One of the ultimate safari destinations on the planet, the scenery is dramatic and diverse, showcasing a range of spectacular species, jaw-dropping natural phenomenon and charming luxury camps. A destination that truly has it all, a trip to Tanzania also invites you to discover fascinating tribal cultures and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world on its Indian Ocean coast. The thrill that I felt while experiencing this incredible country is hard to put into words, but I've tried my best by sharing my five (of many) Tanzania safari highlights below.
1. Experiencing The Great Migration
The Great Migration is a fascinating phenomenon that sees tens of thousands of wildebeest and zebra migrate north in search of fresh grazing and water, closely pursued by their predators. One of the natural world's great wonders, it was something that I had only dreamt about experiencing. until now! While driving through the Northern Serengeti near the Kenyan Border, we could just about make out hundreds of of black dots in the distance, realising as we got closer that the dots were actually wildebeest and zebra, given away by a sort of loud donkey-like sound that echoed for miles. As we got closer and turned off the main road, we were suddenly surrounded as far as the eye could see by thousands (and I mean thousands) of wildebeest. Never in my life have I experienced such a huge concentration of animals in just one location and knowing that they were soon going to brave the river crossing, battling crocodiles, lions and hippos, was utterly exhilarating and a feeling that is hard to describe. As I said, this huge volume of wildebeest and zebra means that predators are never far away. We spotted a male and female lion walking together, closely followed by an older male which our expert driver explained was staying close for an opportunity to win back the female that had recently been taken by a younger model. Our hearts beating fast, we sat and watched these animals until they ended up right in front of the vehicle. No matter how many times I've been on safari, having lions within touching distance will never get any less exciting. Out of the corner of our eyes, we could see the older male slowly creeping up to challenge the younger male - exciting enough as it is until we also spotted, on the other side, a huge third male approaching the group, also attempting to take dominance and steal the female away! The second male spotted the third and ran at him, breaking into a fight with roars so loud that my whole body felt like it was vibrating! This was undoubtedly the best game viewing experience I've ever had, giving a true (and rather brutal) experience of the bush. After a couple of hours, it was time for us to leave the now sleeping lions, driving through a pack of hyenas and vultures fighting over a dead wildebeest, reaching the most amazing spot for our bush breakfast, with views of a herd of elephants - not the usual way I begin my Monday morning!
2. Descending the Ngorongoro Crater
A UNESCO World Heritage Site located in northern Tanzania, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is home to the striking Ngorongoro Crater. Descending down the rim of the crater, I couldn't believe we were entering what was once a live volcano, though when you reach the floor, you realise you're surrounded by steep crater walls. This means that many of the animals are confined to the crater floor (well, I say confined, the floor covers around 100 square miles) so game viewing is amazing here and you're pretty much guaranteed to see a range of species. The first of our numerous wildlife encounters, we saw a dazzle of zebra having a dip in a river and a good scratch against a mud bank - I've never seen zebra so active before. Next, we came across a male and female lion lying in the road and our guide explained that they were coming close to the end of their mating cycle so the female was getting increasingly annoyed with the male. She must have been persuaded though as we did actually witness them mating - again another first for me on this trip! Leaving the lions, we drove a little further and could see two grey spots in the distance, our guide passing the binoculars to reveal two black rhinos. This was super exciting as they are much rarer to see than other game and turned out to be the only rhino we spotted on this entire trip. Once the midday heat set in, we head to the crater lake and I seriously couldn't take my eyes off the mass of game that surrounded it. thousands of wildebeest, zebra, impala, buffalo as far as the eye could see. We then stopped for lunch beside the water, with a pod of hippos was watching us very closely. It's just such an amazing feeling getting out of the vehicle and being on the same level as the animals in their natural habitat.
3. Staying at The Highlands
Speaking of the Ngorongoro Crater, here we stayed at The Highlands which now ranks as one of my favourite hotels in the world! Located on the crater rim of Ol Moti Volcano, you are over 3,000 metres above sea level here so the views are absolutely unreal. The road leading up to The Highlands is only used by either guests visiting the property or the local Maasai tribe, so you get a brief insight into how they live, passing as they herd their cattle alongside zebra. The tribal people are so warm and friendly, with the children in particular loving to meet any guests.
As soon as we arrived, we were dazzled by the breathtaking views that encompass the entire property, while being met by the friendly staff singing us a welcome song in the charming main reception area, resembling an igloo and complete with log burner - due to the height of the property, it can get quite chilly at night! Luckily there is also a log burner and hot water bottle in the tents, so we were always nice and toasty - the amazing hot cocktails from the highest whisky bar in Africa also helped! Inspired by the traditional Maasai bomas that dot the landscape, the tents feature domed, glass fronts that offer simply stunning views over the crater. I will never forget the sunrise views here. As well as a warm welcome, a great outlook and luxury tents, the food at The Highlands was the best we experienced in Tanzania with a new menu each evening, always using fresh, organic ingredients - from roast lamb to flavoursome risotto.
4. Sundowners amid the bush
Sundowners are an essential part of any safari experience and we were lucky enough to enjoy them at every lodge we stayed at. Out of these, easily the most exciting sunset drinks were from Little Oliver's Camp in Tarangire National Park. After an amazing game drive - spotting everything from buffalo to mongoose - we made a diversion through some short grassland, reaching a huge herd of elephants blocking our path. Not phased at all by us or the vehicle, we slowly approached them, watching as the (ridiculously cute) two babies play fought. I have never been this close to elephants before and it was hands down one of the best experiences I've ever had. As the beautiful pink sky was getting darker, we had to leave the herd to reach our sundowner spot, a huge baobab tree with a bar set up underneath and chairs waiting for us to take in the stunning view. With a gin and tonic in hand, I was still on a high from getting so close to the elephants, which we could still glimpse in the distance.
5. Exploring the Central Serengeti
Easily the best known area of Tanzania, I had sky high expectations for the Serengeti. expectations that were smashed out of the park (if you'll pardon the pun) with the absolutely out of this world game viewing. As well as the sheer amount of wildlife that we saw, the animals were always super animated, making every second thrilling.
Our base here was the intimate and authentic Dunia Camp, the only one we visited that is ran by women. While getting ready to head out on our first game drive from here, there was a knock on our door for us to look outside, revealing a herd of 20 elephants right within the camp, literally yards away from our tent. It turns out that Dunia Camp is on the route to their watering hole, so they often pay a visit here. We had to postpone the game drive as we couldn't get anywhere near the vehicles for the elephants... not that we minded at all, we just sat for ages in amongst the herd! Finally, they made their way through camp so we set off on our game drive, spotting almost instantly a lioness lying high in a tree. I've never seen a tree climbing lion before and it was utterly fascinating to watch her as she lazed in the branches, though completely aware we were there. Eventually the lioness started to move, allowing me to get my favourite shot of the trip of her stood proudly atop the tree. I even have the picture framed at home it's so stunning!
Leaving the lioness, we passed yet another herd of elephants. I honestly couldn't believe how much game we had seen in the space of around two minutes. Reaching a river, we watched as a male lion cooled off in the water, though he was quickly off as he heard the distinctive call of zebra in the distance. We proceeded to follow the call to see if the lion was off to hunt, entering a huge dazzle of zebra. Usually quite a nervous animal (can you blame them with all the predators after them?!), these zebras allowed us to get super close to them, showing off just how beautiful those stripes are. There's more... we then found a hyena den, a species that is cruelly considered one of Africa's 'Ugly Five', along with the warthog, wildebeest, vulture and stork. Admittedly, they're not as impressive to look at as some other animals, but the babies we saw were super cute and inquisitive, coming right up to our vehicle to find out more. More sundowners finished off this simply spectacular game drive in the Serengeti, as we head towards a beautiful lake. Of course, the wildlife encounters didn't stop here, as in the middle of the lake stood five cranes surrounded by pink flamingos. The water was so beautifully clear that the birds' reflections were as lucid as they were. Sipping a gin and tonic with that as the view, this was the perfect end to the perfect day.
In short, my ten nights in Tanzania offered some of the most thrilling, eye-opening and simply unforgettable experiences of my life. There is no feeling that even remotely matches getting close to the amazing wildlife in their natural habitat. so what are you waiting for? To feel this thrill for yourself and to begin planning your Tanzania safari today, give our Luxury Travel Specialists a call.
Meeting local Maasai people from The Highlands
Cranes reflected in the lake where we enjoyed sundowners in the Central Serengeti
The gorgeous tree climbing lioness in the Central Serengeti