The Lake safari gives the opportunity to visit the four main parks of the Northern Circuit: seven days of breathtaking beauty, incredible flora and fauna, the possibility of dream encounters in the best places that Tanzania has to offer. It is suitable for all those looking to have an unforgettable experience and also for those visiting Tanzania for the first time.
|Meeting with the guide at Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) and transfer to Arusha. Dinner and overnight in the city.|
MANYARA LAKE NATIONAL PARK
|Departure for the Lake Manyara National Park and game drive. Dinner and overnight in the village of Mto Wa Mbu or Karatu.|
PARCO NAZIONALE SERENGETI
|Departure for the Serengeti with transit from Ngorongoro. Game drive. Dinner and overnight in the park.|
SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK
|Second day dedicated to the Serengeti. Game drives in the morning and in the afternoon. Dinner and overnight in the park|
NGORONGORO CONSERVATION AREA
|Departure for Ngorongoro and game drive in the crater. Dinner and overnight in Karatu village.|
TARANGIRE NATIONAL PARK
|Departure for Tarangire National Park and game drive. Dinner and overnight in the park.|
RETURN TO ARUSHA
|Return to Arusha and transfer to Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) for the return international flight. End of services.|
The safari starts at Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) where you will meet the guide who will remain in your company for the whole trip and who will welcome you with a shrill ‘jambo!’ It is the special greeting for you, the guest, followed by ‘karibu Tanzania’, ‘welcome to Tanzania’. Hospitality is very important for Tanzanians and you are really welcome. From Kia you are taken by car to the city of Arusha, the undisputed capital of safaris in Tanzania. The road is good, paved, and the journey takes about 45 minutes. Arusha is located at about 1,400 meters above sea level, on the slopes of Mount Meru which stands in the national park that takes its name from the city, and the climate is mild all year round. If the flight arrived in late morning or early afternoon, you can plan to take a tour of the city, to eat in a typical restaurant, to acclimate to the African climate and landscape.
Karibu TanzaniaWelcome to Tanzania
LAKE MANYARA NATIONAL PARK
The park is about 120 kilometers from Arusha, two hours by car in terms of time. The gate is a short distance from the village of Mto Wa Mbu and can be visited all year round. It has been a World Heritage Site since 1981 and it is positioned within the Rift Valley. It is a small park, 330 square kilometers of which more than 200 are occupied by the lake, but with different ecosystems. As soon as you enter, you find yourself in the equatorial forest that can proliferate thanks to the waters of the underground lake, but there are also the lake environment, the savannah and the volcanic areas with hot springs. The lake is alkaline and, of course, attracts many flamingos which owe their splendid deep pink color to this type of water, but the bird species are innumerable: a paradise for birdwatching. There is no shortage of animals, all those expected to be met in the savannah: elephants, hippos, giraffes, nice vervet monkeys, predators and hippos that, as in all parks, are in the hippo pools, pools of water where they can swim and shelter from the sun. This strange cartoon-like animal has hairless skin and cannot stand in the sun. He goes out for short walks during the day and to eat in the dark hours. Better not be fooled by its good-natured appearance and the fact that it is herbivorous: it is among the most aggressive animals in the whole savannah and if it attacks it does so to kill, especially if it feels that its cubs are in danger. We could go on forever, but two species are characteristic of this small park. First of all, the so-called ‘arboreal’ lions. They are special lions that climb the branches of trees to rest: both for the breeze enjoyed from above and to escape from the insects that attack these poor lions when they lie down in the grass. This habit is not exclusive to the Manyara Park, but here the number is very high. The second group of animals that can be seen in groups of up to 100 individuals in Manyara are baboons. They are also used to and intrigued by cars because they are not so eager to escape: they look, pose for souvenir photos and pass close. Towards the south, the park narrows. In this area there are the volcanic hot water springs called in Swahili Maji Moto. Among the plants there is the Euphorbia Candelabrum, very poisonous. This plant has a sister, also poisonous, the Euphorbia Tirucalli, which, due to its properties, is used by the Maasai in fences to keep predators away.
THE ROAD TOWARDS THE SERENGETI
You leave early, immediately after breakfast, as the journey to the Serengeti is long, about 335 km. The time spent in the car can become an opportunity to satisfy the curiosity of eyes that come from different worlds. You pass through the villages, some more important, some small. From the jeep you can see the part that is crossed by the main road, excellent for getting an idea. The houses are scattered here and there: sometimes they are beautiful enclosed houses with gardens, sometimes they are much more modest with a tin roof, but still typical of the Tanzanian reality. Along the main road there are also the bars and restaurants frequented by Tanzanians and where you can often find exquisite specialties, gas stations, ‘fundi’, mechanics, and fruit and vegetable peddlers who offer their delicacies to travelers in transit along with Maasai ladies who often present their elaborate beaded jewelry strictly handmade and characteristic of their tribe. Among these villages there are two particularly important ones, Mto Wa Mbu and Karatu. They are those at the junctions to reach the various parks of the so-called Northern Circuit. In Mto Wa Mbu you can sleep if you are heading to Manyara and Tarangire. Visitors to Ngorongoro usually stay overnight in Karatu.
TRANSIT FROM NGORONGORO TO REACH SERENGETI
In order to reach the Serengeti it is necessary to pass through Ngorongoro Conservation Area. When you arrive at the entrance gate you enter and begin to climb a steep road lined with plants. It is beautiful when you can see the overhang. At a certain point you arrive at an open space with a small monument and a large terrace, the Crater View Point. It’s normally windy and the temperature can be quite cold. The terrace railing overlooks the Ngorongoro crater and a souvenir photo is a must for everyone. On the way to the Serengeti, or on the way back, a stop is usually made at Olduvai Gorge, an important archaeological site where remains of hominids and primitive men from various prehistoric eras have been found. It is considered the ‘cradle of humanity’. A unique experience for the atmosphere that reigns in this enchanted place where the first hominids decided to settle. A sort of ‘return to origins’ for all of us, a delicate and even romantic way of getting in touch with our roots. A Maasai guide, on the terrace overlooking the gorge, explains the whole history of this incredible place and a recently renovated museum with information, artifacts and casts completes the visit.
FIRST DAY IN SERENGETI
The first contact with the Serengeti are the southern plains and the game drive begins. It is not possible to condense a game drive in Serengeti into a few lines, but it is certain that this park offers wonders. The Serengeti is not only one of the most famous and described places on the planet, it is also, and above all, a magical place. For this reason it is not enough to bring the equipment to capture unique moments, but you have to bring your heart and live it with your emotional side. This is the only way to truly share the magic of this park. Passing one of the entrance gates it is like going back to being a child and waiting for the bedtime story, the story that will remain with you, the one that touches the strings of your sensitivity forever. In Serengeti there are all the big five: lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino. But also gazelles and antelopes, hyenas, jackals, elephants, giraffes, hippos. In short, all the best fauna that only Africa can boast. A group of impalas that graze and run away as soon as the car gets too close is a classic, like groups of lions crouched under the shade of a tree while their gaze takes care of you almost without interest, in a fleeting way. It is not for nothing that it is called a ‘pride’ of lions. Nothing scratches them. A cheetah hidden in the tall grass in search of prey or just the footprint of the same cheetah imprinted in the ground that testifies to its passage a few moments before are strong emotions. And then a couple of shy dik dik who scrutinize to see if some predator is strolling around or a lone elephant arrives and slowly passes by, careless of crossing among the jeeps full of ecstatic people. It and its size can afford it and maybe a little further on, just around the corner, a tender giraffe is eating the leaves of the highest branches of an acacia, the tastiest ones, the ones that only they are allowed to reach with their incredible necks that seem to defy the laws of physics. It is impressive indeed. The photos taken here remain an everlasting memory of an incredible journey. While lunch is usually eaten in the savannah in order not to miss a moment, dinner takes place in the central tent of the camp, but first there is time for a sundowner at sunset surrounded by a romantic atmosphere, almost surreal. You can be alone and enjoy the breathtaking view or share the experience with the other guests, sitting in a circle around the fire as the sun goes down at the horizon with its immense flaming shape. The night is spent in a tent, a beautiful tent equipped with all comforts, amidst the noises of the savannah and the passing animals. Often the ungulates make themselves heard and the hyenas stalk around in search of some leftovers. The curfew is linked to the light: after sunset you can only leave your tent if escorted by a Maasai warrior for safety reasons. The Maasai are extraordinary and keep watch all night to protect the camp.
SECOND DAY IN SERENGETI
he Serengeti is immense, almost 15,000 square kilometers and is, with good reason, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is divided into four areas, each with its own characteristics: the North, the Seronera Valley, the Western Corridor and the South. Several rivers flow in its interior such as the Seronera river, but the two main ones are the Mara to the North and the Grumeti to the West, those which, at different times of the year, host the passage of migrating ungulates. A strong and dangerous, but fascinating show. The immensity of the park has been perfectly described by the Maa language, the language of the Maasai people. The word ‘siringet’ defines an ‘infinite plain’ and hence the name Serengeti. In reality, the plains are vast in the southern part, where cheetahs find their ideal terrain to launch at insane speeds in pursuit of a prey while hunting, while the other areas are scattered with hills, gorges and the landscape is varied. Among the big five, the most difficult to see is undoubtedly the rhino, practically extinct, but not impossible. Rarely one pops out of nowhere. You can’t describe what it feels like when it happens. To the west of the plains there is the Rhino Conservation Area and, hidden in the bush, the small Moru Museum can be found, dedicated to the rhino. It is really tiny, covered in greenery. A ranger checks the entrance and welcomes with the affability that distinguishes Tanzanians. He seems used to numerous visits, the smile is sincere and enveloping. In reality it is very rare that visitors come. Of course, there is an impressive concentration of many animals in the park, not just large mammals. Among the most numerous gazelles, zebras, wildebeests, and warthogs can be found. But also jackals, rather reserved, and hyenas, disturbing and grim. These animals, along with vultures, are considered the scavengers of the savannah. They clean the remains of carcasses hunted by others and are an inestimable added value of the habitat in which they live. Reptiles are fully part of the environment like all the other animals. The most famous is certainly the black mamba. It is a very aggressive and very very poisonous snake. It is called the ‘seven steps’ snake because its venom allows seven steps before it begins to show its effects. It is certainly a very dangerous animal, but it is not so easy to meet it. There is also the smaller green mamba, bright green and equally lethal. Even in this case, however, the opportunities for meeting it are very low. Insects are part of the varied reality of the savannah. The parks, and also the Serengeti, are for example scattered with gigantic termite mounds, clearly visible: they look like earth pyramids, sometimes with some shrubs sprouting. For lovers of ornithology it is a paradise, there is everything, including the endemic weaver with its characteristic nests that look like embroidery, eagles, cranes, snakes, just to name the most popular.
THE GREAT MIGRATION
The Great Migration that takes place every year between the Serengeti and the Maasai Mara is a difficult sight to describe. It is a huge number of wildebeests and zebras marching for hundreds of kilometers in search of fresh water and pastures, and this is understandable. What is more difficult to understand is the path. How do they know where to go? How do they manage not to get lost? What drives them not to give up despite the difficulties and pitfalls they face every time? And they follow the path clockwise! Wildebeests and zebras need to drink daily and this is the fuse that stimulates the departure from dry places to lush ones, kissed by the rainy season. During the journey they must also cross two rivers: the Grumeti river in June and the Mara river between late August and September, when they pass from the Tanzanian Serengeti to the Kenyan Maasai Mara, challenging hordes of ravenous crocodiles who punctually exterminate a good number of them, including many puppies, weaker, more helpless in the face of these ferocious and patient reptiles. The departure does not happen in a sensational way, it is progressive, gradual. There is always a wildebeest that leaves and, like good followers, the others, slowly, follow it. In a short time others are added, then the whole herd sets off. They remain in the Maasai Mara until November, when the return march begins. They arrive in Serengeti in December and stay there on the southern plains until March. This is the time and place for females to give birth. Approximately 500,000 new births are registered each year. Mother wildebeest has a very strong bond with the baby, does not abandon it if it cannot follow the speed of the herd and defends it from crocodiles if it is attacked. It almost never manages to win, but it fights with all its might. Like all puppies of all species, even the little wildebeests are very sweet. This migration has taken place since the dawn of time and the wildebeests carry it genetically inside. The lion has the instinct of hunting, the wildebeest that of movement.
NGORONGORO CONSERVATION AREA
This place is one of the most famous in the entire African continent and one of the most filmed in the world. It covers an area of 8,292 square kilometers and you have to look out over that railing overlooking the Ngorongoro crater if you really want to understand the power of nature. What we see today is the consequence of a terrible explosion that occurred about two and a half million years ago of the volcanoes that then stood here and that collapsed on themselves creating the depressions that we can admire today with so much amazement. There are three craters: Olmoti, Empakaai and that of Ngorongoro which has a diameter of 19 km, an area of 300 square kilometers and a depth of 600 meters: the largest intact caldera in the world and one of the uniqueness in all Africa. In the crater there is a vast grassy plain and the Lerai forest, south of Lake Magadi, which is positioned in the center of this plain. The yellow acacia, or fever tree, is the characteristic plant of this forest. The walls to the West have shrub vegetation, those to the East are covered with montane forests. The upper part, the Rim, reaches a height of more than 3,500 meters in some places. The concentration of fauna is impressive: more than 3,000 mammals, including the very rare and highly sought-after black rhino. The black rhino is a sweet, shy, solitary animal. In Tanzania it is at risk of extinction and it is a real shame because it is an incredible mammal. It is massive, roughly a ton in weight, with legs that look like columns, and carries two horns which it uses primarily for defense, intimidation, or for digging in search of roots. They are huge: the front one can measure up to eighty centimeters. He has poor eyesight, but he compensates very well with excellent hearing and smell. It cannot be said it’s aggressive without reason, but, if disturbed for no reason, it can charge and prove to be very dangerous. When it loads its head touches the ground and its tail is raised. One of the main activities of the rhino is to roll around in the mud. There are two purposes: lower the temperature and get rid of the parasites that afflict many animals. There are still a handful of them in the Serengeti and in Ngorongoro Crater, but the greatest concentration is in Selous and in Mkomazi National Park sanctuary. The rules for visiting inside the crater are very strict: you cannot stay in for more than six consecutive hours to avoid too much concentration of vehicles. It is also possible to visit a Maasai village, the only tribe allowed to live in this area. This is the ancestral land of the Maasai and a warrior accompanies the visit showing their fascinating culture, unchanged for hundreds of years. When traveling in northern Tanzania, encounters with the Maasai are inevitable. The tribe has Nilotic origins and they are nomadic shepherds with customs and traditions that have been handed down for centuries. They have a patriarchal social structure and the elderly are held in high esteem because they are the custodians of wisdom. While women play a secondary role, warriors form the backbone of the whole tribe. The Morans, or young warriors, protect the tribe’s herds. To become warriors it is necessary that they undergo difficult initiation rites and spend a few months in the savannah alone to prove their worth. They are recognizable because they are dressed in black and have white decorations on their faces that make them a bit spooky. They live in villages with huts traditionally called manyattas. Both the hut and the village have a circular shape and are surrounded by poisonous plants that keep predators away. Even the Maasai, like all tribes, have their traditional dances, very involving.
The overnight stay after a safari can be in a lodge inside the crater or in the village of Karatu. Staying inside the crater, of course, you can enjoy the spectacular view and the sunsets that descend to the horizon from the top of the rim. A dinner in front of this show is certainly an unforgettable and fascinating experience. The village of Karatu offers splendid lodge alternatives set in equally beautiful gardens and with a very high quality of service.
TARANGIRE NATIONAL PARK
This park is one of the most beautiful of the northern circuit. Its name derives from the Mbugwe language, the language of the tribe that traditionally lived in this area. It is crossed by the Tarangire River: a source of life for plants and animals. This park is famous for its large communities of huge elephants and baobabs and the legend that an astonishing number of pythons stand on tree branches to rest while digesting their preys. That’s probably true, but it’s not easy to see them. The real name of the baobab is Adansonia Digitata by the gentleman who discovered it, a certain Mister Adanson, in the eighteenth century. It is a massive tree and of a truly incredible size, but that is not all. It seems that it can live up to 3,000 years and can retain a disproportionate number of liters of water to deal with periods of drought, during which it is completely bare. How does it? With a sophisticated shallow root system that absorbs the rare rains quickly. The flower is white and fragrant. The fruit is a sort of huge walnut, about 15 centimeters, covered with filaments. Inside there is a kind of white, sour and edible pulp. In addition to being of great taste, it contains large amounts of vitamin C. For Africans, especially bush-dwelling tribes, it’s a microworld. Villages are created around the baobab. Inside, shelter is taken, food is deposited and, at times, the dead are buried. It is easy to understand how, in a moment, this giant becomes an integral part of the life of the community and how easy it is to create stories and legends or personifications of what is fully considered as one of the members of the group. The reality is that it serves everyone in one way or another. Nothing is thrown away. Leaves and fruits are eaten, the toasted seeds are used to make a drink and the spongy bark provides material for making ropes, mats and baskets. Perhaps, however, the most important use lies in being a meeting place, the landmark of the village. In the shade of its branches you can rest, wait for the time of hunting and make important decisions. It seems a simple life, but it follows very precise rules handed down from generation to generation. The roots of the baobab are the roots of the community, the tradition that regulates life. Much easy it is to observe hundreds of bird species. Among them the beautiful and sweet lovebirds. Their story is almost unbelievable. They choose a mate and remain monogamous for life, inseparable indeed. It is possible to find grasslands and marshes in the southern part of the park which offer the visitor exceptional views. The park covers an area of about 2,600 square kilometers and the river is central to the life inside it: during the dry season it is possible to witness a small migration of wildebeests and zebras towards its waters and in general it guarantees a high concentration of animals. It is 120 kilometers from Arusha and this means that it is quite easily accessible. For lunch you stop at the viewpoint over the river on the tables of the picnic area. The diversion is given by the spiteful vervet monkeys that wander among the tables waiting to steal something from the tourists. One day it is a fruit, another a piece of cake, in short a definitely lively lunch. Feeding animals is strictly forbidden in all parks in Tanzania, but this is a unique situation because it is directly controlled by the mischievous monkeys. Each park in Tanzania is a small world. It is not possible to choose the best or the most beautiful: everyone is special. The Tarangire lodges are all very beautiful and welcoming, often in bungalows on the ground or on stilts. Some are positioned on migratory corridors and the sunset sundowner on the terrace can truly become unforgettable.
DAY OF RETURN FROM SAFARI TO ARUSHA AND TRANSFER TO KIA
On the last day, the road traveled to reach these places is retraced backwards, this time with a new spirit and awareness and the eyes with which you look at the panorama have changed. Upon returning, you look with your heart, you notice different things, you focus more on details that at first sight seemed insignificant. Yes, because Tanzania is all beautiful. The parks are a flagship for the care with which they are managed, but the villages and the people are also terrific. Your guide will escort you to Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) for your return journey, but it will be a painful farewell. Our guides are extraordinary, professionally and humanly. They carry out their work with passion and dedication: it is not possible not to become attached to them. The flight ladder will bring you back to reality and everyday life, but it is certain that Tanzania will remain in your heart as one of the most extraordinary journeys ever.