I have returned from a whirlwind trip of Northern Tanzania with a renewed enthusiasm for this diverse destination!
I first visited this area in 2006 on a group educational visiting the highlights of the Northern circuit – the Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara and Serengeti. Honestly, it was never an area that blew me away back then. I found the industry quite mainstream with large, impersonal lodges which were reasonable quality, but over-priced and limited options for more authentic safari camps.
However, the industry has definitely evolved over the last several years and every time I have returned, there have been new properties and wilderness areas opening up offering a lot more diversity.
This trip, I focussed on the Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire and northern Serengeti. There have been quite a few exciting properties open for which I was keen to visit. I purposely planned by trip at the beginning of the high season with the hope of getting a glimpse of the famous wildebeest migration.
I started in the Ngorongoro Crater and spent my first night on the rim at Nomad’s Entamanu Camp. Wow – what a location! With spectacular views, easy access to the Senato descent road into the Crater and an incredible sense of remoteness, this camp offers the best of both worlds on the rim. The camp is tented and it can be freezing on the crater as well as windy, so you are exposed to the elements. However, the cold and noisy tents blowing in the wind are forgiven by the view and sense of wilderness. The central mess tent is home to a cosy fire and if you wish, a glass of red, which coupled with the warm Tanzanian hospitality and opportunity to be one of the first in the crater makes it a real gem.
I drove around the crater rim visiting several properties before descending into the remote highlands. As you drive through the rolling hills and Maasai villages, it really does give you a wonderful wilderness and cultural experience. I spent a night at The Highlands which is a good 45 minutes from the crater, but easily accessible as a day trip. What excited me about this area is the opportunity to explore on foot either with a hike up Olmoti Crater or travel further afield to Empakai where you can walk along the rim and into the crater with breath-taking views. This area also offers excellent and genuine cultural opportunities visiting one of the local villages giving you a great insight into local Maasai life.
I didn’t actually go into the crater on the trip, but the beauty of this area is that wildlife is never far away. On a morning transfer around the rim, I was treated to a leopard crossing the road right in front of us before posing elusively amongst the foliage.
Leaving the highlands and freezing cold behind me, I descended the crater past Lake Manyara and through the highlands south-east to Tarangire National Park. This park has always been a favourite of mine, with its panoramic views dotted with impressive baobab trees and wilderness edge.
I spent two nights visiting several different camps and enjoying fantastic wildlife in between. If you are an elephant lover, this park should definitely be on your list. The Salale Swamp offers what feels like a paradise for large herds of elephants, as well as other animals, in the heat of the day. The incredible Tanzania hospitality as usual was at its best during my stay at Kichuguu Camp in the park. England made it to the world cup quarter finals during my stay and the staff were only too happy for me to join them back of house to enjoy the game (and England won)!
Next stop – Serengeti. The flight to the Serengeti always blows me away, travelling above the rolling hills of the highlands and the Ngorongoro Crater, before descending over the short grass plains of the vast Serengeti, it is simply breath-taking.
I spent four nights in the northern Serengeti. The landscape is breath-taking with rolling hills, rocky outcrops, open plains and the Mara River snaking it way through to Lake Victoria. I had hoped that I would catch the famous wildebeest herds who had consistently been in this area by mid-July for the last ten years. Unfortunately, this year, with late and heavy rain, the herds were still south in the western corridor – disappointing for those who had been promised the migration, but a lesson to all that wildlife is never guaranteed!
That said I still had an incredible time in the area enjoying the excellent resident wildlife – lions, cheetah, eland, giraffe, topi, elephants, crocodiles, hippo and a leopard to name a few! I first visited the northern Serengeti around 10 years ago and back then there was only one or two permanent lodges and handful of seasonal camps. This area has become increasingly busy with several mobile camps and permanent lodges opening over the last decade, but with its sheer vastness – you can still get an amazing sense of space and wilderness.
I of course visited several camps and lodges during my four days and was impressed with the overall diversity of accommodation from mid-range camps to luxury lodges. The Nomad Camps always deliver whether it’s their simple mobile camp to more luxurious Lamai Camp, they just get it right.
A stand out for me from my time in the Serengeti is without a doubt the Alex Walker Serian Camps. They have two mobile camps in the northern Serengeti (one soon to be permanent). Both have superb locations just minutes the Mara River and any wildebeest crossing action (if you are lucky)! Alex Walker believes in ‘old school’ safari – comfortable bed, good bucket shower, home-cooked food, cold beer or gin & tonic and most importantly quality guiding and wildlife experience. Every booking at Serian has their own vehicle, guide and tracker giving you great flexibility. The tents are simple, but have everything you need. Meals are hosted by Alex himself or one of his team. The food is simple fair but hearty. Their passion for the wildlife and wilderness is infectious and you leave their camp not just having been on safari, but on an adventure!
During Michele’s visit to Tanzania she stayed at Entamanu Ngorongoro, The Highlands, Kuro Tarangire, Kichuguu Camp, Olakira Camp, Serian Serengeti Mobile Lamai, Serengeti Safari Camp, KasKaz Mara Camp.
Michele visited Rivertrees Country Inn, Machweo House, The Manor at Ngorongoro, Kirurumu Ngorongoro Pakulala Camp, Sanctuary Ngorongoro Crater Camp, Ndovu Camp, Lemala Mpingo Ridge Lodge, Swala Camp, Kati Kati Tented Camp, Lamai Serengeti, Lemala Mobile Camp, Chaka Camp, Legendary Serengeti Camp, Serengeti North Wilderness Camp, Serian Serengeti North Camp, Kimondo Camp, Singita Lamai and Nasikia Mobile Migration Camp.