A General Overview of Tanzania
Imagine an undiscovered country. A land of wide open spaces and magnificent wildlife, of idyllic palm- fringed islands set in turquoise seas, of explorers’ tales and sultans’ palaces, of a warm and hospitable people. Imagine Tanzania, where you can rediscover the wild, romantic Africa of your dreams, where you can relive all the enchantment of an ageless continent while still enjoying all the comforts and luxuries of modern life. Tanzania is to the wildlife enthusiast the Africa of our imagination. Boasting over 95,000 square miles of reserves, Tanzania is one of the best game viewing countries in Africa. From Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, to Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa, visitors will find a country with vast and breathtaking vistas. The complete African safari experience is truly represented in game reserves and national parks such as the Serengeti, the annual setting of the wondrous wildebeest migration; Ngorongoro Crater, the unique, biodiverse amphitheatre; Selous Game Reserve, the vast and least well known park, and the amazing array of birdlife at Lake Manyara. East Africa has also been called the cradle of mankind. Early hominid footprints which date back an estimated 3.5 million years were discovered at Laetoli in Tanzania and a 1.7 million year old Zinjanthropus boisei skull was found at Olduvai Gorge. And not to be forgotten are the “Spice Islands” off Tanzania’s coast, collectively known as Zanzibar. Welcome to Tanzania, unsurpassed Africa.
Located within the Ngorongoro Conservation area is the Olduvai Gorge. It was here that Dr. Louis Leakey discovered the remains of Homo habilis or “Handyman” regarded as mankind’s first step on the ladder of evolution. But many more fossils have been discovered here including those of prehistoric elephants, giant horned sheep and enormous ostriches
Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest free standing mountain in the world, so can truly be regarded as the roof of Africa. “As wide as all the world, great, high and unbelievably white,” was Ernest Hemingway’s description of this majestic site. Its outstanding features are its three major volcanic centers, Shira in the west, Mawenzi in the east and the snowcapped Kibo in the middle. To climb Mount Kilimanjaro, at 19,340 feet, is a highlight for many fit adventurers. Hikers pass through zones of forest, alpine and semi-desert before reaching its snowcapped peak. There are several routes to the top, ranging from 5 -10 days, all led by experienced guides and porters. The best time of the year to climb Mount Kilimanjaro is mid-December to mid-March. During this time, the sky is clear, the days are mostly sunny and the view of the mountain is good. Alternatively, the period from mid-July to the end of September is also suggested. During these months, most of the days are cloudy but pleasant with no rains. Otherwise the mountain is open throughout the year.
Serengeti Game Reserve
Largest of Tanzania’s national parks, and arguably Africa’s premier game park, the Serengeti is the setting for the most awesome wildlife spectacle on earth. Each year, more than two million wildebeest and zebra begin their great circular migration across the open plains and acacia woodlands. Huge columns of advancing zebras and ungainly wildebeest stretch as far as the eye can see with the predators following alongside. In their wake follow the predators: lion, cheetah and hunting dogs with vultures circling overhead. Serengeti means “endless plains” in the Masai language and within its boundaries are more than three million large mammals. The extensive grasslands are interspersed with “Kopjes”, islands of rocky outcrops which are home to their own wildlife communities which include leopard and hyrax to name a few. Other common species found here are hippo, giraffe, eland, impala and other antelope, baboons, monkeys and a profusion of almost 500 birds. The Serengeti will leave the visitor with images of vastness and breathtaking beauty.
The Ngorongoro Crater, at 2,286 meters above sea level, is the largest unbroken caldera in the world. Millions of years ago, Ngorongoro may have rivaled Kilimanjaro in size, but as its volcanic activity subsided, it collapsed inward, forming a caldera. Surrounded by very steep walls rising 610 meters from the crater floor, this natural amphitheatre covers an area of about 100 square miles, and is home to some 25,000 larger mammals, almost half of them zebra and wildebeest. The Crater is an African paradise and haven for lion, elephant, hyena, gazelle, buffalo, eland, hartebeest, warthog and some of the last remaining rhino in Tanzania. More than 100 species of birds not found in the Serengeti have been spotted here. The Crater’s lake is home to thousands of flamingo, which carpet the area with the glow of their pink plumage. The Crater has been declared a World Heritage Site. Nearby, in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, are the famous archaeological sites of Laetoli and Olduvai Gorge, allowing the visitor a glimpse into our own past. And the pastoral Masai can be seen tending their herds of cattle, sheep and goats in their colorful and traditional dress.
As you approach Lake Manyara National Park, the Rift Valley escarpment looms on the eastern horizon forming an impressive backdrop to the lake. Nestling at the base of the Great Rift Valley escarpment the park is noted for its incredible beauty. The mosaic of the Park’s varying habitats is easily seen: the rift wall, the ground water forest, acacia woodlands, open grassland, the lake shore, swamp and the lake itself. Visitors are likely to see lion, oftentimes resting up in the acacia trees, zebra, elephants, waterbuck, hippo, baboon, and a large variety of bird life. It is difficult to imagine a more spectacular setting on the edge of the Mto Wa Mbu escarpment, overlooking the Great Rift Valley and the stunning Manyara soda lake. Tree climbing lions are but one lure. The extraordinary birdlife has made this place world-renowned among ornithologists, who come to observe the masses of pink flamingos and birds of prey.
Tarangire National Park
Tarangire National Park gets its name from the river that threads its way through the length of the reserve. The Reserve supports a great diversity of wildlife, including giraffe, buffalo, lesser kudu, eland, oryx, zebra and the predators. Unusually large herds of elephant inhabit this sanctuary, while majestic baobab trees dwarf the animals that feed beneath them. Wide panoramas of open acacia woodland and grassy savanna studded with large baobab trees mark Tarangire, a lesser-known scenic gem located in southern Masai land. In the dry season months from June-October, huge herds of elephant and other big game species move peacefully toward the blue gleam of Tarangire’s namesake river. Fringe-eared oryx and lesser kudu are among the unique resident species and lions are common. Tarangire is also heralded as an ornithologist’s paradise. For a fascinating cultural experience we encourage you to participate in the tribe visits and walks.
Arusha National Park
Arusha is the gateway to most safari destinations in Tanzania. Arusha is approximately 30 miles from Kilimanjaro International Airport and sits at an altitude of some 4100 feet above sea level. The town is at the base of Mount Meru and is a wonderfully fertile area producing coffee, wheat, sisal and maize. Just a short distance from the town of Arusha is the Arusha National Park, which was described by Sir Julian Huxley as “a gem amongst parks”. It consists of three spectacular features, the Momela Lakes, Meru Crater and the Ngurdoto Crater. On clear days magnificent views of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru can be seen from almost any part of the park. The vegetation and wildlife varies with the topography, which ranges from forest to swamp. The park is famous for its 400 species of birdlife, both migrant and resident, and the black and white colobus monkey. Other animals frequently seen are baboon, elephant, giraffe, buffalo, hippo, leopard, hyena and a wide range of antelope. Because of its proximity to Arusha, it is an ideal park for a day excursion.
Selous Game Reserve
Experience the Tanzania southern wilderness in Selous Game Reserve, less than an hour by light aircraft from Dar es Salaam. Remote and wild, Selous offers a variety of exclusive and professionally run safari options; by foot, boat or vehicle. The Selous Game Reserve is Africa's biggest protected wildlife area that extends 150km into Mozambique. This is the highlight of Tanzania's southern safari circuit. The Rufiji River flows through the reserve attracting great herds of Tanzania's great elephant population and allows visitors to experience the reserve by boat. It is said that this reserve hosts Africa's biggest elephant and wild dog populations, attracted to the tranquillity of the park and the water supplied by the rivers and lakes. July to October could be pin-pointed as the best time of year to visit the Selous, as it is a classic dry season destination. The wildlife congregate at the water sources and put on a great game-viewing performance.
Mahale Mountains Gorilla Park
The remote and magnificent Mahale Mountains National Park is situated 300 km down the eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika and is the home to the world's largest known population of chimpanzees; without a doubt one of the most beautiful national parks in Tanzania. Mahale Mountains National Park is only accessible via fly-in safari or private motor boat. The remoteness of this park is the very reason the chimpanzee population is still so unaffected by human familiarity. Most guests will see the chimpanzees at least once in a 3-4 day stay; however, sightings cannot always be guaranteed. Whilst chimps could be right behind the camp one day, the next they could be high in the mountains. This is a unique landscape whereby the mountainous land is covered in rainforest right up until the beach front. Accommodations are located on these secluded beaches and are a mere walking distance from the shoreline of Lake Tanganyika