Hemingway’s favorite spots in Africa). More than 90 tribes (with Maasai in the majority) are represented in the village, which has successfully embraced cultural tourism since the mid-‘90s. We’ll be invited to explore local homes, farms and a village school and church, buy work by local artists, eat a traditional Tanzanian meal and participate in a variety of activities that generate income for village projects. Gifts of books, school supplies and sports equipment for the village school are welcome.
The next day we’re off to Lake Manyara National Park, famed for its hundreds of species of birds, especially the countless flamingos that seem to tinge the lake pink from a distance. The park also features a large groundwater forest hosting plentiful blue and velvet monkeys, baboons, bushbuck and elephants—and a hippo pool as a bonus. In the open grassland south of the forest, we’re likely to see our first buffalos, wildebeest, impalas, giraffes and zebras, plus the park’s signature species, the tree-climbing lion.
After a lunchtime visit to the green oasis of Gibb’s Farm the following day, we’ll visit a traditional home of the Iraqw tribe and visit a nearby farm and bio gas plant before arriving at the first of our major destinations: the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
More than 2,000 feet high at its rim, the two million year old Ngorongoro Crater includes 100 square miles of land at its base—the largest unbroken volcanic crater in the world. And it teems, absolutely teems, with safari wildlife—lions, leopards, hippos, elephants, giraffes, rhinos, cheetahs, antelopes, warthogs, pretty much anything you might hope to see, all in one place. We’ll take land cruisers down to the crater floor and spend the next six hours feasting our eyes and bagging photographic prizes before returning to our lodge for the second of two nights at Ngorongoro.
The following day, we’ll visit the second of three villages on the tour, this one home to the red-robed Maasai, before driving to the Olduvai Gorge, the ancient grazing grounds of the Maasai and also, more famously, the site where Mary and Louis Leakey made their 1959 discovery of 1.7-million-year-old fossil evidence of prehistoric man. We’ll stop at the Olduvai Gorge Museum to celebrate their find before moving on to our second major big-game destination: the Serengeti plain, where we’ll spend the next three days, beginning with an overnight in a luxury mobile tented camp
We’ll be exploring the southern and central regions of the Serengeti National Park (with its 3.6-million acres), which is home to more than 70 large mammal species (totaling an estimated three million creatures) and 500 bird species. We’re likely to see any or all of the previously mentioned safari animals here, but we’re also going to witness one of the great natural wonders of the world. Namely, the massing of more than a million wildebeest, accompanied by hundreds of thousands of zebras in advance of their annual migration. And, since our tour takes place during calving season, we hope to bear awed witness to wildebeest giving birth to their young.
Over the next couple of days in Central Serengeti, we’ll visit the Seronera Valley and Seronera River, with its hippo pools, and observe both predators (Lions, leopards and cheetahs) and their prey (giraffes, topi, reedbucks, waterbucks, buffalos and impalas). We’ll also take time to explore the open grassland with twice-daily wildlife drives, searching for the likes of Thomson’ and Grant’s gazelles, spotted hyenas, jackals and exotic birds. We’ll also have the option, one morning, of rising above the grassland in a hot-air balloon—for an additional price (reservations recommended).
The main tour ends the following day with a return flight to Arusha and then on to home for those who choose. For those who choose to linger a bit longer, however, we have arranged an optional extension on the island paradise of Zanzibar.
Located 15 miles off the coast of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean, Zanzibar actually consists of two islands: Unguja (with the capital city) and Pemba. We’ll be staying on Unguja, where numerous cultures (many of them ancient) have left their mark, including an early 12th-century mosque that is one of the oldest Islamic buildings of the East African coast. The historic portion of our tour will include Stone Town, the 200-year-old cultural heart of the island. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Stone Town features winding alleys, bazaars and architecture blending Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements—including the House of Wonders, a former sultan’s palace now home to the Museum of History and Culture of Zanzibar.
One thing Zanzibar has always had plenty of is spice. Its cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper and other spices are what attracted so many cultures (from the Assyrians to the Egyptians to the Chinese to the Arabs, Dutch and English) over countless years. We’ll take a spice tour, to be sure, before moving on in search of one of Zanzibar’s more rare attractions—the endangered red colobus monkey in the Jozani Natural Forest Reserve.
After that, it’s time to drive to our resort by the sea and hit the beach for the next couple of days. There’s no shortage of potential activities, including kayaking, snorkeling, even swimming with dolphins. Or you might choose simply to lay back by the turquoise-blue water and soak up some Tanzanian rays. And who could blame you? You are, after all, in a tropical paradise!
Click here to read the full itinerary, and see pricing for this incredible adventure.