"Throughout the journey, you are immersed in the splendor of wildlife, both mammals and birds, and our timing is set for the peak of the great wildebeest migration. Because of this timing, we must confirm our tour early; we are there at PRIME time! East Africa is still the ultimate safari experience, hands down!”
— Peg Abbott, Owner of Naturalist Journeys
Join Naturalist Journeys’ owner Peg Abbott, and Washington Wachira, one of the leading birders of the region, on this Tanzania wildlife safari to see the splendor of East African birds alongside iconic animals like Elephant, Wildebeest, Common Zebra, Buffalo, Impala, Gazelle, Hartebeest, Eland, Lion, Cheetah, Leopard, Spotted Hyena, Vervet Monkey, Baboon, and so many more. Travel at peak time: Wildebeest are calving and the interactions between predator and prey are intense.
We begin in well-watered Arusha National Park, replete with water birds, views of Kilimanjaro, and our first mammal sightings. Then, witness the splendor of Tarangire National Park, perched on a principal migration corridor into the Serengeti. Be surrounded by wildlife, ancient boulders, and picturesque baobab and fig trees. Later, in Lake Manyara National Park we return to the baobabs and watch for wetland-associated African birds and mammals. Throughout our exploration, learn about the Great Rift Valley we cross and the whole area’s fascinating geology.
En route to the Serengeti, either coming or going, visit Oldupai Gorge, famous for the study of human evolution and one of the most significant anthropological sites in the world, also a spot for some specialty birds including Capped, Isabeline and Northern Wheatears, and several brightly-colored sunbirds. Descending into the realm of Ngorongoro Crater’s volcanic features, mountains, plains, lakes, forests, and archaeological sites, is a highlight. Dotted with watering holes, this incredible area offers shelter to almost 30,000 individual animals. Massive Bull Elephants, tolerant Lion prides with cubs, and displaying Gray-crowned Crowned Cranes are often highlights.
We enjoy lodgings at comfortable safari camps that offer all the creature comforts, yet are close to the action. At Ngorongoro Crater, we descend into the Crater for wildlife viewing, and enjoy rooms with grand views on the rim.
This Tanzania safari has been designed to complement our pre-tour Kenya Extension.
Our pre-tour Kenya extension is highly recommended to find the most species variety – chosen for habitats that differ from those we visit in Tanzania. We include time in some of country’s finest parks: Nairobi NP, Mount Kenya NP, Samburu/Buffalo Springs and Abedere – making a loop north from Nairobi. As Nairobi is a major air hub for the region and many pass through here to get to Arusha, this extension is a great (and simple!) way to expand your experience.
Central to our journey is ample time in the Serengeti eco-system, at this time particularly Ndutu. We make reservations more than a year out to be at this particular spot for the great Wildebeest calving here at the apex of the great migration. With its endless plains, the Serengeti is the heart and soul of our African wilderness experience. In February, there are thousands and thousands of wildebeest, intermingled with thousands of Zebra that move with them, on display. Immerse yourself in wildlife with excellent guides while enjoying Naturalist Journeys’ well known camaraderie!
- Explore well-watered Arusha National Park with fine views of Mt. Meru
- Spend two nights at Tarangire National Park, with picturesque and ancient Baobabs and many elephants
- Witness spectacular concentrations of wildlife at seasonally-shrinking watering holes; watch interactions between predator and prey
- Search for fascinating birds in the Serengeti, like Hamerkop, Saddle-billed and African Openbill Storks, Lappet-faced Vulture, and Tawny and Martial Eagles
- Find big cats and watch their behavior; in the last years we have seen all the big cats, plus in some years, Serval and Caracal
- Discover Lake Manyara National Park, home to tree climbing Lion, enormous tusked Elephant, Bushbuck, Giraffe, Zebra, Buffalo, Leopard, Impala, and more
- Visit Oldupai Gorge with a local guide, and learn about the sequence of important anthropological finds
- Opt for a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti — wow!
- Absorb the view from the rim of Ngorongoro Crater, then venture into the crater with its teeming wildlife
- Witness the rare Black Rhino in Ngorongoro Crater, as well as many bull Elephant
- Opt for the Kenya extension — with landscapes from Mt. Kenya to the arid north where a fascinating mix of birds and animals complement those of our main safari – Gerenuk, Grevy’s Zebra and more.
Thurs., Feb. 18: Arrical in Arusha | Ngare Sero Mountain Lodge
Welcome to Tanzania! Our tour begins in Arusha, where on arrival you’ll find your first Superb Starling, and say, “why didn’t we get that one!”. The sounds and smells of Africa, including blooming jacaranda trees await. We have selected a hotel out of the city so you can immediately surround yourself with splendid views, wildlife such as Dik-dik, Vervet Monkey and Mantled Guereza (Black-and-white Colobus Monkey), and bountiful birds, from bee-eaters to barbets, Crowned Hornbill, Hadada Ibis, Brown-hooded Kingfisher and more.
You may want to come in an additional night to rest up from travels. The lodge has extensive tropical plantings and is small and personal. There is a lovely swimming pool, WIFI, bar, spa and dining facilities, and pathways. Whenever you chose to arrive, this is a restful location to welcome you.
Both early arrivals and those coming in on the tour start date are met and transferred on arrival to the hotel.
Accommodations at the Ngare Sero Mountain Lodge (D)
Fri., Feb. 19: Arusha National Park
This morning we make our way to Arusha National Park; where Black-and-white Colobus Monkeys and Ochre Bush Squirrels roam gracefully. The park is small, though diverse, covering Mount Meru—a notable volcano and Tanzania’s second highest peak (after Mount Kilimanjaro). The park’s shallow alkaline lakes are a hot spot for wading birds!
The Momella Lakes fill with wintering waterfowl from Europe each year November to April; joined by both Greater and Lesser flamingoes and resident (African) egrets, herons and waders including Hamerkop and the beautiful Chestnut-banded Plover. The forest here is teeming with birds, with many species easily seen. Narina and Bar-tailed Trogons are both possible and a treat if seen! Massive and ancient-looking Silvery-cheeked Hornbills often steal the show. Other birds we can expect here include Scaly Francolin, African Black Duck, Striated Heron, Mountain Wagtail, Grey-olive Greenbul, Stripe-cheeked Greenbul, Crowned Eagle, Mountain Buzzard, African Wood-Owl, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Rameron Pigeon, Hamerkop, Montane White-eye, Giant Kingfisher, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Peter’s Twinspot, Retz’s Helmetshrike, White-eared Barbet, Pallid Honeyguide, African Emerald Cuckoo, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Ruppell’s Robin-Chat and Hartlaub’s Turaco.
This evening, we enjoy dinner at the lodge and relax in the lodge’s long armed chairs to soak in the surrounding forest, lake, and perhaps spot a monkey or two.
Accommodations at the Ngare Sero Mountain Lodge (B,L,D)
Sat., Feb. 20 & Sun., Feb. 21: Tarangire Safari Lodge | Tarangire National Park
Today, it’s off to the bush! Our first safari days are spent at Tarangire National Park, where we stay for the next two nights. Here, we are perched on a principal migration corridor into the Serengeti, about 100 miles from Arusha. Ancient boulders and baobab and fig trees surround us in this stunning landscape. At the park gate, Yellow-collared Lovebird, Red-chested Cuckoo and Pearl-spotted Owlet may be the among the welcoming committee.
Tarangire is home to one of the largest Elephant populations in Tanzania. February is baby time, irresistible! Because of varied habitats, it is a bird lover’s paradise, home to 550 bird varieties, the most breeding species in one habitat anywhere in the world. Lush marshes provide home to bishops, queleas, and whydahs. Birds of prey abound and the endemic Ashy Starling becomes an easy find.
In Tarangire we expect to see many Elephant and other wildlife like Wildebeest, Common Zebra, Buffalo, several mongoose species, Impala, Gazelle, Hartebeest, Eland, Lion, Cheetah, Leopard, Spotted Hyena, Vervet Monkey, Baboon, and many more. No two days are alike on safari, but every day holds tremendous wildlife viewing, often at close range in this lush and fanciful landscape.
The bird life in Tarangire includes many species associated with the trees, including woodpeckers, barbets, sandgrouse, and numerous songbirds. Red-and-yellow Barbet is common as are Tanzanian Red-billed Hornbills. The view from the patio of our lodge is one of the grandest in the region and the perfect spot for a sunset cocktail
with time to recount the day’s highlights and elegant-necked Giraffe walk by. An optional night drive here with a local guide reveals some impressive night birds including nightjars, owls and possible coursers.
Accommodations both nights at Tarangire Safari Lodge (B,L,D)
Mon., Feb. 22: Tarangire to Ndutu | A Special Region of the Serengeti Ecosystem
This morning's safari drive is through Tarangire's rich fantasy-land of baobab trees as we depart the park. From here we drive up and over the rim of Ngorongoro Crater (which we take a peek at from a viewpoint, but visit later on the tour), en route to Ndutu, part of the conservation area adjacent to Serengeti National Park. We descend from lush higher elevations at the Crater rim down through an arid area, with fabulous scenery, geology, and impressive bird species, from wheatears to three species of sandgrouse and the elegant Kori Bustard. At the junction with Serengeti National Park, we veer south to the prime calving area for Wildebeest, on the mineral-rich soils of Ndutu, where wildlife watching abounds!
Accommodations at Mbugani Mobile Migration Tented Camp (B,L,D)
Tues., Feb. 23 & Wed., Feb. 24: Ndutu — The Place to Be in February!
The Ndutu area is part of the Serengeti but administered as part of the large and vital Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It is the end of the line for the Wildebeest migration on the Tanzania end (the Mara, in Kenya being the other end – at its peak in August/September) and they roam here in numbers that you just have to see to believe!
As far as your eye can see, Wildebeest are running, feeding, fretting over newborn calves, and keeping an eye out for predators. Vast numbers of prey invite predators and no two days are alike. Leopard, Cheetah, Lion, and other cats are all possible. Both days we enjoy very extensive game and bird viewing drives, both morning and afternoon. We are in the heart of the action - the areas we explore are prime for Wildebeest calving; the circle of life is astounding. We often find a kill made before dawn, and watch as vultures, jackals, and other scavengers wait their turn for lions to be done.
Our camp is wonderful, and you are in the right place — ask any wildlife photographer where they love to go, and Ndutu or nearby Lake Masek are likely high on their list! For birders it’s also a wonderland, with Taita Fiscal, Magpie Shrike, Southern Ground Hornbill, Bare-faced Go-Away-Bird, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, African Penduline Tit, Blue-capped Cordon-bleu, Southern Grosbeak Canary, Red-throated Tit, Short-tailed Lark, Silverbird, Black-lored Babbler, Black Bishop, Two-banded Courser and many many more.
Accommodations at Mbugani Mobile Migration Tented Camp (B,L,D)
Thurs., Feb. 25 & Fri., Feb. 26: Central Serengeti National Park
The Serengeti boasts a unique combination of diverse habitats, enabling it to support species of large herbivores, as well as birds. Its landscape includes open grass plains, savannah with scattered acacia trees in the center, wooded grassland, and black clay plains. Small rivers and swamps are scattered throughout. Kopjes are scenic knolls of granite and gneiss outcroppings, great for birds of prey and mammalian predators that use them for resting, nesting, and dens; they are also great for seeing smaller mammals. Central Serengeti holds ecological richness, and healthy numbers of predators, including Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, and smaller cats as well.
Serengeti National Park is undoubtedly the best-known wildlife sanctuary in the world, unequalled in its natural beauty and scientific value. With great concentrations of Wildebeest, Thomson’s Gazelle, Zebra, and many other herbivores, Serengeti forms the greatest view of plains game in Africa and has long been a natural classroom for wildlife biologists, many of whom reside here for years. The Visitor Center has excellent displays to highlight its iconic wildlife spectacle ? the annual Serengeti migration.
Birding is also legendary in the Serengeti, and in between mammal sightings we find dozens of species! Over 500 species have been recorded, with 53 birds of prey and Secretary Bird among them. Some of the memorable species include colorful Saddle-billed Stork, African Openbill Stork, Lappet-faced Vulture, Tawny and Martial Eagles, Kori Bustard, Meyer’s Parrot, Black Coucal, Swahili Sparrow, Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, Malachite and African Pygmy Kingfishers, Rosy-breasted Longclaw, Chinspot Batis, Fork-tailed Drongo, Beautiful Sunbird, Golden-breasted Bunting, and so many more!
While in the Serengeti, we can arrange a hot-air balloon ride for you (an additional cost), timed to watch the sun rise as you drift over the plains, filled at this time of year with wildlife — this is pretty wonderful! Our lodgings have an expansive view – including one from your luxury open-air shower!
Just opened in 2016, Kubu Kubu is a premium permanent tented camp with stunning vistas of the Sergengeti Plains. This camp provides a wonderful blend of nature and creature comforts, including a pool. Rooms are spacious with a wooden deck with views and comfortable seating. Fischer’s Lovebirds and a variety of songbirds that may include Purple Grenadier, Grey-capped Social Weaver, Red-cheeked Cordon-Bleu and Red-billed Firefinch gather in acacia trees just off your patios; wake up calls compliments of Africa.
Accommodations at Kubu Kubu Camp (B,L,D)
Sat., Feb. 27: Oldupai Gorge | Ngorongoro Crater Rim
This morning we enjoy a morning game drive as we work our way to the gate, departing Serengeti. We enjoy a picnic lunch and a visit to the world-famous Oldupai Gorge. The Gorge is famous for the study of human evolution and one of the most significant anthropological sites in the world. A local guide helps us understand the sequence of important finds here. This is an arid area, with fabulous scenery, geology, and colorful bird species, in addition to its renowned history. A recently-expanded museum here has excellent exhibits.
As we reach Ngorongoro Crater, we witness a landscape that is spectacular to view from above and below. Your first view from the rim down into this fabled crater is unforgettable! Either today or tomorrow, those that wish can visit a Maasai Village to learn more about Maasai culture. After settling in, we spend the late afternoon birding and watching for wildlife from the rim, finding such beauties as Golden-winged Sunbird.
Accommodations at Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge (B,L,D)
Sun., Feb. 28: Ngorongoro Crater
Early this morning we descend into the crater, taking a picnic lunch. The Ngorongoro Crater and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are, without a doubt, some of the most beautiful parts of Tanzania, steeped in history and teeming with wildlife. This protected area is located in the Great Rift Valley and is also known as the eighth wonder of the world. The Crater is actually a gigantic fracture in the earth's crust, consisting of volcanoes, mountains, plains, lakes, forests, and archaeological sites.
At 1600 meters (approximately 5200 ft.) above sea level, the bottom of the Crater is extensive, measuring 265 km (102 miles) square. It is dotted with watering holes and offers shelter to almost 30,000 individual animals in an area naturally enclosed by the slopes of the volcano. It is hard to find this density of mixed mammal species anywhere else in the world. The bird life is largely seasonal and is also affected by the ratio of soda and fresh water on the crater floor. Expect species such as Hildebrandt’s Francolin, Grey Crowned Crane, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Lyne’s Cisticola, Pied Avocet, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Black-bellied Bustard, Kori Bustard, Secretarybird, Rosy-breasted Longclaw, Lesser Flamingo, Greater Flamingo, Chestnut-banded Plover and Rufous-tailed Weaver. We observe the behavior of the abundant wildlife: Lion, Zebra, Hippo, Buffalo, Warthog, Dung Beetle, and Eland are just a few. Considerable research has been done at Ngorongoro and we relate this as we drive. The crater’s Elephant are, strangely, mainly bulls. There are also a small number of rare Black Rhino.
We stay there in the crater until mid-afternoon, then head back to our lovely hotel on the rim. Those that wish to keep birding can enjoy some of the mountain species, such as Black-fronted Bush-Shrike, Oriole Finch, Schalow’s Turaco, African Olive Pigeon, Hunter’s Cisticola, Bar-throated Apalis, Red-collared Widowbird, Rameron Pigeon, White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher and others new for our route, on the hotel grounds.
Accommodations at Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge (B,L,D)
Mon., March 1: Gibb’s Farm | Lake Manyara National Park
This morning, we drive to the nearby Gibb’s Farm, located near the local town of Karatu. This is a local multi-faceted farm that grows coffee, fruits, flowers, and vegetables and also rears a variety of domestic livestock. We spend the morning here, exploring the grounds and the highland forest trails for birds such as Crested Guineafowl, White-tailed Blue-Flycatcher, Arrow-marked Babbler, Narina Trogon, Brown-headed Apalis, Eastern Mountain-Greenbul, Schalow’s Turaco, and White-browed Robin-Chat.
We then spend the afternoon exploring Lake Manyara National Park, one of the region’s Great Rift Valley lakes. The park holds an expanse of woodlands and vast plains, as well as the large alkaline soda lake that attracts such a rich variety of waterfowl, perhaps the world’s tallest heron, aptly named the Goliath. The acacia trees and shrubs are home to tree climbing Lion, enormous tusked Elephant, Bushbuck, Giraffe, Zebra, Buffalo, Leopard, Impala, and other mammals. We learn more about the area’s geology from the Mto Wa Mbu escarpment, from which we overlook the Rift Valley and the Manyara Soda Lake.
One of the great features of Lake Manyara, situated in the Great Rift Valley, is the birding at the lake; both numbers and species are a highlight. Near the visitor center we may find a massive colony of Yellow-billed Stork, active in courtship and nest building. At a marshy area of the lake, we watch Hippos alongside African Jacana, numerous plovers, and handsome storks.
Manyara is a large alkaline lake and can attract large numbers of Lesser Flamingo and other waterbirds. The lake and wetlands teem with species, including Pied Kingfisher, Hamerkop, African Fish Eagle, African Spoonbill, Great White Pelican, Lesser Kestrel, Crested Guineafowl, a variety of hornbills, woodpeckers, and other species.
For those that wish, you can choose a final night outing outside the park, with a small local company permitted to enjoy night game viewing to try for a few last species. One year we found African Porcupine, several owls, and two spectacular sleeping hornbills. The next year they had Leopard, and a host of exciting finds.
Accommodations at Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge (B,L,D)
Tues., March 2: Return to Arusha | Departures
We enjoy some final morning birding around the lodge before departing for Arusha. We dine together one last time with a fine lunch in Arusha before we drop those going home today at the Kilimanjaro Airport for afternoon departures.
Cost of the Journey
Cost of the 13-Day / 12-Night journey (Main Tour) is $9425 DBL / $10,360 SGL from Arusha, Tanzania. Our tour is one day longer this year and we’ve upgraded lodging. This cost includes accommodations for 12 nights, all meals as specified in the itinerary, professional guide services, other park and program entrance fees and miscellaneous program expenses. Please ask us about a cash discount.
Tour and extension costs do not include: round-trip transportation from your home city to Nairobi or Arusha, optional activities, or items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone charges, gratuities for guides, lodges and drivers, or beverages from the bar. Costs exclude: International airfare; personal, medical, cancellation insurance; tips for guides, drivers, and lodges.
Optional activities can be booked on the main safari: a night drive with a local company permitted for night outings by Lake Manyara (approximately $180pp) and a balloon ride (several locations, approximately $580 per person).
There is also an option to pay all miscellaneous lodge and local guide tips ahead of time with a contribution to the tip pool, leaving only your main guide tip to Washington Wachira, our superb guide and operator. Washington will then handle all the tipping for the safari.
Group Size: Maximum of 5 passengers per vehicle. Tour prices are based on 10 persons, in two vehicles; we can confirm 4-5 persons with Washington for the same pricing in a single vehicle.
Flights through Nairobi are now very convenient, some direct from the USA. Flights through Europe with the fewest stopovers route to Arusha on KLM via Amsterdam at this time. There are other airlines that typically offer flights with stopovers in Nairobi as well, making it quite possible to spend time in Kenya without added airfare.
Plan to arrive in Arusha, Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) no later than February 18. As the flight from Amsterdam arrives in the evening, we encourage you to arrive in time to allow some time to rest up from travel. If you participate in the Kenya extension, please plan to arrive in Nairobi at your leisure on February 11. Please plan departure flights after 5:00 PM on March 2; we plan to arrive at the airport by 2:00 PM. If you need to book an earlier flight please check with us, it may need to be the next day, and if so, we can arrange a hotel for you for the evening (around $260pp).
Items of Note
The journey is limited to a group of 10. In Tanzania we use Toyota Land Cruisers, which hold six, plus guide and driver, but we leave an open seat for moving around and holding gear. In Kenya we use either the Toyota Land Cruiser or a mini-van depending on the group, both have pop-up tops allowing you to stand for game viewing.
Photo credits: Banners: Elephants by Peg Abbott; Saddle-billed by Greg Smith; Wildebeest and Zebra by Peg Abbott; Giraffes under Baobab by Peg Abbott; Leopard by Greg Smith; African Fish Eagle, Crowned Crane, Elephant with Infant, Lion Cub, Yellow-billed Stork Rookery, Zebra Greeting, European Bee-eater, Wildebeest and Calf by Peg Abbott; Secretary Bird, Peg Abbott; African Hoopoe, Peg Abbott; Knob-billed Duck, Peg Abbott; Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Peg Abbott; Gazelle, Peg Abbott; Malachite Kingfisher, Peg Abbott; Red-billed Hornbill, Greg Smith; Arusha National Park, Peg Abbott; Striped Kingfisher, Peg Abbott; Black-and-white Colobus, Peg Abbott; Lilac-breasted Roller, Peg Abbott; Ndutu Sunrise, Peg Abbott; Zebra, Peg Abbott; Wildebeest, Peg Abbott; Kori Bustard, Peg Abbott; Tawny Eagle, Peg Abbott; Red-cheeked Cordon-blue, Peg Abbott; Fork-tailed Drongo, Peg Abbott; Rosy-breasted Longclaw, Peg Abbott; Bar-throated Apalis, George Bakken; Giraffe, Peg Abbott; African Fish Eagle, Peg Abbott; Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Washington Wachira; Saddle-billed Stork, Peg Abbott; Greater Flamingo, Bob Rodrigues; Chestnut-banded Plover, Bob Rodrigues; Bat-eared Fox, Peg Abbott; Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Peg Abbott; Brown-crowned Tchagra, Peg Abbott; Crowned Crane, Peg Abbott; Hammerkop, Peg Abbott; Helmeted Guineafowl, Peg Abbott; Ostrich, Peg Abbott; Red-billed Oxpecker, Peg Abbott; Sandgrouse, Peg Abbott; Yellow-billed Stork, Peg Abbott; Red-headed Barbet, Peg Abbott.