Zanzibar to Tanzania
After leaving Zanzibar, the safari headed north along Africa’s Great Rift Valley on the way to Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater. We passed Tanzanian bushland and stopped in Arusha, the “heart” of Tanzania’s safari industry. There’s much to say about this wonderful part of Africa. I will never forget my time here!
Tanzanian National Parks
A whopping one-third of the land in Tanzania has national parks that are home to Africa’s densest animal population. Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater are the core of the area’s game and forest reserves.
….one-third of Tanzania’s land has national parks…
The Ngorongoro region is part of Serengeti’s ecosystem. The southern half of the region, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA), is one of its kind in Tanzania.
Humans live in the NCAA but land use, including cultivation and domestic livestock grazing, is restricted. Inside the Ngorongoro Crater, a UNESCO Heritage Site, human habitation and livestock are not allowed.
….inside the Ngorongoro Crater the temperature suddenly dropped to 50 degrees.
Our mellow African guide, Godlove, took us to incredible game viewing areas. We fully experienced the Crater and saw animals and birds I’d never heard of, like the Kori Bustard, world’s largest flying bird, and the Bat-Earred Fox.
The Ngorongoro’s northwest border lies next to the southern plains of Serengeti National Park. Rugged volcanic highlands to the southwest along the rim of the Great Rift Valley prohibit animals from migrating there. The Serengeti Plains spread north into the Maasai Loliondo Division. Loliondo is open to all wildlife and home to “the curing plant” Carissa Edulis from the Apocynaceae family.
Olduvai Gorge Great Rift Valley
Our first stop was Olduvai Gorge, between the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park. Paleoanthropologists have found “hundreds of fossilized bones and stone tools in this area”. Evidence of man’s evolution dates back millions of years, leading scientists to conclude that humans evolved in Africa.
“Paleoanthropologists have found hundreds of fossilized bones and stone tools in Olduvai Gorge. Some date back millions of years leading experts to conclude that humans evolved in Africa.”
Inside the Ngorongoro Crater human habitation and domestic livestock grazing are not allowed.
We changed from the safari truck to smaller open-topped 4 x 4 vehicles for navigating Park roads and headed for the depths of the Crater. Our interesting route bypassed Tanzanian landmarks:
- Mt. Meru Tanzania’s second highest, after Kilimanjaro
- Sisal plantations the longest surviving agricultural industry in Tanzania
- Moshi a city in a major coffee-growing region on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro
- Lake Manyara National Park where pink flamingos inhabit the lake during rainy season
- Karatu District known for coffee plantations, markets, and the Iraqw People who live in East Africa’s Great Lakes Region
- Samburu National Reserve arid home to ostrich, Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, leopard, cheetah
Serengeti Great Migration
The Serengeti is world-famous for hosting the “largest terrestrial migration on earth”. It was declared a “natural travel wonder of the world” and the “number one wonder of Africa“.
Separated from its mother, a fast, strong, determined baby wildebeest got confused, left the herd, and began chasing our safari jeep.
“During October through December, two million herbivores journey from the northern Tanzanian hills south to the plains of the Masai Mara, crossing over the Mara River in search of food and water. In April these hearty animals return north crossing the Mara again traveling to the west. This spectacle is often called the Great Migration and Circular Migration.”
Many wildebeest die during the migration to Kenya’s Masai Mara Reserve. Their perilous journey covers 500 miles of rugged territory. Death comes from wounds, exhaustion, and carnivorous predators following the herds.
Olduvai Gorge holds the earliest evidence of human ancestors.
Around 70 bigger mammals and 500 bird species join the annual migration. The precise timing depends on rainfall patterns each year. The variety of species in the migration is due to a wide range of habitats including river forests, kopjes, swamps, grasslands, and woodlands. The most common mammals are blue wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, eland, and impala.
I visited in March. During a morning game drive, herds of wildebeest surrounded our vehicle. Separated from its mother, a calf got confused and left the herd to chase our jeep. We sped up to lose it, but the fast, determined baby furiously ran after us – something to see! After about 10 minutes, we finally lost the calf. Hopefully it returned to the safety of the wildebeest herd.
We fully experienced the Ngorongoro Crater and saw animals I’d never heard of…
The time spent in Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro region was an indescribable lifetime experience. Highlights included observing a cheetah hunting expedition, watching lions botch a zebra kill, and seeing beautiful, exotic hartebeest and other antelope species like Roan, Topi, Lichtenstein’s, and Kobus.
We spotted a rhino in the distance and followed for some time hoping to get closer. Uninterested in a human encounter, the wary rhino headed further away into the bush.
The only negative was the nagging tsetse flies that nearly drove everyone crazy. Tsetse flies are present with large herds of grazing animals. It’s impossible to escape them. Undaunted by insect repellent, they delighted in torturing us.
Adequately expressing the beauty and magnitude of nature in these areas (via words or photographs) is challenging. Many aspects of a safari are difficult to share and must be experienced firsthand. I strongly recommend that anyone thinking about going on safari do it! The rich adventure will have a positive impact on your life and be well worth the cost, effort, and any discomfort!
Our next stop – Kenya’s Nairobi and Maasai Mara. More later…
Spectacular, love and miss seeing the bat-ear fox…would love to see one again…
Fantastic photos and have always wanted to visit the crater and Serengeti.
Thank you! The crater is waiting but I’d be dishonest not to mention that there are many challenges on safari – even for those who are younger :). However, experiencing the raw realities and incredible beauty of the African bush is priceless!
Your Rhodes adventure sounds quite special as well!
Yes, it was but flowed easily and not a challenge like a real safari
Fantastic post Sue. I agree with you – it is a challenge to bring the experience to life for those who are tagging along, but I think you have done marvellously! All the unusual photographs and stories. We love the bat-ear fox, feel anxious for the wildebeest baby, and marvel at the beauty and extent of this area. And a guide named Godlove? I wonder how that sounded in his native dialect before translation. In past years I mixed a lot with the Yugoslav community, and I can tell you an extremely common name translates as “kiss of God”. (must have been a revengeful in some cases :-) ) As for the Tsetse flies – well, we have one ordinary fly here who so loves the stuff we spray on him, that we have adopted him as a pet and named him – MORTEIN.