Northern Tanzania: Feb 23—Mar 10, 2012

Birding and Wildlife in the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Beyond

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Price: $8,895
Single Supplement $350
Departs: Arusha
Tour Limit: 12
Operations Manager: Erik Lindqvist
Download Itinerary: PDF (133.2 KB)

Route Map


Tour Leaders


Dion Hobcroft

Dion Hobcroft has been working for VENT since 2001. He has led many tours (more than 170) to...

Local Leader

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Gray Crowned-Crane

Gray Crowned-Crane— Photo: Kevin Zimmer

The greatest wildlife spectacle on earth. World-class exotic birding amidst a million calving Wildebeest (February) or their great migration back into the Serengeti (November). Daily extravaganza of birding plus abundant big game: Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra, Lion, Leopard, and Cheetah in the famous national parks of Arusha, Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Manyara, and Tarangire to Lake Victoria.

The Serengeti is a vast, unspoiled rolling savannah of grasslands and open acacia woodlands that host the most spectacular concentration of animals on our planet. This world-famous area is a remarkable experience at any time of the year, but in February and March it witnesses a phenomenal gathering of over one million Wildebeest (along with a half-million Thomson’s Gazelle and a quarter-million Common Zebra) in tight, nervous herds of tens of thousands, concentrated together to calve on the short-grass plains prior to the rains. To foil the numerous predators and to ensure the best survival of their young, all the Wildebeests calve within a few short weeks, producing a glut of potential prey that overwhelms the dense gathering of predators. Lions are often in large prides—it is not unusual to see over 20 in a single day! Spotted Hyaenas appear in marauding packs; Leopards, Cheetahs, and smaller predators and scavengers such as jackals and vultures are also much more easily seen at this time of plenty. If the rains have preceded our arrival, we may also find widowbirds, whydahs, and bishops present and breeding in a concentrated burst of opportunism, the males resplendent in their most ornate breeding plumages.

November is also an exciting time in the Serengeti. With the advent of the first seasonal rains, the great migratory herds of wildebeest and zebra begin their annual trek back into the region from their dry-season refuge in Kenya’s Masai Mara region, the long lines of animals snaking their way through the vast woodlands and valleys. In order to maximize our chances of encountering these herds, and their attendant predators, this tour will spend two nights in the northeastern Serengeti, closer to the Kenya border. Of course, many of the mammals of the Serengeti are resident, and we should encounter all of “The Big Five,” as well as a wide variety of antelope and smaller predators. For the birds, November is a season of change, as the residents prepare for another breeding season as the first rains rejuvenate the land, migrants from Eurasia arrive en masse, and waterbirds concentrate around the remaining lakes and marshes.


Leopard— Photo: Kevin Zimmer

Equally world-renowned are the Ngorongoro Crater and nearby Oldupai (previously Olduvai) Gorge, where the Leakeys discovered remains of primitive hominids dating back over two million years. Ngorongoro is the largest unbroken volcanic caldera in the world—10 miles across and 2,000 feet deep. Lush forests clad the crater rim where our lodge is situated, overlooking the grasslands and lakes of the Crater below. Apart from the breathtaking scenery, superb birding, and great wildlife, it is particularly good for excellent photographic opportunities, and one of the few safe havens in Africa for the endangered Black Rhinoceros.

Arusha National Park is a highland area of extinct volcanoes covered in thick forest, holding birds and mammals we are unlikely to encounter elsewhere. Tarangire National Park is justly famed for its heavy scattering of bizarre Baobab trees, and the best elephant-watching opportunities of the tour. Tarangire also offers excellent birding, with several Tanzanian endemics likely. Lake Manyara National Park encompasses a soda lake and extensive freshwater marshes, which hold a large variety of waterbirds from pelicans, cormorants, and flamingos to herons, ibis, storks, shorebirds, and ducks.

Both tours will visit these great parks and reserves, and by the end of the tours we can expect field lists exceeding 400 species of birds and 40 to 50 species of mammals, all in spectacular settings.

Good to excellent accommodations and food; easy wildlife viewing from comfortable safari vehicles; one or two optional easy hikes; midday breaks on many non-travel days; climate mostly warm and dry, with cooler and possibly damper conditions at higher elevations.