1 Night Arusha, 2 Nights Tarangire, 2 Nights Ngorongoro 2 Nights Serengeti
We bow to the fact: Many of us are firmly engaged in a very busy world, a world in which time away from the busyness is precious. And so we offer this safari to three major contributors to the East African mystique: the classic game lands of Tarangire, the Ngorongoro Crater, and the fabled Serengeti—all in a mere but marvelous 10 days. Direct flights from Europe take us to the sudden serenity of the Arusha Coffee Lodge, and then we’re off on a carefully choreographed safari, with two nights in each of the three camps and lodges we’ve chosen for their warmth of spirit, their serenity, their location, their refreshing lack of busyness.
The Arusha Coffee Lodge, an old-fashioned island of quietude tucked away in a plantation, is a great place to unwind after the rigours of long flights.
Arusha is only 3 degrees south of the equator, but its 4,500-foot elevation encourages floral luxuriance and gentle airs. So we’ll be more or less surrounded by enthusiastic greenery as we sit on our Plantation Suite’s veranda—perhaps after a relaxing swim—looking up at massive Mount Meru, a 14,977-foot volcanic colossus that looms beneficently over this quintessentially African city.
After a breakfast topped off by some of the freshest and best coffee we’ll ever imbibe, we’ll be briefed by our Safari Director, take a vitalizing ramble in the lodge’s plantation, and enjoy a picnic lunch before flying to Tarangire and our home for the next couple of nights, Tarangire Treetops. Our first experience of luxury life in the bush couldn’t be more spectacular. Treetops’ main lodge, built around a thousand-year-old baobab, is only the beginning. The lodge’s 20 famous, lovingly crafted tree houses, elevated for sweeping views of the park, are extraordinarily large, airy, and utterly magical.
And from our tree house’s balcony, we look out at Tarangire’s wonderfully varied landscapes of rocky outcrops, rolling hills, and golden savannah generously strewn with acacias and baobabs, home to just about the entire cast of wild African characters— and some rare stars, like kudu and oryx — in addition to 2,500 or so elephants.
Another full day in Tarangire National Park
One of the lesser-known game reserves in Tanzania, Tarangire rivals the Serengeti in its great number and diversity of wildlife. It is a good choice for travellers who wish to encounter more animals and less tourists while on safari. The Tarangire National Park is known as a wonderful birding destination and also features large numbers of game, particularly during the dry season, when the Tarangire River is the only source of water in the area. The landscape is of particular interest too, due to the high number of scenic baobab trees.
We’ll make early-morning and afternoon game drives, perhaps take a walking safari with a local Maasai guide, visit a village, and, if we’re still keen to see more all-star creatures, we can go out on a night drive, always a revelation.
Ngorongoro crater is a natural amphitheater created about 2 million years ago when the cone of a volcano collapsed into itself, leaving a 100sq. mile cauldron-like cavity. This caldera, protected by a circular unbroken 2,000 foot high rim, contains everything necessary for Africa’s wildlife to exist and thrive. Game viewing vehicles descend the steep crater wall every morning and spend the day on grass plains that are teeming with animals.
Predators such as lion, spotted hyena, leopard, jackal and cheetah lord over a domain that swarms with zebra, wildebeest, gazelle and other herbivores.
Tanzania’s few remaining black rhino are regularly sighted in the crater, as are large herds of buffalo. In the lake on the crater floor and in the Ngoitokitok swamps, reside plenty of hippos who remain particularly submerged during the day and graze on grass at night. The stunning pink flamingo is also resident at the Crater
The drive from Tarangire north to the Crater Highlands and the world-wondrous Ngorongoro Crater is a delight, a dazzlingly scenic game drive. We pass Lake Manyara, then begin the zigzag ascent to the rim and our reposeful cabins of Neptune Ngorongoro Luxury Lodge.
After an early breakfast, we will descend down to the crater floor for an extraordinarily rewarding half day of game viewing drive, extraordinarily rewarding morning game drive, exploring the caldera’s 100 square miles, spotting lions, elephants, black rhinos, just about all of East Africa’s faunal celebrities. Enjoy packed lunch in the crater floor and later in the evening and after an excited day in the crater driver to you lodge dinner and overnight.
The sheer concentration of wildlife makes Ngorongoro feel like a wildlife documentary. Nowhere else in Africa is it possible to see such diversity and abundance in a single game drive. Like all your game drives on this vacation you’ll be accompanied by a skilled guide who knows the favorite spots of each of the mammals. A spacious 4×4 vehicle with a pop-up roof means you have an elevated vantage point and unobstructed views of the landscapes.
Later on, we ascend and return to our cabin’s private terraces, followed by a lovely dinner overlooking one of the world’s most magical places.
We end this short, but undeniably spectacular, safari in the Serengeti. “There is a lightening of the spirit,” Cyril Connolly wrote about the vast plain. We’re invited to a rare, deep-rootedly serene idyll. The sky is huge and blue and as pure as the day the earth was born. (And on the southern horizon, over the Crater Highlands—“That’s Ngorongoro, just behind that big green mountain,” we’ll say knowledgeably, affectionately—clouds pile up in grandly crazy towers, looking like computer-generated special effects.) The Serengeti’s kopjes are the creation of a cosmic bonsai master, and on a flat brown rock atop one of them, a lion rolls over and warms its fluffy white belly in the sun.
We’ll spend two idyllic Serengeti nights in Migration Camp, tucked away in kopje-esque rocks just above the Grumeti River. The main lodge has a split-level lounge, a swimming pool, and a dandy restaurant, and each of Migration Camp’s 20 tents is encircled by a deck, a private sanctuary from which to gaze out at the natural extravaganza below and beyond. Those of us who can’t quite believe that hippos really exist—that’s how otherworldly they sometimes seem—are delighted that rumbling pods of them disport on the Grumeti, along with many single-minded crocodiles; the great migration funnels into a crossing of this river, and the crocs bide their time like the Pleistocene beasts they are.
Full Day in Serengeti with morning and evening game drives to explore.
The most famous and largest of Tanzania’s national parks is the Serengeti. The Serengeti ecosystem extends beyond the national park to include several other conservation areas and reserves, including the Masai Mara in Kenya. It is through these extensive protected areas that a million or more wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebra and gazelles complete their great circulatory migration in search of green pasture. Where there is such a large mobile meat supply there are predators and Serengeti is renowned for its impressive lion sightings. Silver-backed jackals, spotted hyenas, cheetah, eagles and vultures are also avid consumers of this endless source of meat and little goes to waste.
Serengeti means ‘endless plains’ in Masai language. Much of the landscape comprises vast open savannahs dotted with acacia trees and few rocky hillocks. The park hosts a vast variety of wildlife including buffaloes, giraffe, elephant, various herbivores and of course large prides of lion and other cats whose numbers are sustained by the continual supply of meal tickets of the four legged variety
After a final game drive, we’ll head back to Migration Camp for breakfast. Maybe we’re close to sighting the Little Five, and need just a little luck to complete the list. Their identities are the mini-masterpieces: rhinoceros beetle, buffalo weaver, leopard tortoise (not so mini, really; they can weigh as much as three standard bowling balls), ant lion, and the extremely shy elephant shrew, which weighs not much more than an elephant’s tear.
In any case, it’s time to say good-bye to the Serengeti and Tanzania’s spectacular bush. We fly back to Arusha, relax in day rooms at the Coffee Lodge, maybe take a pre-flight swim, and board our homebound planes in the evening, arriving back home on Day 9