Serengeti’s Endless Plains

If you are coming the first time to Serengeti, this is like one of the biggest adventures of your life. The Serengeti National Park is located northwest of the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation area and is one of Tanzania’s most well known parks in the Mara and Simiyu regions. It was an Austrian, Oscar Baumann, who visited the area in 1892 as one of the first Europeans and you can find his recordings in his personal scrapbook about northern Tanzania. One of his major impressions was that this is an endless land that is reflected in the name Serengeti that is derived from the Maasai word “siringet” meaning “the place where the land runs on forever”.

We were heading into the Serengeti with our proven Toyota Landcruiser based safari vehicle and it felt great to be riding such a massive and robust truck while being out in these endless plains.

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This park covers more than fourteen thousand square kilometres of mainly grassed plains, savannah, riverine forest as well as woodlands. The park continues in Kenya where it is called the Maasai Mara National Reserve, which we will describe in another post.

In the south of the park you find almost treeless grassland and this is the wildebeest breeding area during the wet months from December till May. They are sharing this area with zebra, gazelle, waterbuck, buffalo, impala, elephant and hyena and of course you can find also the usual predators. The Serengeti is very well known for the great migration that starts after the breeding season having animals move to the north where the herds arrive in Kenya in late July and August. In November with the start of the short rains the whole migration starts moving south again.

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The northern part of the park starts changing from pure grassland into open woodlands and hills that span from Serona in the south to the Mara River at the Kenyan border in the north. For humans it is forbidden to live in the park, only the Tanzanian National Parks Authority and some researchers of the Frankfurt Zoological Society (obviously this is a leftover of the famous Grzimek conservation work) and staff of the lodges and hotels in that area have exceptional allowance.

Some of the great camps to visit in the middle of this gorgeous wilderness are the Serengeti Pioneer camp and the Serengeti Migration camp, where you can enjoy delicious meals and drinks while resting from the daily efforts of safari.

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I am always surprised of how great the meals are cooked, look like, and taste in these remote parts of Africa and it stays a secret to me how these can be prepared so perfectly.

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On top of that there is always a pretty decent selection of wines available that are carefully served if you desire.

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During November it is already pretty likely that it can start heavily raining and this happens more or less within minutes and changes the landscape completely.

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This is of course always a welcome alternation for all the animals, buffalos or zebras.

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And for some zebras that enjoy it a bit too much and are less careful this can be a deadly and last experience, as there are always hungry groups of lions around who only wait for the chance for a great meal.

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While death is like always something serious it is a necessary part of the whole lifecycle and something completely natural as you can see when watching the lion cubs happily playing during and besides their meal in the wet and muddy grass of the savannah.

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The whole Serengeti offers a really unique and exciting adventure and the time you are able to spend here before moving on becomes always too short.

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Learn more about safari tours including Serengeti National Park on our African Safari Tours page with a variety of sample tours.

Peter Tomsu for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

What to know about Ngorongoro Crater area

The Ngorongoro Crater is actually the world’s largest volcanic, intact, inactive and unfilled caldera and was formed approximately three million years ago when a large volcano exploded and collapsed. The crater is 610 meters deep, the diameter is around 30 miles and overall the floor covers 100 square miles, so this was definitely a huge volcano by its time of activity!

This volcano was around 5800 meters high before it exploded and you can still feel this when you are at the crater floor today as it is at 1800 meters elevation. Overall an impressive witness of the evolution of our earth and especially the African continent that is also one of the main reasons this crater was voted as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa in Arusha in February 2013.

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The crater is only part of the greater Ngorongoro Conservation Area and this is a protected area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979 – so lot of history! Wildlife in the crater is covering black rhino, buffalo, hippo, wildebeest, zebra, eland, Thompson gazelle, waterbuck and some cheetah, wild dog and leopard and of course lion. Lake Magadi, you can see a part of it in the picture above, is a large lake in the southwest of the crater, where  you can find thousands of flamingos.

But wait, there is more history. Michael Grzimek, the second son of Bernhard Grzimek who was driving conservation work also in this part of Africa, was killed in 1959 when the plane he piloted collided with a vulture and crashed. He was buried the same day at the top of the Ngorongoro Crater where later the government of Tanzania built the stone pyramid for his grave and also Berhard Grzimek was buried there after he died in 1987.

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Definitely the most beautiful place to stay in this area is the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge that is designed in the Masai mud-and-stick manyatta style and is one of the most spectacular lodges I have ever seen. It was an out of this world experience to visit this lodge!

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Needless to say also the rooms are luxurious and make the stay a real dream!

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The nice and friendly personal of the lodge contributes to feeling great when resting from the efforts of game drives or any other activities.

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The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is home to Masai where you can still find them living in their original villages. The Masai are cattle herders and need to keep moving as the grass needs to be able to regrow.

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Sure enough their nomadic lifestyle is starting to change as many wildlife preserves were opened in Tanzania and Kenya recently, not longer allowing the Masai to graze their cattle on these preserves.

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We were lucky to visit one of their original villages. One can watch here traditional dances of men and women.

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They even allow you to enter their cabins that are really small and mainly built around an open fireplace where they cook and also can warm up during the cold nights.

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They offer quite impressive collections of handmade decoration and jewellery for sale, hard to resist not to buy some nice presents.

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Finally we were only visitors in this slowly disappearing world of traditional Masai life and needed to leave these friendly people after countless stunning impressions.

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Learn more about safari tours including Ngorongoro Crater on our African Safari Tours page with a variety of sample tours.

Peter Tomsu for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

Merry Christmas!

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We wish you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas, peace, joy and happiness.

Yours sincerely,

Ute on behalf of the Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa team …. meet the team 

Must See Lake Manyara

Lake Manyara is located in the Manyara region of Tanzania in the middle of Lake Manyara National Park that covers roughly 330 square kilometres. This park is a lovely scenic park on the road from Arusha to the Ngorongoro Crater, with the lake taking a big part of the park. Lake Manyara is a pretty shallow lake and became prominent since Ernest Hemingway called it the loveliest lake in Afrika.

The park is famous for being the home to impalas, zebras, wildebeest, buffalos, giraffes, hippos and warthogs but also for the tree-climbing lions that can be found here. Why these lions climb trees is yet unknown.

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The groundwater forests are populated by mahogany and fig trees that get their nourishment from underground springs filled from the nearby crater highlands above the lake.

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The planes around the lake are wide and juicy green at least towards the crater and this view down from the road up to the Ngorongoro Crater shows the vast amount of all different kind of animals living around the lake.

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Lake Manyara Nationalpark covers over 300 migration bird species from flamingos to grey-headed kingfisher as well as long-crested eagles that all sums up to be a perfect paradise for birders.

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One of the nicest camps in that area is the Maramboi Tented Camp that offers permanent camp facilities. There are a total of 32 standard tents, 8 suites and even 2 units with interconnected rooms available – and you find all of that in a tented camp! The tents are spacious and luxurious and are built on wooden decks offering 24 hours 220V electric lightning that is very important for photographers and videographers in order to charge their camera and computer batteries.

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At the centre of the camp are a restaurant, a bar and a swimming pool and you can even find a library and lounge. From the restaurant you can enjoy an almost crazy view towards the lake with the pool in the foreground and all kind of animals between the pool, some watering places and the lake in the background. Can you imagine what great experience sundowners or pre-dinner nibbles can be sitting around the fireplace in the middle of all this paradise.

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Sitting at the bar or the restaurant and enjoying this peaceful view is really some of the coolest experiences I had in my life.

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The outstanding location of this camp is a guarantee to see plenty of wildlife and even migrating herds of wildebeest followed by predators. Zebras were as close as a few meters away and absolutely not shy.

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We took the chance for a nature walk from the camp towards the lake. This was a breath taking adventure as the zebras, wildebeest or antelopes that were around were only a few meters away. The animals were very calm and they actually opened up room for us as we walked by slowly, they were by no means shy. There are endless stunning photography and videography opportunities.

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Lake Manyara as well as the Maramboi Tented Camp are definitely worth a visit, especially if you prefer to stay in a camp as close to nature as you can in such a beatiful place.

Learn more about safari tours including Lake Manyara on our African Safari Tours page with a variety of sample tours.

Peter Tomsu for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

Tarangire National Park, land of elephant

Tarangire National Park is a beautiful park in Northern Tanzania and is a usually more quiet than other parks because it is located a bit off the main safari routes. This park is easily ten times the size of the nearby Manyara National Park but most travellers do not visit this park that is definitely a mistake, because of its superb game watching possibilities, especially if you love to see elephants.

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We reached this wonderful destination somewhere around high noon and it was pretty hot at the park entrance although there was nice shadow from a number of trees around. Our car was one of these typical safari cars you find in Tanzania used for game drives but being optimal also for long distance rides between parks.  They are actually built on Toyota Landcruiser truck platforms that are already legendary for their robustness, reliability as well as they are of course all wheel drive equipped – a necessity for driving through the usual game watching areas.

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On top of these trucks you find passenger cabins built and mounted by local companies. These cabins have in general two to three rows and the roof can be opened in order to allow for better photographing without any obstacles. Also the windows open pretty wide, so even while seated photographing and filming is easily possible. And most of these cars have two spare wheels mounted at the backdoors, fortunately enough we never had to use them.

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Back to Tarangire, this park is often overshadowed by the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater, but in fact Tarangire offers a huge concentration of animals during the peak months that are from July through October. It is also interesting that the whole atmosphere and habitats are very different from other parks.

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We already mentioned that Tarangire is a large park, which adds to the quietness of the whole game viewing environment. There are also lodges in the park like Oliver’s Camp and Swala that offer the perfect spot to get away from other visitors and travellers.

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There can be up to 3000 elephants found in this park during the peak months, but also warthogs, wildebeest, zebras, giraffes, buffalos, Thompson gazelles, kudu, eland, cheetah and even leopards.

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If you are lucky you also can find ostriches and they are quite spectacular especially if the are running, fast and very powerful.

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Baobab trees can be found anywhere in this park as well and they always give a nice background for photo as well as video work.

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I told you that this park is one of the more quiet ones, but during peak times even here you can find some more vehicles at one spot watching game. For this purpose the roofs are usually opened which allows for better and easier viewing when standing up in the vehicle, while at the same time providing the necessary shade – a clever invention.

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Elephants were the top attraction during our visit, there were many groups of them with usually twenty to thirty animals and amongst them always smaller ones nicely protected by the herd.

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These two males hurrying on the horizon were quite impressive, showing how fast they can run if they decide to do so because of whatever reason.

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Tarangire National Park proved to be one of these well kept secrets amongst African national parks and definitely you should try to visit during your next trip.

Learn more about safari tours including Tarangire National Park on our African Safari Tours page with a variety of sample tours.

Peter Tomsu for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

 

 

 

 

Discover Exotic Paradise Zanzibar

Zanzibar, what an exotic destination! This is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa – kind of tells already almost everything? Well what you get are beautiful white beaches combined with warm waters of the Indian Ocean that felt almost like 37 Celsius, very friendly people, nice small towns and villages, and all you can expect of a historic trade center with Islamic and Swahili influences.

Zanzibar was the destination where we met for a trip to Tanzania and Kenya. Landing at the Abeid Amani Karume International Airport that is the main airport in the Zanzibar archipelago located on Unguja island is quite an experience and the first thing you learn is that you have to get a visa that can feel taking pretty long especially when arriving after a long international flight, fingerprints and photos guaranteed. But after having already seen the beautiful coastline while landing this becomes an easy task in anticipation what to further expect of this island.

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While driving to the hotel you drive through typical East African style of villages and cities that already shows you the multitude of impressions waiting for you. This ranges from the traffic that reminded me very much on what I encountered while driving through Indian villages and cities – maybe not quite as busy but still – to the many goods that are obviously traded here, historically most well known maybe cloves, followed by coconut products and spices.

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Agriculture and fishing are still the main economic activities of local people followed by tourism with steadily increasing number of visitors coming every year.

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Today Zanzibar is an island state within the Republic of Tanzania that should be our next major destination, but more of that in later posts. Today there exists a semi-autonomous government made up of a Revolutionary Council and House of Representatives.

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Arriving at our hotel after approximately 45 minutes drive from the airport, the wonderful Next Paradise http://www.next-paradise.com/en/, we encountered great hospitality from the owner himself who manages this place with his wife (both are from Europe) since already quite a while.

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This hotel is situated at the fascinating beaches on the west coast of Unguja island, needless to say white powdery sand and beautiful warm waters guaranteed. There is a constant breeze from the Indian Ocean that usually keeps the sky clear and free from clouds and you can find many beautiful places along the hotel beach where you easily can relax and enjoy one or more refreshing drinks.

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If you are up for activities you can book tours for swimming with dolphins, big game fishing, diving and snorkelling to Mnemba atoll or even big game fishing. I personally enjoyed the hotel so much that there was not even the slightest doubt to just hang around at the ocean or pool and then slowly prepare for a delicious dinner with some drinks at the hotel bar.

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Unfortunately the time we stayed on the Zanzibar archipelago was only short as we had to leave for our trip to the Tanzanian national parks after only one night, but I was definitely convinced that I needed to come back sooner than later.

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Learn more about safari tours including Zanzibar on our African Safari Tours page with a variety of sample tours.

Peter Tomsu for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

 

Explore Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania

Selous Game Reserve that is located in southern Tanzania is one of Africa’s largest parks and is a secret tip for stunning wildlife viewing. There are several rivers and lakes in Selous that form the lifeblood of the whole park, the central one being the Rufiji River. Especially the northern part of the Rufiji River is particularly scenic and one of the main wildlife viewing areas. The Rufiji River Camp is one of the most popular camps there and is just gorgeous place to stay.

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Selous is a pretty untouched wilderness in Africa and is easily accessible from Dar as well as Zanzibar. As Selous offers some of the finest boating safaris in Africa it is a must to take a boat ride on the river in order to see some of the 440 known species of birds including pelicans,

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white-fronted bee eaters

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or goliath herons just to mention a few of them. For birders this is a real paradise and the boat enables one to get very close to them, so great photos are guaranteed.

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Also pretty obvious are hippos and there are quite a few of them. They often are hiding so good in the water that even experienced boat drivers can overlook them and then the hippos are fleeing frightened of the sudden approach of a boat – they can be rather quick not only on land, but also in water.

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Always present around and in the water are crocodiles and some of them are really big. This one was sleeping in the evening sun and finally woke up as we came closer before disappearing into the water.

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Coming back to the camp during sunset does actually not stop you from watching but now from very comfortable terraces where you can of course enjoy all kind of sun-downers. And this is quite an important tip, you should take your time to do that whenever possible as these are quite stunning memories I found.

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While the boat safaris are stunning, of course also daytime game drives are a wonderful experience and you always should look to be able to drive in small groups as this enhances the whole experience of Safari significantly regardless if you are photographing, filming or simply watching. Experienced guides make up for the rest to guarantee successful sightings.

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Like we had the other morning with several groups of giraffes down at the river. Even being some distance away from them the continued to watch us carefully but in the end did not get disturbed by us.

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Driving a bit down into the wetlands brings you easily close to a number of animals. You always can see groups of elephants and we were lucky to get a show from a young one while eating breakfast.

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But also zebras and giraffes can come pretty close that allows for nice shots.

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Also lion sightings are not uncommon as the animals are usually lazing around the lakes and wait for the other animals coming to drink. We found this old lioness in a group of younger ones resting from the efforts of their last hunt.

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Selous is a secure tip for interesting and stunning safari adventures and best time to visit is during dry season that are the months from July to October as there are usually many animals to be found in the park, while a number of animals move away from the feeding grounds during the months of January and February.

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Learn more about safari tours to Selous Game Reserve on our African Safari Tours page with a variety of sample tours.

Peter Tomsu for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa