Tanzania Safari Locations
Many people have heard of the Serengeti planes (with the teaming wildebeest migration) and the Ngorongoro Crater (often described as a wonder of the world) but those who visit Tanzania soon come to realise that there is much more to be found here. Mainstream safari locations, particularly the Northern circuit, do provide superb game viewing but not necessarily the remote feeling of isolation and one-ness with nature that I have come to love about the African bush. It is, for example, difficult to get into the romantic feel of the place when you are on a shared camp-site with hordes of overland truckers etc. When you would rather listen to lions and hyenas you get drunken laughter and heated discussion of football.
This sort of thing can be avoided in the Northern Circuit by either going for a private camp-site or a more exclusive lodge safari. Private or 'Special' camp-sites are literally in the middle of the bush with no facilities to speak of. Your safari company will bring everything you need with you and create your camp in the heart of the bush. This is probably the best way to experience the Serengeti. However you will pay a premium for it. Lodges can also be great if much more sanitised than the adventure of wilderness camping.
Another alternative is to look at some of the less popular tourist destinations. Consider the Selous Game Reserve, the largest conservation area in the world with the exception of the polar regions. Here there is a large mammal diversity (including all the usual suspects and the African Hunting Dog), superb bird life and spectacular scenery. A series of ox-bow lakes from long cut off meanders of the Rufiji River have petrified trees , crocodiles and numerous hippo. There are hot springs that you can swim in near lake Tagalala and the possibility of going on a walking safari or a boat safari as well as game drives.
Ruaha National Park near Iringa provides another alternative. Again there are numerous lion, cheetah, wild dog, elephants and leopards as well as the other usuals. You can also find Sable and Roan antelope. Ruaha reminds me of the land that time forgot. It has a variety of accommodation options from Mwagusi Luxury Camp, Tandala Tented Camp to the government bandas near Msembe or simply camping in the bush. I have visited this park with many groups and on several occasions people have commented that they had seen so much from camp perhaps it was better just to stay and watch the day develop rather than going on a game drive.
Rather than visit solely big game parks you could take in some of the superb forest that is found in the Eastern Arc Mountain Range. The Eastern Arc covers 2% of the land area of Tanzania and contains 95% of the species. It is also the main catchment area for most of the drinking water and hydroelectric power in the country. Visit Amani Nature Reserve or the Udzungwa Mountains National Parks to see breathtaking forest and endemic African Violets. The most rewarding visits to the Eastern Arc are hiking trips as this way you can enter the truly remote regions – this is only advisable for the relatively physically fit.
For those who have a special interest in primates the Mahale Mountains and Gombe Streams National Parks are a must for chimpanzee viewing. However due to the distances and internal flights needed be prepared to pay for privilege. When you are in Western Tanzania you may as well go and see the great Lakes and Kitavi National Park .
Cultural Tourism in Northern Tanzania may be a bit of a lottery as some things a blatantly just put on for tourists and not that authentic. One activity I would Totally recommend is a visit to the Hadzabe bushmen at lake Eyasi. Here you will see a way of life that has remained unchanged for over a thousand years. You will also have the chance to hunt with them.
Alternative cultural activities in the Usambaras and the Kilombero Valley also provide a good insight into traditional ways of life. You can go out with traditional healers and learn about the medicinal plants. There is even an (apparently) very effective local version of Viagra! In the Kilombero you can visit remote fishing villages and learn to fish by traditional methods. You can also go on sunset canoe safaris, watching the sun sink behind the Udzungwa Mountain Range.
Tanzania also has superb Marine locations – from touristy Zanzibar to unspoilt Pemba, Mtwara and Mafia. It is possible to go on Dhow cruises down the Swahili Coast and enjoy many superb dives sites. Chumbe Island Coral Park is a superb location if you can afford it. It is Robinson Crusoe meets hi-tech with solar panels and water catchment below its bandas. If you wish to combine both bush and beach you could try Saadani National Park. This is located on the coast between Bagamoyo and Pangani.
When visiting Tanzania it is worth considering where you want to fly into. It is often much cheaper to fly to Dar Es Salaam than it is to Zanzibar of Kilimanjaro International Airports.
Dar provides excellent access to the Southern parks like the Selous, Mikumi, Udzungwa and Ruaha. Whereas Kilimanjaro serves the North (Serengeti, Manyara, Tarangire and Ngorongoro).
Tanzania is a magical tourist destination and I highly recommend it however, when booking, is important to fully specify what it is you want from your holiday and not to be pushed into a mainstream package by unscrupulous sales people. Bare in mind there are logistical constraints and some activities are unsuitable for children. When you are choosing a safari company be sure to ask if your trip is private or shared. If you are forced to share a trip and don't get on with the other clients it could ruin your holiday.
Visit Wild Things Tanzania Safaris for more information on visiting the Serengeti.
About the Author: Roy J Hinde is a former biodiversity researcher who now operates http://www.wildthingsafaris.com.