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Safari in Tanzania: Exploring the Northern Circuit

I recently had the opportunity to spend almost two weeks travelling the northern circuit of Tanzania to visit a range of lodges and luxury tented camps. Although this was my third trip to Tanzania, sharing a learning journeys like this one with seven other Africa travel specialists really opened my eyes to possibilities when it comes to crafting itineraries in this part of the world.


The trip started off in Tarangire National Park. I stayed at the Lemala Mpingo Ridge Lodge, perched on top of an escarpment with sweeping views across the river and the valley below. If you are a keen birder, we will put this park on your list as there are 500 species to be found here! I loved the sunrise views, outdoor bathtub and above all, the stunning landscape of giant baobab trees and hues of browns unlike other Tanzanian national parks. Although you won't find all of the Big 5 animals here, you will still find resident herds of zebras, wildebeest and antelopes here.



One of the highlights of staying at Lemala Mpingo Lodge is the easy access to one of the largest Maasai bomas in the area, where Chief Lobulo lives. Our visit to the boma was a far cry from what you would imagine a theatrical cultural showcase would be; rather, it was an opportunity to have a sit-down with the Chief to learn about how Maasai society functions, the challenges these semi-nomads face as Tanzania continues to develop, wildlife management issues living so close to the fenceless national park with their huge herds of cattle, and even about polygamy. A CSR initiative which one of our local partners, Lemala Lodges and Camps, supports is a sanitary pad project where each young Maasai girl in remote schools (and now extended to other older female members of her family) receives a set of underwear and reusable pads. Sanitary pad poverty is a global problem and especially prevalent in the Maasai communities where sanitary items are simply not available. Young girls without access to such items are not able attend school whilst they were menstruating. This is a project we are looking to be involved in over the coming months.


Our next stop was Ngorongoro Crater, the world's largest intact volcano caldera. Because of its geological characteristics, the crater has one of the densest populations of large mammals in the world, as well as resident wildebeest and zebra herds which do not migrate across the plains unlike their relatives towards the north in the Serengeti. Some travel advisors might recommend to skip staying in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, but with good management of park entry timings, as well as coordinating shuttle flights leaving from Lake Manyara, two nights staying on the crater rim is definitely worthwhile. On our morning game drive, we were extremely lucky to spot bat-eared foxes, rhinos from a distance, as well as a family of hippos on the shores of Lake Magadi. We visited a few properties in the area, but my favourite by far is the soon to be open Craters Edge. After a long day on safari, a view of sunset over the crater from your private deck is unbeatable!



Then it was northbound to the Serengeti for a few days. Serengeti means "endless plains" in Maasai, and it is undoubtedly one of the world’s most celebrated wilderness areas. This area is one of the best places to view the annual wildebeest migration, especially in the middle of the year, but is also home to a high density of animals. The large concentration of cats in the eastern Serengeti near Lemala Nanyukie Lodge is why scientific research is done here on predators, especially the cheetah. The central Serengeti is home to Big 5 game viewing all year round, and is the perfect launchpad to head north, west or south, depending on the rains and time of the year to catch the migration. For a luxury tented camp experience, I highly recommend staying at least two nights at Lemala Ewanjan Tented Camp so that you can go rhino tracking or enjoy a sunrise safari on a hot air balloon.



Our last stop was to explore the northern Serengeti, where the Tanzania-Kenya border is marked with small concrete blocks painted in white, and herds of elephants and lion prides can traverse between the Maasai Mara in Kenya and the Serengeti in Tanzania freely. Landing in Kogatende with a small prop plane, we spent a few days on game drives and hotel visits between the Lamai and Mara areas. The landscape here is so different, even though we were still in the Serengeti. It had been raining and we were at the tail end of the migration, which has since moved west. No more yellow grassy plains here, but lush green woodlands. This is where you would want to be for the river crossings between July and October, watching masses of wildebeest cross the Mara River while Nile crocodiles lay waiting for an opportunity to take down a prey. It was also here where I finally got to see a leopard. It was resting in the tree and heard our vehicle approaching. It descended into the tall grass, and turned back briefly. I will never forget its gaze. What a way to end a fantastic trip.



The common misconception is that a safari in Tanzania is only about seeing the Great Migration and the national parks in the northern circuit, but that is not the case! For travellers who have the luxury of spending two or more weeks in the country, we recommend going further a field to some of lesser known national parks in the south and west. Some of these are on my personal bucket list.


At Greystoke Safari Camp in the Mahale Mountains National Park, follow expert guides and trackers on forest paths in search of wild chimpanzees before swimming in the crystalline waters of Lake Tanganyika. One of my travel companions commented that she wanted to live here forever if she didn't have to go home, and that this is a place like no other. That statement carried a lot of weight for me, as she has scoured the African continent for more than 15 years and has seen her share of hidden gems.



In the south, Ruaha National Park is home to the largest concentration of elephants in East Africa, while Nyerere National Park sits on a coastal plateau with great game viewing around the water holes and rivers. For those who are looking to combine a challenging adventure with a safari trip, you can consider climbing Africa's highest peak - Kilimanjaro, which stands at 5,895 metres above sea level. Although considered a trekking peak, the altitude is not something to take lightly. I am happy to walk you through the different route options based on my personal climbing experience. Get in touch with us at hello@pudupuda.com to find out how we can make your Tanzanian bucket list trip a reality!


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