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An Insiders Guide to the Best Tanzania Luxury Safaris
Tanzania is the rhythm of life, a wilderness continually evolving. Rain writes the script, bringing dramatic change on landscapes that baffle the imagination. Nomadic herds set off on annual journeys, following the flourish of new grass. Leopards and lions fiercely protect their home realms, hyenas extend their territories. The best Tanzania luxury safaris respect and explore this change, evolving with the seasons so you’re always centerstage in the wildlife theater.
The scale is unfathomable. There are more wild land mammals on the Serengeti grasslands than anywhere else on the planet; yet the Serengeti ecosystem is smaller than the great wildernesses of Selous and Ruaha in the country’s south. Ngorongoro is the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera and you have a dozen more potential destinations to choose from. So welcome to the greatest wildlife show on the planet and get ready for an adventure.
Safari in Tanzania: The Inside Guide
Tanzania – An Introduction
Tanzania is a premier choice for an East African safari. The landscapes are inspiringly vast and it’s possible to go days without seeing other safari goers. Many different habitats can be explored, diversifying the experience, from compact Ngorongoro Crater to raw and redolent Ruaha. Wilderness is everywhere and you can’t come close to exploring it all. The best Tanzania luxury safaris include more than a Serengeti safari; there are more than a dozen ecosystems, many of them larger than US states.
Tanzania has always offered a luxurious wildlife experience. By that we mean you’re completely immersed in the rhythm of life, surrounded by wild animals on landscapes free of human intervention. Over the last two decades the country has been setting new standards, significantly raising the quality of its accommodation and infrastructure. The safari remains raw and unscripted, it’s just a lot more comfortable. For example, try out a rustic mobile camping experience that’s even suitable for families.
We’d recommend a minimum of a week on safari when visiting Tanzania. A Serengeti safari alone will require at least three days. You’re exploring the world’s most wildlife-rich wildernesses, but seasonal changes mean large swathes of the land may be empty; come for a day and you may not see anything. The best Tanzania luxury safaris can place you centerstage. And if your budget allows more time, a longer safari will reward; there are new experiences every hour on these evocative lands.
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The Best Serengeti Safari
It extends. In every direction, onwards beyond the horizon. Grass. Thomson’s gazelle skipping above the grass, wildebeest herds chomping their way across the grass, lions sleeping in the grass with one eye open. Other than clusters of orange rock, nothing breaks the panorama of grass. Such an open and uninterrupted landscape makes wildlife easy to spot from a distance, although large parts of the Serengeti lie empty as the landscape changes with the seasons. For hundreds of miles there is nothing. Then out of the mirage comes life. Lots of life. In fact, more wild land mammals than anywhere else on the planet.
Upwards of 2 million mammals is the general consensus, mostly those that form the great wildebeest migration. The grazers support predators and the action is intense: leopards bound down from trees, cheetahs kick up dust and you listen to lions and hyenas all night long. Private concessions fringe the main national park. They’re on the migration routes but also support superb collections of resident game, particularly the big cats. And a safari in the Serengeti feels even more special when you’re walking with Masai warriors or driving off the trails. The wildebeest migration is justifiably popular and scenes like the Mara River crossing can get crowded; concessions like Singita Grumeti and Loliondo help you experience it at its most authentic and uninterrupted.
The Best Tanzania Luxury Safaris Incorporate the Serengeti
You need time on a landscape that dwarfs many European nations. Remember that the migration is fluid and changes every year, even if it traces a cyclical loop to and from the wildebeest calving grounds of southeastern Serengeti and Ndutu. We’d recommend two different stops in the Serengeti so you can appreciate how seasonal changes affect the famous grasslands. Also consider luxury mobile camping that follows the migration; it’s expensive but the most guaranteed way to be amongst the heart of the herds. But most of all, just go. Nowhere on the planet is like the Serengeti and climate change means the wildebeest migration may yet prove to be an ephemeral spectacle.
Conservationists have spent 30 years trying to predict and understand the Serengeti. Like them, we don’t pretend to know everything about the iconic grasslands. But we do know what it’s like to safari in different concessions and at different times of year. Scroll down for an overview of the great wildebeest migration and when to go on safari in the Serengeti.
Ngorongoro Safari and the Northern Circuit
Animals move like stanzas on the poetic lands of Ngorongoro Crater. Giant elephant bulls, curious black rhinos, boisterous lion prides, and you’ve only been on game drive for an hour. Hippos yawn in one lake as flamingo carpet another pink. Wildebeest rut and zebra gallop. Hyena scamper past as buffalo huff and hiss. Six ecosystems coexist on the floor of the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera, an oasis of life that’s unrivaled anywhere in Africa. And Ngorongoro is just one in a landscape of contiguous parks and reserves.
There are no private concessions at Ngorongoro. There is just the crater and a grassland conservation ares that spills into the Serengeti. A handful of high-end lodges are perched on the crater rim, where remarkable vistas extend from your private balcony and elephants maraud past in the night. These include the famous Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, but there are other options you can consider. Location, as always, creates the best Tanzania luxury safaris. Ngorongoro Crater gets busy and by staying on the rim you can be down on the crater floor at sunrise, before other visitors, when wildlife is at its most active and the experience is more exclusive.
Include Tarangire and Manyara on the Best Tanzania Luxury Safaris
To the east of Ngorongoro you find Tarangire, where elephants and baobabs juxtapose on a landscape of photogenic splendor. A little further southeast there’s Lake Manyara, a spellbinding land of baboons and birdlife, hippos and lions that climb trees. Private concessions or remote lodges are found within and around these parks, intensifying the wildlife experience. There are treehouses on stilts above waterholes, bush camps for an easy safari introduction, and all the charm of being immersed. However, take note that there is only limited available accommodation in the concessions. Many visitors stay in cheaper camps beyond the wildlife zone. This makes the best camps and lodges wonderfully authentic after dark, when most visitors have left, leaving just you and the animals.
Tanzania’s Northern Circuit requires at least a week on safari. Lake Manyara, Tarangire, a Ngorongoro safari and then the Serengeti, four distinctive destinations connected by road and air. It’s a rounded adventure, great for those who want to be on the move and in the heart of nature’s greatest theater. Just be very picky about where you go and stay, because the safari experience can be crowded in certain places. Tanzania’s Northern Circuit epitomizes why we recommend and promote remote lodges and private concessions for the best Tanzania luxury safaris; it’s all that more special when there aren’t lots of other people around.
“It’s all improbable, incredible. As if one were witnessing the birth of the world, that precise moment when the earth and sky already exists, as do water, plants and wild animals, but not yet Adam and Eve.”
– Ryszard Kapuscinski, from The Shadow of the Sun
A Southern Tanzania Safari
Landscapes extend and lions prowl across the south of Tanzania. It’s wild out here, little but thick wilderness and the wanderings of giants. As always, life revolves around water, the Rufiji River in Selous Game Reserve and the Great Ruaha River in Ruaha National Park. Elephants dig from crusted riverbeds, wild dogs and leopards blur into the trees, and there’s a wonderful sense of getting off the beaten track.
In Southern Tanzania the best Tanzania luxury safaris do not revolve around private concessions. Ruaha in particular is one of Africa’s hidden gems, while Selous specifically focuses on photographic safaris, with activities on river, on foot and in game vehicles. Katavi is another unknown savannah, with boisterous hippos and enormous buffalo herds among the highlights.
Southern Tanzania sees very few visitors, mostly those returning to Africa for the third or fourth time. We highly recommend you fly between the parks, because the overland journeys are both long and torturous. Ruaha and Katavi complement Tanzania’s Northern Circuit, creating a very rounded safari if you have ten days or more in the country. Wild bush walks, mobile camps, unpredictable encounters…these southern destinations appeal to the real adventurists, yet we’d also readily recommend it to first-time visitors to Africa who are passionate about wildlife in its natural habitat.
A Tanzania and Kenya Safari
Combining Tanzania and Kenya is a possibility, but also note that there is just as much wildlife and habitat diversity within Tanzania, so don’t feel that you must visit both countries for the best safari.The best is what is best for you, not the standard itineraries. On a Tanzania and Kenya safari the classic combination is the Serengeti and Masai Mara, contiguous parks that both lead onward to further adventure. For this we’d recommend flying in to Kilimanjaro International and out of Nairobi, or vise versa.
Essentially the Serengeti and Masai Mara are the same ecosystem, just separated by an international border. You can diversity the experience more on a Tanzania and Kenya safari. Southern Tanzania and parks like Ruaha combines with the Masai Mara’s private concessions, while the Serengeti contrasts Samburu and Amboseli. For a Kenya and Tanzania safari you really need ten days, allowing for three to four unique destinations and travel time.
The Best Time To Visit Tanzania for a Safari
Seasonal change is everything on the best Tanzania luxury safaris. One month it’s unfeasibly dusty and dry. The next month the landscape is lush, muddy and green. If you haven’t heard about Africa’s green and dry seasons then read up on this article; it will provide background to deciding when the best time to visit Tanzania is for you.
Tanzania has a distinct and intense rainy season, typically running from mid-March to mid-May. However, global warming has been a factor in making the dates less predictable than a generation ago. There was a time when village elders could predict the exact arrival of the rains months in advance. Even today locals can glance at a moody sky and tell you the rain will start tumbling next Wednesday. And when it rains it really rains. Not all day, mostly sharp downpours that transform the land in a manner that is spectacular to behold.
Consider Other Countries in April
Some destinations and many camps close in April and May as they become inaccessible. We’d caution against a Tanzania safari in April. Try Botswana or South Africa instead. However, a safari in March or May can be superb if unpredictable. You’ll see the landscape on the cusp of change, a beautiful rendition of nature’s power that more than compensates for a few stormy hours. June is also a great month. If you follow general guidelines then the best time to visit Tanzania is July and August. Beware, these months see a huge surge in tourism, so you have to focus on private concessions for the best Tanzania luxury safaris at this time.
There are more rains to come later in the year, known as the “short rains” around October and November; again, dates are fluid in our modern age. These rains shouldn’t disrupt your travel plans and these months are Tanzania’s off season; places like the Serengeti and Ngorongoro feel even more special when you can travel days without seeing other vehicles.
“You gave us the royal treatment, we felt like a king and queen…on a glorious once in a lifetime journey.”
– Dr. Patrick Matlou, Deputy Director General, South African Dept of Environmental Affairs & Tourism
A Great Wildebeest Migration Safari: When and Where
The drumbeat of hoofs and the accompanying dust, 2 million wild mammals on the move across the Serengeti grasslands. This is nature’s greatest show, certainly the greatest wildlife theater that people have chance to witness. The grass disappears beneath a carpet of wildebeest, zebra and Thomson’s gazelle. Such incredible ungulate numbers support an equally impressive abundance of predators; lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyena, vultures, and many others you won’t have heard about before.
Experiencing the great wildebeest migration is about being in the right place at the right time. The only way to fully ensure this is through a mobile camping safaris, utilizing camps that move with the herds. A private safari helps you respond to the migration movements, as the wildebeest don’t all follow the same path. Most Internet sources simplify the migration, as if 2 million mammals follow the same set pattern year upon year. This is a spectacle dictated by the rains and defined by nuance; it’s not programmed or choreographed by man. The best Tanzania luxury safaris help you move with this change.
9 MYTHS ABOUT THE GREAT WILDEBEEST MIGRATION
The Great Wildebeest Migration: Month By Month
This is a general guide of where the wildebeest are through the seasons. But take note of the myths discussed above, remember the seasonality of rains, and note that nothing is certain in an unscripted wildlife theater. Use this an overview. We are in close contact with excellent local guides who help us plan the best Tanzania luxury safaris.
December – Wildebeest start arriving on the mineral rich soils of Southeastern Serengeti and the Ndutu Plains.
January to February – More wildebeest arrive to calf and breed. February is the best time to see babies being born. You’ll see lots of predators and hunting scenes at this time of year.
March to May – The grass is exhausted in the southeast, large groups set off on their journey, leaving at different times to find new pastures. The biggest groups tend to go through the western corridor and the private Singita Grumeti reserve. Smaller (still 100,000-strong herds) travel through Central Serengeti.
June – Wildebeest are crossing the Grumeti River on the way north, to grazing lands in the Lobo areas.
July to September – Herds are more dispersed as they reach lush grazing grounds. Most cross the Mara River during these months, heading into Kenya’s Masai Mara. These are the months to view wildebeest crossing the Mara River.
October – The Masai Mara throngs with wildebeest.
November to December – Wildebeest are traveling east and south back towards their calving grounds. Loliondo is a great choice for this time of year and you can witness the migration on foot and at night here.
Best Tanzania Luxury Safaris
Customized Tanzania Safari
Rain brings dramatic change in Tanzania, writing a script of drama and movement. Visit the same place on a different day and you’re likely to see a different scene. Visit the same destination in a different season and it’s hard to comprehend the change. Huge swathes of the wilderness lie empty and untouched. You see nothing. But travel over a crest and there are hundreds of thousands of wild mammals before you. Tomorrow they will be gone. The best Tanzania luxury safaris responds to all this change, ensuring wildlife is always at the heart of your experience.
Our belief is that every safari should be customized. This is incredibly important in Tanzania, where seasonal changes make a mockery of standardized programs. Tanzania safari tours have to be different in March, July and October. This is the land of the giants, the world of unpredictable scenes between predator and prey, the place that most represents Africa’s wild rhythm of life. And you can’t tune into the rhythm without a safari that’s individually crafted.
7 HIGHLIGHTS OF ALL THE BEST TANZANIA SAFARI TOURS
Safari Guides and Camps
Luxury is the wildlife experience and in Tanzania that means traveling with the best guides on a flexible itinerary. This includes staying at mobile camps and responding to wildlife movements. Obtaining a complex understanding of the landscape is only possible if you’ve lived and breathed the Tanzanian wilderness for most of your life, for the nuance is beyond comprehension, even to us sometimes. So think about who is going to guide you, how the itinerary can be fluid, and where you are going to stay. Not just “in the Serengeti,” but where in relation to wildlife movements and wilderness changes.
Fly in safaris help you connect wildernesses on a more ambitious itinerary. They allow you to hop between wildlife-rich areas, minimizing travel time and maximizing safari on the ground. They are the only realistic means of combining northern and southern Tanzania. And the views? Every flight is a scenic flight in Tanzania and by flying between destinations you’ll be able to explore many ecosystems.
New Activities and Getting Closer on a Private Concession Safari
The best Tanzania luxury safaris don’t merely take you to the best places, but provide new and alternative ways to explore. Tanzania’s national parks have very strict rules on how you can explore. In almost all the national parks you are restricted to daytime game drives that stick to clear and obviously marked trails. But in private concessions, game drives can be complemented by walks, from one-hour wanderings to multi-day expeditions on two feet. Boat safaris create fresh angles in Selous while nocturnal drives open more of your senses to the landscape of the Serengeti and other legendary ecosystems.
But most importantly, in a private concession the guides can take you off the main trails. Most people will see a leopard in the Serengeti, but it may be a leopard in a tree from a distance of 60 meters. If you’re in a private Serengeti concession that same leopard may be viewed from just five meters away. Now imagine the difference if it’s a big cat out hunting. From a distance you can’t see anything because the carcass is in the grass. But in a private concession you can see, hear and smell the cycle of life.
The Best Family Safari in Tanzania
There’s a wonderful sense of freedom to a family safari. You escape as one, into a world of remarkable animals and inspiring connections. Not only do the wildlife scenes create unforgettable memories, family safaris imbue a personal knowledge of nature’s power, along with the importance of conservation. Tanzania presents a real safari adventure, multiple days in the wild and incredible scenes playing out on the landscapes. It’s not for every family and some will find Tanzania a little too rough and ready for their liking. However, for some families, Tanzania is the adventure of many lifetimes, sharing a multigenerational experience amid the greatest wildlife shows on earth.
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The Best Safari in Tanzania is Private
7 EXPERIENCES FOR A PRIVATE TANZANIAN SAFARI
With a swirl of dust and cries the hunt takes place. The guide moves slowly, not interrupting the kill but bringing you around for a prime view into the grass. Crack, crunch, growl. Crack, crunch, roar. You hear the hungry lions dine and you inhale a brutal piece of the wilderness’s rhythm. This is a safari as raw and unscripted as it is possible to be. But how did the guides know to bring you here? How come there is nobody else witnessing this magical scene? Answers to these questions are at the heart of Tanzania’s private safari experience.
Rather than focus simply on where you go and what you do, a private Tanzanian safari travels into the subtleties and nuance of the wildlife experience. Of course it’s only you. Of course you can tailor every moment, like all private safaris. But more than that, you gain access to scenes and places that defy the imagination, as if you’ve entered a wildlife documentary where even David Attenborough doesn’t know the script. It’s the best Tanzania luxury safaris, elevated.
When the game drive finishes you head back to camp. Except it’s not just any camp. It’s a mobile camp that moves with the seasons and the herds. Grunt, grunt, huff, huff, you can hear the wildebeest. Hyenas howl and you sense they may be close to the kill you witnessed. Not only does a private safari create private adventures into unseen realms. It allows you to sleep in places that hardly ever see human eyes.