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 Nyerere National Park (formerly The Selous Game Reserve) in the south is larger than Switzerland (covering one sixth of Tanzania’s land surface) and a offers a boutique game-viewing 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 palm backed 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

Tanzania’s climate varies across the country, from the tropical humidity of the coast, the dry heat of the Serengeti and the cool air of the Ngorongoro highlands.

Northern Tanzania and the coast follows a similar weather pattern as much of East Africa with their main rainy season, or the ‘long rains’, from March to May. Many safari camps are shut during this period. During November and early December there’s another rainy season: the ‘short rains’. These are much lighter and some years there is no precipitation at all.

Many visitors come to witness the annual wildebeest migration in the Serengeti. This can be seen year round, generally arriving in the southern plains of the Serengeti to calve around January, before heading north west between the months of June and October.

The best time to visit the southern parks of Nyerere (formerly the Selous Game Reserve) and  Ruaha is from June to November.  Outside these months it can be very humid with most rainfall between January and April.  The same is true of Western Tanzania, although the Mahale Mountains are very tropical with rainfall much of the year.

The Zanzibar Archipelago is good year round with an average temperature of 30 degrees, although you might like to avoid the wettest months from April to mid June.

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Highlights

Serengeti National Park

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, 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.

Ngorongoro Crater

Standing at 2,236m above sea level,  the Ngorongoro Crater is the largest unbroken caldera in the world and is surrounded by very steep walls rising 610m from the floor. Covering an area of 259 sq.kms, it is considered to be one of the Wonders of the Natural World and is a veritable haven for wildlife. The crater walls act as a natural enclosure for almost every species of wildlife found in East Africa (including the rare black rhino) with some of the densest population of wildlife in the world.

The crater stands within the vast Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, which spans vast expanses of highland plains, savannah and forests,  bordering the Serengeti National Park.  It is also home to a number of lesser craters including Elpakai and Olmoti which can be explored on foot with local Massai guides, as well as the impressive Olduvai Gorge. Here a 1.75-million-year-old hominin skull and series of preserved footprints were discovered, allowing visitors to walk in the literal footsteps of early man. From safaris in the Ngorongoro Crater, to explorations of  Olduvai Gorge, or Massai led treks  through remote gorges, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area leaves visitors with no shortage of activities to entertain.

The Ngorongoro Crater is now one of the most requested destinations for African luxury safaris but this comes with a downside.  It can get very busy with vehicles especially in the peak months of July and August.  Visitors have the option of either staying in one of the camps on the crater rim, which offer the advantage of being one of the first vehicles in the crater at sunrise, or staying in a camp in the lush settlement of Karatu. Here you are well placed to also visit the national parks of Tarangire and Lake Manyara, plus most lodges offer a swimming pool. On the downside, it means an early start to drive to the crater, which can take over an hour.

Nyerere National Park

At an unbelievable 55,000 sq km, Nyerere National Park (formerly The Selous Game Reserve) 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.

Nyerere’s 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.

Nyerere National Park 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 Nyerere 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 Nyerere National Park 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,  Nyerere National Park 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.

Tarangire National Park

South east of Lake Manyara, 120 km from Arusha, Tarangire National Park is superbly diverse with a mix of plains, swamps and lakes, resulting in a wide ranging wildlife population.  Vast Baobab trees and terracotta-hued termite mounds stud the landscape, its fertile foliage a rich blend of every green tone imaginable. Like Lake Manyara, it is often combined with a visit to the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, especially in their dry season from June to October, when their dry river beds teem with wildlife.

In the dry season 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 boasts 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. With almost 550 species, Tarangire is also an ornithologist’s paradise. It is said that the swamps support the largest number of breeding birds anywhere in the world!

The remote Silale Swamp is one of the top highlights of the Tarangire ecosystem. The swamp acts as a giant sponge during the green season and slowly releases water during the dry season. Huge masses of herbivores stream into the park for its water supply, which in turn attracts lions, leopards and wild dogs. Even the great rock python can be seen living alongside the swamp. These thick, massive reptiles often stay stationary for months at a time – giving visitors the perfect opportunity to observe them.

As well as traditional 4×4 game-drives, Tarangire National Park is a great place to enjoy a walking safari, and there is also the option of as an early morning hot air balloons flight.  Most of the accommodation is in the busier North of the park, however we prefer a handful of fantastic luxury tented camps in the remote south, within easy reach of the bountiful Silale Swamps.

Serengeti National Park

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, 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.

Ngorongoro Crater

Standing at 2,236m above sea level,  the Ngorongoro Crater is the largest unbroken caldera in the world and is surrounded by very steep walls rising 610m from the floor. Covering an area of 259 sq.kms, it is considered to be one of the Wonders of the Natural World and is a veritable haven for wildlife. The crater walls act as a natural enclosure for almost every species of wildlife found in East Africa (including the rare black rhino) with some of the densest population of wildlife in the world.

The crater stands within the vast Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, which spans vast expanses of highland plains, savannah and forests,  bordering the Serengeti National Park.  It is also home to a number of lesser craters including Elpakai and Olmoti which can be explored on foot with local Massai guides, as well as the impressive Olduvai Gorge. Here a 1.75-million-year-old hominin skull and series of preserved footprints were discovered, allowing visitors to walk in the literal footsteps of early man. From safaris in the Ngorongoro Crater, to explorations of  Olduvai Gorge, or Massai led treks  through remote gorges, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area leaves visitors with no shortage of activities to entertain.

The Ngorongoro Crater is now one of the most requested destinations for African luxury safaris but this comes with a downside.  It can get very busy with vehicles especially in the peak months of July and August.  Visitors have the option of either staying in one of the camps on the crater rim, which offer the advantage of being one of the first vehicles in the crater at sunrise, or staying in a camp in the lush settlement of Karatu. Here you are well placed to also visit the national parks of Tarangire and Lake Manyara, plus most lodges offer a swimming pool. On the downside, it means an early start to drive to the crater, which can take over an hour.

Nyerere National Park

At an unbelievable 55,000 sq km, Nyerere National Park (formerly The Selous Game Reserve) 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.

Nyerere’s 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.

Nyerere National Park 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 Nyerere 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 Nyerere National Park 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,  Nyerere National Park 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.

Tarangire National Park

South east of Lake Manyara, 120 km from Arusha, Tarangire National Park is superbly diverse with a mix of plains, swamps and lakes, resulting in a wide ranging wildlife population.  Vast Baobab trees and terracotta-hued termite mounds stud the landscape, its fertile foliage a rich blend of every green tone imaginable. Like Lake Manyara, it is often combined with a visit to the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, especially in their dry season from June to October, when their dry river beds teem with wildlife.

In the dry season 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 boasts 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. With almost 550 species, Tarangire is also an ornithologist’s paradise. It is said that the swamps support the largest number of breeding birds anywhere in the world!

The remote Silale Swamp is one of the top highlights of the Tarangire ecosystem. The swamp acts as a giant sponge during the green season and slowly releases water during the dry season. Huge masses of herbivores stream into the park for its water supply, which in turn attracts lions, leopards and wild dogs. Even the great rock python can be seen living alongside the swamp. These thick, massive reptiles often stay stationary for months at a time – giving visitors the perfect opportunity to observe them.

As well as traditional 4×4 game-drives, Tarangire National Park is a great place to enjoy a walking safari, and there is also the option of as an early morning hot air balloons flight.  Most of the accommodation is in the busier North of the park, however we prefer a handful of fantastic luxury tented camps in the remote south, within easy reach of the bountiful Silale Swamps.

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.

Baraza Resort & Spa

With just 30 pool villas, Baraza Resort and Spa is a stunning family-friendly hotel on the quiet east coast of the tropical island of Zanzibar. Offering a variety of one and two bedroom pool villas, with a distinct fusion of Arabic, Swahili and Indian design, this all-inclusive 5-star resort has been named as one of the top 30 in the world by the prestigious Conde Nast Traveller magazine.

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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.

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Chem Chem Lodge

Set on 20,000 hectares of untainted African bush between Tarangire National Park and bird rich Lake Manyara, luxurious Chem Chem Lodge is the perfect place to immerse yourself in an authentic Tanzanian wilderness experience.

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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.

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Fundu Lagoon

Fundu Lagoon is a stylish lodge on the small island of Pemba offering barefoot luxury in a unique Tanzanian setting. There are eighteen tented safari style bungalows, some on the beach and some on the hill side, but all with breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean.

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Gibbs Farm

Located in the forested slopes of the Ngorongoro Crater, Gibb’s Farm overlooks the centuries-old Great Rift Valley and captures the essence of Tanzania’s rich history deeply rooted in East African culture and the community.

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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.

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Jongomero

Jongomero is located in the south-eastern area of the Ruaha National Park. It is the only camp in the vicinity which gives you complete seclusion and exclusive game viewing.

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Kigelia Ruaha

At Kigelia Ruaha, your soul seeks the humbling solitude of giant baobabs, and the exhilaration of encountering Africa’s big cats or great herds of elephant.

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Kuro Tarangire

Located in the central part of Tarangire National Park, Kuro Tarangire is set away from the busy north and in easy reach of the Silale and Gursi Swamps plus other excellent game areas. An intimate tented camp with just six beautifully designed tents, Kuro Tarangire is a fantastic option in the heart of the Tarangire.

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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.

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Little Oliver’s Camp

Set in the remote southern reaches of Tarangire National Park within easy reach of the Silale Swamps, Little Oliver’s Camp is an echo of the early days of East African safaris. With just five spacious tents, it offers an intimate safari, and is perfect for those searching for genuine experiences in this unique, baobab-filled landscape.

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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.

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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.

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Plantation Lodge

Plantation Lodge is set within lush gardens on the grounds of a coffee plantation, between Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara. It offers an excellent alternative to the safaris camps on the Crater Rim, giving the excitement of a safari within a short drive, and the comfort of a charming family-run boutique hotel.

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Sand Rivers Selous

Sand Rivers Selous is located in the remote heart of the Nyerere National Park (formerly The Selous Game Reserve) in Southern Tanzania, on the banks at the mile-wide point of the Rufiji River.

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Serengeti Safari Camp

Serengeti Safari Camp was designed to be in the best possible location to view the wildebeest migration as it covers hundreds of miles of the Serengeti National Park each year. The wildebeest move and this is what our Serengeti Safari Camp is all about – understanding the Serengeti seasons and game movements and mirroring them.

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Serian’s Serengeti North

Serian’s Serengeti North is a luxury seasonal camp, whose movement is governed by the annual wildebeest migration. Traditional, stylish and relaxed and with a focus on excellent guiding, this is a great option for those looking to experience the famed annual migration in comfort and style.

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Singita Grumeti

Singita Grumeti is an exclusive private reserve located adjacent to the Western Corridor of the Serengeti National Park in the path of the famed wildebeest migration. Offering unparalleled levels of African luxury, there are just four superb permanents lodges and one mobile camp within 350,000 acres of magnificent wilderness.

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Siwandu Camp

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 Nyerere National Park (formerly The Selous Game Reserve)

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Xanadu Villas

Xanadu is a luxury collection of six individually designed villas nestled on Zanzibar’s east coast. Surrounded by lush tropical gardens, pristine white sands and the sparkling waters of the Indian Ocean, Xanadu makes for the perfect island escape.

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Get in touch with us now to start planning your journey

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