Quick things to know about Tanzanian safaris
So you managed to stumble upon this blog post. Many people plan their safari trips six to nine months prior. I won't be telling you which safaris are the best within Africa. I assume that you have picked Tanzania already. It's not a bad choice. Serengeti National Park is one of the most famous safaris in the world. In this blog post, I will tell you which safaris you should go (in Tanzania) and what kind of animals you will see.
If you want to know more about the safari in Botswana, I suggest you read my other blog post below:
Botswana - Chobe National Park -
The main safaris to visit
1. Serengeti National Park
This is probably the main safaris that most people know. This humongous safari is connected to the Massai Mara National Reserve from Kenya. Serengeti is about 30,000 km square (8 times the size of Tarangire). Getting to the middle of the national park takes you a day. Serengeti is not only the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, but it is also the Ten natural wonders of the world.
One of the icons of Serengeti is that the whole national park is extremely flat. You can see the plains of Serengeti to the extent of your eye vision. The plains would be similar to scenes from the Lion King. It is the national park that reflects the typical impression of African safaris – plain, savannah, grass, animals.
(ride to Serengeti)
Serengeti is the home of the Great Migration in Africa. Hundreds and thousands of zebras and wildebeests migrate from one place to the other. We were in Serengeti at the shoulder season so we didn’t the actual migration action.
Since Serengti is a massive place, animals were pretty spread out. We saw many zebras and wildebeests but we didn’t see as many lions and leopards.
Animals that you will see: Every imaginable animal (except for rhinos) if you are in the right place at the right time.
What we actually saw: Impala, elephant, zebra, ostrich, wildebeest, lion, gazelle, Agama lizard, topi, hippo, vulture, hartebeest, 2 leopards
2. Ngorongoro Crater National Park
I would say Ngorongoro Crater even tops Serengeti. Ngorongoro Crater is right beside Serengeti. It was a volcano before (possibly larger than Mount Kilimanjaro of today). The volcano collapsed on itself 2-3 million years ago, and the remain caldera forms the Ngorongoro Crater of today.
The caldera's diameter is 19km and covers about 260 square kilometres of floor space. The depth between the top and bottom of the caldera is about 610 metres. Since Ngorongoro Crater floor itself is 1,800 metres above sea level, the top part of the crater (2,400 metres) is quite cold. Since we stayed at the top of the Crater overnight, it was cold sleeping at night.
(wildebeests from the Great Migration)
(a hyena checking out a resting lion - trying to KS?)
(a female lion crossing the road)
No one can go to the Crater before 6am because the park was closed. It’s pretty dangerous to go inside a safari at night because you don’t know what animals will jump at you. Rangers may not even be able to save you. But as soon the clock turns 6am, we were the first car to go down to the Crater. There are only three roads to go down the caldera.
Why did I say Ngorongoro Crater was better than Serengeti? Since Ngorongoro is much smaller than Serengeti, the animals are much more concentrated. The crater is a natural habitat for many animals. It has a large lake in the middle called Lake Magadi which is the water source for all the animals. It also has a mini forest at the side of the crater, perfect for bush animals to hide such as leopards. This is the national park where you will have the highest chance of seeing a rhino. We saw a few – but from very far away and we needed a pair of binoculars to verify.
(a white rhino - can you even tell?)
It’s hard to describe in words or even in pictures. You really have to see the crater yourself.
Animals that you will see: Every imaginable animal including the rhino (but can still be really hard to spot a rhino)
What we actually saw: Impala, warthog, eagle, elephant, waterbuck, buffalo, jackal, dik dik, mongoose, hyena, eland, lion, giraffe, hippo, rhino (barely), wildebeest, ostrich, zebra
(picture of our jeep)
3. Tarangire National Park
Most likely this would be the first national park that you visit in Tanzania. It is located closer to Moshi so it makes sense that you visit this one first.
The geological zone in Tarangire is very different from Serengeti. Rather than a savannah, Tarangire is mostly a forest. The animals that you see are mostly bush animals. You may more likely to see a leopard than a lion (though we didn’t see either that day).
(buffalos are always curious)
The Tarangire River goes straight through the park and is the water source for all the animals. In recent months, the river was overflooded. This means that our jeep could not go across. People who needed to cross the river because their lodge was on the other side were probably stuck.
Animals that you will see: Bush animals (no rhinos).
What we actually saw: Impala, monkey, warthog, eagle, elephant, turtle, waterbuck, giraffe
4. Lake Manyara National Park
This was the last safari that we visited. To be honest, this safari wasn’t spectacular compared to all the ones that we visited. Mind you, by the time we visit this safari, it was already day 5. This means we have already seen hundreds of elephants, zebras, wildebeests, impalas. Of course, we were still hungry to see lions, leopards and rhinos.
Locals advertise this safari as the safari with tree-climbing lions. Interesting. We thought we could see a few of those tree-climbing lions in this safari but we didn’t see any! Instead, we saw hundreds of baboons.
(ridiculous luck to see a leopard up close)
Just when we were about to give up, we managed to see one leopard chilling on the tree. That was pretty cool. Normally, two things happen when you see leopards. First, they are usually very far away so you need binoculars to see them. Second, they usually don’t move and just rest on a thick tree branch. Surprisingly, neither of that happened to us. The leopard that we saw was very close and it was moving! You can see the video below.
Animals that you will see: Bush animals (no rhinos). Apparently tree-climbing lions
What we actually saw: baboon, monkey, warthog, one leopard
Things to bring
Unlike climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the items to bring for a safari trip aren’t very particular. The list below shows some of the common-sense items to bring.
2. Sun screen
3. Bug spray
4. Binoculars (important if your driver doesn’t lend you one)
5. Solar charger (but your car may have a USB plug to charge your phone)
6. DSLR with a zoom lens if you are hardcore
7. Some kind of phone to binocular add on device. Allows your phone to take picture through a zoom lens from the binocular
8. Flash light
9. Malaria pills
I’ll cap off with a video of an elephant chasing us!