Arrive in Arusha at any time and transfer to the hotel near the beautiful Usa River. A brief arrival meeting will be held in the hotel reception area later in the day. Upon arrival look for information from the Discovery Adventures guide (a qualified Naturalist) on the hotel bulletin board regarding the meeting time. Usa River is a small, lush, agricultural community that sits just below Mt. Meru, Tanzania's second highest mountain. With views of both Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilimanjaro on a clear day, it is an ideal base for our Tanzanian safari. The primary industry of the region is agriculture with large vegetable producers sending high-quality produce to Europe. The city and its environs are also spotted with large coffee plantations, adding to the area’s charm. Though in recent years, due to the coffee crisis, many local farmers have been badly hit, and now subsistence farming is the most common source of livelihood. Arusha, also known as Tanzania’s “safari capital”, is undoubtedly the most important center in northern Tanzania. With many protected national parks and reserves nearby, Arusha is a modern town with markets, banks, and services. Arusha owes its name to the local Wa-arusha people who resided here for hundreds of years, and is a historically and politically significant city within East Africa. In 1961 the official documents ceding independence to Tanzania were signed by the United Kingdom in Arusha.
Your tour starts at 8am with a pick up at your Arusha Hotel. Drive to Tarangire National Park for a mid morning and afternoon game drive. Tarangire National Park covers 2,600 square kilometers and is on the traditional migration route of several species of the wildlife. At dry times, the concentration of animals in Tarangire rivals that of the much better known Serengeti. Herds of migratory wildebeest, gazelle, zebra and buffalo gather along the marshy shores of Lake Natron. These pools are shared by flocks of birds: green wood hoopoes, fisher lovebirds, tallish herons, white bellied go-away birds and giant kingfishers. Resident lion, giraffe, elephant, and black rhino are common at any season; Tarangire is noted for its baobab trees and splendid vistas of rolling savannah and acacia woodland. The strange-looking, centuries-old baobab trees are believed by the Masai to be the first tree in creation. The park is known for its tree-climbing lions and for its very big herds of buffalo. This is one of Africa’s little-known gems and should be on the itinerary of all lovers of wilderness and solitude. The game numbers are staggering: 30,000 zebra, 25,000 wildebeest, 5,000 buffalo, 3,000 elephant, 2,500 Maasai giraffe and over 1,000 fringe-eared oryx (gemsbok). Predators include lion, cheetah and leopard and birders will want to look out for the endemic ashy starling, rufous-tailed weaver and black-collared lovebird.
We make our way to Lake Manyara National Park. This area is truly stunning, as the western wall of the Rift Valley escarpment provides a backdrop in our search of the park's phenomenal bird life, tree-climbing lions, elephants, giraffes, and hippos. The afternoon is spent game viewing along the main road that winds for several miles through a cool, lush, mature groundwater forest dominated by large fichus trees and a tangle of green epiphytes. The name Manyara is derived from the Masai word “Emanyara”, which is a Euphorbia species of plant that is found around a family homestead in the area. The lake itself is a shallow, alkaline lake stretching 30 miles (50 km) at the base of the sheer Rift Valley escarpment. This forms part of the national park that covers an area of roughly 205 square miles (330 km sq). Lake Manyara National Park is home to giant fig trees, acacia woodlands, mahogany trees and grassy flood plains. The contrasts of this area are breathtaking, with the open plains, huge escarpment, central soda lake, dense woodlands, and distant volcanic peaks coming together in an area best described by Ernest Hemingway as “the loveliest I had seen in Africa”. Animals such as blue monkeys, hippo, impala, elephant, wildebeest, buffalo, warthog, and giraffe all roam the park’s territory. The park is also home to the legendary tree-climbing lions, and a small population of leopard. Manyara provides the perfect introduction to Tanzania’s bird life, with over 400 species having been recorded within the parks boundaries. Highlights include thousands of pink-hued flamingos on their perpetual migration, as well as other large water birds such as pelicans, cormorants and storks. Approximate Distance: 80 miles (130 km) Estimated Travel Time: 2-3 hrs
Travel to the world famous Serengeti, one of Africa's premier game parks, stopping first at a traditional Masai Village. Here we get a chance to see the way of life of the heritage tribe of Tanzania. We continue on, driving through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to the Serengeti National Park. Along the way, we begin to experience the vastness of this territory and marvel at the multitude of animal and bird life while cruising through this acacia-spotted savannah. En route we visit the archeological site of Olduvai Gorge where we will receive a brief history of the gorge with a professional guide from the Olduvai center and then take a walk (approximately 1 hr) along the floor of the gorge with a local ranger. We then stop at the remarkable phenomenon called the Shifting Sands, a geological rarity which is sacred to the Masai. Known as a Barchan Dune, this interesting phenomenon is constantly on the move across the dry savannah plains. We finally reach the Serengeti in the late afternoon in time for a game drive en route to our camp. The Olduvai, or Oldupai, Gorge is commonly referred to as The Cradle of Mankind. It is a deep ravine that is roughly 30 miles (48 km) long. It is famous for the discovery of the 3.5 million year-old fossil fragments of an early human civilization. Accordingly, it is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world and has been instrumental in furthering an understanding of early human evolution. The Serengeti National Park is to Tanzania what the Masai Mara Game reserve is to Kenya, but with an area of 5,678 sq miles (14,763 sq km), it is actually over 7 times as large. The Serengeti, which derives its name from the Masai for “endless plain”, is the jewel of Tanzania’s protected areas. Combined with the Masai Mara and the Ngorongoro Conservation area it protects the most varied and greatest collection of wildlife on earth. With the Big Five, the Small Five and extensive amounts of wildlife, this region offers arguably the best wildlife viewing in the world. That said, with its vast size and varied terrain, game viewing is only one aspect of the Serengeti - the scenery is simply breathtaking. There is no bad time to visit the Serengeti as every season has its own special highlight. Changing seasons and light patterns form the most beautiful backdrop to view Africa’s majestic wildlife. It has more than 1.6 million herbivores and thousands of predators. Blue wildebeests, gazelles, zebra and buffalo are the animals most commonly found in the region. This area is most famous for the migration that takes place every year; in October over a million herbivores travel toward the southern plains, crossing the Mara River from the hills to the north. They continue west across the Serengeti, and then north once again, crossing the Mara River, after the rains around April. This phenomenon is sometimes also called the circular migration. Over 250,000 wildebeest alone will die along the journey from Tanzania to Masai Mara reserve in Kenya. Note: If you have pre-booked a Serengeti Balloon Safari Theme Pack, your flight be early in the morning of day 5. Approximate Distance: 135 miles (220 km) Estimated Travel Time: 5-6 hr
After an early breakfast we depart the Serengeti to continue our journey to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area for a full day game drive. The rich pasture and permanent water of the Crater floor supports a resident population of more than 20,000 to 25,000 large mammals. They are not confined by the crater walls, and can leave freely; they stay because conditions are favorable. Since most of the crater floor is grassland, grazing animals dominate: zebra, gazelles, buffalo, eland, and warthogs. The swamp and forest provide additional resources for hippos, some of Tanzania's last remaining black rhinos, giant-tusked elephants, waterbucks, reedbucks and bushbucks, baboons and vervet monkeys. All these animals in turn support large predators such as the lion and leopard, and scavengers such as hyenas and jackals. The 5,150 sq miles (8,300 km²) Ngorongoro Conservation Area is named after its central feature, the Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera. Ngorongoro Crater has often been described as one of the wonders of the world, not only because of its inherent geological significance, but also because it serves as an extraordinary natural sanctuary for some of Africa’s most dense population of large mammals. The Ngorongoro was part of the original Serengeti National Park proclaimed in 1951, but it was made a separate conservation area in 1956 so that the Masai could graze their cattle there. The Ngorongoro Crater became a World Heritage Site in 1978. Land in the conservation area is unique to Tanzania as it provides protection for the wildlife while allowing human habitation. The landscape is a blend of volcanoes, grasslands, waterfalls and mountain forests. The southern and eastern boundaries are defined by the rim of the Great Rift Valley, which also prevents animal migration in these directions. The annual ungulate migration passes through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, with wildebeest and zebra moving south into the area in December and moving north in June. Approximate Distance: 125 miles (200 km) Estimated Travel Time: 7 hrs
This morning we visit the Axwesso Iraqw Cultural Home in the Ngorongoro Highland Forests above the Great Rift Valley. The Iraqw people (not to be confused with Iraq) settled the Ngorongoro area some two thousand years ago. These people speak a Cushitic language with its origins in Ethiopia. The Iraqw had livestock and probably cultivated millet when they settled Ngorongoro. Today they are primarily agriculturalists and live along the hills and valleys of the plateau that stretches from the Ngorongoro Highlands south towards Lake Manyara. The Iraqw people are known for their unique houses that were built completely underground. It is thought that great wars with the Datoga tribe to the west led the Iraqw people to adopt this method of house construction in an effort of self-defense. We continue on to Mto wa Mbu which means Mosquito River. Here we take part in a village tour to learn a little about what a typical village in the area is like. The village has over 18,000 inhabitants from 120 tribes. This two hour tour will take you from the village's local market through several different farms, local huts, and artisan shops, and back to the market, giving you the opportunity to get a true glimpse of northern Tanzanian culture!! After our walk we have a local traditional Lunch before continuing on to Arusha. Enjoy one last evening with our travel companions. Approximate Distance: 125 miles (200 km) Estimated Travel Time: 4-5hrs
Depart Arusha at any time.