On Safari in Tanzania

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14660A, International

Highlights

  • View vast numbers of animals and birds
  • Meet and interact with indigenous people
  • Delight in the thrill of a night safari
  • Learn from expert guides and animal researchers

Includes

  • All accommodations, park admissions, and gratuities
  • All meals from dinner on day 1 to dinner on day 12
  • On-trip transportation, including airport transfers on trip dates

Details

DatesAug 17–28, 2014
Price$6,825
Deposit$200
Capacity15
StaffRuth Dyche

Trip Overview

The Trip

Tanzania provides the essential elements of a classic African adventure. The largest country in East Africa and situated just south of the equator, Tanzania offers a wide variety of landscapes, plus 12 national parks that are unsurpassed in beauty and variety. One can still meet traditional Maasai herdsmen and observe scores of wild animals in their natural habitat.

Tanzania is home to more than 40 species of wild mammals, including elephant, zebra, wildebeest, antelope, lion, cheetah, buffalo, leopard, and hyena. Tanzania is also a bird watcher’s paradise. Even those who have never noticed birds before find themselves enthralled by the variety and beauty of Tanzania’s birds. Who can say which bird is more spectacular: the greater flamingo, secretary bird, crowned crane, lilac breasted roller, lily trotter, the bee eaters, or scores of others?

There is no guarantee that we will see great herds of migrating animals, since their yearly schedule is dependent on several factors, including rain and food availability. However, we will do our best to locate them as we move from the Central Serengeti Plains to the far north of the Serengeti, where the herds normally congregate at this time of year.

Our adventure will take us from the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro (the continent’s highest mountain at 19,340 feet), through the limitless expanse of the Serengeti Plains, to the beauty of Ngorongoro Crater (the world’s largest intact caldera) and the scenic wildlife gem that is Tarangire National Park. We will also have opportunities to meet and interact with various indigenous tribal people, hear a talk by researchers who devote much of their lives to the study of wild animals in their natural habitat, and visit a wonderful workshop that helps disabled people live productive lives. These will be but a few of our adventures.

We will be accompanied at all times by accomplished Tanzanian guides who will identify and tell us about the wildlife and birds that we will encounter. Our August trip will occur during the dry and sunny season when the long grasses have died back, which makes game viewing easier, and many of the animals congregate around the woodlands and sources of water.

Itinerary

Day 1: Upon evening arrival at Kilimanjaro Airport, we will be greeted by our safari staff and transferred to a comfortable hotel in Arusha for dinner and an overnight stay. Karibuni Tanzania! (Welcome to Tanzania!)

Day 2: After an early breakfast and and trip briefing, we will drive to Tarangire National Park (two hours) to enjoy three days at this spectacularly beautiful park at a peak time of year. Before leaving Arusha, we will visit an orphanage. For the next three nights, we will stay at a comfortable private camp that has warm hospitality and an intimacy with wildlife that's unparalleled by other types of accommodations. Tarangire actually hosts a migration of its own at this time of year, with herd animals moving into the park for water in the Tarangire River. Elephants, in particular, will be in abundance.

Day 3: We will enjoy game drives in Tarangire National Park today, exploring from north to south and east to west. In addition to mammals, the park has more than 300 species of birds, the highest number of breeding bird species of any habitat in Africa.

Day 4: Game drives in Tarangire National Park today will focus on following the Tarangire River and exploring the Silale and Gursi swamps, a rich haven for wildlife at this time of year.

Day 5: This morning, we leave Tarangire and drive directly to Lake Eyasi (two to three hours) for a unique cultural experience visiting the Hadzapi and WaToga tribes. The Hadzapi are Tanzania’s bushmen, still speaking in clicks and living their traditional life as hunters and gatherers. There are less than 600 individuals, making the Hadzapi the smallest of the 132 distinct tribes in Tanzania. The WaToga people are pastoralists, who have the additional skill of being ironsmiths. We will then drive to a charming lodge in the town of Karatu for dinner and an overnight stay.

Day 6: Today we drive directly to Ngorongoro Crater, traveling through the Highland Forest and along the western rim road. We will descend to the Crater floor and enjoy the majority of the day with game drives in this World Heritage site. Ngorongoro Crater has been referred to as the Garden of Eden, and it will not disappoint you. Measuring over 100 square miles, this extinct Crater represents every micro-climate found in Tanzania. Crater wildlife remains constant during the year, as most animals find no need to migrate elsewhere. We’ll enjoy a picnic lunch and ascend the eastern rim for dinner and an overnight at a lodge on the rim of the Crater.

Day 7: After leaving the lodge early this morning and enjoying one last morning game drive in the Crater, we will ascend to the western rim to drive to the Serengeti. Early mornings -- when the mist is lifting -- are a magical time to see life in the Crater. We will stop along the way at Olduvai Gorge, the famous archaeological site of Louis and Mary Leakey. It was here that the earliest known hominid-made footprints were discovered, solidified in volcanic ash 3.6 million years ago. We‘ll continue to the Central Serengeti, enjoying our first sight of this “endless plain.” For the next three nights we will stay at a private classic tented camp and experience the pleasures of sleeping under canvas as in early safaris. Two people will share a comfortable stand-up tent with cots for sleeping and an ensuite chemical toilet and portable shower. There will be a larger tent for meals, which will be prepared for us by an experienced camp crew. The mobile camp has always been a favorite stay of past groups. We will spend three days game driving and exploring areas of the Central Serengeti. Cats (lion, cheetah, leopard) are exceptional at this time of year because they need to be active day and night, searching for food sources.

Days 8-9: We will do morning and afternoon game drives, being on the lookout for cats of all kinds. Midafternoon will be a time for relaxation in camp. We may also decide to spend a day game-viewing far from camp, taking a picnic lunch, and returning at sunset. On one day we will have a private field talk with one of the animal researchers in the Serengeti. This will be either a lion or an elephant researcher, depending on who will be available. We will also visit the interesting Seronera Wildlife Museum. Upon our return to camp we will always be greeted with cold beverages, appetizers, hot showers, a gourmet meal, and a campfire.

Day 10: This morning we say farewell to our camp and crew, then game drive to the Northern Serengeti-Liliondo area, arriving at our luxury camp (with running water, electricity, flush toilets) in the afternoon. The camp and setting are truly special. While at this unique location, we will have our best opportunity to see the migrating herds of wildebeest and zebra. Also, we will be able to visit a game management area that allows night drives, bush walking, and interaction with a local Maasai tribe. We end the day with a sundowner (drinks) and a sunset view from a stunning location, followed by a bush dinner under the stars.

Day 11: We will rise early, have a small breakfast, and travel to a Maasai boma (small village) to see the village prepare the cattle and goats for grazing. This is a rare opportunity to learn about authentic traditional Maasai culture. The women of the village will display their crafts quietly and allow you to wander and select some of their beadwork. You will see women milking cows with babies on their backs and children shyly greeting you. We will return to our accommodations for a hot lunch and afternoon activities, such as a bush walk or an afternoon game drive. Tonight we will enjoy the special experience of a night drive, a unique excursion that is not available in national parks.

Day 12: This morning we will have one last game drive as we travel to the airstrip and fly Regional Air to Arusha. This will be approximately a two-hour flight. On arrival we will go to Shanga House for lunch and some last-minute shopping. Shanga is a wonderful, loving place that teaches and employs disabled people to make a wide variety of goods and crafts, which are for sale in their shop. Their items are unusual, handmade, and very special. We will then return to our hotel in Arusha for a dayroom and a farewell dinner.  A late afternoon transfer will take us to Kilimanjaro Airport for the KLM return flight to Europe and the U.S.

Photos

Details

Getting There

Participants will need to book a flight from the U.S. to Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania. The nearest city is Arusha. The KLM flight will require a transfer in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

KLM is the only airline that flies this route at this time. At present, KLM flies into Kilimanjaro daily, but this may change before our trip date. Please check with your travel agent.

You can also fly into Nairobi, Kenya and take a short flight into Kilimanjaro Airport. However, this would require that you obtain a Kenya visa and a taxi transfer from the international airport in Nairobi to a local airport across town. The trip leader would not recommend this flight schedule.

Please note that only one airport transfer is provided for the group and that will be for the evening flight that arrives at Kilimanjaro Airport on August 17, 2014. One departure airport transfer is provided for the group, as well, and that will be for the evening KLM flight that departs on August 28, 2014.

Accommodations and Food

This trip has been planned to give participants a variety of experiences and lodgings. We will stay at unique lodges and a very nice hotel (in Arusha) as well as at private mobile and luxury camps, which will offer us quiet privacy away from commercialism and crowds. The private camps are a great African experience and have been a favorite stay of past safari groups! The tented camps will accommodate two persons each, be roomy and tall enough for standing, and include cots, mattresses, bedding, towels, and en-suite chemical toilets and showers. These accommodations are quite comfortable for most people. Single supplements are available for an added fee.

Electricity will be provided by generator at the classic mobile Serengeti camp and will be turned off in the late evening. Meals will be provided in a comfortable dining tent.

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

Trip Difficulty

Most people over the age of 12 in good health and spirit should be able to enjoy this safari. We will cover a lot of ground on this trip in order to show you the most interesting sights in the time that we have available. We will also have three one-night stops (as opposed to two or more nights per stop). We will have some long driving days and several early mornings, therefore some stamina is required. We will ride in vehicles with a maximum of five to seven persons in each vehicle. Each person will have access to a roof hatch and side window. The roads in game parks are often bumpy, with plenty of ruts and pot-holes. Roads will be dusty at this time of year. A tolerant and patient attitude is an asset. On rare occasions the itinerary may need to be changed somewhat due to unforeseen circumstances.

Equipment and Clothing

A good camera with at least a 300mm lens is ideal for photography. One can also take some good photos with a smaller digital camera when animals are closer to the vehicle. It may not always be possible to take quality pictures of birds and animals that are a longer distance away. Many animals are habituated to vehicles and do not shy away, therefore close photo opportunities are possible.

Good binoculars are a necessity. It is best for each person in a family or family group to have his or her own binoculars. A clothing/equipment list will be sent to participants by the trip leader.

References

There are many good general guidebooks to Tanzania and East Africa. For example, one of Passport’s Regional Guides of Africa gives a very readable overview of this fascinating country. For more in-depth material and a better understanding of the safari experience, the following are but a few suggestions.

Gallman, Kuri, I Dreamed of Africa.

Markham, Beryl, West With the Night.

Bonner, Raymond, At the Hand of Man.

Smith, Anthony, The Great Rift: Africa’s Challenging Valley.

Grzimek, Bernard and Michael, The Serengeti Shall Not Die.

Johanson, Donald and Maitland, Edey, Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind.

Saitoti, Tepilit Ole and Carol Beckwith, Maasai.

Moss, Cynthia, Portraits in the Wild.

Iwago, Mitsuaki, Serengeti: The Natural Order.

Conservation

The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused organization. We are concerned about conservation and sustainability of resources, locally and globally. Our work is accomplished by volunteers and aided by salaried staff, and encourages grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants to understand the parallels between environmental concerns at home and abroad.

Twenty-five percent of Tanzania’s land (more than 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 take their toll on wildlife. The integrity of national parks and wildlife reserves is being threatened as the human need for land and food increases.

One of the most important issues today is the government’s determination to build an east-west road across the northern Serengeti Plains, thus disturbing the age-old migratory path for millions of animals. Many organizations and individuals, including the Sierra Club, have asked the Tanzanian government to consider an alternative route, since the fates of the great migration and the tourist industry are at stake.

Another important factor in this situation is the great interest of the Chinese in obtaining and controlling the untapped natural resources of African countries, including Tanzania. A road across the northern Serengeti would give them easy access from Lake Victoria in the west (they are building a shipping port at Dodoma) to the east coast on the Indian Ocean.

There are also many projects going on in Tanzania today to help solve or salve some of the conservation problems. Ngorongoro is part of the extensive Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which is a pioneering effort in multipurpose land use, allowing for the protection of animals and the continuation of the Maasai tribal lifestyle. In addition, there are several animal research projects taking place in the field that will increase understanding of animal, as well as human, needs.

The world’s longest running research project on lions is the Serengeti Lion project, which was begun in the 1960s and is continuing today. Elephant research is also ongoing. One of our conservation objectives will be to try to understand the challenges that Tanzania faces to support such a large national park system. We will become aware of both the positive and negative consequences of tourism in a country like Tanzania. Tourist dollars are a major source of revenue; hence, by coming to see these animals and their habitats, we are helping, hopefully, to ensure their future.

Staff

Leader:

Ruth Dyche has been leading trips for the Sierra Club for over 25 years. She has lead water trips in North America and the South Pacific, as well as many trips to China. Africa, however, has captured her heart and she has returned frequently, leading trips to east, west, and southern Africa. Her personal involvement began years ago when, as a young nurse, she worked at a remote mission hospital in Zambia for an adventure-filled year. Ruth loves the challenge of planning great trips, meeting new people, and sharing with them her enthusiasm for the countries that she visits.

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