Tanzania

All Destinations

Tanzania

With highlights such as Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater and Zanzibar, Tanzania is, for many, the ultimate safari destination. With National Parks and game reserves covering some 33,660 sq kms or 28% of the country, Tanzania has more land devoted to wildlife than anywhere else in the world.

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With National Parks and game reserves covering some 33,660 sq kms or 28% of the country, Tanzania has more land devoted to wildlife than anywhere else in the world.

The Serengeti National Park is a plain-dwellers’ stronghold, claimed to be one of the best places to watch game in Africa. Tanzania’s most famous attraction, Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest mountain and the only free-standing mountain in the world that can be walked up. The more off-the-beaten-track Selous Game Reserve in the south is larger than Switzerland (covering one sixth of Tanzania’s land surface) and a offers a boutique gameviewing experience by vehicle, by boat or on foot.

Within striking distance of the mainland are the spice islands of Zanzibar and Pemba with a fascinating spice and slaving legacy and palmbacked beaches offering first class snorkelling and diving.

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Quick Facts

Capital
Dodoma

Population
55.5 million

Area
945,087 sq km (364,900 sq miles)

Major Languages
English, Swahili

Major religion 
Christianity, Islam

Monetary Unit 
Tanzanian shilling

Flight time from London
12 hours via Nairobi

Time Difference 
GMT + 3

When to go 
Tanzania’s climate varies across the country, from the tropical humidity of the coast, the dry heat of the savannah and the central areas of Katavi and Ruaha and the cool air of the Ngorongoro highlands and Mt. Kilimanjaro.

As with the rest of East Africa most parts of the country experience two rainy seasons: the ‘long rains’ falling over a ten week period between April and June, and the ‘short rains’ over a five week period between November and December. Most camps close during the long rains for refurbishment and a lot of the roads become impassable and so it is best to avoid travelling during this time.

As a general rule the best time to visit the southern parks of the Selous and Ruaha is between June and October the water dries up and game viewing is at its peak (although January through to the end of March is also good as the landscape is beautifully green and it is slightly quieter).

If visiting the northern circuit then January to March sees the wildebeest migration arrive onto the southern plains of the Serengeti to calve before heading north west between the months of June and October.

In the west Katavi is at its best between August and October when water is very hard to come by and the animals congregate around the limited numbers of rivers and streams thus making for exceptional game viewing. Mahale is good all year round but to be there in cooler conditions (more comfortable if you have to trek a long distance to see the chimps) then the months of August to October and then January to March are preferable.

Finally the coast typically follows the general pattern of the rainy seasons and so the windows of June to October and mid-December to March are the best, the latter being a little more humid as the heat intensifies before the long rains.

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Highlights

The Serengeti

Tanzania’s oldest and most popular National Park, also a world heritage site and recently proclaimed a seventh wonder of the world, the Serengeti is famed for its annual migration, when some six million hooves pound the open plains, as more than 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson’s gazelle join the wildebeest’s trek for fresh grazing.

Yet even when the migration is quiet, the Serengeti offers arguably the most scintillating game viewing in Africa: great herds of buffalo, smaller groups of elephant and giraffe, and thousands upon thousands of eland, topi, kongoni, impala and Grant’s gazelle.

The spectacle of predator versus prey dominates Tanzania’s greatest park. Golden-maned lion prides feast on the abundance of plain grazers. Solitary leopard haunt the acacia trees lining the Seronera River, while a high density of cheetah prowls the southeastern plains. Almost uniquely, all three African jackal species occur here, alongside the spotted hyena and a host of more elusive small predators, ranging from the insectivorous aardwolf to the beautiful serval cat.

As enduring as the game-viewing is the liberating sense of space that characterises the Serengeti Plains, stretching across sunburnt savannah to a shimmering golden horizon at the end of the earth. Yet, after the rains, this golden expanse of grass is transformed into an endless green carpet flecked with wildflowers. And there are also wooded hills and towering termite mounds, rivers lined with fig trees and acacia woodland stained orange by dust.

On the eastern border an area known as Loliondo offers a great mix of resident game and is excellent walking country with a dramatic scenery of rock kopjes and woodlands. The emphasis here is on walking safaris, off-road driving, and night drives, none of which are possible within the Serengeti itself, and also on cultural visits with the Maasai.

As popular as the Serengeti might be, but it remains so vast that you may be the only human audience when a pride of lions masterminds a siege, focussed unswervingly on its next meal.

The Northern Circuit

All the big names of the Tanzanian safari are located in the north of the country, from the plains of the Serengeti to the lofty peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Due to it’s stature we have written about the Serengeti on its own dedicated page (click here to read) but here we talk about the other Parks and Reserves which combine with the Serengeti to form part of the Northern Circuit.

The most visited of these is the Ngorongoro Crater, where wildlife graze and hunt in one of the largest volcanic craters in the world. Lake Manyara National Park and Tarangire National Park are also often incorporated as part of a longer safari.

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The Ngorongoro Conservation area borders the Serengeti in northern Tanzania and includes the world’s largest crater which acts as a natural enclosure for almost every species of wildlife found in East Africa ( including the rare black rhino). The Ngorongoro Crater is where you’ll witness some of the densest population of wildlife in the world and it’s a truly amazing place for photographers. The Maasai still live within the conservation area, and it’s also home to Olduvai where some of man’s earliest remains have been found.

Lake Manyara National Park
Lake Manyara is a relatively small national park but it’s incredibly diverse. Boasting plenty of elephant, tree-climbing lion (getting rarer), leopard, giraffe and more than 400 species of birds including flocks of pink flamingos, most driven itineraries stop at Lake Manyara for a night en route to the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Tarangire National Park
Tarangire, like Lake Manyara, is often combined with a visit to the larger, better known Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater but during the dry season (June to October) the river beds just teem with animals and it is well worth a trip. Herds of up to 300 elephants scratch the dry river bed for underground streams, while migratory wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, impala, gazelle, hartebeest and eland crowd the shrinking lagoons. It’s the greatest concentration of wildlife outside the Serengeti ecosystem – a smorgasbord for predators – and the one place in Tanzania where dry-country antelope such as the stately fringe-eared oryx and peculiar long-necked gerenuk are regularly observed. It is also a good place to enjoy a walking safari.

Selous Game Reserve

At an unbelievable 55,000 sq km, the Selous is almost twice the size of Belgium, is larger than Switzerland and is four times larger than the famous Serengeti in the north, covering 5% of Tanzania’s land area.

The Selous’ ecosystem as a whole is made up of a few conservation areas, namely Mikumi in the North and the Kilombero game controlled area in the West, covering in total over 90,000 sq km of pristine wilderness devoid of human influence. Fed by the mighty Rufiji River, the largest river in East Africa which drains most of South Western Tanzania’s water, this reserve is home to over a million large animals and is home to over half of Tanzania’s elephant population.

The Selous also contains about one third of the worlds’ population of wild dog (often called painted dogs). Their need to roam vast areas and their formidable hunting skills have caused many to be shot by farmers, but here in Selous they have boundless woodlands and savannahs in which to roam.

However, one of the major attractions has to be the mighty river itself, home to one of the largest crocodile and hippo populations in Africa, swarming with fish which in turn bring about some of the world’s best water birding. Navigable by boat, the river has created a myriad of water channels and lakes and to view game from the water adds an extra dimension to your safari.

Walking in the Selous is a speciality and is reputed to be one of the best places in the world to safari on foot. Spend a night or two in a mobile fly camp, surrounded only by the sights and sounds of the bush and your own personal guide will teach you about the more intricate detail of the bush.

With over 2,100 species of plants, 350 species of birds, 60,000 elephant, 108,000 buffalos and an estimated 1,300 of the worlds’ 4,000 (approx.) remaining rare wild dogs, the Selous Game Reserve gives guests an opportunity to game view in a true unspoilt wilderness.

Katavi Game Reserve

Isolated, untrammelled and seldom visited, Katavi is a true wilderness, providing the few intrepid souls who make it there with a thrilling taste of Africa as it must have been a century ago.

Tanzania’s third largest national park, it lies in the remote southwest of the country, within a truncated arm of the Rift Valley that terminates in the shallow, brooding expanse of Lake Rukwa.

The bulk of Katavi supports a hypnotically featureless cover of tangled brachystegia woodland, home to substantial but elusive populations of the localised eland, sable and roan antelopes. But the main focus for game viewing within the park is the Katuma River and associated floodplains such as the seasonal Lakes Katavi and Chada. During the rainy season, these lush, marshy lakes are a haven for myriad waterbirds, and they also support Tanzania’s densest concentrations of hippo and crocodile.

It is during the dry season, when the floodwaters retreat, that Katavi truly comes into its own. The Katuma, reduced to a shallow, muddy trickle, forms the only source of drinking water for miles around, and the flanking floodplains support game concentrations that defy belief. An estimated 4,000 elephants might converge on the area, together with several herds of 1,000-plus buffalo, while an abundance of giraffe, zebra, impala and reedbuck provide easy pickings for the numerous lion prides and spotted hyena clans whose territories converge on the floodplains.

Katavi’s most singular wildlife spectacle is provided by its hippos. Towards the end of the dry season, up to 200 individuals might flop together in any riverine pool of sufficient depth. And as more hippos gather in one place, so does male rivalry heat up – bloody territorial fights are an everyday occurrence, with the vanquished male forced to lurk hapless on the open plains until it gathers sufficient confidence to mount another challenge.

Due to its location Katavi National Park is often combined with the Mahale Mountains as part as a western Tanzania itinerary.

Mahale Mountains National Park

Set deep in the heart of the African interior, inaccessible by road and only 100km (60 miles) south of where Stanley uttered that immortal greeting “Doctor Livingstone, I presume”, is a scene reminiscent of an Indian Ocean island beach idyll.
Silky white coves hem in the azure waters of Lake Tanganyika, overshadowed by a chain of wild, jungle-draped peaks towering almost 2kms above the shore: the remote and mysterious Mahale Mountains.

Mahale Mountains is home to some of Africa’s last remaining wild chimpanzees: a population of roughly 800 (only 60 individuals forming what is known as “M group”), habituated to human visitors by a Japanese research project founded in the 1960s.

Tracking the chimps of Mahale is a magical experience. The guide’s eyes pick out last night’s nests – shadowy clumps high in a gallery of trees crowding the sky. Scraps of half-eaten fruit and fresh dung become valuable clues, leading deeper into the forest. Butterflies flit in the dappled sunlight.

Then suddenly you are in their midst: preening each other’s glossy coats in concentrated huddles, squabbling noisily, or bounding into the trees to swing effortlessly between the vines.

The area is also known as Nkungwe, after the park’s largest mountain, held sacred by the local Tongwe people, and at 2,460 metres (8,069 ft) the highest of the six prominent points that make up the Mahale Range.

And while chimpanzees are the star attraction, the slopes support a diverse forest fauna, including readily observed troops of red colobus, red-tailed and blue monkeys, and a kaleidoscopic array of colourful forest birds.

You can trace the Tongwe people’s ancient pilgrimage to the mountain spirits, hiking through the montane rainforest belt – home to an endemic race of Angola colobus monkey – to high grassy ridges chequered with alpine bamboo. Then bathe in the impossibly clear waters of the world’s longest, second-deepest and least-polluted freshwater lake – harbouring an estimated 1,000 fish species – before returning as you came, by boat.

Ruaha National Park

Second only to Katavi in its aura of untrammelled wilderness, but far more accessible, Ruaha protects a vast tract of the rugged, semi-arid bush country that characterises central Tanzania.

Its lifeblood is the Great Ruaha River, which courses along the eastern boundary in a flooded torrent during the height of the rains, but dwindling thereafter to a scattering of precious pools surrounded by a blinding sweep of sand and rock.

A fine network of game-viewing roads follows the Great Ruaha and its seasonal tributaries, where, during the dry season, impala, waterbuck and other antelopes risk their life for a sip of life-sustaining water. And the risk is considerable: not only from the prides of 20-plus lion that lord over the savannah, but also from the cheetahs that stalk the open grassland and the leopards that lurk in tangled riverine thickets. This impressive array of large predators is boosted by both striped and spotted hyena, as well as several conspicuous packs of the highly endangered African wild dog.

Ruaha’s unusually high diversity of antelope is a function of its location, which is transitional to the acacia savannah of East Africa and the miombo woodland belt of Southern Africa. Grant’s gazelle and lesser kudu occur here at the very south of their range, alongside the miombo-associated sable and roan antelope, and one of East AfricaÆs largest populations of greater kudu, the park emblem, distinguished by the male’s magnificent corkscrew horns.

A similar duality is noted in the checklist of 450 birds: the likes of crested barbet, an attractive yellow-and-black bird whose persistent trilling is a characteristic sound of the southern bush, occur in Ruaha alongside central Tanzanian endemics such as the yellow-collared lovebird and ashy starling.

Combined with the Selous Game Reserve and the Zanzibar Archipelago, the Ruaha National Park works very nicely into a Southern Tanzania circuit.

Zanzibar Archipelago

Portuguese invasion and control of the Swahili Coast in the late 16th century ended the golden age of the archipelago, although the Omani Arabs returned to power less than a century later.

Zanzibar
Today, many of the winding streets and high townhouses of old Stone Town remain unchanged and visitors can walk between the sultan’s palace, the House of Wonders, the Portuguese fort and gardens, the merchants’ houses, and the Turkish baths of the old city. Day-long spice tours to working plantations offer visitors the chance to observe the cultivation of cloves, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and other spices that have made the island famous.

Zanzibar’s coastline offers some of the best beaches in the world, but sand and surf vary depending on what side of the island you’re on. On the east coast, waves break over coral reefs and sand bars offshore, and low tide reveals small pools of starfish, small minnows, and anemones. Up north, ocean swimming is much less susceptible to the tides, and smooth beaches and white sand make for dazzling days in the sun.

The port city of Stone Town dominates the west coast, and although the beaches of Mangapwani, where slave caves are visible at low tide and nearby Bububu are less than half an hour’s drive away, a few nights spent on the east or north cost is well worth the extra hour it takes to drive there. That said, the Chole Island Marine Park just off Stone Town and nearby Prison, Grave, and Snake Islands make a refreshing day-trip and a good break from exploring the winding passageways of the old city.

On the south coast of Zanzibar lies the Menai Bay Conservation Area, a sea turtle protection area for the endangered species that come to breed on the island. Roads to the southeast coast take visitors through the Jozani Forest, home to Zanzibar’s rare Red Colobus monkeys and a number of other primate and small antelope species.

Pemba Island

For centuries, Pemba’s clove plantations and spice fields provided the Omani sultanate in Zanzibar with money for trade and military dominance over the surrounding areas.

To this day, the island is still a major spice producer in the archipelago. Visitors flock to Pemba’s shores, dotted with desert islands and throngs of coconut palms, for some of the best diving in the Indian Ocean. The Pemba Channel drops off steeply just off the west coast and the diverse species of marine life and coral are truly exceptional. Because tourism is still in its early stages, a trip to Pemba’s unspoiled shores and pristine waters is the underwater adventure of a lifetime.

Mafia Island
Mafia’s incredible and unspoilt dive sites have remained a well-kept secret of diving aficionados and beach recluses for years, but now the island is fast becoming a preferred destination.

For centuries, the island was a trading stop for Shirazi merchants travelling up towards Persia and under the rule of the Omani sultanate in Zanzibar, vast coconut and cashew plantations flourished. Today, all that remain of the island’s prestigious past are the coral ruins on Chole Mjini where the Arab landowners lived a sumptuous life removed from their plantations and slaves.

These days, Mafia’s remote location means it receives only the most selective visitors, but things are changing. The recent gazetting of Mafia Island Marine Park as the largest protected area in the Indian Ocean means that the millions of fish and coral species that thrive in the warm waters of Mafia’s beaches will survive for decades to come.

The Serengeti

Tanzania’s oldest and most popular National Park, also a world heritage site and recently proclaimed a seventh wonder of the world, the Serengeti is famed for its annual migration, when some six million hooves pound the open plains, as more than 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson’s gazelle join the wildebeest’s trek for fresh grazing.

Yet even when the migration is quiet, the Serengeti offers arguably the most scintillating game viewing in Africa: great herds of buffalo, smaller groups of elephant and giraffe, and thousands upon thousands of eland, topi, kongoni, impala and Grant’s gazelle.

The spectacle of predator versus prey dominates Tanzania’s greatest park. Golden-maned lion prides feast on the abundance of plain grazers. Solitary leopard haunt the acacia trees lining the Seronera River, while a high density of cheetah prowls the southeastern plains. Almost uniquely, all three African jackal species occur here, alongside the spotted hyena and a host of more elusive small predators, ranging from the insectivorous aardwolf to the beautiful serval cat.

As enduring as the game-viewing is the liberating sense of space that characterises the Serengeti Plains, stretching across sunburnt savannah to a shimmering golden horizon at the end of the earth. Yet, after the rains, this golden expanse of grass is transformed into an endless green carpet flecked with wildflowers. And there are also wooded hills and towering termite mounds, rivers lined with fig trees and acacia woodland stained orange by dust.

On the eastern border an area known as Loliondo offers a great mix of resident game and is excellent walking country with a dramatic scenery of rock kopjes and woodlands. The emphasis here is on walking safaris, off-road driving, and night drives, none of which are possible within the Serengeti itself, and also on cultural visits with the Maasai.

As popular as the Serengeti might be, but it remains so vast that you may be the only human audience when a pride of lions masterminds a siege, focussed unswervingly on its next meal.

The Northern Circuit

All the big names of the Tanzanian safari are located in the north of the country, from the plains of the Serengeti to the lofty peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Due to it’s stature we have written about the Serengeti on its own dedicated page (click here to read) but here we talk about the other Parks and Reserves which combine with the Serengeti to form part of the Northern Circuit.

The most visited of these is the Ngorongoro Crater, where wildlife graze and hunt in one of the largest volcanic craters in the world. Lake Manyara National Park and Tarangire National Park are also often incorporated as part of a longer safari.

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The Ngorongoro Conservation area borders the Serengeti in northern Tanzania and includes the world’s largest crater which acts as a natural enclosure for almost every species of wildlife found in East Africa ( including the rare black rhino). The Ngorongoro Crater is where you’ll witness some of the densest population of wildlife in the world and it’s a truly amazing place for photographers. The Maasai still live within the conservation area, and it’s also home to Olduvai where some of man’s earliest remains have been found.

Lake Manyara National Park
Lake Manyara is a relatively small national park but it’s incredibly diverse. Boasting plenty of elephant, tree-climbing lion (getting rarer), leopard, giraffe and more than 400 species of birds including flocks of pink flamingos, most driven itineraries stop at Lake Manyara for a night en route to the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Tarangire National Park
Tarangire, like Lake Manyara, is often combined with a visit to the larger, better known Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater but during the dry season (June to October) the river beds just teem with animals and it is well worth a trip. Herds of up to 300 elephants scratch the dry river bed for underground streams, while migratory wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, impala, gazelle, hartebeest and eland crowd the shrinking lagoons. It’s the greatest concentration of wildlife outside the Serengeti ecosystem – a smorgasbord for predators – and the one place in Tanzania where dry-country antelope such as the stately fringe-eared oryx and peculiar long-necked gerenuk are regularly observed. It is also a good place to enjoy a walking safari.

Selous Game Reserve

At an unbelievable 55,000 sq km, the Selous is almost twice the size of Belgium, is larger than Switzerland and is four times larger than the famous Serengeti in the north, covering 5% of Tanzania’s land area.

The Selous’ ecosystem as a whole is made up of a few conservation areas, namely Mikumi in the North and the Kilombero game controlled area in the West, covering in total over 90,000 sq km of pristine wilderness devoid of human influence. Fed by the mighty Rufiji River, the largest river in East Africa which drains most of South Western Tanzania’s water, this reserve is home to over a million large animals and is home to over half of Tanzania’s elephant population.

The Selous also contains about one third of the worlds’ population of wild dog (often called painted dogs). Their need to roam vast areas and their formidable hunting skills have caused many to be shot by farmers, but here in Selous they have boundless woodlands and savannahs in which to roam.

However, one of the major attractions has to be the mighty river itself, home to one of the largest crocodile and hippo populations in Africa, swarming with fish which in turn bring about some of the world’s best water birding. Navigable by boat, the river has created a myriad of water channels and lakes and to view game from the water adds an extra dimension to your safari.

Walking in the Selous is a speciality and is reputed to be one of the best places in the world to safari on foot. Spend a night or two in a mobile fly camp, surrounded only by the sights and sounds of the bush and your own personal guide will teach you about the more intricate detail of the bush.

With over 2,100 species of plants, 350 species of birds, 60,000 elephant, 108,000 buffalos and an estimated 1,300 of the worlds’ 4,000 (approx.) remaining rare wild dogs, the Selous Game Reserve gives guests an opportunity to game view in a true unspoilt wilderness.

Katavi Game Reserve

Isolated, untrammelled and seldom visited, Katavi is a true wilderness, providing the few intrepid souls who make it there with a thrilling taste of Africa as it must have been a century ago.

Tanzania’s third largest national park, it lies in the remote southwest of the country, within a truncated arm of the Rift Valley that terminates in the shallow, brooding expanse of Lake Rukwa.

The bulk of Katavi supports a hypnotically featureless cover of tangled brachystegia woodland, home to substantial but elusive populations of the localised eland, sable and roan antelopes. But the main focus for game viewing within the park is the Katuma River and associated floodplains such as the seasonal Lakes Katavi and Chada. During the rainy season, these lush, marshy lakes are a haven for myriad waterbirds, and they also support Tanzania’s densest concentrations of hippo and crocodile.

It is during the dry season, when the floodwaters retreat, that Katavi truly comes into its own. The Katuma, reduced to a shallow, muddy trickle, forms the only source of drinking water for miles around, and the flanking floodplains support game concentrations that defy belief. An estimated 4,000 elephants might converge on the area, together with several herds of 1,000-plus buffalo, while an abundance of giraffe, zebra, impala and reedbuck provide easy pickings for the numerous lion prides and spotted hyena clans whose territories converge on the floodplains.

Katavi’s most singular wildlife spectacle is provided by its hippos. Towards the end of the dry season, up to 200 individuals might flop together in any riverine pool of sufficient depth. And as more hippos gather in one place, so does male rivalry heat up – bloody territorial fights are an everyday occurrence, with the vanquished male forced to lurk hapless on the open plains until it gathers sufficient confidence to mount another challenge.

Due to its location Katavi National Park is often combined with the Mahale Mountains as part as a western Tanzania itinerary.

Mahale Mountains National Park

Set deep in the heart of the African interior, inaccessible by road and only 100km (60 miles) south of where Stanley uttered that immortal greeting “Doctor Livingstone, I presume”, is a scene reminiscent of an Indian Ocean island beach idyll.
Silky white coves hem in the azure waters of Lake Tanganyika, overshadowed by a chain of wild, jungle-draped peaks towering almost 2kms above the shore: the remote and mysterious Mahale Mountains.

Mahale Mountains is home to some of Africa’s last remaining wild chimpanzees: a population of roughly 800 (only 60 individuals forming what is known as “M group”), habituated to human visitors by a Japanese research project founded in the 1960s.

Tracking the chimps of Mahale is a magical experience. The guide’s eyes pick out last night’s nests – shadowy clumps high in a gallery of trees crowding the sky. Scraps of half-eaten fruit and fresh dung become valuable clues, leading deeper into the forest. Butterflies flit in the dappled sunlight.

Then suddenly you are in their midst: preening each other’s glossy coats in concentrated huddles, squabbling noisily, or bounding into the trees to swing effortlessly between the vines.

The area is also known as Nkungwe, after the park’s largest mountain, held sacred by the local Tongwe people, and at 2,460 metres (8,069 ft) the highest of the six prominent points that make up the Mahale Range.

And while chimpanzees are the star attraction, the slopes support a diverse forest fauna, including readily observed troops of red colobus, red-tailed and blue monkeys, and a kaleidoscopic array of colourful forest birds.

You can trace the Tongwe people’s ancient pilgrimage to the mountain spirits, hiking through the montane rainforest belt – home to an endemic race of Angola colobus monkey – to high grassy ridges chequered with alpine bamboo. Then bathe in the impossibly clear waters of the world’s longest, second-deepest and least-polluted freshwater lake – harbouring an estimated 1,000 fish species – before returning as you came, by boat.

Ruaha National Park

Second only to Katavi in its aura of untrammelled wilderness, but far more accessible, Ruaha protects a vast tract of the rugged, semi-arid bush country that characterises central Tanzania.

Its lifeblood is the Great Ruaha River, which courses along the eastern boundary in a flooded torrent during the height of the rains, but dwindling thereafter to a scattering of precious pools surrounded by a blinding sweep of sand and rock.

A fine network of game-viewing roads follows the Great Ruaha and its seasonal tributaries, where, during the dry season, impala, waterbuck and other antelopes risk their life for a sip of life-sustaining water. And the risk is considerable: not only from the prides of 20-plus lion that lord over the savannah, but also from the cheetahs that stalk the open grassland and the leopards that lurk in tangled riverine thickets. This impressive array of large predators is boosted by both striped and spotted hyena, as well as several conspicuous packs of the highly endangered African wild dog.

Ruaha’s unusually high diversity of antelope is a function of its location, which is transitional to the acacia savannah of East Africa and the miombo woodland belt of Southern Africa. Grant’s gazelle and lesser kudu occur here at the very south of their range, alongside the miombo-associated sable and roan antelope, and one of East AfricaÆs largest populations of greater kudu, the park emblem, distinguished by the male’s magnificent corkscrew horns.

A similar duality is noted in the checklist of 450 birds: the likes of crested barbet, an attractive yellow-and-black bird whose persistent trilling is a characteristic sound of the southern bush, occur in Ruaha alongside central Tanzanian endemics such as the yellow-collared lovebird and ashy starling.

Combined with the Selous Game Reserve and the Zanzibar Archipelago, the Ruaha National Park works very nicely into a Southern Tanzania circuit.

Zanzibar Archipelago

Portuguese invasion and control of the Swahili Coast in the late 16th century ended the golden age of the archipelago, although the Omani Arabs returned to power less than a century later.

Zanzibar
Today, many of the winding streets and high townhouses of old Stone Town remain unchanged and visitors can walk between the sultan’s palace, the House of Wonders, the Portuguese fort and gardens, the merchants’ houses, and the Turkish baths of the old city. Day-long spice tours to working plantations offer visitors the chance to observe the cultivation of cloves, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and other spices that have made the island famous.

Zanzibar’s coastline offers some of the best beaches in the world, but sand and surf vary depending on what side of the island you’re on. On the east coast, waves break over coral reefs and sand bars offshore, and low tide reveals small pools of starfish, small minnows, and anemones. Up north, ocean swimming is much less susceptible to the tides, and smooth beaches and white sand make for dazzling days in the sun.

The port city of Stone Town dominates the west coast, and although the beaches of Mangapwani, where slave caves are visible at low tide and nearby Bububu are less than half an hour’s drive away, a few nights spent on the east or north cost is well worth the extra hour it takes to drive there. That said, the Chole Island Marine Park just off Stone Town and nearby Prison, Grave, and Snake Islands make a refreshing day-trip and a good break from exploring the winding passageways of the old city.

On the south coast of Zanzibar lies the Menai Bay Conservation Area, a sea turtle protection area for the endangered species that come to breed on the island. Roads to the southeast coast take visitors through the Jozani Forest, home to Zanzibar’s rare Red Colobus monkeys and a number of other primate and small antelope species.

Pemba Island

For centuries, Pemba’s clove plantations and spice fields provided the Omani sultanate in Zanzibar with money for trade and military dominance over the surrounding areas.

To this day, the island is still a major spice producer in the archipelago. Visitors flock to Pemba’s shores, dotted with desert islands and throngs of coconut palms, for some of the best diving in the Indian Ocean. The Pemba Channel drops off steeply just off the west coast and the diverse species of marine life and coral are truly exceptional. Because tourism is still in its early stages, a trip to Pemba’s unspoiled shores and pristine waters is the underwater adventure of a lifetime.

Mafia Island
Mafia’s incredible and unspoilt dive sites have remained a well-kept secret of diving aficionados and beach recluses for years, but now the island is fast becoming a preferred destination.

For centuries, the island was a trading stop for Shirazi merchants travelling up towards Persia and under the rule of the Omani sultanate in Zanzibar, vast coconut and cashew plantations flourished. Today, all that remain of the island’s prestigious past are the coral ruins on Chole Mjini where the Arab landowners lived a sumptuous life removed from their plantations and slaves.

These days, Mafia’s remote location means it receives only the most selective visitors, but things are changing. The recent gazetting of Mafia Island Marine Park as the largest protected area in the Indian Ocean means that the millions of fish and coral species that thrive in the warm waters of Mafia’s beaches will survive for decades to come.

Where to stay

These are just a selection of the properties we can personally recommend. Please get in touch to hear more about our full portfolio.

Chada Katavi

Chada Katavi has been kept the way it began – small and intimate with just six East African safari tents. Each tent at Chada Katavi is spacious and comfortable with wide-open fronts giving you panoramic views of the plain and animal life that constantly comes and goes.

take me to Chada Katavi

Entamanu Ngorongoro

Surrounded by the soaring peaks of dormant volcanic hills and the ebb and flow of Maasai pastoralist life, Entamanu is a place to explore beyond the hustle and bustle of the main tourist trail at the Crater. Not only to visit the Crater, but to understand it as part of a wider environment.

take me to Entamanu Ngorongoro

Gibbs Farm

Recently named Best Safari Lodge and #5 of The Top 100 Hotels in the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards 2017 readers’ survey, Gibb’s Farm captures the essence of Tanzania’s rich history deeply rooted in East African culture and the community.

take me to Gibbs Farm

Greystoke Mahale

Greystoke Mahale, places a great deal of importance on not dominating its sensational natural surroundings. Just six wood and thatch bandas are tucked back into the forest line, so that your only view is of the beach and the lake beyond, and created almost entirely from sustainable materials sourced on Lake Tanganyika itself.

take me to Greystoke Mahale

Lamai Serengeti

Lamai Serengeti sits tucked amongst the rocks of Kogakuria Kopje with panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, just a few miles from where the wildebeest cross the Mara River. For roughly a quarter of the year, between late July and October, Lamai Serengeti is where you will find the migration.

take me to Lamai Serengeti

Matemwe Lodge

Matemwe is perched on an outcrop overlooking a shallow coral fringed lagoon on the quieter north-east coast of Zanzibar. Built from local materials and surrounded by beautiful lush gardens, each suite has a private veranda with expansive views of the Indian Ocean with its constantly changing hues of blue.

take me to Matemwe Lodge

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

Nowhere else on earth can you wake up among all the trappings of an elegant baroque chateau – brocade sofas, gilt mirrors, beaded chandeliers and panelled walls – and be instantly transported into one of the most famous African landscapes with just one glance out the window.

take me to Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

November 2019: Tanzania with Simon King

This action-packed, ten night Exceptional Journey takes you through the highlights of Tanzania, capturing beautiful contrasting landscapes, fascinating cultures and captivating wildlife. The tour begins in the Serengeti National Park in the north and continues west to the remote jungles of the Mahale Mountains.

take me to November 2019: Tanzania with Simon King

Siwandu

Siwandu (formerly Selous Safari Camp) is located within an open palm forest on the shores of Lake Nzerakera, a massive lake adjoining the Great Rufiji River. Blending in superbly with its natural surroundings in what is one of the most photogenic areas of the Selous Game Reserve.

take me to Siwandu

Get in touch with us now to start planning your journey

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