How to divide 10-11 days in Tanzania

Apr 7th, 2007, 02:36 PM
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How to divide 10-11 days in Tanzania

This is a follow-up to my previous post about trip planning for my June-July 2008 trip to Africa. Our current plan is to visit Cape Town for about a week in the latter half of June (with the primary objective being shark observing), followed by about 10-11 days in Tanzania. The Tanzania portion of the trip would be in the last part of June and the first bit of July.

I'd like the group's advice about what general areas in Tanzania to visit during this window of time. That is, between areas like the Serengeti, the Crater, Manyara, Tarangire, or others. Once we figure that out, we can start thinking about specific camps or lodges.

To give you some more info about our goals, here they are:
(1) We want to see the migration herds. That is the primary reason to go to East Africa.
(2) We would like to see the animals we missed on our last safari to Botswana: rhinos, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas.
(3) Big game viewing is more important than birds.
(4) We were spoiled by the relatively un-crowded conditions in Botswana.
(5) We are both highly focused on photography and will have mid-range cameras and telephoto lenses (100-400L, 300 2.8 w/TC).

With that backdrop in mind, how would you suggest dividing our available time among the parks of Northern Tanzania?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Chris_GA_Atl is offline  
Apr 7th, 2007, 03:43 PM
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For photographers a 'typical' split that time of year might be 2-3 nights at Tarangire, 1-2 nights Ngorongoro, 4-7 nights Serengeti, then fly back to Arusha. Andy Biggs is running a trip there in mid-June and you can check his itinerary to see how he is spliting the time ...

We would like to see the animals we missed on our last safari to Botswana: rhinos, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas

Hyenas are everywhere, cheetahs should be easy to come by in Serengeti (we recently saw 20 on a 12 day trip and on earlier trips saw 11 and 7) ... the hard ones are leopards and rhino.

Ngorongoro has about 20 black rhinos and it's maybe 50/50 you'll spot one on any given game drive. With two nights you can do several game drives and should find one or more. I think we saw 4 our first trip in 4 game drives, and 9 on our 2nd trip to Ngorongoro, including five at once in January when the crater floor was really lush and they were feeding in the open.

Leopards are easiest so spot around Seronera in central Serengeti, they lay up in the trees near the rivers and are somewhat habituated. We saw seven there in April 2006 in maybe 4 days of half-heartedly looking for them (they weren't our top priority), and passed on driving over to two more that other drivers had spotted, so could have had nine. Other than the Seronera area they are very hit-or-miss ... we saw one in Ngornogoro and a mating pair at Manyara last January that we were able to photograph briefly in great light, but it's uncommon to see them at these places.

We were spoiled by the relatively un-crowded conditions in Botswana.

Maybe tented mobile camps west of Seronera or something in the western corridor ... Seronera area feels very crowded. Too bad you can't go Jan - early March because that's when the migration is most impressive and it's easier to be near it in more isolated camps.

Big game viewing is more important than birds.

In that case I would skip Lake Manyara.


Bill_H is offline  
Apr 7th, 2007, 04:09 PM
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Iíve responded to your numbered items.

1) Western Serengeti

2) Rhinos-best bet in Tanzania is Crater, people have seen them in Serengeti too
Cheetahs-Serengeti, followed by Crater
Leopards-Serengeti, but they can pop up anywhere or decide not to pop up at all
All three of these can be elusive in Botswana or elsewhere.
Hyena-most parks, ask guides if a hyena den has been spotted. Mornings and late afternoons can be active at the den. My best hyena den sighting ever was in the crater.

In my opinion and experience the best place in East Africa for leopards is in Samburu in Kenya and not just where they are baited, then the Serengeti is next. The best place in East Africa for rhinos would be (in this order) Lewa Downs, other private ranches/concessions like Sweetwaters, Nakuru, and then Ngorongoro Crater. In 2 all-day crater visits I've had one visit with good views of rhino, even mother and baby and one visit with a glimpse at a distance in some brush in poor very early morning light.

3) Any of the places you mentioned would qualify for game viewing, not mostly birds.

4) Avoiding the crowds
Serengeti-mobile or Grumeti Camp or Kirawira Camp

Manyara-Tree Lodge or Kirurumu

Tarangire-Swala, Kikoti, Tarangire Treetops
The area nearest the park entrance has been said to have the most wildlife activity. That would be my experience on 2 trips as well. Treetops is the closest.
(I have not been to any of these Manyara or Tarangire accommodations personally.)

Crater-Rather than suggest one of the lodges, I'll recommend leaving early with a breakfast box before the crowds descend. You can either stay all day with box lunch or come back to your lodge for lunch.

5) That means there should be some more good pictures on p-base.

Apportioning time in Tanzania:

1 day Arusha National Park to look for Columbus monkeys and because this is a more forested region not seen elsewhere. People have observed Colobus in the Western Serengeti in the forests as I recall.

1-2 days Manyara, but if something needs to be cut, this could go since Tarangire wildlife viewing is likely better than Manyara's at this time. This is the best place for blue/black monkeys and a great place for relaxed baboons and hippos out of the water. Those animal sightings are pretty constant year round, I think. I stayed only 1 night in Manyara and the small size of the park requires just one night, but next time Iím thinking about 2 nights. However, my next time will be in Feb. when Manyara is at its peak and I wonít be going to Tarangire on that trip.

2-3 days Tarangire I have spent 3 days here in mid-July and saw lots each day, including one leopard, and very relaxed, photogenic dik diks and jackals. Of course the elephants and some beautiful scenery and animals by the river.

1-2 days Ngorongoro Crater. If you want a full day in the crater, then 2 nights are necessary. You could stay much longer than that and increase your photo opportunities. Here are some threads on the crater and length of stays. In one of them Bill H mentions he went into the crater 4 times and had a different experience each time. I think each crater floor game drive is around $200, now. Check for the latest crater rules, regulations, and fees.

3-5 Serengeti

Good luck with the sharks too.
atravelynn is offline  
Apr 7th, 2007, 04:10 PM
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Bill, as I was typing about you, were your fingers burning? Instead of ears?
atravelynn is offline  
Apr 7th, 2007, 05:50 PM
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"what general areas in Tanzania to visit during this window of time."

Based on your 5 listed goals and my experience at that time of year in Tanzania, my recommendations are similar to those of Bill and Lynn, but I can add:

The migration (as I'm sure you've read) can be hit or miss no matter how carefully you plan. We chose to stay in the western corridor as well as the north to increase our chances of seeing it. It was indeed in the west when we were there near the beginning of July. We had a fabulous guide who would have driven us to the ends of the earth to see it, but it didn't take him long to find it.
In the northern Serengeti we did 2 days of game driving without ever seeing another vehicle. So, if you want un-crowded you might consider spending time at the north end of the park. The scenery is stunning.

I highly recommend 2 nights in Tarangire - a gorgeous park with optimum game viewing in late June/July.

Next year I'm including the West Kilimanjaro area for a couple of nights. Not much predator action, but the chance to see the huge bull elephants that migrate between there and Amboseli as well as the rare gerenuk. The scenery looks fabulous. Here's a picture of the camp we plan to stay at:
We can offroad here and do some walking with the locals.

My least favourite experience in terms of crowds was not in the crater as some would report, but in the Seronera. If you get down into the crater as soon as the gate opens, you can have several hours of relatively crowdless game viewing. The central Serengeti was a different story however, often with several vehicles at a sighting. Having said that, the Seronera was our only leopard siting.

Keep us posted with your plans.

Calo is offline  
Apr 7th, 2007, 07:26 PM
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Bill, Lynn, Calo,
Thank you all very much for your very thoughtful and insightful replies. The information you provided is exactly what I was hoping for. It's advice like this that makes this Forum so valuable to me in trip planning.
We are going to try to move toward getting an itinerary pretty well set by this summer. So I will probably be quiet on this itinerary for a while as I do some research on specific camps and lodges, then in a while I will probably solicit the group's advice on something more specific.

Lynn, in terms of sharks, I think we are going to plan for 4 days out with Rob/Chris and 1 day with White Shark Ecoventures as a hedge, and also plan to be with Selwyn a couple of days to do some land-based stuff in Cape Town. Are you going to stay in Simon's Town to be convenient to Rob & Chris's departure point? If you have already decided where to stay there, I'd be interested in hearing about it, as we are planning to stay there.

Thanks again.

Chris_GA_Atl is offline  
Apr 7th, 2007, 07:48 PM
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In Simonstown I'll be at Sea Spray, the place Chris and Rob use for their guests.

Here is the website, but they work out special rates.
atravelynn is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 07:20 AM
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Hi Chris,
I can probably better answer this once I get back, but here is what we planed for the same time frame this year. Maybe this will help you. We did as Calo said, scheduled in time in the Western and Northern Serengeti. My main goal is to see the migration and we figured this would give us the best chance. We decided fly to the Serengeti and work our way back. Since we may be on the tail end of the migration we didn't want to spend 5 days or so getting to the Serengeti. About the only thing I would change is to stay at the Crater one more night.

Wed July 4th 2007: Arrival in Nairobi, met and transfer to hotel in Nairobi, Nairobi Safari Club.
Thur July 5: Day trip to Giraffe Center. Lunch at Carnivore Restaurant then later transfer to Nairobi airport for a flight to Kilimanjaro, met and transfer to KIA Lodge, B.
Fri July 6: Transfer to Kilimanjaro airport, flight to Western Serengeti, leaving Kilimanjaro at 8:00am, arrival Serengeti at about 10am, met and have game in the Western Serengeti, Kirawira Camp,B,L,D.
Sat July 7: More game drives in Serengeti, Kirawira Camp,B,L,D.
Sun July 8: More game drives in the Serengeti, and this time in northern Serengeti, Migration Camp, B,L,D.
Mon July 9: More game drives in the Serengeti, Migration Camp, B,L,D.
Tue July 10: Another game drive in the Serengeti, this time in Central Serengeti,
Mbuzi Mawe Tented Camp B,L,D.
Wed July 11: Drive to Ngorongoro, optional visit to Olduvai Gorge. Arrive in Ngorongoro for afternoon game drive in the crater, Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge (if Ngorongoro Serena opens up, we will switch you to the Serena), B, L, D.
Thur July 12: (If you want another game drive in the crater today before going to Tarangire, add $70/person) Drive to Tarangire, game drives in Tarangire, Tarangire River Camp, B,L,D.
Fri July 13: More game drives in Tarangire, Tarangire River Camp, B,L,D.
Sat July 14: Another game drive in Tarangire then drive to Kilimanjaro airport for a flight to Nairobi, leaving Kilimanjaro at 7:40pm, arriving Nairobi at 8:30pm, met and transfer to Nairobi Safari Club, B,L.

enjoy your trip.
Duane is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 07:51 AM
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Hi Chris - Do you know how long the flight is from South Africa to Tanzania? I'm assuming you are flying out of Johannesburg? We are also considering dividing time in Cape Town to dive with the great whites and then head to East Africa. I may "borrow" your itinerary! Thanks...

P.S. What did you think of Botswana? We are trying to decide between East Africa & Southern Africa (Botswana and South Africa) for our first safari...
alldaytravel is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 08:07 AM
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Duane -- thanks for sharing your '07 itinerary. I suspect ours is going to bear a lot of resemblance to yours when all is said and done.

Allday -- I think the flight from Johannesburg to Nairobi, for example, is about 5.5 hours. We loved Botswana and had a really excellent time there in September 2003. The herds are very much smaller and finding animals to view is more challenging than in East Africa, as I understand it, but the scenery is beautiful and there were very few other tourists. We had some great game viewing the whole time, including some rare sightings (wild dogs twice, two civets, porcupines, African wild cat), as well as lots of elephants, buffalo, lions, hippos and many others. We also really enjoyed our guide and camping experience with Karibu Safaris and that made the experience a great one.

Chris_GA_Atl is offline  
Oct 6th, 2007, 11:50 AM
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Glad I found this post. I'm in the exact same boat as Chris! Planning a 2nd safari to Tanzania after Botswana.

Question for Bill, you said "Too bad you can't go Jan - early March because that's when the migration is most impressive and it's easier to be near it in more isolated camps". Can you elaborate? How would the intineray differ if it were in Feb/March vs. June/July?

linjudy is offline  
Oct 6th, 2007, 12:24 PM
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Question for Bill, you said "Too bad you can't go Jan - early March because that's when the migration is most impressive and it's easier to be near it in more isolated camps". Can you elaborate?

Hi Judy,

The southern part of Serengeti is open plains with miles of grass and very few trees. The central and northern parts are considered 'woodlands' with higher grass (more water), lots of trees and, in many places, more brush.

In a 'typical' year the southern plains are dry most of the time but receive rains in Nov and Dec and typically 'green-up', which attracts the massive herds of wildebeests and zebras, around 2,000,000 animals. They feed on the short-grass and the wildebeests drop their calves here as well.

So on the short grass plains for a couple of months you have a couple million zebras and wildebeests with another half million gazelles, plus the predators like hyenas and lions and cheetahs. Since you can see for so far it's very impressive to be out there in the midst of the animals. Three times we've been surrounded by what we guessed to be 500,000 - 600,000 wildebeests at once, which to me is what the migration is all about.

Once the grass is mowed and dried out these herds move north (eventually ending up in the Mara in Kenya) and you can still see them, but now they are in the woodlands where you can't see as far due to the vegetation. Instead of seeing hundreds of thousands you're more likely to see 5,000 or 10,000 or maybe 30,000 at once ... still impressive, but not the same.

So that's one reason I like the winter better. Also there are just a few places to stay in south Serengeti so not as many people, while if you are in the western corridor or near Seronera in June you'll find there are more lodges and many more people, which detracts from the experience.

How would the intineray differ if it were in Feb/March vs. June/July?

On our two January trips we spent most of our time in south Serengeti. In April we spent most of it in central Serengeti. In June (I haven't been in June, but I might some day) I'd skip south Serengeti and spend time in the western corridor and central Serengeti and also spend time in Tarangire, which is supposed to be peak in summer (it wasn't that great in Jan 2006 and we didn't go back on our other 2 trips).

Check out Andy Biggs's web site, he runs photo tours to Tanzania in both January-Feb and June-July and you can get a good idea of where to go by checking his itineraries.

I have photos posted from our three trips at ... the first trip in January 2006 was very dry and even at south Serengeti (Ndutu Lodge) we saw few wildebeests since there was little grass. The 'rainy season' trip in April was something I would not recommend, though we had good luck with cheetahs and birds and lions, but this is a risky time to go. The January 2007 trip had ideal conditions, with heavy rains in December leading to verdant plains filled with beautiful, healthy animals. We saw more cheetahs and lions this trip than on the first two trips combined, so it helps to be lucky with the weather.

Anyway, that's how I see it ... Andy has been there both time-frames and could of course give you better info on what to expect in June-July.

Bill_H is offline  
Oct 6th, 2007, 02:25 PM
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Thanks, Bill. Wow, your photos were incredible! Maybe we should delay our trip to jan/mar 09!
linjudy is offline  
Oct 6th, 2007, 02:36 PM
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Both June/July and Jan/Mar are excellent for the migration. The environments are somewhat different, the game is there.

The Serengeti is very large, the size of Switzerland and not many lodges or camps regardless the area you choose.

And, if you wait till '09 expect to pay at least 15% more.
sandi is offline  
Nov 11th, 2007, 07:42 AM
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This post is exactly what I've been looking for! We want the same things, but we are leaving July 8th for THREE weeks. I'm not sure whether we should add more days to the same places, or add a different location to the itinerary. Any suggestions?
laslaff is offline  
Nov 11th, 2007, 11:54 AM
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laslaff -

If you haven't posted your itinerary under a separate thread, I'd suggest you start a new thread for your trip. This way we can comment specific to your trip (more days, less days, where, etc.), and both you and we can follow your progress.

sandi is offline  
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