National Parks

National Parks

The Serengeti is one of the ten natural travel wonders of the world. It gained this status because it hosts the largest terrestrial mammal migration worldwide. The Serengeti is an experience every keen traveler should have on his/her bucket list.

This ecosystem is a geographical region in Africa. It is located in North Tanzania and extends to South-Western Kenya. It spans some 30 000 square kilometres. The Kenyan part of the Serengeti is known as Maasaai (Masai) Mara. 208 miles from Arusha you will find the Serengeti National Park. It is the oldest and most popular nature reserve in Tanzania.

The Serengeti

The Serengeti is one of the ten natural travel wonders of the world. It gained this status because it hosts the largest terrestrial mammal migration worldwide. The Serengeti is an experience every keen traveler should have on his/her bucket list.

This ecosystem is a geographical region in Africa. It is located in North Tanzania and extends to South-Western Kenya. It spans some 30 000 square kilometres. The Kenyan part of the Serengeti is known as Maasaai (Masai) Mara. 208 miles from Arusha you will find the Serengeti National Park. It is the oldest and most popular nature reserve in Tanzania.

Three Giraffe in the Tanzanian Wild

The Serengeti Region is home to approximately 70 larger mammal and some 500 bird species. The high diversity of species is due to the diverse habitats of the Serengeti which ranges from riverine forests, swamps, kopjes, grasslands to woodlands. The Serengeti is also renowned for its large lion population. Here is one of the best places to observe prides in their natural environment.

The annual migration ensures one of the most spectacular game viewing opportunities in Africa. Nature lovers can expect to see great herds of Blue Wildebeests, buffalos, elephant groups, giraffes, zebras and thousands of bucks such as the majestic Eland, Impala, Topi, Kongoni and gazelles. It is here where one can see Africa’s great predators in action. Lion prides roaming the open plains, solitary leopards lurking in the shadows of the Acacia trees by the Seronera River and cheetahs prowling on the Southern Eastern plains. Other predators such as the spotted hyena and other smaller predators hunt here. The Serengeti is also home to all three African Jackal species, which is quite unique.

The Ngorongoro

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is home to the Masaai and is named the 8th Wonder of the World. This is a magical setting! Think volcano, waterfalls, 30 000 resident animals, predators, archaeology, grasslands, swampland, open savannah, lakes and mountain forests.

The Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera after the collapse of one of Africa’s biggest volcanos (which is believed to have been much higher than the famous Mount Kilimanjaro). Elephants graze the Lerai Forest, hippos inhabit the swamps and Ngoitokitok Springs, Wildebeest and buffalo feed on the grasslands and flamingos live around Lake Magadi. One might also spot the rare black rhino which tends to find refuge within the crater’s walls. Lions, cheetah and leopards can be seen stalking the crater floor.

A Giraffe In The Ngorongoro Wild

A perfect time to visit Lake Ndutu is from December to April when the lake is full and all sorts of wild life gather there to quench their thirst and look for prey.

Be sure to check out the Olduvai Gorge (or Wongo Valley) which is home to the ancient Genus Australopithecus (‘Southern Apes’). These ancient apes was once believed (and is today still wrongly believed by some) to be one of man’s primitive ancestors. Take note too of the Gol Mountains with its pink cliffs on your way to Nasera Rock and Irkarian Gorge. When it rains in this barren and dusty area, the grass grows quite fast and attracts huge herds of animals during their migration.

Another visual treat is the escarpment overlooking the slopes of Oldonyo Lengai. This forms part of the Ngorongoro Crater Highlands (stretching from Mount Oldean all the way through the Ngorongoro Crater, Olmoti and the Empakaai Craters).

Lake Manyara

Lake Manyara National Park (although of the smallest parks) is one of the most ecologically diverse game reserves in Tanzania and boasts a great birding reserve. More than 400 bird species have been recorded and one can expect to see an average of 100 on one day. One can especially expect to see larger water birds such as Flamingos, pelicans, cormorants and storks.

Manyara lies about one and a half hours west of Arusha. This picturesque alkaline lake, the scenic park and the majestic rise of the Great Rift Escarpment impressed Ernest Hemmingway. He claimed Lake Manyara “is the loveliest I had seen in Africa”. Come decide for yourself.

 

Wild Flamingo Flying Over Lake Manyara

You can expect to see baboon troops along the roadside, blue monkeys in the ancient mahogany trees, bushbuck and forest hornbills in the high canopy. Buffalo, elephant, wildebeest and zebra herds can be seen on the grassy plains that surround the lake.

The views from the here are breath taking, stretching from the grassy floodplain and its expansive views eastward to the edgy blue volcanic peaks that rise from the Masaai Steppes. Not to mention the incredible fauna and flora. The range of fauna and flora one finds in the park qualified it as a World Biosphere Reserve. The Acacia Woodland for instance is home to the legendary tree-climbing lions, elephants, mongoose and the diminutive Kirk’s dik-dik. Don’t forget the pairs of Klipspringer one can spot on the rocks above an array of hot springs which steam and bubble nearby the lakeshore.

A Lake Manyara vist is a one-day trip. The best time for game viewing is from December to February and May to July. One can still see relatively good game from August to September. Early mornings are the most special as it is peaceful and still, and a time leopards prefer in the park too.

Tarangire National Park

Tarangire National Park is the fourth largest in Tanzania and only a 2 hour drive South-West from Arusha.

Secondly to the Ngorongoro Crater – the park has of the highest concentration of wildlife during the dry season. The dry season is from June till October. It is during this time that animals linger around before the onset of rains takes them on their migrational journey to other grazing areas.

The reason wildlife flock to the Tarangire National Park is because the Tarangine River is one of the few sources of permanent water that is left in the area during the dry season. The park is unspoilt and offers views of volcanic mountain ranges, ancient baobab trees and a wide variety of wild- and birdlife. It is Africa at its best. Many of the wildlife rely on the water-gathering, hollow Baobab trees where they can find rainwater to drink.

A Leopard Pouncing On Its Prey

What animals can you expect? Elephant herds of over 300 have been spotted. One can expect thousands of Zebra’s, wildebeest, buffalo, Maasai giraffes and Oryx’s. Of the predators you are bound to see are lions, cheetahs and leopards. A bird-lover’s heaven! You will find the most breeding species in this habitat than anywhere else in the world.  The evergreen swamps offer 550 bird varieties. Vegetation is a mixture of baobab trees, acacia tortilis, riverine & savannah grassland, riparian and commiphora woodland – a feast for the eye.

Travel tip:
Traveling during the rainy season may be challenging since many of the tracks are impassable. Luckily the Tarangire offers some of the best walking safaris in Northern Tanzania.

Lake Eyasi and the Hadzabe Bushmen

Lake Eyasi is a seasonal and shallow lake on the floor of the Great Rift Valley. It is at the base of the Serengeti Plateau, south from the Serengeti National Park and Southwest of the Ngorongoro Crater. This lake is fed by many rivers and streams. The principle inflow is from the Sibiti River. The second largest inflow is the Baray. Mount Oldeani (a Ngorongoro volcano) drains directly into the North-East end of the lake. The Budahaya / Udahaya River (which drains into the Yaeda Swamp) flows into Lake Eyasi as well. The largest stream coming from the Serengeti, is the Sayu.

The lake is never very deep and may dry up almost entirely in drier years. El Nino years may flood the lake’s banks and attract hippopotamus from the Serengeti. The lake is known as a seasonal stop for migrating flamingos. Check out the Mumba Cave – an archaeological hotspot near Lake Eyasi (below).

The Hadzabe Bushmen Setting Up Tents

Experiencing the indigenous inhabitants of Lake Eyasi – introducing the Hadzabe Bushmen

The Hadza are the indigenous inhabitants of the lake. The Hadza / Hadzabe are an ethnic group of just under 1000. Some 300-400 live as hunter-gatherers – just as their ancestors have for thousands to tens of thousands of years ago. The Hadza’s are the last full-time gunter-gatherers in Africa. They are found along most of the perimeter of the lake. Camps are few along most of Serengeti since this is Maasai territory. Although the Hadza were traditionally classified with the Khoisan groups due to the similarities between their languages, the Hadza are not closely genetically related to any other people. In spite of the similar click sounds their language appears to be isolate. They seem to have occupied their current territory for several thousand years and have made very little modifications to their basic way of living until the past hundred years.

Interact and learn from the Hadzabe…

Expose yourself to a life-changing experience of immersing in the beautiful, simple and utilitarian lives of the Hadzabe people. It is bound to be rewarding and mind-broadening and will introduce you to some of the basic skills of Bushmen survival.

Depending on your time available you can

  • Acquire a basic understanding of Bushmen skills during a one day trip
  • Learn a bit more over a few days or
  • Take part in the full 12 day experience in the bush

    See what you can expect to experience and learn below:

    ACQUIRE BASIC SKILLS

  • Bowing technique 101 - learn how to shoot accurately without hurting your hands and wrists
  • Maji Moto Hunting -  where we aim to stalk, flank, ambush, and close-on prey
  • How to make a fire
  • Learning snake-bite, scorpion & anti-malarial treatments
  • Identifying edible berries, particularly the sandpaper tree (the single most useful species in desert survival, in that it provides wood for bows and arrows, and also has edible fruits; tamarind, fig, and many different plants used for an array of medical applications)
  • How to build a shelter in less than 20 minutes, how to configure this shelter to protect against intrusion by hyenas and other unwanted guests
  • Walking with Bushwomen for water-finding demonstrations (uprooting water-bearing tubers and digging under dry rivers)
  • dentifying, cutting, stoning, stripping, heating, carving and bending wood for bow and arrow construction
  • Learning to make primitive bow strings (when tendons are available from a recent prey). Where tendons are not available, learning how to string a bow from nylon or rolled sacking string
  • Learning from the Karrera or Datoga tribes how to make metal arrow heads for which the Hadzabe barter their meat
  • Learning how to identify the best branches for arrows; how to strip, heat, straighten, sharpen, fletch, and signature carve and stain, the three different grades of arrow we use for the three different sizes of prey hunted
  • Where the route’s features allow, how to identify medicinal versus edible, honey; how to smoke out the bees and gather the combs

FOUR DAYS AND MORE: LEARN ABOUT POISON AND NIGHT HUNTING
The Hadzabe’s preferred meat of choice is that of the baboon. It is believed to strengthen the body’s immune system, due to the baboons’ ability to ingest and breakdown many poisonous plants. By spending four days or more with the Hadzabe Bushmen you will learn the above basic skills as well as the following hunting skills…

  • How to identify plants to be used for making poisons; how to slice and soak, and boil off to residue the poisonous tar applied to the shaft-ends of arrows used for large prey, such as kudu
  • How to launch a night assault against baboons (approaching in silence in the dark, dividing the party into kill and decoy groups, how to shoot at what can barely be seen)

The above is only suitable for those willing to accept the increased risk of injury on a night hunt where torches cannot be used near prey. Participants need to realise that they will most probably not be useful contributors on the night hunt, unless they have spent several weeks in the bush and have excellent night-vision. It is however worth the effort – since night time is the best time to successfully hunt baboon.

Important Safety Note: The area has some poisonous snakes and scorpions and there is a risk of self-injury while hunting. Whilst you will be in safe hands with our staff and the Hadzabe, visitors should be realistic in understanding that it impossible to control exposure to these risks (although to date we have not had serious incidents). When sitting on soft sand, remember to ask our staff to sweep the ground for scorpions. It is important to remain vigilant.

SURVIVAL TRAINING: MILITARY AND SPECIAL FORCES
We offer survival training programs to those who anticipate having to face eventualities in desert areas, such as fighter pilots (who risk being shot down), and Special Forces soldiers (tasked with operations behind enemy lines). Spending time with Bushmen of Eyasi is highly recommended for these specific groups.

Mumba Cave: an Archaeological hot-spot
Another attraction is the Mumba Cave. The Mumba Cave / Mumba Rockshelter is an archeological site near Lake Eyasi that was found to contain important Middle Stone Age and Late Stone Age artifacts. It was originally excavated by Ludwig Kohl-Larsen and his wife Margit in the 1930’s. It seems that these caves were home to many different inhabitants and culture groups over the centuries. Its location was desirable because it was next to the lake and nearby grasslands – which was perfect for the exploitation of animals and shelter from dangerous predators.

The site of Mumba cave was considered essential in understanding the behaviour of Middle Stone Age peoples due to the remains of 5 individual archaic Homo sapiens that were found there. Remains and data that were discovered at the Eyasi basi seem to provide links in understanding the emergence of archaic Homo sapiens. Evidence of modern behaviours such as numerous burials and the presence of rock art were found in and around the Mumba Cave. These remains date back to 280 000 years ago.

Oldonyo Lengai

The Maasai people called it the “Mountain of God”. This revered volcano is active and is located 25 km to the South of Lake Natron. It sits in the heart of the Great Rift Valley.

This volcano is unique from others for various reasons. One of the characteristics is that the volcano erupts lava at relatively low temperatures (500-600 degrees Celsius). This causes the lava to appear black in sunlight, rather than the typical red glow one usually sees when looking at lava. The sodium and potassium carbonate minerals in the lava are unstable on the Earth’s surface and turns from black to grey. This ensures a volcanic landscape different from any other in the world.

Water Stream With Kilimanjaro In Background

The Climbing Experience
The Lengai rises more than 2000m above the Rift Valley Floor. Every 7 years the Lengai erupts and smoke billows out of the crater. Climbing to the top may offer the opportunity to view molten lava which is one of the highlights of an adventure safari. On occasion it is possible to walk across the crater floor, to the edge of the molten lavas. One can expect spectacular views of the surrounding landscapes, especially when admiring the Western face of the escarpment that rises from the Great Rift Valley.

The climb is challenging. The ascent of the Lengai is especially demanding during daytime. The heat, lack of water, steep, unstable slopes of ash, crumbly rocks and the considerable height of the volcano makes the climbing experience a difficult one. It is recommended to start from approximately 2300ft, to camp beside Lake Natron, continue the climb through the darkness and emerge at the summit for one of the most spectacular sunrises you will ever experience.

LAKE NATRON

You might reach it after a tough six hour 4x4 drive from Arusha or you might arrive at Lake Natron after walking all the way from the Ngorongoro Highlands. What you can expect is the Ngaresero River – an extraordinary and unexpected contrast to the heat and dust. It flows clean and cool out of the Rift Valley wall into Lake Natron. The best way to reward yourself after the long travel is to make use of the opportunity to swim under the beautiful and dramatic waterfall that descends from the Ngaresero Springs.

Lake Natron is not really visited for its wildlife viewing. It is visited because of its breathtaking views. It is 24km wide and 56km long. The bright red lake derives its colours from salt-loving micro-organisms that flourish in its alkaline waters. This lake is the world’s most caustic body of water (saltlake) which means predators avoid its saline water and young birds are left to live in peace. Lake Natron is the world’s most important breeding site for the Lesser Flamingo. One can spot them from August to October.

The water temperature can reach 60 degrees Celsius when the lake is flooded with water that was heated underground. This is evident by the hot springs that sustain the lake.

A travel tip:
If you are visiting the shoreline, avoid walking in the mud. It will damage your footwear. If your footwear comes into contact with mud ask your guide to quickly clean off any mud.