The EA guide to Tanzania safaris

A luxury safari in Tanzania offers some of the most breathtaking landscapes on the continent. It’s been divided into regional circuits, to make planning your safari a little easier. In theory, that is. Narrowing down the myriad choices is still an impossible task. The Coastal Circuit is a tropical paradise, while in the Western Circuit you can see primates – this part of the country boasts Mahale Mountains National Park and Gombe National Park, central to the chimpanzee work of Dr Jane Goodall. But it’s in Tanzania’s two most famous circuits, the Southern Safari Circuit and the Northern Safari Circuit, where you can explore vast wildernesses with a private guide and 4×4 vehicle.

The Southern safari circuit is ideal for anyone wanting a remote safari adventure away from the crowds. National parks here include Nyerere (formerly Selous Game Reserve), Ruaha, Mikumi and Udzungwa Mountains. The parks here are fantastically remote and massive, and teeming with a spectacular diversity of wildlife – this is also one of the best regions for sightings of rare African wild dogs.

The Northern safari circuit is where you’ll find some of Africa’s most famous parks and reserves – but its popularity means crowds can also be a thing. The best way to experience this region is with your own private guide, going wherever the wildlife takes you. A luxury private safari holiday in Tanzania lets you explore some of the finest game-viewing regions in Africa, while avoiding the crowds you’ll find at beloved tourist destinations. With your guide leading the way, you can enjoy the stunning pink horizon when thousands of flamingo flock to Lake Manyara National Park; go on a game drive through the unique wildlife system of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area; trek up Mount Kilimanjaro if you’re seriously adventurous; or enjoy game drives in one of the best safari parks in Tanzania – Serengeti National Park.

This is also a great place to hit the bush trails in your hiking boots. Once upon a time Zambia and Zimbabwe stole all the limelight when it came to quality walking safaris, but Tanzania is catching up. Arusha National Park, Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Rim and some fringe concessions bordering Serengeti, all in the Northern Safari Circuit, have finally opened up to allow outstanding walking safaris (often at an additional fee). Nyerere National Park in the south and Ruaha in the middle of the country also offer fantastic walking safaris.

Beyond astounding traditional safari experiences you can also enjoy the ‘greatest wildlife show on earth’ – the Great Wildebeest Migration. Involving more than two million wildebeest, plus gazelle and zebra, it’s one of the greatest animal land migrations on the planet. But there truly is no beginning or end – it’s an endless pilgrimage, a constant search for food and water that never stops as the animals charge ever onwards towards better grazing areas.

Through it all, there’s an incredible calving season, which usually takes place between January and February of each year. You can witness mass birthings when literally thousands of young are born in the space of a few weeks. The animals then move up through the Serengeti ecosystem and cross the Mara River into Kenya, usually around September, but sometimes as early as late July or August. By November, the herds cross back over the Mara River, returning to Tanzania in search of succulent grasses and ultimately, a prime position back in the breeding grounds of Ndutu. It’s the literal circle of life, but the real-life version, not Disney.

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The best time to holiday in Tanzania

Tanzania safari holidays are best enjoyed as a mid-year break (June to July) or as a great way to kickstart the New Year (January to February), as these are the expected times to witness, respectively, the Great Migration and the calving of these impressive herds. If you’re not fussed about the Migration river crossing but still after some incredible game-viewing, then June to October are generally good months to visit any of the national parks.

The best time to visit Southern Circuit parks is June to October, while the best time to visit Northern Circuit parks is June to October and December to March. You can expect busy crowds between July and March, but if you’re after something slightly more laid-back, then April to May is generally when things quieten down – some of the Southern Circuit lodges even close for the quiet season. The wettest months are March and April, during which you can expect some miserable weather. However, it can still be a great time to visit, with minimal crowds, stunning green scenery and ample opportunity to stop and see wildlife with their newborn young.

Wildlife in Tanzania

When it comes to wildlife, a Tanzania safari tour is without peer. With both the Southern Safari Circuit and the prominent Northern Safari Circuit, the options are impressive. Wide open plains offer up an abundance of wildlife, with ample chances to spot the famous Big Five, more than 1,000 bird species and the singular spectacle of the annual Great Wildebeest Migration. Look on in awe as up to two million animals – including wildebeest, zebra and antelope – participate in the migration each year, attempting perilous Mara River crossings and facing constant threat from the numerous predators that shadow their every move. Other animals you can see in Tanzania include black rhino, elephant, hippopotamus, gazelle, lion, warthog, hyena, jackal, red colobus monkey, chimpanzee, baboon, hartebeest and elephant shrew.

Safari in the Serengeti

A Tanzanian safari just wouldn’t be complete without a game drive in the Serengeti National Park. This natural wonder in northern Tanzania is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the greatest national parks in the world. More than 14,750 square kilometres in size, the park lies at the core of a vast migratory ecosystem that connects the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Masai Mara National Reserve in neighbouring Kenya, to cover an area the size of Switzerland. The scenery in the Serengeti is breathtaking, from grassy plains studded with rugged granite kopjes, to rivers and woodlands. Here, you can enjoy game drives and, depending on the location of your chosen camp, perhaps even a walking safari. The Serengeti is also a great place to enjoy an exhilarating hot-air balloon safari. Float over the plains and under the clouds, and watch as the sun rises in the distance and the animal species head out on their morning hunts before the midday heat kicks in. Upon landing, be treated to a Champagne bush breakfast before returning to camp. The Serengeti is also home to Tanzania’s most famous game-viewing experience, the famous Great Wildebeest Migration. The annual migration of some two million wildebeest and zebra, with predators hot on their heels, is a peerless spectacle. Time it right, and you’ll see adrenalin-charged river crossings, calving season and massive herds galloping through grasslands in picture-perfect light.

The Serengeti National Park is open all year round and offers a different game-viewing experience, depending on when you visit. The dry season, which typically lasts from June to September each year, offers the best wildlife viewing with regards to sheer numbers, as large herds and packs escape the heat and converge on the last shallow waterholes that litter the plains. The best chance to view the migration is in the early dry season, from June to July, as the herds make their way through the northern Serengeti, crossing the Mara River into Kenya’s Masai Mara, and then again from September to October, as they make their way back over the river into the Serengeti. But the wet season shouldn’t be disregarded, as it’s the prime time to see wildebeest babies being born in the Ndutu plains of the Southern Serengeti during calving season, plus the dynamic predator action this attracts, while Central Serengeti and its granite kopjes is generally home to the migration from March to May – it’s quite a beautiful sight to see, especially from a hot-air balloon safari!

The Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a unique wildlife haven that stretches over 8,300 square kilometres, bordering the Serengeti, Lake Eyasi and Lake Manyara National Park. This spectacular region – which in 2013 was voted one of the new Seven Natural Wonders of Africa – offers one of the richest wildlife-viewing experiences in Africa. Its crowning jewel is the Ngorongoro Crater itself. Once upon a time a massive volcano stood here, taller and mightier than nearby Mount Kilimanjaro. But it erupted, creating one of the largest unbroken calderas in the world. At 19 kilometres wide and with an area of 264 square kilometres, it is truly impressive. Its towering walls soar rise 610 metres above the caldera’s floor, encompassing some of the richest, most fertile soil in Africa and providing the setting for an incredible natural arena that boasts a blend of landscapes, wildlife, people and archaeology that is unsurpassed in Africa.

The high density of wildlife in the Ngorongoro Crater makes it a great year-round destination, with a population of around 30,000 animals at any given time. The wet season, January to May, is a stunning time to visit, as the Crater and Conservation Area are lush and green, and the scenery is simple beautiful. Our favourite time to visit is during the wet season, specifically between April to May, as it’s the best time to avoid the large crowds of tourist that descend on the region in the later months.

Chimpanzees in western Tanzania

Gombe National Park is a tiny national park known throughout the world thanks to Dr Jane Goodall and her revolutionary work with chimpanzees. Since 1965 Gombe has been home to a permanent research facility, the Gombe Stream Research Centre, which is focused on the continual research and conservation of Tanzania’s chimpanzee population. While chimpanzees are undoubtedly the region’s most famous inhabitants, the thick forest also hides a number of other primates, including the olive baboon, red-tailed monkey and red colobus monkey, along with more than 200 species of birds. Read more on the Jane Goodall Experience here.

Explore Mount Kilimanjaro

For the adventurous, a Tanzania African safari must include a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro. There are no words for the exhilaration and intense satisfaction you’ll feel when you reach Kili’s peak and look out at the wondrous view from what feels like the top of the world. This mysterious mountain, wreathed in clouds and topped with snow, is the highest peak on the African continent. It’s also the world’s tallest free-standing mountain and completely walkable, with only a small amount of actual climbing necessary, towards the summit. There are multiple trekking routes to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Some are more demanding than others – a six-night climb is what we’d recommend. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is an absolute must for any adventurer, but be warned: it’s not for the faint-hearted! It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, you just need to be fit and well-prepared, and you’ll be in for the experience of a lifetime, climbing to the top one of the world’s legendary “Seven Summits”.

Zanzibar luxury holidays

A luxury safari holiday in Tanzania just isn’t complete without a beach finale on the islands of the Zanzibar Archipelago. With a long history of colonisation, trade and pirates, this wondrous spice island paradise is rich in culture, and exotic sights and experiences. The mere word “Zanzibar” conjures up images of long white sandy beaches fringed with palm trees, traditional wooden dhows sailing by on glorious oceans, vibrant and aromatic spice markets and plantations, underwater worlds abundant with marine life, and forests teeming with birds, reptiles and monkeys. The beaches that fringe the islands offer guests diving, snorkelling, fishing, sailing, boating, kite sailing, canoeing and lovely, relaxing Zanzibar luxury holidays, while the cuisine is rich in spices, fresh fruits that are grown locally grown and seafood that’s caught daily.

Lying 80 kilometres off the coast of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean, the Zanzibar archipelago is made up of a number of smaller islands and the main island of Unguja, also known as Zanzibar Island. While we often prefer to get away from the crowds of the main island and experience the smaller islands of Pemba, Mafia and Mnemba, Unguja has many great attractions, including the old quarter of Stone Town. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, Stone Town is a wonderful hotchpotch of cultures, languages and architecture, and a must if you’re visiting Zanzibar.

The high seasons in Zanzibar are June to August, and November to January. The coolest months are June to October when temperatures average 26C, while from December to March they can soar beyond 30C. The short rains are in November, with long rains falling from April to June. During all rainy seasons you can expect showers in the morning or afternoon, with sunshine intermittent throughout.

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