7 Days Safari in Tanzania
Explore with us wildlife abundance in Tarangire National Park, camping in the Serengeti, the surreal landscape of Ngorongoro Crater and bird watcher’s paradise, Lake Manyara.
Safari in Tanzania’s National parks is definitely a must do. There are plenty of parks to choose from, including some off the beaten path in the southern area. We opted for the more visited parks in the north-west, due to their well-known wildlife, yet we chose to experience them in the most authentic manner possible. Our adventure started off with a couple of days in Tarangire National Park, followed by four days in the Serengeti, a day at Ngorongoro Crater, another one at Lake Manyara, and we closed it off with a day of relaxation at Mto wa Mbu.
Day 1: Ngurdoto Village to Tarangire National Park
After a heartfelt good bye to the team at Kiboko Lodge, we left off with our guide, Ayubu, for our first drive.
As we traveled from Ngurdoto to Tarangire National Park we watched Tanzanian life change from city to country-side. The road up to Tarangire is all well-made, but we were preempted by our guide about the free 'African massage' that will follow during the next few days. By the wayside, we watched people herding cattle, dressed in traditional Maasai and Iraqw clothes. We had seen Maasai tribe people on TV so long, that seeing them live in person felt surreal. Our impression of a tribe cut off from civilization, was immediately shattered, as we saw them wearing headphones, scrolling through smartphones and riding motor bikes. At the end of the day, tribes don’t necessarily need to be cut off from all civilization. The world is becoming ever more globalised, and it’s not necessarily a negative thing!
We spent the night at a tented lodge, very close to Sangaiwe park gate. This place was just like in safari films, a luxurious (by our standards) tented lodge with a mesmerising view.
Arriving at Tarangire National Park we experienced wildlife for the first time during a game drive. Roof top open, driving on the passage ways, we watched gobsmacked as a herd of elephants crossed the street just in front of the 4x4, whilst zebras, giraffes and impalas munched happily on the grassy leaves, just a couple of meters away from us. Definitely the thing which struck us most, was the feeling that we were the outsiders there. Animals still go about their daily business as if we were not there; grazing, drinking, taking baths and slowly moving from one place to the next.
Day 2: Full day game drive in Tarangire National Park
Leaving the lodge after breakfast, we found a flat tyre. As our guide changed the tyre, we could not help but notice how strange it is that when we arrived at the lodge, people swarmed to carry our bags, but everyone chose to stare from a distance as our guide, with some help from us, lifted and changed the heavy tyre. There are obviously no tips in this job, and this continued to sharpen our experiences when it comes to money matters in Tanzania.
In the evening we slept at another idyllic lodge, this time in Karatu. Knowing that the next three nights will be spent camping in the Serengeti, we made sure that we enjoyed the luxury of the comfortable bed and the rain shower.
Tyre changed, and we left off for a full day game drive, with one animal sighting after another. We could not help catching our breath as we watched the wildlife teeming through the park, as pictures speak a thousand words.
As the day was drawing to an end, we arrived at Lobo Public Campsite. This is a campsite, situated in the North East part of the Serengeti, close to the border with Kenya. Here we met Alex and Japhet, who would be taking care of the camp and food for us during the next three nights. We could not have asked for a better crew. Our tents were set up in the best position, food was lovely, and you could hardly say we were in a camping site, were it not for the long queues to the basic shower and toilets. Truth is we were camping in one of the earth’s most untouched places, the Serengeti. It’s already a luxury that there are toilets and showers, so we did not expect marble walls and private bathrooms. At night we had to be a bit more careful if we needed to get out of the tent. There are no fences to the campsite, so animals could roam freely. This was the real experience in the Serengeti, and we prefer authenticity over luxury anytime.
Day 3: Tarangire National Park to Serengeti Lobo Campsite
This was the longest day drive. We left Karatu, and headed off to the Serengeti, passing through Ngorongoro Conservation Area. As we headed up to the Ngorongoro rim, the weather turned cold whilst vegetation was a lush forest. It was so cold, that for a brief stop at the viewpoint over the crater we had to wear our warmest clothes. The drive continued for a while at the top, but within an hour or so, we could hardly recognise that we were in the same conservation area. As we headed down to Oldupai Gorge, the landscape turned desert like, with dust, sun, and heat which characterised the next part of the drive. It was during this drive that we visited a Maasai Boma and what an experience it was!
The drive in the dust continued up till the official gates of Serengeti National Park, and eventually to the lunch time place at Naabi Hill Gate. Our lunch boxes were always filled with grilled chicken, a boiled egg, some bread, juice, as well as some goodies, and it was always a stop which we looked forward to.
After lunch, the drive up to Lobo Public Campsite continued. The landscape as well as temperatures changed again, and we must say “thank heavens!” We were no longer in an arid desert but in a vast wilderness plain dotted with acacia trees. If you have ever seen the Lion King cartoon, rest assured that the scenes are high fidelity to reality. It was here that we spotted the first carcass of a zebra, with a family of lions in close proximity, calculating the best time to pull the carcass closer.
On this day we had two game drives, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. The landscape was dotted with animals, so much that it was difficult to take a photo and not capture an animal somewhere in it. With this multitude of animals, all moving around safari vehicles as if they were not even there, one would tend to think that animals are not on the decrease here. But when we asked our guide, Ayubu told us that there used to be so many more.
One thing to know about game drives is that you are never alone. In the vastness of the Serengeti, there are always other 4x4s going around, and when there is an interesting sighting, they flock to the same spot. However, they are very respectful towards each other and when parking they always try not to obstruct other people’s views, and not linger too long so that others can take a chance at watching.
Day 4: Serengeti – Lobo game drives
Day 5: Serengeti – Lobo Campsite to Seronera Campsite
This is the day we were planning to experience the wildebeest migration. Do you recall the documentaries of wildebeest crossing the Mara river, toppling on top of each other and being eaten by crocs? Well, our experience was nothing like this! In a way locals joke about all the tourists who go to see the crossing, because those scenes are few and very far between!
We left the camp before sunrise for what turned out to be the best game drive yet. We saw a family of lions no more than a meter away from our vehicle, hyenas, jackals and a multitude of animals, who as sun rises, find their way to well-hidden spots in the vast wilderness.
We did not see the crossing, but it does not mean we did not witness the migration! The migration was a totally breathtaking spectacle, as we watched wildebeest together with zebras and antelopes in their thousands all moving towards the same direction.
It was then time to make a move, so we left off for the lengthy drive from the Mara River down to Seronera Public Campsite for the night. In Seronera area there are a number of campsites and most of them are very busy. However, Seronera – Dik Dik Public Campsite was a quiet spot, as it is the only campsite that does not yet have electricity. We found that Japhet and Alex had already set up the camp, and food for us. We watched the most amazing African sunset and had dinner together with Ayubu, Alex and Japhet.
In less than two hours we reached the Kenya border, where wildebeest cross the Mara River but today there was no crossing. Apparently wildebeest gather near the river, and can graze there or move on and when one decides to cross, then the others cross as well. A crossing can be just a few wildebeest who are reaching their herd on the other side, or a multitude of them crossing, but not all at one go. So our bubble of the wildebeest crossing the Mara River burst. We waited for perhaps an hour as wildebeest gathered at the river bank, with about five other vehicles all hoping for the first renegade to cross the river, but it did not happen. Wildebeest gathered, drank from the river and moved on grazing alongside the same side of the river.
This was the last of three nights camping in the wild.
Day 6: Seronera Public Campsite to Karatu through Ngorongoro Crater
We said goodbye to Alex and Japhet, and left Seronera Dik Dik Public Campsite heading towards Ngorongoro Crater, driving the same route we had taken when first entering the Serengeti. The landscape changed again from vegetation to desert, and fine dust in the air through Oldupai Gorge and eventually into the lush crater.
At lunch time we always had to look out for different animals that come to steal or beg for our food. We had gotten used to monkeys and birds by now, but this time it was eagles. Ayubu told us to be careful of eagles. So we sat on the grass, half thinking it was a joke, half hoping it is true. We got surrounded by a multitude of small birds scouring the area for any crumbs that may have fallen off. Suddenly these cheery creatures vanished, a shadow fell, and just like a thunderbolt there she was trying to steal our lunch. Well we held on very dear to our food, but watching such a majestic bird swooping down in front of us was truly jaw dropping.
It was during the afternoon drive that we saw a badly injured lion. It could no longer walk so it painfully gave up and fell to the ground. Harsh as it may sound, this is the circle of life. A bad day for the lion, but probably a great day for the animal who managed to inflict the lion’s injury!
After the long drive from Serengeti, we ended the day with the luxury of a hot shower and a comfy bed. We spent the night at a coffee lodge in Karatu, with a backdrop of lush forest and robusta coffee fields.
Ngorongoro Crater is a dreamlike landscape, but very touristy. Dust swirls up creating an apocalyptic atmosphere as animals graze and move from one place to another within the crater.
Day 7: Lake Manyara
This was sadly the last of our game drives. We know that seven days of game drives was quite extensive, but we can never tire of seeing the next and next zebra or giraffe. Strange as it may seem, when spending quite some time on safari, wildlife becomes the order of the day and no longer a novelty. So, it’s quite normal for people to fall bored when seeing an animal which they have seen before or perhaps farther away from the vehicle. We constantly reminded ourselves that this is an experience to cherish, and that in a couple of days the only zebras we are going to see are zebra crossings painted on the tarmac back home.
On the last game drive we headed to the enchanting Lake Manyara. This is a bird watcher’s paradise as pelicans, flamingos, Cory bastards, ibis and the multitude of other birds live alongside wildebeest and zebras.
We spent the night at a campsite just at the edge of Lake Manyara and headed down to Moshi for our journey back home the day after.