On Safari in Tanzania

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14520A, International


  • Experience the abundant wildlife of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater
  • Meet a Maasai tribal group that dates back to the Stone Age
  • Delight in the thrill and adventure of a classic safari quest
  • Experience a flight over the Serengeti and rare night safari drive


  • Comfortable accommodations in lodges and private tents
  • All lodging, meals, admissions, park entrance fees and gratuities
  • On-trip transportation, airport pick-up and drop-off


DatesJan 29–Feb 8, 2014
StaffMargie Tomenko

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Trip Overview

The Trip

Tanzania provides all the essential elements of a classic African safari adventure of a lifetime. The largest country in East Africa and situated just south of the equator, Tanzania has a truly magnificent variety of landscapes and 12 national parks that are unsurpassed in beauty and variety. Among its unspoiled savannah one can still find Maasai nomads and millions of wild animals. Tanzania is home to over 40 species of mammals, including elephant, giraffe, cape buffalo, hippo, rhinoceros, zebra, wildebeest, antelope, warthog, lion, cheetah, leopard, hyena, and many more.  This is the typical season for birthing.  We hope to witness this miracle and possibly see a wildebeest being born. This is a spectacular site to witness. The calf is up and running in a matter of minutes of being born -- for survival.

Tanzania is also a bird watcher's paradise with too many species to list.  Who can say which bird is more spectacular? The greater flamingo, secretary bird, crowned crane, lilac-breasted roller, kori bustard, lily trotter, spoonbill stork, marabou stork, the bee eaters, or any of a dozen others.

Of all the African wildlife areas, none surpasses Tanzania's for spectacular scenery and number of animals. Our safari takes us from the green foothills of snow-mantled Mount Kilimanjaro (the continent's highest mountain at 19,340 ft); through the limitless expanse of the Serengeti Plain (a World Heritage site) and to the misty Ngoronogoro Crater (the world’s largest intact caldron, which measures 12 miles across). And if these natural wonders are not enough, the trip will also visit historic places like Oldovai Gorge, the site of Leakey's discovery of the oldest human bones, the very dawn of human existence.

The Serengeti National Park’s name is derived from the Maasai language “Siringet” which means endless plains. Over an area of 5,700 square miles, we’ll find a staggering animal population of about four million, including huge herds of zebra, wildebeest, and other grazing animals. Over 350 species of birds and 35 larger mammals can be found here. Each game drive will feature different animals and surprises. The skill and experience of our driver guides will be obvious as they look for animal viewing opportunities.

During this time of year, between the months of January and March, wildebeest calving begins. More than 750,000 females will drop their calves within 24 hours. Although it is not possible to predict the exact time this will occur, we hope to witness a herd in this process. Many other animals give birth at this time of year. Predatory activity will be at its peak, so you can be sure to see plenty of lion, cheetah, hyena, jackal and hopefully, the shy leopard looking for a feast.

In addition to wildlife observation, this outing also offers opportunities to learn about Tanzania's Maasai ethnic group, and to see a vast cross-section of Tanzania -- the largest in East Africa, and the continent's most politically stable.  We will have the opportunity to take a flight to the northern Loliondo region of the Serengeti.  This gives us the opportunity to both fly over the Serengeti, as well as experience some of the more remote areas.  We will visit a genuine Massai tribe there, too.  These tribes have not been affected by the commercialization and tourism that other tribes have.

There, we will be able to do a coveted night safari to observe the nocturnal animals, too! Currently, this is the only place the night drives are allowed. While the park service is experimenting with allowing this in other places, we will not be disappointed in this one!

We will be accompanied at all times by an accomplished Tanzanian naturalist/guide who will be able to identify and tell us all about the wildlife encountered. We will listen for the sounds of the bush as we enjoy our comfortable camps and lodges. In settings of incomparable beauty and grandeur, we will savor the African dawn and sunset.


Day 1: After our arrival at Kilimanjaro Airport we will be met by our safari staff and driven to our beautiful hotel located in Arusha. There we will relax and enjoy the pool and grounds. On a clear day we can see Mount Kilimanjaro. We will have an opportunity to meet everyone and enjoy a welcome dinner this evening.

Day 2: After an early breakfast, we will be transferred to the Arusha airport to fly to northern Serengeti-Loliondo.  We will be met by our safari guides with box lunches to start your game drive.  We will have two days to explore the Loliondo area.  After our first game drive, we will arrive at our luxury camp (running water, electricity, flush toilets) for an evening of dinner under the stars (weather permitting), then turn in for a restful night among beautifully decorated and furnished surroundings. 

Day 3: We will depart after early breakfast for a unique Maasai village interaction. This Maasai experience is far from the typical tourist experience you would have at other locations. Here you will get a genuine sense of Maasai living and have the opportunity to participate in typical village life, milking goats and cattle.  You can even assist with taking the cattle and goats out for grazing. After our morning visit with the Maasai, you can return to the camp for a hot lunch and then enjoy an afternoon game drive.  At this time of the year birding is outstanding as all of the European migrants -- as well as resident mammals and predators -- are visible. After dinner we will be in for a special experience of night game driving, a unique excursion that is not available in the majority of national parks.

Day 4: After an early breakfast, we will enjoy a game drive to the central Serengeti in the Seronera Valley.  We have a chance to see the famous leopards. After a picnic lunch, visit the Anna Estes research center to hear a presentation by a researcher from the Serengeti elephant project. We will continue our game driving before retiring to a lovely new camp, a semi-permanent tent camp near the Barafu Kopjes. This remote camp has eight tents, with flush toilets, hot/cold running water, and 24-hour electricity.  The camp is located on the banks of the Ngarenyuki River, a spring-fed river that attracts animals year-round. This area is home to a super-pride of lions and is prime cheetah habitat. There's nothing quite like falling asleep and waking to the sights and sounds of the nearby herds. 

Day 5: We will depart with box lunches and game drive to the southern plains, enjoying a special permit to visit the Gol Kopjes, which is the preferred habitat for cheetahs. We will enjoy three days in the Ndutu area.  We secured  double permits, allowing us to game drive both the Ngorongoro Crater area and Serengeti side.

Days 6-7: We will enjoy game drives, following the herds and exploring the vast areas of the southern plains of the world famous Serengeti. At this time, the wildebeest calving should be at its peak, along with predator-prey activity.

We will wake to the call of birds, or perhaps the howl of monkeys, or the roar of a lion -- the sounds of the wild will be all around you. This is where the heart of the activity will be.  On some days we may choose to spend the full day photographing and observing far away from the camp; or we may have better viewing opportunities when we leave before sunrise, return for brunch, and then rest (while the animals typically also rest in the heat of the day). Late-afternoon drives allow us to enjoy the interesting light and increased activity of the predators. After these excursions, you will be met back at camp with cold beverages, appetizers, hot showers, a gourmet meal, and a crackling campfire.

Day 8: We will drive to the famous Ngorongoro Crater, stopping along the way to visit Oldupai Gorge, the site of Louis and Mary Leakey’s famous archaeological discoveries.  We will stop at the Olduvai Gorge Archaeological Museum and gorge overlook, which is the site of Louis and Mary Leakey’s archaeological work. It was here that Mary Leakey discovered the earliest known human footprints, which were solidified in volcanic ash some 3.6 million years ago.  Standing at the top of the gorge, envisioning early man evokes a feeling of returning home to the birthplace of humankind, quietly reminding us that we are all related. The Crater wildlife remains constant during the year, as most animals find no need to migrate elsewhere. The crater boasts a huge number of hyenas and the densest population of animals in any Tanzanian park. Black rhinos are usually seen and the elephant population consists of very old and extremely large bulls.

Day 9: We will depart the lodge early in the morning to enjoy the higher activity level of the wildlife and have an adventuresome day of game drives in the crater. Our guides will find the best animal activity in the crater and we will have the opportunity to enjoy more of the wildlife and birds that reside here.

Day 10: We will be on the move again.  We will enjoy our last Serengeti game drive as we travel eastward.  The beauty and awe of the Ngoronogoro Crater and Serengeti will soon be in the rearview mirror.  We will depart after breakfast and stop at an Iraqw Village to understand this tribe's way of life and daily activities.  We will also stop at FAME  (Foundation for African Medicine and Education) to tour the medical facilities, then return to our hotel for a farewell dinner.  While we have one more night, we will enjoy a relaxed farewell dinner this evening, and not try to squeeze it in tomorrow’s busy schedule.

Day 11: After breakfast, we will depart for Manyara National Park. Manyara National Park is located along the western edge of the Great Rift Valley on our way to Arusha. The entrance to the park is a rainforest fed by underground springs and is home to baboons, monitor lizards, leopards, pythons, and a tremendous variety of birds. We hope to see the famous tree-climbing lions; as this is one of the very few places they are found. At the heart of the park is a large soda lake where flamingos, water fowl, and hippos abound.  We continue to Arusha, and arrive in time for a hot lunch at the Cultural Heritage Center.  After that, we have the luxury of a dayroom at our hotel.  You will be able to relax, re-pack, shower, and enjoy an early dinner before departing at 6:00 p.m. for Kilimanjaro Airport.  Unfortunately, this dream trip will come to an end, till the next time, we will say good-bye to all the animals, our guides, and staff! It will be sad to say good-bye to Africa and our new friends. You will be enticed to return again, and soon!

Occasionally, changes may occur in the trip -- either in advance or during the trip.  Please be aware that we will make every effort to follow this itinerary. However, if weather, equipment, construction, national park services or any other condition, circumstance, or situation causes a change, please be flexible and respect the decision of the leader. The safety and enjoyment of the entire group is our number one concern. 



Getting There

The trip begins and ends at the Kilimanjaro Airport in Arusha, Tanzania.  Once you sign up for this fabulous safari adventure, the leader will provide more detailed information on tips and ideas for securing your reservations.

Accommodations and Food

Accommodations will include safari lodges and private luxury camps. Most of the lodges are among the finest that Tanzania has to offer but do not correspond to luxury class hotels in the more developed countries of the world.  

Private luxury camps will be a fun African experience! The tents will accommodate two persons each and will be plenty large, with cots, mattresses, bedding, towels and lamps. There is hot and cold running water in regular bathrooms, with showers and flush toilets. They have 24-hour electricity available, too.  The setting will be serene, quiet, and private in the luxury camps. The advantage of these camps is that they are set up in the area of the most wildlife activity at that time.  Plus, it is private.  A large canopy will be set up as the dining/food area.

All lodging is based on double occupancy for lodges and luxury tent.

Food is fresh, well prepared, and tasty. Most of the dishes are western or European-style, with some African meals included. Meals will be served at the table or will be buffet-style. Basic vegetarian diets can be accommodated. Please check with the leader regarding other dietary requirements.

Trip Difficulty

No special conditioning is required for this safari. We will ride in vehicles with a maximum of seven persons in each vehicle, each person having access to a window and roof hatch.  The game drives will be over uneven dirt roads with plenty of ruts and pot holes.  There will be the inevitable inconveniences and difficulties associated with travel in a developing country. It is important to accept Tanzania on its own terms, with a sense of adventure and good humor. On rare occasions, the itinerary may need to change somewhat due to unforeseen circumstances.

Equipment and Clothing

A good camera with at least a 300 mm lens is ideal for photography. One can take some good photos with a smaller digital or other type of camera when animals are close to the vehicle, but it will not be possible to take good quality pictures of birds and animals that are a longer distance away. Many animals in the parks are habituated to vehicles so do not shy away, therefore close photo opportunities are possible.

Good binoculars are a necessity. It is best for each person in a couple or family group to have a pair of their own.  Dress is always informal.  A clothing/equipment list will be sent to participants by the trip leader.


There are many good general guidebooks to Tanzania and East Africa. For example, one of Passport's Regional Guides of Africa, Tanzania, by Lisa Asch and Peter Blackwell, gives a very readable overview of this fascinating country. For more in-depth material and a better understanding of the safari experience, here are a few of the leader's recommendations:

  • Gallmann, Kuri, I dreamed of Africa.
  • Markham, Beryl, West with the Night.
  • Moss, Cynthia, Portraits in the Wild.
  • Bonner, Raymond, At the Hand of Man.
  • Smith, Anthony, The Great Rift: Africa's Challenging Valley.
  • Saitoti, Tepilit Ole, and Carol Beckwith, Maasai.
  • Matthiessen, Peter, Sand Rivers.
  • Grzimek, Bernard and Michael, Serengeti Shall Not Die.
  • Hatch, John, Serengeti: A Profile.
  • Iwago, Mitsuaki, Serengeti: The Natural Order.
  • Matthiessen, Peter, The Tree Where Man Was Born.


The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about conservation and sustainability of resources both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished by volunteers and aided by a salaried staff, and encourages grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward environmentally understanding parallel concerns at home and abroad.

As of this writing, there is a proposed road to be built thought the Serengeti. It is feared this will interfere with migration of the animals.  It will also allow poachers more opportunity to devastate the remaining herds.

Twenty-five percent of Tanzania's land (over 95,000 square miles) has been set aside for wildlife parks, reserves, and game areas. This is probably more than any other country on earth. However, Tanzania's economic resources for rangers, roads, research, and administration of these lands is meager, and illegal poaching and hunting still take their toll on wildlife. The integrity of national parks and wildlife reserves is also being threatened as the need for land and food increases.

There are many projects going on in Tanzania today to help solve these problems. Ngorongoro Crater is part of the extensive Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which is a pioneering effort in multi-purpose land, allowing for the protection of animals and the continuation of tribal lifestyles at the same time. Also, there are several animal research projects in the field, including the world's longest-running research project, the Serengeti Lion Project, which began in the l960s.

One of our conservation objectives will be to try to understand the challenges that Tanzania faces in continuing to support such a large national park system. Tourist dollars are a major source of revenue, so by coming to see these magnificent animals and their habitats, we are helping to ensure their future. That said, we will become aware of both the positive and negative consequences of tourism in a country like Tanzania.



Margie Tomenko has been a Sierra Club member for more than 25 years, and has led trips for more than 20 years. When she went to Africa, she was thrilled to see the variety and quantities of the giraffes, elephants, zebras and other wildlife too numerous to mention. "Nothing can compare to being on a safari and seeing the animals in their natural habitat. This is definitely the trip of a lifetime, and I am so excited to share the magic and mystery with others that appreciate wildlife." If you have questions, or just want to chat about Africa, please feel free to contact her.

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