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Northern Tanzania Safari

Northern Tanzania

Explore Tanzania and experience this great country to its fullest extent. Lounge on the beaches of Lake Victoria or Nyasa Lake, then gaze across the Indian Ocean towards the mystical, ever-exotic island of Zanzibar . Safari across the rolling savannahs of the great Serengeti National Park and feast your eyes upon the magnificent Mount Kilimanjaro – the highest, permanently snow-capped mountain in Africa .

Get to know the smiling, friendly people in many of Tanzania ‘s tiny villages – nearly untouched by modern time – or tour the busy, bustling cities of Dar Es Salaam, Arusha, and Moshi. Global Crossroad’s varying safaris and tours in Tanzania provides amazing opportunities to experience Tanzania – a country of exciting extremes.

Arusha National Park
Tarangire National Park
Lake Manyara National Park
Ngorongoro national Park
Serengeti National Park

The closest national park to Arusha town – northern Tanzania’s safari capital – Arusha National Park is a multi-faceted jewel, often overlooked by safarigoers, despite offering the opportunity to explore a beguiling diversity of habitats within a few hours.

The entrance gate leads into shadowy montane forest inhabited by inquisitive blue monkeys and colourful turacos and trogons – the only place on the northern safari circuit where the acrobatic black-and-white colobus monkey is easily seen. In the midst of the forest stands the spectacular Ngurdoto Crater, whose steep, rocky cliffs enclose a wide marshy floor dotted with herds of buffalo and warthog.

Further north, rolling grassy hills enclose the tranquil beauty of the Momela Lakes, each one a different hue of green or blue. Their shallows sometimes tinged pink with thousands of flamingos, the lakes support a rich selection of resident and migrant waterfowl, and shaggy waterbucks display their large lyre-shaped horns on the watery fringes. Giraffes glide across the grassy hills, between grazing zebra herds, while pairs of wide-eyed dik-dik dart into scrubby bush like overgrown hares on spindly legs.

Although elephants are uncommon in Arusha National Park, and lions absent altogether, leopards and spotted hyenas may be seen slinking around in the early morning and late afternoon. It is also at dusk and dawn that the veil of cloud on the eastern horizon is most likely to clear, revealing the majestic snow-capped peaks of Kilimanjaro, only 50km (30 miles) distant.

But it is Kilimanjaro’s unassuming cousin, Mount Meru – the fifth highest in Africa at 4,566 metres (14,990 feet) – that dominates the park’s horizon. Its peaks and eastern footslopes protected within the national park, Meru offers unparalleled views of its famous neighbour, while also forming a rewarding hiking destination in its own right.

Passing first through wooded savannah where buffalos and giraffes are frequently encountered, the ascent of Meru leads into forests aflame with red-hot pokers and dripping with Spanish moss, before reaching high open heath spiked with giant lobelias. Everlasting flowers cling to the alpine desert, as delicately-hoofed klipspringers mark the hike’s progress. Astride the craggy summit, Kilimanjaro stands unveiled, blushing in the sunrise.

What to do

Forest walks, numerous picnic sites;
Three- or four-day Mt Meru climb – good acclimatisation for Kilimanjaro.

To the south of the large open grass plains of southern Maasailand, Tarangire National Park covers 2600 sq km of grassland and floodplains, and a large proportion of tall acacia woodland. It is beautifully unspoilt, and wide views to distant variously purpled formations of volcanic mountain ranges along the drive are superb. Tarangire also has regions of quite dense bush, but with high grasses and huge old baobab trees instead of the green forests of Manyara. The land is hilly and dominated by the impressive valley of the Tarangire River, which attracts good numbers of migrant animals during the dry months, especially between July and September.

During these months the concentration of animals around the Tarangire river is almost as diverse and reliable as in the Ngorongoro crater, but again ecosystem here is balanced by a localised migration pattern that is followed by most the animals other than lion, who don’t tend to abandon their territory. The animals mostly disperse during April and May, when there is widespread greenery, vegetation and standing water to encourage all the grazers further afield. In June the eland and oryxes begin to return, followed by elephant towards the end of the month.

Tarangire has quite a reputation for elephant ‘pow-wows’, when different herds somehow agree to congregate in one area around the end of the rainy season, and the dominant males take advantage of the situation to sow seeds for future generations. The following 22 month gestation period should then be well timed to coincide with the rainy season two years later. Zebra and wildebeest return together through July, and by mid-August all animals are congregating around their last reliable water source, the Tarangire River. The calving season falls in the early months of the year, through January, February and March, and so makes the most of the fresh grass during the rainy season.

But there are always a fantastic number of colourful birds swooping and strutting along the rough paths in front of your vehicle in Tarangire, with likely spots including the Paradise Whyder and endearing Yellow-collared lovebirds. There are a few resident lion, which are easier to find when the migration arrives to excite their taste buds. In other months they look quite mean and lean and slip easily between the grasses.

It is worth remembering that the park has become a wildlife concern because of its resident tsetse fly population – domestic animals do not build the same resistance to typanosoiasis – sleeping sickness – as wild animals, who have become immune. They are a pest, with an irritating stinging bite, but tend to hang out in swarms and a well-planned ‘windows up’ approach seems to be the way to survive. They do not seem prevalent around any of the lodges…Recently the woodland habitat of fever trees, umbrella acacias along the Tarangire river has been made more open, primarily a result of fire and heavy utilisation by elephant.

What to do

Guided walking safaris.
Day trips to Maasai and Barabaig villages, as well as to the hundreds of ancient rock paintings in the vicinity of Kolo on the Dodoma Road.

Stretching for 50km along the base of the rusty-gold 600-metre high Rift Valley escarpment, Lake Manyara is a scenic gem, with a setting extolled by Ernest Hemingway as “the loveliest I had seen in Africa”.The compact game-viewing circuit through Manyara offers a virtual microcosm of the Tanzanian safari experience. From the entrance gate, the road winds through an expanse of lush jungle-like groundwater forest where hundred-strong baboon troops lounge nonchalantly along the roadside, blue monkeys scamper nimbly between the ancient mahogany trees, dainty bushbuck tread warily through the shadows, and outsized forest hornbills honk cacophonously in the high canopy.

Contrasting with the intimacy of the forest is the grassy floodplain and its expansive views eastward, across the alkaline lake, to the jagged blue volcanic peaks that rise from the endless Maasai Steppes. Large buffalo, wildebeest and zebra herds congregate on these grassy plains, as do giraffes – some so dark in coloration that they appear to be black from a distance.

Inland of the floodplain, a narrow belt of acacia woodland is the favoured haunt of Manyara’s legendary tree-climbing lions and impressively tusked elephants. Squadrons of banded mongoose dart between the acacias, while the diminutive Kirk’s dik-dik forages in their shade. Pairs of klipspringer are often seen silhouetted on the rocks above a field of searing hot springs that steams and bubbles adjacent to the lakeshore in the far south of the park.

Manyara provides the perfect introduction to Tanzania’s birdlife. More than 400 species have been recorded, and even a first-time visitor to Africa might reasonably expect to observe 100 of these in one day. Highlights include thousands of pink-hued flamingos on their perpetual migration, as well as other large waterbirds such as pelicans, cormorants and storks.

What to do

Game drives, night game drives, canoeing when the water levels is sufficiently high. Cultural tours, picnicking, bush lunch/dinner, mountain bike tours, abseiling and forest walks on the escarpment outside the park.

The famous Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest intact caldera in an exceptional geographical position, forming a spectacular bowl of about 265 square kilometres with sides up to 600m deep, the stalking ground of around 20,000 to 30,000 wild animals at any one time. The crater floor consists of a number of ecological environments that include grassland, swamps, lerai forest (small patches of forest made up of yellow barked acacia or ‘yellow fever tree’), and Lake Makat, a central soda lake filled by the Munge river.

ll these various habitats attract various wildlife to drink, wallow, graze, hide or climb, and although animals are free to move in and out of this contained environment, the rich volcanic soil, lush forests and spring source lakes on the crater floor tend to incline both grazers and predators to remain. Ngorongoro Crater is also presently one of the most likely areas in Tanzania to see the endangered Black Rhino, and a small population are thriving in this idyllic and protected environment – which is one of the only areas where they continue to breed in the wild. And so the crater forms an astonishing microcosm of East African wildlife within its boundaries, and is said to be the most densely packed wildlife concentration in Africa.

As such, it has achieved world renown, and attracts a growing number of visitors each year, who come to experience this ‘eighth wonder of the world’. even if time is limited this natural but accessibly small caldera ensures a rewarding safari.

Unique and diverse, inside the famous Ngorongoro Crater a tardis like effect takes place as it is surprisingly small once inside and most people find that one day is quite sufficient to drive around. It’s size compared to the vast expanse of the Serengeti means that you may see many other vehicles. The descent road into the crater is closed from Its rim, over 2,200 metres high, touches swathes of clouds for most days of the year, with cool high altitude vapours that seem to bring a clean lightness to the air, and also a chill. These highlands wake up to a misty fog in most months, other than the high dry season during December and January.

A million wildebeest each driven by the same ancient rhythm, fulfilling their instinctive role in the inescapable cycle of life: a frenzied 3 week bout of territorial conquests and mating; survival of the fittest as 40 kilometre long columns plunge through crocodile infested waters on the annual exodus north; replenishing the species in a brief population explosion that produces more than 8000 calves a day before the 1000 kilometre pilgrimage beings again.

More than 6 million hooves pound the legendary plains of the Serengeti. Every year, triggered by the rains, more than a million Wildebeest, 200,000 Zebra and 300,000 Thomson’s Gazelle gather to undertake the long trek to new grazing lands. Tanzania’s first and most famous park, the Serengeti, is renowned for its wealth of Leopard and Lion. The vast reaches of the park help the Black Rhino to fight extinction and provide a protected breeding ground for the vulnerable Cheetah. Witness predator versus prey and the fundamental interdependence of the Serengeti’s abundant species, from more than 500 varieties of bird to 100 types of dung beetle.

The Serengeti is a sense of seeing to the ends of the earth, the sunburnt savannah shimmering to the horizon. Yet, after the rains this golden horizon is magically transformed into an endless green carpet flecked with wildflowers. But there are also wooded hills towering termite mounds and rocky kopjes, rivers lined with elegant stand of Fig trees, Ebony and Acacia, stained orange by dust. It is so vast you may be the only human audience when a pride of Lions masterminds a siege, focussed unswervingly on their next meal.

Please Note Our recommendation spend minimum of 3 days in Serengeti for best game viewing. Wildebeest migration is unpredictable and its up on weather and rain to be assured of seeing them on your visit – stay longer and if you want to see the main Big cats and Predators as well.

What to do

Hot air balloon safaris, walking safari, picnicking, game drives, bush lunch/dinner can be arranged with hotels/tour operators. Maasai rock paintings and musical rocks.

Visit neighbouring Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge, Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano and Lake Natron’s flamingos.