Lake Manyara National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Serengeti National Park.
Met on arrival at Kilimanjaro airport by your guide and transferred to Arusha for the night.
Leave Arusha after breakfast initially heading south and then crossing the Great Rift Valley en route to Ngorongoro. En route visit Lake Manyara National Park – a fascinating place – very different to most of the other parks in the area in that it is a narrow strip of land sandwiched between the Great Rift escarpment and Lake Manyara itself. The springs at the base of the escarpment produce unique, lush groundwater forests, whilst the lakeshore offers open grazing. Whilst the park is famous for its tree climbing lions it is also home to large resident populations of elephant and giraffe. The freshwater stream feeding into the soda waters of the lake are a tremendous feeding ground for hundreds of birds from pelicans to flamingos as well as the favourite wallow of the hippo pods.
Leave Manyara late afternoon and continue on towards Ngorongoro. The route takes you through the rolling fertile foothills of Ngorongoro up to the gate of the Conservation Area. Once through the gate the scenery changes dramatically – the murram road threads its way up steep heavily wooded hills until finally bursting on to the crater rim. Enjoy spectacular views into the crater before continuing on around the rim and then onto the southern flank of the highlands – the heart of Maasai Country – to our Mysigio Camp.
African Environments have a luxury camp near Ngorongoro Crater. The camp is located about 20 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the main tourist highway in a grove of ancient acacia trees near Mysigio Village. Ole Dorop, a Maasai elder who has worked with African Environments for 15 years on walking safaris, is a fascinating character who is trying to lead his people along the narrow line between embracing the modern world (education, schooling, health and veterinary care) and preserving his unique culture. He speaks good English and is a fascinating guide to the area, and he will proudly show you his village and take you on walks in the surrounding hills, as well as sitting around the hot stove and talking about his life in Africa.
The Camp itself is made up of large sleeping tents made up as singles, twins or doubles; each with a ensuite shower and toilet, twin washbasins and a private veranda. There are separate Mess and Lounge tents, each with a wood burning stove. The Lounge tent is a wonderful place to relax, read books, play games or simply mull over the days experiences.
An early start for a full day exploring the Ngorongoro Crater. This amazing caldera is home to a large number of resident animals and it’s the perfect spot for those close up animal shots and watching the wildlife. Mid to late afternoon head back to the Camp, perhaps arriving in time to visit Ole Dorop’s village to see the cows coming home and being counted back into the safety of the ‘boma’ for the night, or perhaps to join in one of the many dancing festivals.
The day will be flexible but could include things like time in the local village where the Maasai live a very traditional lifestyle. Their circular huts are placed in family groups, with cattle and goats herded into enclosures in the village at night to protect them from leopards. This is a tremendous opportunity to visit a real village as opposed to one of the many show villages. Time to talk to the Maasai and learn about their lifestyle and why their culture has survived. Learn about the different roles and expectations of men and women, about the age sets and stages in the life of every Maasai. Discuss with them how they are adapting to the pressures of modern life, from the availability of veterinary services through to the impact of higher education on the young people. Perhaps a hike with a Maasai guide in the rolling hills surrounding the camp, reveling in the fantastic views of the Serengeti Plains. Take part in Maasai ceremonies and learn about the oral tradition of passing on their lore and values. For the more energetic a challenging hike up to the peaks and extinct volcanoes that dot the area.
Drive on to the Serengeti, game viewing as you cross the plains, perhaps stopping in at the Olduvai Gorge archaeological site on the way.
The Serengeti ecosystem is a vast area with no fences, including the plains of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area as well as the Serengeti National Park itself and home to the largest migration in the world. This annual wildebeest migration is tied to the seasonal rains so the timing is hard to predict exactly, however African Environments have a luxury camp that is moved around the Serengeti to ensure the best wildlife viewing position for the time of year. The camp is pitched in one of the National Parks ‘special campsites’ where we get exclusive use of these areas. From the camp you can game drive to your heart’s content with the camp revolving around your schedule. If you want to go game viewing at dawn, the camp crew will make sure you have a cup of tea or coffee before departure, will send you off with some freshly made breakfast biscuits to keep you going, and will have a big breakfast waiting back at camp at about 10 o’clock. Perhaps you would prefer to venture further afield for a long day of game viewing w ith one of our sumptuous picnic lunches. Days can be planned with your driver guide so as to give you the best possible experience.
One of the special things about camping in the Serengeti is the nights; they are unforgettable! Sitting around a roaring campfire with the darkness all around, not a light in sight. Listening to the sound of the bush, a lion roaring in the distance, a pack of hyenas whooping or perhaps the alarm calls of a startled herd of zebra. Then in to the mess tent for a fantastic three course dinner and a chance to mull over the events of the day and plan the next day’s adventures.
Spend another two days exploring this vast ecosystem seeking out the concentrations of game and the attendant predators. One of the great things about the Serengeti – aside from the vastness of it – is the sense of timelessness and peace that it bestows. On these days on an African Environments safari you can move as the wildlife dictates or on a whim, a rare treat in our fast paced modern world. Then as the day draws in head back to camp for another night under the stars.
Up before dawn for a cup of coffee and a biscuit then as the sky lightens head off for a final game view. This is an exciting time of day as the nocturnal animals shuffle off to their lair and hand over to the ‘day shift’. You can stumble upon a fresh kill and watch a succession of predators and scavengers reducing the carcass to nothing but a few scuff marks in the grass within a few short hours. In the Serengeti nothing is wasted. Then back to camp for a quick breakfast and packing bags before heading back to Arusha, arriving late afternoon in time to connect to an evening flight.
We think this has a little of the best of everything; some fantastic game viewing in both Ngorongoro Crater and the iconic Serengeti National Park as well as a chance to experience some of the unique cultures of Tanzania.
Taking in the highlights of Northern Tanzania’s safari attractions – but with our own particular style – we feel that this week off the beaten track with a mixture of game viewing, culture, and walking will give anyone and everyone a massive boost!
We love this itinerary – it has some fantastic game viewing in some of the greatest spots on earth, a chance to experience some of the unique Maasai culture and finally the jewel in the crown – walking in the Serengeti – our favourite thing to do.
If you have the time, this itinerary has the best of everything! Incredible wildlife, time with different cultures; both the Maasai in their vibrant red robes and herds of cattle and the Hadzabe one of the few remaining click speaking hunter gatherer tribes in Africa. Then on to the vast wilderness zones of the Serengeti for some incredible time on foot in the world’s most iconic park.