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On Safari in Northern Tanzania – Back to The Sixth Day of the Creation
Tanzania’s natural heritage as a wildlife safari destination is unrivaled. Wild animals roam vast areas as God intended on that sixth day of creation. These areas are designated as national parks and game reserves and have a great reputation for being uncrowded and unspoiled. The magnificent collection of game reserves in the north of the country, near the border with Kenya, is referred to as The Northern Circuit. This is the most popular and accessible wildlife safari route in Tanzania. I can positively say that this is one of the best gaming viewing areas anywhere in the world.
In addition to the game, the spectacularly diverse complex of ecosystems and habitats is a dazzling experience for many visitors. The stars of the Northern Circuit are the Serengeti and Ngorongoro, very dear to the hearts of nature lovers. But no less sparkling and indeed complementary are the other members of the circuit: Arusha, Tarangire and Lake Manyara. In terms of wildlife, the abundance and diversity of wildlife here is hard to imagine.
At the top of the heap are the highly prized ‘big five’: elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros, leopard and lion. And then a wild array of simple animals: wildebeest, zebra, eland, paper, oryx, reedbuck, giraffe, Thompson’s gazelle and many others of the same kind. But don’t forget the merciless predators: cheetah, wild dog, jackal, hyena and vultures. The Northern Circuit is also an ornithologist’s paradise, and over 500 bird species are recorded. On safari, you will witness the shocking and thrilling dance of life and death in the daily game of this combination of animals.
The starting point for northern safaris is usually the city of Arusha. The town is located near the base of Mount Meru and is within sight of the mighty Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain. From Arusha, the nearest protected area to see wildlife is Arusha National Park, just 32 km away. far away. In this 137 square kilometer park, you will see baboons, proboscis and monkeys, duikas, elephant, buffalo, giraffe, hippopotamus, leopard, hyena, zebra and a wide variety of antelope. More than 400 species of birds have been recorded, including Eurasian migrants, which visit from October to April. One of the unique attractions of the park is that walking safaris are allowed and you can get out of your vehicle for a nature walk. Due to its proximity to Arusha, the park is very popular for day trips.
In addition to wildlife, Arusha National Park is a treasure trove of rich tapestry of habitats including grasslands, montane forests, heath and alpine desert, and soda and freshwater lakes. Three impressive features stand out: Momela Lakes, Mount Meru and Ngurdoto Crater. Mount Meru stands at 4,575 meters and is the fourth highest mountain in Africa. However, it is overshadowed by nearby Mount Kilimanjaro, which rises above it by over 1300 meters. It is unfortunate that the snobbish instinct of many climbers makes them overlook Mount Meru. The mountain can be climbed in three to four days with an overnight stay in alpine huts.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve, is located in the Great Rift Valley – this monumental fracture of the earth’s crust. The area is filled with volcanoes, mountains, plains, lakes and forests. Covering 8,288 square kilometers, its main features are Ngorongoro Crater, Empakai Crater, Mount Oldonyo Lengai and the Olduvai Gorge archaeological site. Olduvai Gorge is the prehistoric site where Dr. Louis Leakey discovered the remains of Homo habilis (“Fat Man”), considered by scientists to be humanity’s first step on the path of human evolution. Be sure to take a look at the remains of our worthy predecessor, whose brave industry prompted by necessity, made him make simple stone implements.
Unlike national parks, the colorful Maasai people, their animals and wildlife coexist in the conservation area. The Ngorongoro Crater is the largest caldera in the world with its walls intact. The crater floor is a 600 m drop and covers an area of 260 square kilometers with a diameter of 19 kilometers. This magnificent natural amphitheater is an amazing sight in itself and is one of the wonders of the natural world. The crater supports a resident population of a variety of wildlife throughout the year. You will have no trouble spotting lion, elephant, rhinoceros, buffalo and many species of common animals – wildebeest, zebra, reedbuck, Thompson’s gazelle and many more. The crater floor is dotted with watering holes and is home to nearly 30,000 wild animals. Ngorongoro is a four-hour drive from Arusha or an hour by air. And from either Lake Manyara or Tarangire you will be on the road for two hours.
Lake Manyara National Park stretches between the rock of the Great Rift Valley and Lake Manyara, a shallow freshwater lake. The park covers 330 sq km, 70% of which is occupied by the lake. The diverse ecosystem consists of groundwater forests, acacia forests and open grasslands along the lake shore and sustains a wealth of wildlife including the Big Five – lion, elephant, leopard, rhinoceros and buffalo. Other animals that can be seen in the park are baboons, hippopotamus, giraffe, zebra, ostrich and hippopotamus.
Lake Manyara is famous for its elusive tree-climbing lions, which can occasionally be seen along the branches of the acacia trees. It is also an ornithologist’s paradise and is home to over 400 species of birds. Waterfowl that hover around the lake include pelicans, spoonbills, Egyptian geese and hammerheads. In addition, migrating flamingos number in the hundreds of thousands creating a spectacular sight over the soda lake. You will reach Lake Manyara after driving from Arusha for two hours or flying for just half an hour.
Tarangire National Park is an hour and a half drive from Arusha, making it very popular for day trips. Tarangire is a park with giant baobab trees, rolling savanna and acacia park. It is famous for its dense population of wildlife, which is most impressive in the dry season between June and September. It is during this time that thousands of animals – wildebeest, zebra, eland, hartebeest, waterbuck, giraffe, impala, gerenuk, buffalo and oryx migrate from the dry Maasai steppe to the Tarangire River in search of water. The predators – lion, leopard and others – as usual in the savannah follow close behind. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot the odd tree-climbing python, kudu and roan antelope, a rare northern safari experience. Birds are also abundant here and over 550 species have been recorded.
Serengeti National Park is Africa’s most famous wildlife sanctuary and Tanzania’s largest national park. The park is located 6 hours by car from Arusha or one hour by air. It is located on a high plateau between the Ngorongoro Highlands and the Kenya/Tanzania border and almost touches Lake Victoria in the west. Aptly named ‘endless plains’ by the Maasai, it features short and long grass plains, acacia savannah and woodlands in parts of the north and east.
Within its 15,000 square kilometers, the Serengeti is home to 3 million large mammals. More than 35 species of common animals – zebra, wildebeest, eland, giraffe and more are found here. And so for the big five: elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros. The park is the staging area for one of the most spectacular events in the natural world – the annual wildflower migration. This starts around June when over 1 million wildebeest, zebras and gazelles head to the Maasai Mara in Kenya in search of pasture. Next are the predators of the savannah, the cheetah, the wild dog, the jackal, the hyena and the vultures.
If you can spare the money, watching the migration from above a balloon is an unforgettable experience. The best time to see the game is from December to May when the grass is short. Avoid late June-October when most of the animals will have been cleared by migration and are best seen in the adjacent Maasai Mara in Kenya. The keen ornithologist will have a good time trying to see the 500 species of birds that have been recorded.
Camping sites are located in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and in all the national parks of the northern circuit. The facilities are quite basic and this is where budget travelers prefer to spend their nights on safari. If you can afford it, stay overnight in luxury safari lodges and tented camps. In this category of accommodation, expect to find all the amenities associated with nominal accommodation. You can check online some of the Tanzania hotels and guesthouses that are available for your safari.
It is generally recommended that you take an escort Tanzania safari package which includes transport, guide, park and accommodation costs. The guides have valuable local knowledge about the animals, where to find them and how to get where you are going. But if you know the country well and have a good knowledge of the animals, then renting a car in Tanzania is an option.
The relatively high altitude in northern Tanzania means it never gets too hot. Indeed, the nights and early mornings can be quite chilly. We advise you to bring a heavy sweater and a windbreaker or jacket. Average temperatures are expected to range from 15°C in May to August and 22°C in December to March. The weather is best between June and September, but don’t bet on seeing animals in the Serengeti. For a safari that covers all the parks of northern Tanzania, September to March is a good time. But remember that some of the other parks in the area offer game viewing opportunities almost year-round. April and May can be a challenging time to go on safari because it is when the weather is rainiest.
On safari, brightly colored clothing can get you into trouble with wild animals. If you are wise, you will pack brown, beige and khaki clothes. Short-sleeved shirts, shorts and trousers for men are sufficient. For ladies, short-sleeved tops, trousers and skirts are ideal. Although the northern region is well outside the predominantly Muslim coasts and ladies do not need to dress
Very conservatively, modest clothing is still a good idea. Remember to bring a pair of sunglasses to protect you from the sometimes harsh tropical glare. Binoculars will go a long way
convenient for tracking animals.
Copyright © Africa Point
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