Northern Tanzania: Feb 23—Mar 11, 2013

Birding and Wildlife in the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Beyond

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Price: $9,145
Departs: Arusha
Tour Limit: 12
Operations Manager: Erik Lindqvist
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Route Map


Tour Leaders


David Wolf

David Wolf is a senior member of the VENT staff and one of our most experienced tour leaders...

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 only)! Daily extravaganza of birding plus abundant big game: Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra, Lion, Leopard, and Cheetah in famous national parks of 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 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 easily seen at this time of plenty.


Leopard— Photo: Kevin Zimmer

Equally world-renowned are the Ngorongoro Crater and nearby Oldupai (previously Olduvai) Gorge, where the Leakeys discovered remains of primitive humans 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, which holds a large variety of waterbirds from pelicans, cormorants, and flamingos to herons, ibis, storks, and ducks.

November is also an excellent season to visit Tanzania. While the great migratory herd of wildebeest will likely not be back yet, most of the mammals of the region are resident, and the number seen will be incredible. We should encounter all of “The Big Five,” plus a wide variety of antelope and smaller predators. Birds are always abundant in this vast and diverse region. For them, November is a season of change, as migratory species from Eurasia arrive en masse, and resident birds prepare for another breeding season as the first rains rejuvenate the land. The same great parks and reserves visited on the February tour will also be covered in November, and by the end of both tours we expect a bird list exceeding 400 species and 40 to 50 species of mammals.

This tour may be combined with an extension to the Western Usambara Mountains and nearby Mkomazi National Park and Ndarakwai Private Ranch and Game Reserve for a mixture of Eastern Arc montane endemics and dry country specialties, as well as the possibility of some special nocturnal mammals that are not possible on the main tour.

Good to excellent accommodations and food; easy wildlife viewing from safari vehicles; one or two optional hikes; midday breaks; climate mostly hot and dry.