On Safari in Northern Tanzania ? Back to The Sixth Day of the Creation

Tanzania's natural endowment as a wildlife safari destination is unrivalled. Wild animals roam in vast areas as God intended on that sixth day of the creation. These areas are designated as national parks and game reserves and have a high reputation for being uncrowded and unspoilt. The magnificent collection of game sanctuaries to 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 finest game viewing areas anywhere in the world.

The game aside, the spectacularly diverse cluster of eco-systems and habitats is a dazzling experience for many a visitor. 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 complementing the two are the other members of the circuit: Arusha, Tarangire and Lake Manyara. In terms of wildlife, the abundance and diversity of the wildlife here is difficult to imagine.

On top of the heap are the highly regarded "big five": elephant, buffalo, rhino, leopard and lion. And then a wild array of plain animals: wildebeest, zebra, eland, hartebeest, oryx, reedbuck, giraffe, Thompson gazelle, and many more of the same genre. But do not forget the merciless predators: cheetah, wild dog, jackal, hyena and vultures. The Northern Circuit is an ornithologist's paradise too, and over 500 species of birds are on record. On safari, you will be a witness of the shocking and fascinating dance of life and death on daily play by this combination of animals.

The starting point for northern safaris is usually Arusha town. The town sits near the base of Mount Meru and is in sight of mighty Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain. From Arusha, the nearest protected area to see wildlife is Arusha National Park, just 32 km away. In this park of 137 sq km area, you will see baboon, colobus and vervet monkeys, duikers, elephant, buffalo, giraffe, hippo, leopard, hyena, zebra and a wide range of antelopes. More than 400 species of birds have been recorded, including Eurasian migrants, who visit between October and April. One of the unique attractions of the park is that walking safaris are allowed and you can get off your vehicle for a nature walk. Due to its proximity to Arusha, the park is very popular for day trips.

Wildlife aside, Arusha National Park is a treasure with a rich tapestry of habitats including grassland, montane forest, heath and alpine desert and soda and fresh water lakes. Three spectacular features stand out: the Momela Lakes, Mount Meru, and Ngurdoto Crater. Mount Meru stands at 4,575 m and is Africa's fourth highest mountain. It is however overshadowed by nearby Kilimanjaro, which rises above it by over 1300 m. It is regrettable that the snobbish instinct of many climbers makes them to overlook Mt Meru. The mountain can be scaled in three to four days with overnight accommodation in alpine huts.

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve, is located in the Great Rift Valley ? that monumental fracture of the earths crust. The area is filled with volcanoes, mountains, plains, lakes and forests. Covering 8,288 sq km, its main features are the Ngorongoro Crater, the Empakai crater, the Oldonyo Lengai Mountain and the archeological site of Olduvai Gorge. Olduvai Gorge is the prehistoric site where Dr. Louis Leakey discovered the remains of Homo habilis ("Handy man") regarded by scientists as mankind's first step on the path of human evolution. Be sure to have a look at the remains of our worthy predecessor, whose valiant industry spurred by necessity, got him making simple stone tools.

Unlike in the national parks, the colorful Maasai people, their livestock and wildlife coexist within the conservation area. The Ngorongoro Crater is the largest caldera in the world that has its walls intact. The crater floor is a drop of 600 m and covers an area of 260 sq km with a diameter of 19 km. This magnificent natural amphitheatre is a stunning attraction in its own right and is one of the wonders of the natural world. The crater supports a year round resident population of a variety of wildlife. You will have no trouble spotting lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and many species of plain animals- wildebeest, zebra, reedbuck, Thompson gazelle and many more. The crater floor is dotted with watering holes and holds almost 30,000 wild animals. Ngorongoro is four hours by road from Arusha or one hour by air. And from either Lake Manyara or Tarangire you will be on the road for two hours.

Lake Manyara National Park spreads between the cliff of the Great Rift Valley and Lake Manyara, a shallow soda lake. The park covers 330 sq. km, 70% of which is occupied by the lake. The varied ecosystem consists of ground water forests, acacia woodland and open grassland along the lakeshore and sustains a wealth of wildlife, including the Big Five -lion, elephant, leopard, rhino and buffalo. Other animals to be seen in the park include baboons, impala, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, ostrich and hippo.

Lake Manyara is famous for the elusive tree-climbing lions, which can occasionally be seen along the branches of the acacia trees. It is also an ornithologists' paradise and is host to over 400 species of birds. The water birds hovering around the lake include pelicans, spoonbills, Egyptian geese and hammerkops. In addition, migratory flamingoes arrive in hundreds of thousands creating a spectacular sight over the soda lake. You will arrive at Lake Manyara after driving from Arusha for two hours or flying for just half an hour.

Tarangire National Park is a one and half hour drive from Arusha making it very popular for day trips. Tarangire is a park of giant baobab trees, rolling savannah and acacia parkland. It is famous for its dense wildlife population, which is most spectacular in the dry season between June and September. It is during this period 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 is the custom in the savanna follow closely by. If lucky, you will spot the peculiar tree-climbing python, kudu and roan antelope, a rare experience in the northern safari circuit. 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 road from Arusha or one hour by air. It lies in a high plateau between the Ngorongoro highlands and the Kenya/Tanzania border and almost touches Lake Victoria in the west. Appropriately named "endless plains" by the Maasai people, it features short and long grass plains, acacia savanna and woodland in parts of the north and east.

Within its 15,000 sq km area, Serengeti hosts 3 million large mammals. More than 35 species of plain animals- zebra, wildebeest, eland, giraffe, and others are found here. And so for the big five: elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and rhino. The park is the staging-zone for one the most spectacular events in the natural world- the annual migration of wildebeest. This commences around June when over 1 million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle head for the Maasai Mara in Kenya in search of pasture. Following on their heels are the predators of the savanna- lion, cheetah, wild dog, jackal, hyena and vultures.

If you can spare the money, viewing the migration afloat a balloon is an unforgettable experience. The best time to view game is from December to May when the grass is short. Avoid late June-October, when most of the animals will have evacuated with the migration and are best seen in the adjacent Maasai Mara in Kenya. The keen ornithologist will have a good time trying to sight the 500 species of birds on record.

Camping sites can be found in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and all the national parks of the northern circuit. Facilities are pretty basic and this is where budget travelers prefer to spend their safari nights. If you can afford it, overnight at the luxury safari lodges and tented camps. In this class of accommodation expect to find all the creature comforts associated with rated accommodation. You can check online some of the Tanzania hotels and lodges available for your safari.

It is generally recommended to take an escorted Tanzania safari package that includes transport, guide, park fees and accommodation. Tour 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 good knowledge of animals, then self-drive car rental in Tanzania is an option.

The relatively high elevation in northern Tanzania means that it never gets too hot. Indeed the nights and early mornings can be quite chilly. You are well advised to take along a heavy sweater and a windbreaker or jacket. Expect temperatures to average from 15°C in May to August and 22°C over December to March. The weather is best between June and September, but do not bet on seeing any animals in the Serengeti. For a safari covering all the parks of northern Tanzania, September to March is a good time. But remember that some of the other parks in the region offer nearly year round game viewing opportunities. April and May can be a challenging period for doing a safari for it is when the weather is at its rainiest.

On safari, bright coloured clothing may get you in trouble with wild animals. If you are wise you will pack brown, beige and khaki clothing. Short sleeve shirts, shorts and trouser for men are adequate. For ladies, short sleeve blouses, slacks and skirts are ideal. Though the northern region is well outside the predominantly Muslim coast areas and ladies do not have to dress too conservatively, modest attire is still a good idea. Remember to bring along a pair of sunglasses to shield you from the sometimes harsh tropical glare. Binoculars will come in very handy for spotting animals.

Copyright © Africa Point

Andrew Muigai is editor of AfricaPoint Insider online newsletter. It is part of Africa Point - the Africa travel website that has helped thousands of travelers discover Africa. You can view more info on Tanzania safari and tours at the website.

Camping For Fun

Camping for fun is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and relax. But before... Read More

Camping - Get Those Tents Up!

Have you ever thought you might like to try a totally different vacation? Is the... Read More

New Technologies in Camping and Outdoor Clothing Enhance the Outdoor Experience

Camping is an excellent way to explore and experience the outdoors. The weather needn't be... Read More

You Might Be An Ultralight Backpacker If...

If you you find yourself saying "Hey, that's a good idea," to more than one... Read More

How Are Minerals Formed?

HOW ARE MINERALS FORMED?MINERALS are naturally occuring, inorganic solids, with a characteristic chemical composition, having... Read More

Drive Me to WA Today!

Western Australia Driving Adventure Great Australian Road Trip Large is not the word for... Read More

River Rafting in Washington State

The great state of Washington offers some of the best white-water rafting in the entire... Read More

Ultralight Backpacks - The Lightest

Why ultralight backpacks? Devotees of ultralight backpacking know you reduce your packweight most by concentrating... Read More

Bicycling Down The River

My river-rafting adventure started on a bicycle. The small daypack I wore carried a hatchet,... Read More

Student Travel ? Backpacking In Europe

For the fortunate few, life isn't complete without a backpacking trip through Europe. This right... Read More

Shark Attacks! How Common are They? Where do They Occur?

Last week in Australia, one man's day at beach could have turned into a disaster:... Read More

Backyard Camping Trip

Are your kids begging you to take them camping, but you just can't find the... Read More

Disneyland for Hikers: A Walk to Mt. Whitney

Base camp sits at 12,000 feet - stark, windy, unshaded from the blazing August sun,... Read More

Safety Tips While Walking in the Spanish Countryside

Spring:Essential items when preparing for a walk-Compass-First aid kit - including an elastic bandage, gauze... Read More

Discover Knotts Berry Farm

Of course you know about Southern California's premier attraction, Disneyland in Anaheim, but did you... Read More

Penguin Parade

Phillip Island is a small island and nature reserve off the coast of South Australia,... Read More

Beach Vacation Photo Tips ? Make Your Vacation AND Photos Memorable

Most people, who go on a family beach vacation, take plenty of photographs. Once you're... Read More

Improving Your Aim

If your aim is not good, or is not quite what you want it to... Read More

Ultralight Backpacking Skills - A Three Day Test

On Lake Michigan, at the end of the Stonington Peninsula, there's a stretch of empty... Read More

Backpacking Trips - Ten Essential Items

I've had backpacking trips that included rain, snow, lightning, rockslides, altitude sickness, and twenty-mile days... Read More

Should You Buy a Used Inflatable Boat?

There are two types of used inflatable boats for sale ? those that have never... Read More

Whale Watching ? The Biggest Show on Earth

Whale watching is a spellbinding, entertaining, and thought-provoking adventure trip. It's a show with the... Read More

Why Should You Use Hiking Poles?

Why should you use hiking poles is perhaps the first question that may strike in... Read More

Code of Conduct for Outdoor Enthusiasts

My favorite outdoor related quote comes from John Muir, the father of our national park... Read More

Unforgettable White Mountains Vacations ? The Most Scenic 100 Miles in New England

This amazing drive through the White Mountains of New Hampshire has a gorgeous vista at... Read More

A Thumb Sketch Outline of Tanzania?s Attractions and National Parks

The Northern Circuit is probably Africa's most dramatic wildlife area. Game safaris never fail to... Read More

Wildebeest Migration - How To Get The Best Seats In The House

To get the most out of a wildebeest migration safari you need to know where... Read More

Tent and Outdoor Gear Care and Repair

TENT CAREYou should seal all floor seams and those seams on the rainfly. This will... Read More

Kayak Travel and Trips

If you love the thrill and adventure of kayak travel, the waters and lakes are... Read More

Protection from Lightning - Smart Strategies for Hikers and All Outdoor Enthusiasts

Prevention is your best protection against lightning. Be sure to check your local weather report... Read More

The Different Styles of Tents Available

The dictionary defines a tent as 'a portable shelter usually of canvas or other cloth... Read More

Experience The Real Florida

Every year around 40 million visitors come to Florida for the sun, sea and attractions.... Read More

Its an Alien World in Every River

When you look at a river, what do you see? A few flies on top?... Read More

Discount Lift Tickets - Learn what Colorado Ski Resorts Do Not Want You to Know!

How to get discount lift tickets for popular ski resorts in Colorado including Keystone, Breckenridge,... Read More

Dancing With Whales

We've all heard about whalewatching from boats or shore, and a few companies are now... Read More

Your Virgin Bushwalk

Isn't it time you stepped out of the concrete jungle and into a wilder world,... Read More

Going it Alone: The Waterfall at Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska

I stood at the observation point on the balcony at the Visitor Center overlooking the... Read More

Packing a Backpack - A Guide

With so many different designs, packing a backpack will vary considerably. Generally though, the key... Read More

Eight Tips For A Bug-Free Summer

(NC)-With approximately 42,000 mosquitoes for every person in Ontario, most of us spend a great... Read More

Take a Hiking Pole on Your Next Hike

It is the downhill ski racing competition of the winter Olympics. You watch a ski... Read More

A Hiking Guide to Easter Island

Ask me which Pacific island has the most to offer hikers and I'll probably answer... Read More

Greek Food

A meal in Greece is highlighted with a selection of hot and cold plates known... Read More

Kerala ? Holiday in Gods Own Country

Touted as one of the world's fifty destinations of a lifetime by the National Geographic,... Read More

Hiking Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park is the most popular park in the state. It has fantastic... Read More

River Rafting on the Salmon River

The beautiful Salmon River stretches through over 400 miles of Idaho. The legendary explorers Lewis... Read More

Hard Labor Creek State Park Earned Its Name

One afternoon during a trip across the country in our fifth wheel, we were racing... Read More

Ten African Safari Tips That You Must Know Before You Go

1. Take the early morning drives on safari even though that often means getting up... Read More

Yellowstone Camping In The Fall

Soon, the busy summer tourist season will be over in Yellowstone National Park. If you... Read More

How to Save Money AND help the planet

Don't all of us love to have the money to do the fun things that... Read More

Block Island ? Memorable Vacations Are Made of This

Block Island is a seaside jewel lying 12 miles off the southern coast of Rhode... Read More