One of the most impressive sights in northern Tanzania has to be the large and imposing peaks of Mt Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru as you approach Kilimanjaro Airport. Seeing these two magnificent mountains poking through the clouds in the early morning is a magical way to start the day!
After landing, we travelled through the bustling town of Arusha which provides a wonderful snapshot into everyday African life – busy streets filled with markets, hotels, restaurants, school children and traffic!
From here we then drove a couple of hours west on to Tarangire National Park, famous for its large herds of elephant and beautiful baobab trees. This was my first visit to Tarangire and I was excited to see what the park had to offer. Well, I was not disappointed! I stopped counting elephant at around 350! We saw so many different herds, and they were clearly thriving with lots of young in the groups.
The giant baobab trees too presented a stunning sight. These ancient trees have a very distinctive swollen trunk with an enormous circumference and provide a wonderful backdrop to a very beautiful park. The Silale swamp is another impressive aspect of the park and it changes in colour from blue, green and yellow with the ever-changing light. The swamp also attracts large numbers of animals and we spotted plenty of ostrich, waterbuck, mongoose, zebra and giraffe along the foreshore.
From Tarangire we travelled to the nearby private Chem Chem concession located between Lake Manyara and Tarangire. I stayed at Chem Chem Safari Lodge, a luxurious yet relaxed lodge set in a stunning location with distant views of the Lake Manyara escarpment. On my afternoon game-drive we spotted a juvenile male lion and his shy sister just 10 minutes from camp! They were waiting patiently whilst there mother was out hunting. Later, I was absolutely delighted to hear lions roaring around camp as I sat down for an exceptional dinner of my own.
From Chem Chem we drove through Lake Manyara National Park which lies at the foot of the Ngorongoro Highlands in the Great Rift Valley. Whilst we didn’t see any ‘tree-climbing’ lions, we saw plenty of water birds on the lake including flamingo, stork, sacred ibis and cormorants, as well as large herds of buffalo, zebra and a troupe of baboons of over 100 individuals! Manyara also has different vegetational areas, so you drive through forest, grasslands, marshlands as well as around the lake – it really is a charming park, and well worth including on a northern Tanzania itinerary.
Driving up the escarpment from Manyara we passed through many small villages as we headed towards the famous Ngorongoro Highlands and Crater. The view from the crater rim can only be described as staggering beautiful! Travelling in early March meant there are had been some light showers, and the crater was a wonderful mossy green colour, while the escarpment was almost an inky blue. The clouds rolled over the rim and were reflected in the Crater Lake making it a truly mystical view! In addition to its natural beauty, the Ngorongoro Crater is also home to the big-5 and provides an incredible wildlife experience making it an extremely popular destination. Having come through more exclusive areas (Tarangire and Chem Chem) I was a little concerned about the numbers of vehicles we would see. Whilst there were many vehicles in the crater, it did not detract from the experience and I thought early March was a superb time to visit.
We then drove further west, descending from the highlands onto the southern Serengeti plains to arrive at the much more exclusive game-viewing area around Kakesio. At this time of year, this area is home to the wildebeest migration who have congregated in their millions to calve. In the evening as we were eating dinner, a huge herd of wildebeest ran through camp – the cacophony of stampeding hooves was very exciting! I also had the opportunity to do a short guided bush walk to a lovely sundowner spot overlooking Lake Eyasi and was rewarded with another incredible view. Walking through the bush really keeps your senses alive and for me, I seem to appreciate the environment even more. I stayed at Serian’s Serengeti South camp, from where you can also do extended walks using adventurous fly-camps each night. Alas I did not have time for it on this occasion .. perhaps next time.
We travelled north and entered the Serengeti National Park staying in the southern area. The vast, open plains and huge herds of herbivores is truly an iconic African scene and this area was rich in wildlife. I was particularly enchanted with Namiri Plains, dotted with massive kopjes (rocky outcrops) which provided perfect vantage points for lion to sleep or survey the savannah.
This was a fantastic trip exploring northern Tanzania’s most famous highlights. The beginning of March was a great time to be on safari with fewer vehicles and tourists. Short thunderstorm bursts had turned the areas green making the scenery extremely picturesque and helping to cool the daily temperatures – a lovely time to travel!
Julia stayed at: Oliver’s Camp, Chem Chem Lodge, Entamanu Ngorongoro, The Highlands, Serian Serengeti South Camp, Serengeti Migration Camp, Kirurumu Serengeti Ndutu Camp, Namiri Plains, Olakira Camp, Serengeti Safari Camp and Gibbs Farm
Julia visited: Rivertrees Country Inn, Kuro Tarangire, Lake Manyara Tree Lodge, Kirurumu Ngorongoro Pakulala Camp, Ngorongoro Serena, Serian Serengeti Mobile Kusini, Ubuntu Camp, Kimondo Camp, Chaka Camp, Wayo Camp, Ndutu Safari Lodge, Lake Masek Tented Camp, &Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Neptune Ngorongoro Luxury Lodge, Ngorongoro Farm House, The Plantation Lodge, The Manor at Ngorongoro, Kitela Lodge, Kirurumu Manyara Lodge, Lake Manyara Serena Lodge, Legendary Coffee Lodge, Arusha Coffee Lodge, Onsea House, Machweo House and KIA Lodge.