Lay of the Land
“Africa is mystic; it is wild (...). It is what you will, and it withstands all interpretations. It is the last vestige of a dead world or the cradle of a shiny new one. To a lot of people, as to myself, it is just 'home'. ”~Beryl Markham, West with the Night
One of the largest countries in Africa, Tanzania consists of the area formerly known as Tanganikya (once German East Africa) and Zanzibar. From 1967 to 1986, Tanzania was governed by a Socialist regime that modeled their reforms on the Chinese system. During the ‘70s and ‘80s, as Kenya developed tourism, Tanzania focused on collectivization. So even though Tanzania was home to Mount Kilimanjaro, ninety percent of the Serengeti and probably more Maasai tribesman than Kenya, most foreigners associated all of those with neighboring Kenya, where they were more easily seen. When Tanzania adopted a free-market economy in the late ‘80s, though, safari specialists discovered an undeveloped country with spectacular national parks.
The country is as large as Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Ireland and the United Kingdom combined and almost 25% of it is wildlife preserve. In fact, Tanzania’s first president, Julius Nyerere, announced as part of the country’s founding principles that “We solemnly declare that we will do everything in our power to make sure that our children’s grandchildren will be able to enjoy this rich and precious inheritance.”
Mount Kilimanjaro: The highest peak on the African continent draws adventurers and climbers from around the world who come to make the climb. Known as one of the most accessible high world peaks, Kilimanjaro has a summit that can be reached without any technical climbing. There are various routes to reach the crater’s rim or summit, with the easiest being the most crowded. But all offer an incredible diversity of landscape from tropical to alpine to Arctic in just a week’s trek.
Ngorongoro Crater: This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a large caldera, or collapsed volcano that sits like a giant bowl on the Tanzania highlands. Considered one of the seven natural wonders of Africa, the crater has walls 2,000 feet high and a floor that covers 100 square miles. Like a gigantic natural terrarium, the Ngorongoro Crater is home to vast species of wildlife, approximately 25,000 large animals, and because many of the animals cannot scale the walls, they live within their own contained landscape.
The area is known to have one of the densest populations of lions so the upside of a visit is that you are very likely to see many of the Big Five; the downside is that you will also see many other people and vehicles, which is why it is best to come early in your safari. You can cross the Big Five off of your list and head out into more secluded wilderness and enjoy the drama of what each day brings without the worry of whether or not you will go home without seeing a lion.
The Serengeti: The word means ‘endless plains’ in Swahili, and the Serengeti covers an enormous plateau that lies between the Rift Valley to the east and Lake Victoria to the west. The region broadly encompasses the National Park itself, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Maswa Game Reserve, the Loliondo, Grumeti, Ikorongo Controlled Areas and the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Established in 1951, the Serengeti National Park permanently protects close to 6,000 square miles of eternal wilderness with the highest concentration of large mammals in one of the oldest ecosystems on Earth. No visit to East Africa is complete without seeing the open plains that make those of the American West seem paltry in their expanse. It is also on the Serengeti Plains that the Great Migration takes place.
Most international travelers fly directly into Kilimanjaro airport, located in the north of the country. Travelers coming from the U.S. will connect through Europe en route to Tanzania. Turkish Airways offers daily flights from Istanbul into Kilimanjaro and Dar es Salaam. The airline’s wonderful business class comes with comfortable seats that fold entirely into flat beds, and the on-board food service is excellent. There are also daily direct flights to Kilimanjaro on KLM from Amsterdam. Remember that Tanzania requires visas for most foreign visitors, including citizens of the United States and the United Kingdom, which can be obtained ahead of time or directly at the airport. Malaria medicine is recommended as most of the safari lodges are in malaria zones.
Scheduled or private charters are the preferred way to travel and often the only way to cover the distances between the camps. Most scheduled charters are Cessna Caravans. Private charters will fly directly from one camp to another; scheduled charters, which may be considerably cheaper, make pickups and drop-offs at the various camps, so you may have a few landings and takeoffs before you get to where you are disembarking. Some of the flights can be quite bumpy because of the thermals (pack some Dramamine). If you have a large party, a private charter may not cost much more than a scheduled one. Note that there are strict luggage limits of no more than thirty-three pounds per passenger for checked pieces, so it’s best to pack in a weather-resistant duffel bag. Be very careful about packing anything valuable in your checked luggage.
A Note on Tanzania Safari Itineraries
There are many wonderful camps in Tanzania. To properly experience the riches of the country, you should experience at least a few different regions as they are varied and offer distinct wildlife experiences and activities. Indagare members should contact our Bookings Team to create a balanced itinerary for your purposes and suited to your particular group and time of travel.
The typical day on safari includes a wake up time of around 5 or 6am for a morning game drive, which lasts a few hours. Guests then return to the hotel for a late breakfast, lounge time and lunch and then an evening game drive at around 4pm. This schedule is determined by when animals are the most active (dawn and dusk).