SAFARI IN THE SERENGETI, ANYONE?
Africafe… you know it as a good ol’ cup of coffee. In Tanzania, Africafe, is available everywhere. Knockback a couple of these on the first morning of your Tanzanian safari and we’re good to go. You might notice you’re referred to as a ‘wazungu’, the Swahili word for a foreigner or a traveler who ‘circles around.’ Don’t take offense to it. Think of it as a compliment Good. Now that we’ve got introductions out of the way, let’s explore what some say is the quintessential and definitive African country of your dreams. The list of tantalizing Tanzanian travel destinations is ridiculously long: Serengeti, Zanzibar, Mount Kilimanjaro, the Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Victoria, the Rift Valley, the Cradle of Mankind, Lake Victoria, Olduvai Gorge, the list goes on. Vast plains dotted with an abundance of wildlife are the location of half of the yearly migration, hundreds of thousands of herd animals amble through, stopping to have their babies and graze, followed closely by the predators that hunt them. Tanzania is sure to be featured at the top of your African safari bucket list. You’ll experience an indelible kind of warmth here, and we’re not just talking about the temperature. In her book, Peace Like a Monkey and Other Tales from Life in Tanzania, Marya K. Plotman shares the following, “… I missed the human warmth. Tanzanian culture is sunny; the concept of a bad hair day or being grumpy simply doesn’t exist. The norm of good humor was good for me, driving my inner cynic deep underground. I missed warm greetings in the morning; lingering, drawn-out conversations that no one wants to leave …” If you think of Africa as a clock, Tanzania sits between 3 and 4. Its neighbor to the north is Kenya, to the south is Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique, and to the east, the Indian Ocean. Hardly a dead-end street! Oh, and for your pleasure, included are the islands of Zanzibar, Mafia (!) and Pemba. Stellar maritime experiences await you and yours. And yes, you’ll still find pristine coral reefs in this neck of the woods or rather, the ocean. Note to self: Tanzania has more square meters (over a quarter of the country) devoted to national parks and game reserves – decidedly more than any other wildlife destination in the whole wide world. So if you’re feeling spoilt for choice now, just wait until you’re surrounded by the innumerable ecosystems Tanzania maintains. In this world of environmental pleas by Richard Attenborough, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Greta Thunberg it’s good to know Tanzania’s reserves and parks are increasingly protected by government law and placed in trust for generations to come. Tanzania certainly is the land of safaris, and because of the country’s vast expanses, you can easily escape from the crowds. This seaside country used to play second fiddle to Kenya, but nowadays the number of visitors has increased as the country’s infrastructure and tourist facilities have been given an overhaul. SERENGETI – A MESMERIZING SENSE OF SHEER SPACE Serengeti or ‘endless plain’, as it’s dubbed in the Masai language, is magical simply because of its pristine naturalness. There are 15,000 square km (5,791 square mi) of this World Heritage site and International Biosphere Reserve to enjoy. This is the real deal when it comes to animals who roam the endless plains with misty mountains in the distance. It’s a wonderfully humbling experience to go on a safari in this national park. SERENGETI SIGHTINGS Yes, the Big Five are all present in Tanzania (book that flight asap!). You’ll be amazed by the wealth of wildlife, and by the end of your trip, you’re sure to be privy to the spectacular migrations that take place in one of the most famous savanna regions in the world. Tanzania is known for its wildebeest migration – the biggest mass movement of land animals on Earth. Hundreds of thousands of these animals cross over this mighty game park from June to August, creating a spectacular scene. What’s fascinating is that the whole of the Serengeti ecosystem depends on the migration – there are felines, hyena, and birds of prey that feast on the young and weak. If that isn’t enough to make you zoom your lens in, picture the eyes and ears of a crocodile sticking out from the surface of the water as it lies waiting in anticipation at a river crossing. Plains animals are there in ridiculous numbers – both giraffe and gazelle. If you’re lucky, you may witness in-person a scene right out of a nature documentary. SPOILT FOR CHOICE, YES, BUT WHICH ANIMALS ARE WHERE? The Serengeti has them all, as do numerous other Tanzanian parks. Ngorongoro Crater is lovingly referred to as a wildlife Eden. Aptly so. Zebra graze lazily on its rim, there is an abundance of lion, flamingos get to do all things flamingo-like, and the endangered black rhinoceros is also found within. As well as Ngorongoro Crater, plan your journey so that your safari guide takes you to Tarangire. It’s known for its enormous elephant herds. The remote Selous game reserve, too, is known for elephants, as well as thousands of lion, cheetah, hippo, black rhino and many of Africa’s last wild dogs. They can all be are often sighted here and in Ruaha National Park. At the vast Ruaha National Park you can see all those animals, but that’s not all. You’ll sight buffalo, sable and roan antelope, elephants and an abundance of birdlife. The rainforests of Mahale and Gombe in western Tanzania are the home to chimpanzees and colobus monkeys in their last wild habitat, ready to be witnessed and captured on film. AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE … BLISS The fact is, nature abounds in this gem of Africa. To help you plan your safari, here are our recommendations for extraordinary Tanzanian Game Parks. Let’s face it; it’s not often one simply ‘hops over to Africa’, so make it count. The Northern Circuit, including the Serengeti National Park, takes best actor award in the game reserve category. Included in the Northern Circuit is the Ngorongoro, a game reserve with a large concentration of game located inside the rim of an extinct volcano. The sheer number of game in the crater is mind-blowing. Almost every would-be safari-goer wants to visit the crater, and rightly so; it is often called the Eighth Wonder of the World. The Biosphere Reserve within it accommodates both the traditional Maasai communities and safari-goers. Believed to have formed two million years ago, the crater harbors an astonishing series of landscapes – forests, peaks, craters, valleys, rivers, lakes and plains. It’s actually a collapsed volcano. The original volcano – some say it might have been higher than Kilimanjaro – collapsed in on itself over an extensive period of time and at present day, forms a perfect basin. Once you’re inside, you’ll have the feeling that’s you’re standing on the base of a deep soup bowl with a very steep side. It is wonderfully surreal. The second game viewing area in Tanzania is called the Southern Circuit, which is home to the infamous Selous Game Reserve. The Southern Circuit is a good alternative to the Northern Circuit if you wish to get off the beaten track and see Tanzania at a slower pace. There are over a dozen national parks including the Serengeti, Lake Manyara, Gombe Stream, Ruaha, Selous, Katavi, and Mount Kilimanjaro in the Southern Circuit. Plus, there are many private reserves and concessions too, and worry not, there’s something to suit every taste and budget. Luxury lodges abound, as do mobile tented camps, giving the safari-goer an excellent choice either way. THE MIGHTY MAASAI The Maasai are semi-nomadic people from northern Tanzania whose unique customs and dress have captivated safari-goers throughout history. The pastoral Maasai move throughout the year and subsist almost entirely on the meat, blood, and milk of their herds. A typical Serengeti scene (and a gem, if you are lucky enough to come across it while on safari) is a wide savanna peppered with baobab trees and an earthen, circular Maasai boma – their home, generally constructed from materials they found in their surroundings: mud, sticks, grass and cow dung. I’M SITTING ON THE TOP OF KILIMANJARO! A dormant volcano in the northern region, Mount Kilimanjaro stands at 5 895 m (19,341 ft) and is Africa’s tallest mountain. Often considered one of the most accessible big-mountain climbs, about 35,000 people attempt to reach its summit, Uhuru Peak, annually. Kili is one of the closest points in the world to the sun. This majestic peak has mesmerized many, hence varying interpretations on the origin of its name: Mountain of Greatness. Mountain of Caravans and Impossible Journey. Lovely stuff. A FINE DAY TO GO ON SAFARI Tanzania is near the equator and in the Southern Hemisphere. Its coastal areas are humid while the central plateau is rather dry with less precipitation. There are two quite distinctive seasons in this ecosystem – a dry one and a wet one. If you want to get to the nitty-gritty, there are three, really, with the ‘long rains’ (February to April) and ‘short rains’ (November/December) with a slightly drier patch in between. BEST TIME TO VISIT TANZANIA ON SAFARI? A vast country with much regional change in its geography and climate, the question of when to go on safari depends on what it is that you want to experience. The long rainy season is considered low season, but April/May makes for a wonderfully lush and uncrowded visit. It is, unfortunately, peak mosquito season with a higher risk of malaria. The dry season, from June to September is considered peak season for game-viewing. Yes, choosing when in the year you want to travel is an important decision, but no matter what month or season you choose for your safari, you are sure to have an unforgettable trip. So book your trip and go have an adventure!