Tarangire National Park
This park offers perhaps the closest approximation to people’s expectations of Africa. Savannah lands, acacia stands, clusters of baobab trees, large herds of elephant and large tracts of rarely visited game lands make this perhaps the epitome of the safari experience.
Tarangire National Park covers an area of approximately 2,850 sq. kilometres (1,096 sq. miles) although it is but a small sector of the vast Tarangire Eco-System that stretches out across the adjacent Maasai Steppe and into the Rift Valley and Lake Manyara habitats. The park is named after the Tarangire River that runs through its centre providing the only permanent water source for miles around. Tarangire is thus primarily a dry season habitat (between July and November of each year) because of the perennial water in the Tarangire River attracting wildlife from much of the Northern Circuit eco-systems from August.
By October, the park is full, the numbers swelled by mini-migrations of wildebeest and zebra that join the vast herds of elephant at the watering holes. However, there is a permanent and sizeable resident population throughout the year including all the predators (lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena and hunting dog), elephant and some mammals rarely seen in the other parks of the Northern Circuit, such as Kudu and the fringe-eared Oryx.
The ancient gnarled baobab trees which greet the visitor on arrival, the shimmering stands of acacia (there are15 recorded species), Combretum woodland and open savannah plains all foster a diverse array of wildlife and over 300 species of birds.
The majority of game drives tend to follow the river but where possible an extra day is recommended to explore some of the more remote areas of the park. A drive to Silale Swamp and Lamarkau (from the Masai word for hippo) in the South of the park are highly recommended.
Tarangire National Park and Intimate Places Tanzania
Tarangire National Park offers a number of very attractive private campsites which can be used in conjunction with a private & exclusive ‘Intimate Camp.’ Alternatively, the luxurious accommodation offered at Siringit Villa is but a two-and-a-half-hour drive away and guests can enjoy a day trip to Tarangire National Park as part of their stay there.
Lake Manyara National Park
Nestling at the foot of the Great Rift Valley escarpment, Lake Manyara National Park covers an area of approximately 330 square kilometres (127 square miles) of which almost two-thirds is covered by the eponymous lake. The actual size of the lake varies during the course of the year and is dictated by rainfall.
The name derives from “emanyara” the Maasai word for the prickly euphorbia thorns which the tribe use to surround their kraals and protect their livestock. These thorns are plentiful in the Great Rift Valley where the park is situated.
The park was immortalised in Ernest Hemingway’s 1935 work of non-fiction entitled ‘Green Hills of Africa’ and is an ideal place to start a safari when visiting the Ngorongoro / Serengeti eco-system.
The lake is believed to have been formed 2 to 3 million years ago when the Rift Valley cleaved into existence and the fresh water streams began to pour over the escarpment, collecting in the natural depression where the lake is found today. Even though it is formed from fresh water, there is a high soda content in the lake which attracts large flocks of flamingos which in turn form a spectacular pink mantle over the lake when viewed from afar.
Elsewhere in the park there is a surprising diversity of habitats from open grasslands to hot water springs, riverine forest and swamps to rocky outcrops, each supporting a fantastic array of both wildlife and birdlife. The park is reputed to be home to some 380 species of birds.
In addition to flamingos the park is known for its large and boisterous hippo population, populous groups of baboons and several herds of elephant, whose tempers can be a little short as a result of the years of poaching which decimated their number. Another phenomenon distinct to Manyara is the occasional spotting of lions on acacia trees, although this happens far less than the reputation would suggest. Possible reasons provided for this behaviour include trying to escape the heat on the ground by catching some breeze higher up; avoiding flies or, more likely, escaping the disturbance caused by elephant and buffalo herds.
Manyara is noted for its wealth of birdlife. At times the lake is visited by many thousands of Lesser Flamingos, together with a sprinkling of the larger species such as herons, skimmers, spoon-bills and skimmers. Maccoa Ducks and White-backed Ducks are resident, and the beautiful little Pygmy Goose is sometimes also seen. The large areas of forest with giant fig and mahogany trees and acacia woodland are also home to hornbills, bee-eaters, barbets and rollers.
Lake Manyara National Park is a small and verdant oasis of life in the harsh confines of the Rift Valley and is worthy of inclusion in an itinerary for the sheer number of monkeys and prolific birdlife alone. Anything else, and there is plenty else, is a very rewarding bonus.
Lake Manyara National Park and Intimate Places Tanzania
Lake Manyara National Park offers a number of very attractive private campsites which can be used in conjunction with a private & exclusive ‘Intimate Camp.’ Alternatively, the luxurious accommodation offered at Siringit Villa is but a two-and-a-half-hour drive away and guests can enjoy a day trip to Tarangire National Park as part of their stay there.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the name given to the 8,292 square kilometres (3,202 square miles) of primeval volcanic hills which surround the eponymous crater and the highlands of the same name.
Ngorongoro Crater was once the headquarters of Serengeti National park of which it was an integral part, but in 1959, after intense pressure and lobbying from the local Maasai community who were dispossessed of their lands when the National Park was set up, Ngorongoro was designated a Conservation Area.
The 260 square kilometre (100 square miles) crater is now the principal attraction on the Northern Tanzanian Safari circuit and the reputation of the Crater Highlands is slowly developing as a premier trekking destination. The Crater is all that it is made out to be with the hyperbole about “Garden of Eden” and “Eighth Wonder of the World” all justified by its perennial animal population.
This cross-section of wildlife is about as convenient as you will find, dispersed amongst an amazing array of eco-systems within the natural amphitheatre created by the 610 metres (2000 feet) high walls which surround it. The crater is home to one of the few remaining populations of Black Rhino in Tanzania and just about every other East African mammal, with the exception of giraffe (the walls are too steep to allow free movement) and impala, all unafraid of and accustomed to the constant retinue of visitors’ vehicles.
The crater formed some eight million years ago when the cone of an active volcano estimated to be larger than Kilimanjaro collapsed forming a caldera. The volcanic nature of the soils and the plentiful water supplies quickly transformed the volcanic cone into a spectacular sanctuary for the many species of wild game and birds which inhabit it today. Frequent game sightings include all of the ‘big five’: lion, elephant, rhino (the endangered black rhino), buffalo and leopard. There are numerous different habitats within the crater ranging from the Yellow-barked acacia forests of Lerai, the swamps around Ngoitokitok Springs, to the pink flamingo mantle of the soda Lake Magadi, each supporting a distinct ecosystem.
Among the notable birds are Lammergeyer, Vereaux’s Eagle and Egyptian Vulture, all of which make their homes in the higher reaches of the crater walls. The beautiful Rosy-breasted Longclaw which appears on the plains after rains and the flocks of Lesser and Greater Flamingos are occasional visitors to the crater floor.
Within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, on the Naabi Plains which unfurl between the crater and the Serengeti, lies Olduvai Gorge which is popularly known as “The Cradle of Mankind”. It was here that Dr. Louis Leakey and his wife Mary first discovered the remains of Zinjanthropus Bosei, a distant ancestor of man believed to be 1.8 million years old and Australopithecus Bosei, the ‘Nutcracker Man’, a species which became extinct approximately one million years ago. There are also fossilised footprints, the remains of ancient tools and bones from various prehistoric species which can be seen. A small museum on the site is currently undergoing a major renovation and will display many of the important archaeological discoveries made at the site.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Intimate Places Tanzania
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area offers a number of very attractive private campsites including two which offer views of the crater itself and these can be used in conjunction with a private & exclusive ‘Intimate Camp.’
Serengeti National Park
The name ‘Serengeti’ is derived from the Maasai word ‘siringit’ meaning “endless plains,” a just title for arguably the world’s most famous National Park.
National Geographic Magazine describes the Serengeti as, “the destination of a lifetime; the must-see spot for the complete traveler.” It is clear that no safari to Tanzania can be considered complete without a visit to this remarkable place.
The Serengeti extends over some 14,763 square kilometres (5,700 square miles) which makes it roughly the same size as Northern Ireland or the state of Connecticut. The park supports over four million different mammals and birds making it the greatest concentration of wildlife in the world.
It is the short grass plains of the Seronera area in the South of the park which are perhaps best known to first-time visitors. It is here that one finds the kopje outcrops, the small granite rock formations which loom out of the seas of grassland to form a distinct habitat for several species as well as perfect viewing points for some of the big cats who populate these predator-rich plains.
Less known but equally as scenic with its own distinct eco-system is the Acacia savannah and wooded grasslands of the North of the park in the Lobo / Grumeti area where the Serengeti meets the Kenyan Maasai Mara. It is in this region that the Great Migration begins to congregate in the rutting season for its big push to the birthing plains of the South.
The Great Migration is a much-documented phenomenon familiar to most wildlife enthusiasts but it must be experienced first-hand for the true majesty of the occasion to be fully understood. This mass exodus of 1.5 million wildebeest together with half a million zebra and gazelle on their eternal search for water and pasture is one of the greatest natural spectacles on Earth. The Great Migration pattern follows a 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) pilgrimage from Kenya to Serengeti reaching its climax in December till February when the birthing begins in the Southern Serengeti.
In May till July when the dry season is at its peak, the herds begin to drift to the west towards Lake Victoria, crossing the Grumeti River and on to the Maasai Mara in Kenya.
Herds of wildebeest and zebra stretching as far as the eye can see and which include the weak, the crippled and the young, form an easy target for the numerous predators that famously roam the Serengeti. The casual ease with which the lions, leopard, cheetah, hyenas and crocodiles pick off the vulnerable members of the herds is as much a part of the Migration spectacle as are the endless grunting masses. Sightings of kills are common on game drives.
The Serengeti National Park rarely disappoints and few people leave without having had their expectations surpassed by the beauty, the wildlife and the sheer scale of one of the last untouched stretches of Africa.
No-one at whatever level of interest in ornithology can fail to notice the wealth of birdlife in the Serengeti. Colourful rollers, bee-eaters, kingfishers and sunbirds are common whilst amongst larger species birds of prey, game birds and waterfowl are well represented.
Serengeti National Park and Intimate Places Tanzania
Given the sheer size and importance of the Serengeti National Park, Intimate Places Tanzania has a number of accommodation solutions for its guests there. Siringit Serengeti Camp is very conveniently located in the heart of the park some 7 kilometres from Seronera. Camp Zebra is located wherever the Wildebeest migration is to be found and offers some very close encounters with this, the largest mass movement of animals on our planet. And Intimate Camps allows you the opportunity to explore the Serengeti on your own terms and in your own private space just as the early explorers did a century and more ago.
Natron is a shallow, alkaline lake which meaures 57 kilomtres (35 miles) in length and 22 kilometres (14 miles) in width depending upon seasons. It is located in the ‘Gregory Rift’ which is the Eastern branch of the Great Rift Valley that scars the continent from the Dead Sea to Mozambique.
The high soda content and remote location of the lake make it an ideal nesting site for flamingos, whose numbers equal those of Lake Nakuru in Kenya. The lake is also a watering hole for some of the smaller groups of wildebeest that pass this way.
At the southern end of the lake looms Ol Donyo Lengai (3,188 m/ 10,459 feet), a perfectly asymmetrical active volcano whose name derives from the Maasai language and means “Mountain of God.”
Lengai is the only active Soda Carbonatite volcano in the world and offers fantastic views for those strong enough to climb it. It takes 5-7 hours to climb to the summit and another 3 hours to descend with the opportunity of spending a couple of hours inside the crater when conditions allow. You have to be quite fit to climb Lengai and it is not recommended to those who suffer from vertigo.
The only fresh water in this stark and rugged area is around the Engare Sero River, which emerges from a gorge in a nearby escarpment. A two hour walk up the gorge leads to scenic waterfalls which provide idyllic conditions for swimming.
Lake Natron and Intimate Places Tanzania
Lake Natron can only be described as a remote destination and there are very few places offering accommodation in the area. There are however one or two idyllic spots to set up a camp and these can be used in conjunction with a private & exclusive ‘Intimate Camp.’
Lake Eyasi is located in the Eyasi-Wembere branch of the Great Rift Valley at the base of the Serengeti plateau, just South of the Serengeti National Park and immediately South West of the Ngorongoro Crater.
Though not a game destination in its own right, the Lake is located amid beautiful scenery and is home to some of Tanzania’s most fascinating people, chief among whom is the Hadzabe tribe. Very different to the Maasai, the Hadzabe are hunter-gatherers who grow no food and raise no livestock. Their diet is based on berries, bulbs, roots and fruits which are gathered by their womenfolk. The men are in charge of gathering honey and hunting small animals using bows and arrows.
A visit with the Hadzabe tribe can be a very rewarding experience. Typically it starts before dawn and our guests can choose either to accompany the women to gather food or to accompany the men to go on a hunt. The most commonly hunted animals are warthogs, impala, kudu and baboons although birds are also a very popular delicacy. Buffalo are also known to frequent this area after the rains and the Hadzabe have no fear of hunting these aggressive animals although they always do so using arrows laced with poison.
A visit with the Hadzabe is a real life interaction with a tribe who have followed the same traditions and the same way of life for hundreds if not thousands of years.
Lake Eyasi and Intimate Places Tanzania
As with Natron, Lake Eyasi can only be described as a remote destination and there are very few places offering accommodation in the area. There are however one or two idyllic spots to set up a camp and these can be used in conjunction with a private & exclusive ‘Intimate Camp.’