Tarangire National Park

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Tarangire National Park is fourth on my list of  Top Ten African safari destinations, and is a firm favourite with many visitors, often surpassing its more famous neighbours the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti.  The combination of awesome scenery, baobab trees and the best elephant viewing in Tanzania is hugely popular.

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Where: Located in northern Tanzania, 1 & 1/2 hours drive west of Arusha along an excellent road., Tarangire is an easily accessible part of Tanzania’s northern circuit.

Why: Elephants and baobabs amongst others!  Tarangire is a fantastic place to watch elephant with many family groups visible in open parkland type habitat, and when coupled with the hugely characterful baobab trees offer great photographic opportunities.   Lion and leopard are present year round along with buffalo and giraffe with large herds of wildebeest and zebra entering the park in the dry season.

When: Tarangire is lovely at any time of the year and there are always elephants present but during the dry season, particularly from July into October, the game viewing can be truly exceptional, with grass cover lower and huge herds of wildebeest, zebra, buffalo and elephant coming to the waters of the Tarangire River off the Lolkisale and Simanjiro Plains to the east.

Where: Anywhere in the park is great, the camps to the north near the main entrance gate experience more visitor traffic.but are easier to get to and have less of the annoying tsetse flies particularly outside the dry season months.  Further south in the park the camps are smaller and more exclusive.  Personally I always choose a camp in the park over one outside, even allowing for some very lovely camps on the eastern side of the park – it’s just better to be at the heart of the action!

How long: A minimum of one night outside the dry season, but 3 or 4 is great during the July to October period.

What to do: Game drives are the main option in Tarangire, but some of the smaller exclusive camps in the more remote areas have licensed walking guides for walking safaris.

My view: Fantastic!  Go and see it for yourself!

Lion and Buffalo, TarangireTarangire elephants

For more information on Tarangire and Tanzania’s other safari destinations visit: www.journeyintoafrica.com

Or contact us on : info@journeyintoafrica.com

Next on the Top Ten – Chobe National Park and the Kwando and Linyanti Rivers.

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The Masai Mara

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Third on the list of my Top Ten African safari destinations, the Masai Mara is one of the most famous wildlife areas in Africa: famed for it’s variety of species, for its migrating herds crossing the crocodile-infested waters of the Mara River and immortablised by the BBC’s Big Cat Diary which was filned in the Mara.

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Where: Located in southern Kenya,  on the border of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, 4 -5 hours drive or a short flight from Nairobi.

Why: Year-round resident game in lovely open scenery making for easy game viewing.  Good numbers of lion, cheetah and leopard, many of whom are very relaxed around safari vehiciles making for great game viewing.  When the huge herds of wildebeest and zebra are in the Mara the viewing can be truly outstanding!  Elephant, rhino, hippo and crocs complete an impressive list of megafauna!

When: Year round but at its best when the big herds are around normally from July through to the end of September.

Where: The Mara is a relatively small area compared to some of the larger parks, and can get very busy particularly during the holiday season of July to August.   The smaller select camps along the rivers will give a feeling of exclusivity but some of the concession areas just outside the reserve allow more personal game veiwing experiences.

How long: You need at least two nights and preferably three in the Mara, and can combine two differenet camps in different areas for a more complete visit.

What to do: Game drives are the main option in the Mara, but walking and horse riding safaris are possibilities in the areas just outside the reserve.  Masai cultural visits are also possible.

My view:   The Mara is a terrific reserve with great game viewing and easily accessible from Nairobi with numerous flights.  Some people, particularly experienced safari-goers, may find the number of vehicles a bit much and it can be hard to get exclusive game viewing in the main reserve.  If this may worry you, the harder to get to northern Serengeti may be the better option, but for those with limited time, the Mara is a great choice.

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For more information on the Masai Mara and Kenya’s other safari destinations visit: www.journeyintoafrica.com Or contact us on : info@journeyintoafrica.com

Next on the Top Ten – Tarangire National Park!

 

The Ngorongoro Crater

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This is the second of my Top Ten African safari destinations, and one which seems to divide opinion these days!  Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater is frequently cited as the one place you’d go to if you had just one day to spend on safari in Africa; in many ways this is true: the Crater has phenomenal scenery, fascinating geology and you are virtually guaranteed to see perhaps four of the ‘Big Five’ along with great herds of wildebeest and zebra, good jackal and hyena, hippo and great birdlife in a single day at virtually any time of the year.

But this wealth of treasures has brought its drawbacks:  too many vehicles on too restricted a road network and a, necessarily, much higher level of stringent park regulations has made the Crater a less satisfying safari destination than in the past for experienced safari travellers.   I well remember camping on the floor of the Crater in the 1980’s and had some of my most dramatic wildlife experiences in camp there, but now I recommend just one day on the Crater floor and leaving as early as possible to stay ahead of most other visitors.   Even now, the Crater leaves an inspiring impression on virtually all who go there.

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Where: Located in northern Tanzania, between the city of Arusha and the Serengeti National Park.

Why:  Some of the highest concentrations of lion, hyena and jackal in Africa, easily seen during the day, with great herds of wildebeest, zebra, buffalo and gazelle.  The backdrop of the 2000 ft Crater wall make a stunning backdrop to every picture and the scenery is surprisingly varied with lakes, marshes, woods and plains.  The wildlife is very habituated to vehicles which makes this the place for wildlife portraits.

The Crater is also the best place in Tanzania for seeing the endangered black rhino and the Conservation Area as a whole is home to the Masai people; having time to get just off the main road around the Crater rim will lead you to some wonderfully pristine Masai communities and countryside.

When: Most of the wildlife in the Crater does not migrate so game viewing is pretty consistent throughout the year.  Heavy rainfall during the ‘long rains’ of April and early May can make access to certain areas of the Crater more difficult, but you’re less likely to run into more visitors then, a definite advantage!

Where: The Crater is small enough that a full day of perhaps 6 to 8 hours game driving will allow you to see virtually all of the Crater floor.   If you have time for a second day, you can visit one of the less seen regions of the Conservation Area:: the beautiful extinct volcanoes of Olmoti or Embagai and take a hike with an armed ranger.  Further, longer hikes with Masai and donkeys are also possible for the more adventurous.

How long: You need a two night stay with one game drive on the Crater floor, and a third night if you want a longer hike in the surrounding areas.  Good safari accommodation is more of a problem at the Crater and most times I use the rather large and impersonal lodges which have a great view and access to the Crater floor.  My view is that you need to be close enough to the Crater to get down there early – it makes a big difference to the wildife experience, so I avoid the small lodges around the town of Karatu which have become more popular.

What to do: Game drives are the only option on the Crater floor with escorted hikes in the surrounding areas of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and visits to Masai villages and schools.  Just south of the Conservation Area is the Lake Eyasi region where hunting with the Hadza hunter-gatherers is possible.

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For more information on the Ngorongoro Crater and Tanzania’s other safari destinations visit: www.journeyintoafrica.com Or contact us on : info@journeyintoafrica.com

Next on the Top Ten – Kenya’s Masai Mara!

The Okavango Delta

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This is the first of my Top Ten African safari destinations, in no particular order, but the Delta is just so different to anywhere else!

Where:  Located in northern Botswana, accessed fron the town of Maun.

Why:    Stunning scenery: rivers, lilly covered lagoons, termite mound ‘islands’, fantastic birdlife, good numbers of wildlife including predators and many elephant and giraffe and a great range of activities. Small, high quality camps and particularly concession areas can give a very pristine, exclusive safari experience.

When:  The Delta lets water through its reedbed channels very slowly, so the high water is almost at the height of the dry season.  This anomoly means that the game viewing is at its best in the dry season from July to October so this is peak season and peak prices in Botswana.  Access for mokoros, the local dug-out canoes, is better before the water level starts to drop usually in September.  Birding is particularly good in the northern winter, December to March, when the migrants are present and the air is clear making for great photographic light.  Some rain should be expected at this time of the year but this is offset by some great off-peak deals at some excellent camps.

Where:  Visiting any area around Maun or in some of the more crowded areas of Moremi Game Reserve can be busier particularly during the peak season in July and August, but anywhere more remote and certainly in one of the larger concession areas, you can expect great game viewing and a genuine safari experience.  The larger islands and land areas on the edge of the Delta are home to more large wildlife than the permanent water, and Moremi Game Reserve is one of the top predator and elephant viewing destinations on the continent.

How long:  You need  at least a three night stay to get a feel for the Delta and preferably spend 2 to 3 nights in a water-based camp and 3 nights in a more land-based camp.

What to do:  Game drives, including night drives if in a concession area, guided walking safaris, boat trips from some camps and you should spend at least some time in the local dug-out canoe – the mokoro, to get a real feel of the Delta experience.  Mokoro expeditions with camp outs on islands are possible for the more adventurous.

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For more information on the Okavango and Botswana’s other safari destinations visit:  www.journeyintoafrica.com            Or contact us on : info@journeyintoafrica.com

Next on the Top Ten – Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater!

 

The Top Ten Wildlife Areas of East & Southern Africa!

Actually they’re my ‘Top Ten’ as like all choices it’s all subjective and highly personal, however after nearly 30 years of taking groups on safari in East and Southern Africa I know what works and which areas make for a great safari destination!

Of course, there’s far more to it than simply the destination: you have to be there at the right time of the year, in the right part of the park and doing your safari in the right way, but if you end up visiting a combination of any of my Top Ten, you’ll have a wildlife experience to savour!

Over the next month or so, every few days I’ll be posting a new blog with the next entry on my list, with information on why the area is such a great safari destination, when and where to go, how long you might want to stay and what to do there.

Starting tomorrow with the jewel in Botswana’s crown –  The Okavango Delta!

Talk tomorrow – and to make sure you don’t miss any of the ten, click on the Follow button at the bottom of this Blog which will alert you when a new blog is posted.

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For further details on African photographic safaris or on any of the areas mentioned in this blog visit:

www.journeyintoafrica.com

Or contact Andrew on : info@journeyintoafrica.com

What to take on safari?

Pack lightly!  That’s the best bit of advice you can get!   Most safari camps and lodges can launder clothes any place you’re staying at least 2 nights, but even if not, East and southern Africa is usually a dry heat and you’ll soon get used to a bit of dust!

Many safaris have a flight by light aircraft where the weight limit is 15 to 20 kgs in total, including hand luggage.  Check beforehand and remember that safaris are very informal – there’s no need to dress for dinner and you really can re-wear clothing  – no one else will mind!  Neutral, khaki-coloured clothing is the norm and whilst not critical unless you’re on a walking safari, it all adds to the feeling of being ‘on safari’.  Those light aircraft flights don’t take hard suitcases so use soft-sided duffle-type luggage and leave your valuables at home.

You’ll want loose fitting light clothing to wear in the evenings and the amount of warm clothes will depend on where you’re going and when: staying at a camp 9000 feet up in the Ngorongoro Highlands is cold at any time of year after dark, and in the winter of southern Africa, from June to August, the temperature can be freezing, literally, when the  sun goes down. Warm hats, gloves and windproof jackets are essential at that time of the year.

Most people on safari bring a camera but for me the most important single item is your binoculars.  Unless you want to fight with your partner you need a pair each and  something like an 8 or 10 x 42 magnification is best.  You need a pair you’re comfortable holding for extended periods of time – they’re your eyes on safari!  So tiny, pocket-sized binos are not good, they have too small a field of view and are too small to hold comfortably, but similarly the huge ship-type binoculars are too big – there’s plenty of choice on the market at reasonable prices.

Hope that helps – enjoy your safari!

Andrew

Birding in the tea plantations of Rwanda

Birding in the tea plantations of Rwanda

For more information on safaris, including a recommended luggage list for safaris, see http://www.journeyintoafrica.com  or contact us on info@journeyintoafrica.com