Tanzania is best known for the annual trek of more than 1.5 million wildebeest and 200,000 zebra and gazelle from the vast Serengeti Plain to Kenya's Maasai Mara. A 7-day fly-drive safari is ample time to experience the migration in Tanzania staying in private camps with expert guides. Longer trips allow you to migrate with the wildebeest from Tanzania to Kenya.
Best times: April-June/November-January.
Into the Wild
A trip to Africa’s largest wilderness, the Selous, and to a remote park that is one of the few places chimpanzees remain in the wild. A 10-day trip that can be combined with 4 days of the Great Migration Trip, visiting Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater.
Nights 1 -3
Day 1: Arrive in Arusha. Overnight at Arusha Hotel. Meet your guide and drive to Tarangire National Park (118 km/70 mi) for wildebeest and zebra migration with picnic lunch and game drives en route. Overnight at private camp, followed by full day of game drives and second overnight. Current wildlife research projects in the park include the Tarangire Elephant Project, Tarangire Lion Project, and Masai Giraffe Conservation Demography Project. Meeting with biologists if schedule permits; find out about how large mammal demography works, and computers that allow scientists to identify giraffes from their spots.
Choice of mobile camp or Lemala Safari Camp, which offers quick access to Ngorongoro Crater, as well as less-visited nearby craters where wildlife congregate around water. Morning exploration of crater, and head to Serengeti, visiting Olduvai Gorge and Maasai village en route.
The Serengeti Plain is made fertile by the ashes of the ancient volcanoes of the Ngorongoro highlands. Huge skies, shimmering heat hazes, and delicate wild flowers mark the savannah, along with termite mounds and rock formations called kopjes that make great vantage points for predators. Lion and leopard are present in numbers; black rhino and cheetah both breed here.
Stay at Serengeti Wilderness Camp, a mobile camp that follows the migration. Day 8 brings you to airstrip for flight back to Arusha.
Note to birders: 500 species of bird and, interestingly, 100 sub-species of dung beetle – a sign of a varied animal population.
Into the Wild: Selous and Mahale
Africa's Largest Wildernesses
Selous: Africa's Big Wilderness
4 days/5 nights; fly in
The Selous is named after Frederick Selous, eulogized by Teddy Roosevelt this way: "He led a singularly adventurous and fascinating life, with just the right alternations between the wilderness and civilization."
Cowgirls & Pirates has designed this safari with just that balance in mind. Staying at Sand Rivers Selous, day trips include boating on the Rufiji, weaving past hippopotamus and crocodile; driving on the trail of lion or wild dog; an elephant bush walk; or fishing in solitude, barefoot on a river rock. Upstream, the river narrows to Steigler’s Gorge, where leopards can be sighted, along with elephants and giraffes at water’s edge.
Activities: Fly camping in mosquito net tents set up on sandbanks or near waterholes, or a four-day walking safari, seeing things you can’t see in vehicle. Sand Rivers' founder pioneered walking safaris in this 18,000-square-mile wilderness.
Best time to visit: An ancient migration of more than 60,000 elephants takes place between Selous and Mozambique’s Niassa game reserves through an unprotected wildlife corridor that biologists warn may disappear within 20 years.
Mahale Mountains National Park
Suggested: 3 days/4 nights; Fly in
Since 1961, Japanese researchers have quietly conducted scientific work here, and thanks to their efforts, you are likely to encounter 60 habituated chimps, some of the last chimpanzees remaining in the wild, in a park described as “hidden from the outside world.” Red and Blue Colobus Monkeys are also among the rare animals that make Mahale their home.
Set on a stretch of secluded golden beach on Lake Tanganyika, Kungwe Beach Lodge has 10 spacious tents with thatched roofs furnished in traditional safari style with hot water and charging stations for cell phones. Behind the lodge rise a chain of jungle-draped mountains: the Congo.
Note to anglers: Lake Tanganyika offers some of the best fresh water fishing in Tanzania.
Chimpanzees in Mahale
BEST TIME TO VISIT
jUNE THROUGH NOVEMBER: Prime elephant sighting time
DECEMBER-FEBRUARY: Good for game viewing in general
JANUARY THROUGH APRIL: Excellent for birders
TIMES TO AVOID: March-May (Rainy Season: closed)
Additional week: Visit Gombe, Jane Goodall's research station