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Review: Tanzania

Specialist Holiday - Safari/wildlife


Northern Tanzania

  • By SilverTraveller GDB1

    12 reviews


  • March 2019
  • Other
  • Wife

136 people found this review helpful

My wife and I could be described as avid wildlife lovers, photographers and conservationists; some would say we are just wildlife crazy!

We have travelled to many parts of the world to sate ourselves with truly wild animals, from Asia, that is India and Sri Lanka, South America, including Brazil and Chile, and of course Africa. We have enjoyed the rugged beauty of the Bale mountains in Ethiopia and the wonders of Kenya, which incidentally was our first safari type holiday, but Tanzania, particularly the North was our last adventure…. admittedly for the third time !

Like all wildlife trips, it is important to understand what you can expect to see at different times of the year. This year we decided to travel in February / March and we centred our itinerary around Lake Ndutu and the short grass plains of the Serengeti. This is near the bottom Southerly corner of one of the most famous national parks in Africa. Whilst there is a resident population of all the main species, in particular the big cats which most people want to see, to maximise your chances of seeing them all is to understand the Big Migration pattern of the wildebeest and zebras. It is a continuous circulatory tour which takes them from the Serengeti to the equally famous but much smaller Masai Mara in Kenya, via the great plains of the Seronara Valley in the middle, to the Western Corridor and the Mbalageti /Grumetti Rivers, up to the Mara River where they have to run the gauntlet of Nile Crocodiles, and back down to Lake Masek /Ndutu….in February and March. Simply, the big cats, ie lions, cheetahs and leopards follow them around and it is this time of year when the wildebeest calve…. their young are the main prey!

So, we spent sometime in and around this area, then on to the Seronara with its strange Kopjes; small rocky outcrops which provide homes for all manner of furry and feathered friends, big and small. You will often see a leopard or lion sunning themselves, or wriggly things with no legs, giving themselves the option of cover they need.

The Ngorogoro Conservation Area must not be missed with a myriad of wildlife, and of course the Crater itself, which is one of the largest extinct volcanic craters in the world, measuring some 100 sq.miles. Apparently it blew its top around 2-3 million years ago, with the original topping estimated at 15-20,000 feet high. It now provides sanctuary to virtually every species other than elephants and giraffes; it has the highest density of lions in any part of Africa. Yes, we saw most of them on a one day trip, with the highlight being on the steep track entering the Crater itself…. we were just starting to scan in the near distance for our first sightings, when Bernard, our guide, said stop, look no more than 10 yds away….. a rare Caracal cat….wow! We asked Bernard when he had last seen one…. about 3 months ago he said…. and before that ?…. about 3 or 4 years !!

So, we had great sightings of lions, cheetahs and leopards as planned, along with many giraffes in the Conservation Area. Hippos and crocodiles abound in the Grumetti and Mbalageti Rivers, and there always seems to be a fabulous White Headed Fish Eagle by the waterside.

Another must is the Tarangire national park, particularly if you are an elephant lover; we lost count after about 150 + in a single day. You see them by the river and watering holes just having fun with their young ones, to seeing a huge line of them marching towards you slowly from a distance; maybe 20, 30 or 50 strong is a wonderful sight. It easily takes up a day, just admiring them in their own surroundings behaving naturally. This time we were surprised by a ‘herd’ of 50+ ostriches, literally galloping past us… that was a first. Normally you only see them individually or as a pair.

We finished up with a day each at Lake Manyara and Arusha national parks; each has its own unique wildlife with the gorgeous Blue and stunning Colobus Monkeys, Greater Flamingos and much bird life. We always see at least 3/4 sub species of Bee Eaters in these parks. These little birds are endemic and like their cousins in Asia, are all very colourful and relatively easy to spot.

As said, decide what time of year you wish to travel and then create an itinerary to suit.
International flights will generally take you to Dar Es Salaam or even Nairobi, then internally to either Kilimanjaro on the Eastern side, or Mwanza on the Western side. You can then transfer to your safari vehicle from either to enter the national parks.

Who to go a big question?… There are innumerable UK companies who offer safari /wildlife holidays; you are spoilt for choice in theory. But, beware, if you are a keen photographer, this will narrow down your options; normally most UK companies will sub contract you out to a local company and you will be carted around in one vehicle taking 4-8 people… no good at all for serious photography. Bespoke or ‘tailormade’ is what the more specialist companies offer you, with maximum 4 , or in our case just the two of us. Obviously the cost increases with personalised tours, and Africa is getting quite expensive now generally.

The only way that we can afford this type of deal is to negotiate direct with a local company. Our favoured one, which we have used 3 times now is the East African Safari and Touring Company (EASTCO) . Please look at their website. They have a number of excellent guides, particularly our Bernard, who really has eagle eyes and an encyclopedic knowledge of just about everything wild. It is important that you are able to engage with someone who you will spend 10 hours a day with for 7-14 days. Tanzanians are all delightful people but some it is difficult to have an in-depth conversation.

Where to stay ?…another complex question
It very much depends on the depth of your pocket or what type of experience you want; from travelling bush camps to luxury lodges can vary the price immensely. Having someone like David King of EASTCO to discuss such things with takes out the uncertainty…..the only surprises you want are the animals!

There are so many options for wildlife safari holidays in Africa. If it going to be a once in a lifetime, and you want to minimise the chance of disappointment, choose Northern Tanzania… at the right time. And choose carefully.

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Other Members' Thoughts - 10 Comment(s)

  • GDB1
    10 months ago
    You are welcome, but if you ever seriously consider it, please talk to me first as at many of them, you will never see a tiger unless you spend a long time there.
  • Hardyplant
    10 months ago
    Thank you for the link. I have had a quick look and will go back for a thorough read; I would never have guessed there were so many national parks in India.
  • GDB1
    10 months ago
    Thank you Hardyplant, I appreciate your comments. Yes, I/we are in the fortunate position of being able to afford these wildlife trips. The cheapest place by far to experience the wild, is India. We book with a local agent in Delhi, who is now a personal friend. It is probably half to two thirds the cost of Africa.
    See the link for information, and send me a private message if you wish.
  • Hardyplant
    10 months ago
    Really interesting to hear your views about who to book with; one reason I've never been on a wildlife `safari` is that as I could not afford to do it properly I prefer not to do it at all. I shall just continue to enjoy reading about other peoples experiences and seeing stunning photographs like yours. Thank you.
  • ESW
    10 months ago
    Do you have any more pictures? I'd love to see more - any chance of a follow on thread with more please? Your reviews and pictures are so good and deserve a much wider audience.
  • GDB1
    10 months ago
    You are very kind iwent.... it was a wow moment! Caracals exist in certain parts of Asia and other parts of Africa, but I have never met anyone who has actually seen one. Bernard in Tanzania says they are very rare, and our friend in India who runs the travel company who organize our trips there, he has never seen one...... so a real privilege for us.
  • iwent
    10 months ago
    Thank you so much GDB1 for sharing your experience with us. Wonderful photos all, but that caracal cat produced a sharp intake of breath and an involuntary audible WOW. Again, thank you.
  • MaryEssex
    10 months ago
    What a superb review. So much information and so helpful for anyone thinking of Northern Tanzania for a safari. The photos are stunning. As a photographer the hints about the choice of vehicle and probably not sharing it with too many people seems a sensible idea. I shall look at the website of the company he uses as clearly he has found them good. I had heard of the Ngorongoro Crater but did not understand why it so important to include it. I am told that once you have done one safari you will be hooked for ever.
  • ESW
    10 months ago
    Thank you for such a wonderful review and pictures to go with it. Your love of wildlife really does shine through
  • Cruzeroqueen1
    10 months ago
    A wonderful and evocative Review, @GDB1, enchanced with wonderful photographs. Thank you.