Northern Tanzania is exceptional – filled with Nature Reserves and National Parks it is simply one of the best wildlife viewing areas in the world. Anyone who watches wildlife programmes will have seen stunning scenes from this area, with amazing wildlife scenes taken in the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, the Maasai Mara and several other fabulous, though less famous Reserves – some of which we shall also be visiting.
The Serengeti hosts the second largest terrestrial mammal migration in the world.** 1.5 million Wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of other mammals such as Zebra and gazelles follow the food supply across the area. Unlike Swallows that have a defined start and end point and move back and forth each year, the movement of Wildebeest is a constant search for food and much depends on where it has rained. You can see the ‘Great Migration,’ as it is sometimes known, in Tanzania all year round – they migrate constantly to find available grass and as such, it is an ongoing event. Movement can be all around the Serengeti National Park but can also take them out of the park and into the surrounding areas including the Ngorongoro Crater, Maasai Mara and other buffer zones and game reserves surrounding the park creating a truly massive area in total.
By going at the start of the rains, we are hoping to find huge, contented herds, feeding on fresh new grass – rest assured they are always here in vast numbers all year round. At this time of year they may even be moving back into the central area of the Serengeti itself. The rains can be very unpredictable, but since this is a likely time for there to be food available, Wildebeest give birth in the months just before we arrive and we should see lots of young animals, not just of Wildebeest but many of the other mammal species too. Animals should be in good condition and we hope to enjoy wonderful scenes in beautiful scenery that is perhaps a little greener than much of the footage you may have seen on TV.
This also means there is a massive availability of prey, we are likely to see plenty of big cats and other predators. These too are likely to give birth around this time of year so we hope to see young Lions, Cheetahs and many others… and with these hungry mouths to feed they will surely be out and about. The Maasai Mara is particularly good for cats which is why the Big Cat Diaries were filmed there – so we hope for good views of Leopard too and maybe some of the smaller cat species like Serval and Caracal.
Another massive advantage in going at this time of year is the birds. Many species are breeding now, setting up territories, singing and displaying, so expect them to be in their finest plumage. Some of the African species such as Wydahs, Bishops and others look rather drab for much of the year – but in spring the males moult into their breeding plumage and look spectacular! They also have fabulous displays and this should be a real treat for the birdwatchers. Many other species are singing or displaying in April and hence easier to find – and there are many beautiful species to enjoy such as sunbirds, barbets, kingfishers, hornbills, lovebirds, shrikes and turacos. Other impressive birds include Ostrich of course but Secretary Bird, bustards and vast flocks of Lesser Flamingos – usually here in their thousands and an unforgettable sight.
Our guide, Zul Bhatia, is Tanzanian but has lived in the UK for many years working for the RSPB in Scotland for much of this time. I have personally known him as a friend since the early 1980s when he was warden at Insh Marshes in Speyside. He is a very keen birder, so whilst many companies run safaris in which they focus almost entirely on the mammals, we are in great hands with an expert birder with us, who knows the birds and mammals equally well… as well as having a great understanding of the ecology of the area.
He of course, speaks Tanzanian and can also explain the local cultures, bringing a depth of understanding to the trip. We include visiting a Maasai tribe and Zul tells me the tribes love the visits and having the chance to meet other people enormously and are always happy to chat.
As well as the vast herds of Wildebeest and antelopes we are of course going to see lots of Elephants, Hippos, Giraffes, various antelopes and gazelles and a host of other mammal species – with some only out on our night drives.
Elephants are one of my favourite animals in the world and they are present in big numbers in Tarangire National Park also famous for its Baobab’s. We also visit Arusha National Park where we hope to see a great range of birds and mammals but particularly we will be looking for beautiful Black and White Colobus Monkeys.
One other species we are going to be searching out is Black Rhino with our best chance in the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater. They can usually be found here but this place is simply a must visit anyway for both the wildlife and the wonderful scenery. Our lodge looks out over the crater and we will drop down the sides of the caldera to spend time amongst the vast herds of animals likely to be here – but also spend time in the surrounding forest rich in birdlife. Indeed the variety of habitats on this trip in the various reserves we are visiting are what provide the huge diversity of wildlife we are going to be enjoying.
Northern Tanzania is truly a ‘must visit’ for any traveling wildlife enthusiast hoping to see the most spectacular wildlife spectacles of the world… book online or contact us for more information to join us!
**Bats! They have the largest animal migration on earth. Between October and December each year, about 10 million fruit bats descend into a tiny patch of evergreen, swamp-forest (mushitu) inside Kasanka National Park, in Northern Zambia, from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.