Do you remember the first picture of Africa you saw when you were a kid? Vast, stretching plains of undulating yellow grass, broken only by flat-topped acacia trees and the odd strolling giraffe, all set beneath the dome of a perfect blue sky? Well here’s the good news – it really does exist. For the first time visitor to East Africa, Tanzania can guarantee immersion in the quintessential African landscape immortalised in a million films, album covers and cheap aftershave advertisements. The country has one of the most forward-thinking conservation policies in Africa, with an impressive 38% of the country given over to protected wilderness areas.
For the safarigoer, the country is divided into two distinct areas, or ‘circuits’. The Northern Tanzania Safari Circuit is the better known and most-visited of the two, consisting of the area surrounding the town of Arusha. The Northern Circuit’s main draw is the massive Serengeti ecosystem, encompassing the Ngorongoro Crater Highlands, which is one of the biggest remaining animal migration routes in the world. Also on the northern safari circuit are the lesser-known Tarangire, Arusha and Lake Manyara National Parks.
The Southern Tanzania Safari Circuit consists principally of the Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park. Both of these are wild, remote and harder to get to than the northern parks. But for the visitors who do make it to this area, the rewards are great – the landscape is very different from the northern parks and the species found here differ too, with some southern African mammals such as kudu being present alongside East African residents.
Even more remote than the Selous and Ruaha wilderness areas are Katavi and Mahale national parks in the ‘wild west’ of the country. Mahale, only accessible by boat, offers the chance to watch the wild chimpanzees that inhabit its dense forest. Katavi, by contrast, offers wide open plains full of huge herds of buffalo and antelope, alongside rivers heaving with hippos and crocs.
The Northern Circuit
Serengeti National Park
Siringitu in Maasai - 'the place where the land moves on forever.' Home of mankind’s first footprints and the spectacle of the Great Migration. One of the oldest ecosystems on earth. Waving golden grasses, flat-topped acacia trees, distant blue hills. Giraffes, lions, cheetah. How do you write about the Serengeti without using up every cliché in the Travel Writer’s Handbook? Perhaps in the words of author Alan Moorehead, in the introduction to his classic book ‘Serengeti Shall Not Die’ – “Anyone who can go to the Serengeti, and does not, is mad.”
But stay longer, come back again, and you’ll get to know the Serengeti the chocolate-boxes have missed. The dry, blackened hills of the Lobo region, studded with granite outcrops and burnt by a thousand grass fires. The sulphurous, muddied waters of a dam churned to midden by the frantic hooves of a million migrating wildebeest. A vulture perched in a dead tree, stark against a pale-blue sky, contemplating the flat, featureless short-grass plains of the long dry season. These are the harsher, less easily ticked off aspects of Africa’s most famous national park, but for the visitor with time enough to experience the full scope of the Serengeti, sights like these are none the less beautiful.
One thing is for certain – whether visiting the Serengeti for days, weeks or months, modern Tanzania has provided today’s travellers with a wealth of cutting-edge, luxurious and innovatively designed tanzania safari lodges and camps, all forming entirely different yet uniformly satisfying bases from which to explore the most famous wildlife area in the world.
Serengeti Wildlife Highlights - The Great Migration
During The Great Zebra and Wildebeest Migration in Tanzania, some 1.5 million Wildebeest and thousands of Zebra and Gazelles move across the plains, Grant’s and Thompson’s gazelle littering the plains and topi standing on termite mounds whilst scanning for danger. Predators are prolific in the Serengeti with Lions, Hyenas, Leopards and Cheetah commonly encountered.