Tanzania follows an enlightened policy of wildlife conversation and is the only country in the world where almost one quarter of the land has been set aside as national parks,
game sanctuaries and game reserves. As a result, today the country supports a population in excess of four million.
It was in the Olduvai Gorge that Dr. Leakey discovered fossil material dating back at least two million years or longer, that set the record on the origins of man in East Africa. Here one may well ponder on the history and splendor of this magnificent country where the highest mountain in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro (6447 metres), reigns in majestic grandeur over a colorful nation.
All the superlatives may be applied to Tanzania’s fantastic geographical features. Mount Kilimanjaro if Africa’s highest mountain; Lake Tanganyika is its deepest and longest fresh water lake; and Ngorongoro is its second largest crater while Selous is the world’s most extinct game reserve.
In the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, caressed by the cool trade breezes, lies the spice island of Zanzibar, once the center of the hated slave trade, and a historical doorway in the exploration of nineteenth century Africa. Famous personalities like Livingstone, Stanley, Burton, Speke-to name but a few – used Zanzibar as the jumping off point for their African trips.
The Serengeti plains and the famous Caldera of Ngorongoro crater have captured the imagination of the world where the unique glamour of Hollywood has catapulted these landmarks to the forefront making them household names internationally. Where else can one find a veritable Noah’s Ark roaming free within the confines of a 67 meters intact but extict volcanic crater wall/ where else can one witness such a unique annual spectacular event as millions of wildebeest and zebra concentrated into one huge mass of animals prepares to migrate across the Serengeti plains in search of new grass?
Compare the informality and relaxed atmosphere of Dar-es-Salaam, beautifully situated of the shores of a palm fringed bay midway along Tanzania coast, 800 kms of un spoilt tropical coastline the beautiful white sandy beaches fringed by green waving coconut palms on the mainland and a sea of ever changing dramatic blends of the blue and green in the lagoons and along the reefs as the Indian Ocean caresses the shores with its ceaseless murmour.
Contacts through centuries with Arabia, India, China, Europe and even within Africa itself, have left a rich heritage of local culture. Particularly in Tanzania is the adage true that an African is born with music. Widely ranging dances of every conceivable type have been handed down from countless generations ranging over snake, stilt and ritual dances, where at anytime one can hear the echo of drums, flute or other African musical instruments. Not only in music but also in carvings, the people of this lave shown a great flair and talent. Especially renowned are the beautiful Makonde pieces from the proud and highly sensitive Makonde of the south.
With over 120 different tribes occupying a vast sprawling 930,700 square kilometers, the country is rich in natural resources of every kind, and in inevitable photographer’s paradise.
TANZANIA’S PARKS AND RESERVES
KILIMANJARO NATIONAL PARK,
With 1872 square kilometers of reserve, Africa’s highest mountain (5895 metres) dominates the area of mountain rain forest, scrub, alpine moorlands, and ice fields. Kibo, the highest peak, is basically one which can be reached by a strenuous walk carried out by fit climbers, and is popular for many visitors where a minimum of five days is required. A fantastic view of Africa can be had from the top on a fine day. Inevitably the area below the snow line is shrouded in cloud. Although a few animals such as elephant, rhino, buffalo, leopard and eland may be found, the rare Abbots duiker is the prime attraction. Among the birds of special interest, those of note are Lammergeyer, scarlet-tuffed malachite sunbirds and the mountain chat.
LAKE MANYARA NATIONAL PARK,
With 325 square kilometers nestling under the wall of the Great Rift Valley, this enchanting park consists of five distinct vegetation zones- a ground water forest with towering mahogany and fig trees; extensive marshland and reeds; plain of open grassland on the precipitous face of the Rift wall.
The park is famous for its numerous buffalo, elephant and in particular the lions which have the unusual habit of lying upon the branches of some of the trees. Leopard and rhino are seen in most areas of the park. Manyara is noted for its wealth of birdlife which often include thousands of lesser flamingos.
MIKUMI NATIONAL PARK,
With 1300 square kilometers located a stride a main road; it is the most accessible park from Dar-es-Saam where its principal feature is the flood plain of the Mkata River. The haunt of many elephants, buffalo, lion, hippo and a great variety of animals, it also includes the greater Kudu, Sable antelope and Lichens teens hartebeest. Bird life is extremely varied with many colorful and interesting species occurring which are not found in the northern parks.
MKOMAZI NATIONAL PARK,
With 3510 square kilometers, it adjoins a portion of the southern boundary of Kenya’s Tsavo National Park. Being a very arid area, with open plains, thorn bush and isolated rocky hills, it is the home to elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard, Oryx and lesser kudu as well as other lesser game. Bird life is particularly interesting.
ARUSHA/ NGURDOTO NATIONAL PARK,
With 117 square miles, the Arusha Park is an extremely interesting area being located on the side of Mount Meru which, while having thick forested slopes rises dramatically into the sky representing a classical extinct volvanic cone.
The Ngurdoto Park is famous for its unique crater, the thick highland rain forest sections, acacia woodland and string of seven crater lakes of Momella. However, the miniature Ngurdoto crater has been set aside as a reserve within a reserve. Down inside is a wealth of wildlife buffalo, elephant, rhino and many other animals, but no lions. This 2.4 kilometers wide crater is closed to man and is a sanctuary for wildlife only.
The beautiful Narinas trogon is found in the forests, as is the crowned hawk eagle, the African broad bill and the broad ringed white eye.
Patched on the top of the Rift Valley escarpment between lake Manyara and Serengeti is this wonder of the world. Ngorongoro crater was an active volcano some 3 million years ago. Its cone collapsed leaving a sunken caldera of 311 sq km, making it one of the largest craters in the world. The magic comes from its sheer physical beauty and stunning panoply of wildlife that roam its floor. The 2000ft descent into the crater reveals a sight of unequalled grandeur.
The crater is the home to about 40,000 animals, including the big five. There are perennial swamps on the crater floor which are an important migratory point for flamingos. Also on the crater floor, there are two patches of dense acacia woodlands called Lerai and Laindi forests. Other interesting features include the deep lake of Embagi, waterfalls of Munge, the active volcano of Ol Donyo Lengai, and the shifting sands.
Guests descend in 4 wheel drive vehicles to the floor where they spend time driving around in search of game. The crater floor has become a popular spot for sighting the rare Black Rhino and large prides of Lion.
SERENGETI GAME RESERVE,
Covering tens of thousands of square kilometers, this is one of Tanzania’s largest parks, a symbol of African wildlife and primeval beauty. In the Masai language, the name Serengeti means ‘endless plains’. Huge herds of Wildebeeste and Zebra dominate the park and their seasonal migration to and from Masai Mara in Kenya provides an unequalled wildlife spectacle. The predator population cannot be overlooked. Naturally, with such a big number of the plains game providing a sufficient food supply, the predators thrive here. It is not unusual to see 40 or more lions in a day’s game viewing.
The larger area of Serengeti is covered by vast open plains with lofty rocky outcrops, called Kopjes. The other areas are covered by acacia, savannah woodland, scrub, forested and mature treed rivers, an occasional swamp and small lakes ‘here and there’. The park ranges in altitude from 910 meters up to 1,820 meters. True eye-catching beauty, imortalised in the film “Serengeti shall not die.”
Unrivalled photographic opportunities exist when the great animal migration is on. There is a wealth of bird life in the area where the larger species of birds of prey, game birds and water fowl are well represented.
Here also a unique historical find revealed a settlement site of people dating from 1000 to 100 B.C.
The Great Migration:
The great trek usually begins in Tanzania and the Serengeti in January after the herds have exhausted the available pastures.
The migration involves well over a million animals and approximate 500 miles of travel. The true migrants are the Wildebeest or White bearded gnu and Zebra. Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelles participate but only partially while the predators only trail the herds for obvious reasons – easy prey! It is questionable whether the Zebra make the full journey and it is certain that the gazelles do not leave the Serengeti
At this time of the year the wildebeests are scattered across the medium and short grass plains south of Serengeti depending on the water and grazing. They criscross the plains with large concentrations remining around Lake Ndutu and Olduvai gorge. Many travel onto Ngorongoro crater increasing the numbers of animals in the crater considerably.
At this time, there are scattered thunderstorms on the plains, the surface waterholes are full and the grazing is good. Wildebeest calving occurs in February and there are literally hundreds of calves. Predatory activity is high with an abundance of Lion, Cheetah, spotted Hyena with frequent sighting of Leopard.
By the end of March, the rains begin to taper off and the surface waterholes begin to dry up, the grazing is becoming short and the animals begin to panic. The wildebeest begin to gather into large herds and start moving north and west towards Lake Victoria as they graze. The herds continue west following Grumeti river and reach within 20 miles of Lake Victoria. It is for this reason the western arm of the Serengeti was included in the national park and is called the migration corridor.
The animals move off the plains into high country and the corridor.
The herds are still moving off the plains and into the corridor.
The great herds are now in the corridor. At the same time during June the herds move north again through Musoma and head for the Masai Mara in Kenya. Depending on the rain and grazing they reach the Mara river towards the end of July.
July, August, September
The great herds are more concentrated now and remain in Masai Mara area approximately 2-3 months. During this period the courtship and breeding takes place. By the end of September they have consumed most of the grass from the Mara river to the Loita plains in Masai Mara.
They become restless and start moving south through the Keekorok (Masai Mara) and Lobo (Serengeti) Valleys en-route to the plains.
The herds are normally in the highlands, acacia woodland around Lobo in Tanzania. They arrive on the long plains of the Serengeti around Seronera at the end of November and stay in this area for about a month before dispersing onto the vast plains that form the medium and short grass areas of the Serengeti ecosystem.
The herds are in Seronera area (central Serengeti) and the long grassy plains.
The cycle repeats itself.
TARANGIRE NATIONAL PARK,
With 2600 square kilometers, this is a most spectacular park during the dry season when several thousands of animals migrate to the Tarangire River. A special feature of the park is the Greater Kudu but it is also good for rhino, elephant, buffalo, lion and a host of other species. The reserve has nine distinct vegetation areas and generally covers arid acacia/thorn bush country.
SELOUS GAME RESERVE,
With 45,000 square kilometers, this is not only Africa’s biggest game reserve but it is the oldest. It is also the least accessible and the least known. Consisting of woodlands with grassy flood plains and dense forest patches, it provides a home for large herds of elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard and hippo, where in fact the elephant herds are the largest in Africa.
Containing some of the area is accentuated by the Rufuji river system which flows through its center making effecting communication impossible.
Ruaha National Park:
This is one of the areas to visit when staying at the Tanzanian coast – Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar. The area is easily accessible by daily scheduled air from Dar es Salaam and is serviced by permanent camps and lodges.
This is a huge park, of which just a small part has been developed for visitors. It is probably Africa’s largest sanctuary for Elephants. The park is watered by the Ruaha river which also affords visitors unequalled game viewing opportunity.
Activities here center around boat rides on river Rufiji and escorted game walks.