The name of this tour alone is enough to heighten anticipation and evoke images of wild creatures, sprawling landscapes and the drama of life and death in the rugged Tanzanian wilderness.
This Tanzanian Great Safari Circuit should be relished, not rushed, and takes about two weeks to complete. By the end of those two weeks, however, you’ll feel you’ve made the journey of a lifetime.
After an overnight usually spent in Arusha, the gateway to Tanzania’s north, the safari will begin in earnest with a stop at Lake Manyara. The name of this national park is taken from the Masai word for the euphorbia tirucalli bush, used for thorny hedges to protect their cattle.
The park itself is stunningly beautiful – a veritable panorama of lush vegetation and tropical forest on the floor of the Great Rift Valley.
Birdlife is abundant here, with pelican, hornbill and flamingo all to be spotted.
Other wild creatures residing in the area include elephant, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, various antelope and the rare tree-climbing Manyara lion.
Heading north and passing Ol Doinyo Lengai, an active volcano, the next destination is Lake Natron. Even the journey from one lake to the other is a delight, as you pass Masai villages, bee boxes and termite mounds. You might even spot some game or amazing bird species along the way!
Arriving at Lake Natron, you are immediately confronted by the vast number of flamingo which gather at the shores to feed on the zooplankton of the alkaline waters. The highlight, however, is the chance to hike along the Ngare Sero River, which flows into the lake.
After some challenging hiking, you reach the source of the river – a torrent of surging waterfalls and pools where, weather permitting, you can cool down under the cascading waters.
This corner of Tanzania needs little introduction. The “endless plains” for which this national park was named by the Masai so many years ago are home to a whole host of fabulous species.
Wildebeest, lion, elephant, giraffe, zebra, baboon, hippo, rhino, antelope and over 400 bird species are all here, playing out their daily dramas of hunt and chase, birth and death.
Of course, the most dramatic spectacle of all is the Great Migration of the wildebeest, and if you time it just right, you might just be witness to this wonder of nature during your safari circuit.
Another name which awakens your sense of adventure, beckoning you to don your safari hat and discover the lapping shores for yourself. This vast body of water is surely the greatest of Africa’s Great Lakes.
Heading even further west from the Serengeti, the shores of Lake Victoria are dotted with pockets of villages and farmlands, which seem to have changed little since Livingstone “discovered” the lake some 150 years ago.
At Speke Bay, fishermen still use their traditional fishing methods, and are happy to share them with visitors on a boat ride over the waters. Back on land, the women are toiling in the fields, or seeking shade from the hot sun.
A trip to this corner of the world is a chance to meet the real people of this beautiful country, and realise there is more to Tanzania than spotting game.
After the calm and tranquility of Lake Victoria, another night is usually spent in the Serengeti, this time further south, after which it is time to visit the Ngorongoro Crater. This vast volcanic caldera, the legacy of a huge volcanic implosion and collapse some 2-3 million years ago, will simultaneously defy and delight the senses.
It seems somehow a world unto itself – as you descend the 2000 ft high walls of the crater and arrive in the crater bottom, engulfed by the verdant surroundings, you can easily imagine why this is often described as a “natural” sanctuary for animals.
The truth is, any one of the 20-25,000 large mammals which reside here could leave if they wanted. The fact is they stay because the conditions here are favorable. The sheer concentration of wildlife is amazing!
Lake Eyasi is home to the Hadzabe Bushmen – an ethnic group of hunter-gatherers who live completely harmoniously with nature, and are amongst the last of the world’s indigenous people to speak using clicks.
The wealth of knowledge on the local flora and fauna is extensive, and during your days spent with the Hadzabe people, spent on their traditional hunting tracks, you are sure to glean a lot of that knowledge yourself.
This is a truly off-the-beaten-track experience not to be found on your average safari.
Heading north again, your circuit is almost complete with your final safari stop at Tarangire. Colossal baobab trees dot the landscape here, tricking the eyes as you watch an elephant or giraffe, somehow looking small, wandering beneath the boughs of these majestic trees.
The elephant population is thriving here, with some 6000 elephant residing within the borders of the national park. The sight of a herd of these creatures, wandering slowly, swaying across Tarangire’s plains, is the perfect way to end your own Great Safari Circuit.
And here it ends. Many guests will spend another overnight in Arusha, to relax, inhale the country air and digest the sights they’ve seen, and experiences they’ve had. Some may even spend an extra day here, hiking in Arusha National Park.
Whatever you decide to do, by the end of this great journey, you’ll feel you’ve come at least some way in getting to know this diverse, beautiful and truly fascinating country.
Looking for a Tanzania safari specialist? Ziara Safaris are specialists in private and custom safaris around East Africa’s greatest National Parks and Game Reserves, and can work flexibly with you to put together a suitable safari itinerary depending on your preferences.