One of the largest flying birds in the world, a Kori Bustard strides across the grasslands of northern Tanzania. Photo: Steve Rooke
Tanzania long ago realised the importance of its natural resources and has done much to protect them. Today, 25% of the country is given over to National Parks and Reserves, of which the most famous in the north of the country form the basis for this tour. Starting on the densely wooded slopes of Mount Meru in the shadow of the much larger Mount Kilimanjaro, we’ll then wander among the giant Baobab trees of Tarangire National Park, and travel to the very edge of the Rift Valley at Lake Manyara before visiting two of the world’s most famous wildlife locations – Ngorongoro and the vast Serengeti.
This tour is designed to offer the perfect introduction to the birds and mammals of East Africa while at the same time presenting many new experiences to anyone who has previously visited Tanzania’s neighbour, Kenya.
Day 1: The tour begins this afternoon at Kilimanjaro International Airport in northern Tanzania, followed by a 45 minute transfer to our night’s lodging. Night in Ngare Sero Lodge.
Day 2: Ngare Sero Lodge is a lovingly-restored colonial farmhouse dating back to 1901. Set in excellent riparian forest on the lower slopes of Mt Meru, the lodge also has its own trout farm based around the clear river that flows through its grounds.
Unfamiliar noises are bound to wake us as Hadada Ibis and Silvery-cheeked Hornbills herald the dawn. We’ll wander around the grounds where we’ll look for a variety of birds including Crowned Hornbill, Red-eyed and Tambourine Doves, White-eared and Brown-breasted Barbet, Red-winged Starling, Grey-olive Greenbul, Rüppell’s Robin-Chat, Tropical Boubou, Variable, Scarlet-chested, Bronze and Amethyst Sunbirds, and the surprisingly elegant Ashy Flycatcher. Grosbeak Weavers nest in the reeds while Rufous-backed Mannikin and Peters’ Twinspot skulk in the undergowth. Along the river we’ll look for Pied, Giant, vivid Malachite and Brown-hooded Kingfishers, the dainty Mountain Wagtails and the shy African Black Duck while there is always a chance of Great Sparrowhawk, African Goshawk or even a Bat Hawk drifting overhead.
Later we’ll drive into Arusha National Park where we’ll encounter our first large mammals as we find ourselves among Massai Giraffe, African Buffalo, Common Zebra, Common Waterbuck, Bushbuck, Warthog, Guereza Colobus, Blue Monkey, and Olive Baboon. Hiding in the dappled shade of this magnificent evergreen hill forest we may also find a tiny woodland antelope, the secretive Suni, along with the bay-colored Harvey’s Red Duiker. If we are very lucky we may also catch sight of a Leopard or Serval.
There will be much to see during the day. Our first stop will be in the lush forest that cloaks the edge of the ancient volcanic crater. Here we’ll be looking for the massive African Crowned Eagle, as well as Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle, Mountain Buzzard, African Green Pigeon, Hartlaub’s Turaco, Bar-tailed Trogon, White-fronted and Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters, Moustached Green Tinkerbird, African Palm, Horus, Alpine, Mottled, Little, and Nyanza Swifts, Black Saw-wing, Olive Mountain (Placid), Stripe-cheeked and Mountain Greenbul, Waller’s, Kenrick’s and, if we are very fortunate, Abbott’s Starlings, and Eastern Double-collared Sunbird.
Clearing the forest we come to more open areas of scrub, grassland where we’ll encounter a different set of birds with Rufous-naped Lark, Pangani Longclaw, Chin-spot Batis, White-browed Scrub Robin, African Moustached and Cinnamon Bracken Warblers, Trilling and Siffling Cisticolas, and the very local Taveta Golden Weaver. The ancient vocanic craters have created wetlands that will be alive with Lesser Flamingos and this is a reliable site for the normally elusive Greater Painted Snipe. Later we return to the lodge where the peaceful surroundings and the elegantly appointed accommodation will be a wonderfully relaxing way to start our tour. Night in Ngare Sero Lodge.
Day 3: Leaving early we’ll skirt the edge of Arusha town heading west. Our first stop will be the ‘Lark Plains’, a strange open area situated between Arusha and the border town of Nmanga which is home to one of Africa’s rarest birds, Beesley’s Lark. This isolated form of Spike-heeled Lark is critically endangered with a world population of probably no more than 50 individuals. These plains, in the rain shadow of Mt Meru and Mt Kilimanjaro, are perfect habitat for larks and as well as Beesley’s, we’ll look for Pink-breasted, Athi Short-toed, Short-tailed, and Foxy Larks. The open landscape can be good for raptors with migrant Montagu’s Harriers, Lesser Kestrels and Amur Falcons joining the resident Greater and Common (Rock) Kestrels. In this distinctly dry habitat we can also find savannah species typical of the larger protected areas to the west such as Eastern Chanting Goshawk, African Pygmy Falcon, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Double-banded Courser, Crowned Lapwing, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Red-fronted, Red-and-Yellow, and Spot-flanked Barbets, Ashy and Tiny Cisticolas, Purple Grenadier, Eastern Paradise and Straw-tailed Whydahs and Somali Golden-breasted Bunting while mammals we might not have seen before could include Golden Jackal and Gerenuk, and with great luck, Lesser Kudu.
Later we’ll continue westwards to Tarangire National Park arriving in time for lunch. Our lodge is delightfull situated above a river with views out across a landscape dominated by majestic baobabs rising out of the acacia parkland, forming a perfect backdrop for the large herds of African Elephants wandering among them. Other mammals sharing this habitat range from Lion, and Black-backed Jackal, to Kirk’s Dik-Dik, Dwarf and Banded Mongoose, Impala, Beisa Oryx, Steinbok and African Hare. The Lodge grounds attract a good variety of birds from roosting African Pygmy Owls to the endemic Ashy Starling. Night at Tarangire Safari Lodge.
Day 4: We’ll have all day to explore this superb habitat. The rich variety of birds we may see include Maasai Ostrich, White-headed, Rüppell’s and African White-backed Vultures, Red-necked Spurfowl, Bare-faced Go-away Bird, Black-faced Sandgrouse, Lilac-breasted Roller, Nubian Woodpecker, White-browed Coucal, African Hoopoe, Magpie Shrike, Northern White-crowned Shrike, Yellow-collared Lovebird, and. This is as well good habitat for the handsome Bateleur Eagle, which will share the skies with numerous Tawny Eagles. Large Mosque Swallows will swoop around the Baobabs, while the dense scrub below is where we’ll find species such as White-browed Scrub-Robin, Green-winged Pytilia and, with luck, Bronze-winged Courser. The endemic Rufous-tailed Weaver is common here, and migrants from further north could range from Sooty Falcon to Rock Thrush. Night in Tarangire Safari Lodge.
Day 5: It will be hard to drag ourselves away from Tarangire and its abundant wildlife, but another equally amazing wildlife destination awaits us and we’ll begin our journey towards the mighty Ngorongoro. The sides of this once vast volcano are now extensive grasslands and as we begin to climb we’ll stop to look for some of the birds that make this their home. These may include secretive African Snipe although much more showy are the numerous Red-collared Widowbirds, the males resplendent in full breeding plumage, as are the less common Jackson’s Widowbirds. Striking male Yellow Bishops will be buzzing over the grass trying to impress the females, and smart African Stonechats will share the bush tops with stunning Malachite Sunbirds.
Reaching our lodge perched overlooking the Ngorongoro crater, we should have time for a walk along the rim where we may find Schalow’s Turaco, Golden-winged and Tacazze Sunbird, and the exuberant Hunter’s Cisticola. This is also a wonderful place to see various raptors riding the updraft from the side of the crater, giving eye-level views as they hang motionless. Night at Serena Lodge.
Day 6: The vast Ngorongoro Crater is just one of those places that has to be seen – words alone cannot do it justice. We’ll drive down into the huge sunken caldera, descending into what was once, many eons ago, the fiery heart of a huge volcano. Today this natural amphitheatre has a much more peaceful atmosphere as Wildebeest, Coke’s Hartebeest, Grant’s and Thomson’s Gazelles, and Zebra feed contentedly - or at least as contentedly as the ever present Lions and Cheetah will allow, although the Black Rhinocerous here will be less concerned about these predators.
The bird life in the crater varies according to the seasons but during our visit we should see Grey Crowned Crane, Shelley’s Francolin, Abdim’s and Black Storks, Lappet-faced Vulture, Black-bellied and Kori Bustards, Fischer’s Lovebird, Hunter’s and Pectoral-patch Cisticolas, Northern Anteater Chat among many others. Night in Serena Lodge on the rim of the crater.
Day 7: There will be time for some early morning birding close to the lodge and then, after breakfast, we’ll travel to the famous Serengeti National Park. As soon as we enter the Serengeti we find ourselves in the Africa of everyone’s imagination - a wide open landscape land of long grass punctuated by ‘koppies’, tall rocky outcrops, scattered acacia trees, and mammals and birds everywhere.
As we make our way towards the central part of the Serengeti, there will be plenty to look at. Out on the plains we’ll be looking for Kori and Buff-crested Bustard, Coqui Francolin, the endemic Grey-breasted Spurfowl, Brown Parrot, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Freckled Nightjar, Plain-backed Pipit, Sooty Chat, the endemic Tanzanian (Ruaha) Hornbill, Grey-crested Helmet-shrike, Rosy-patched Shrike, Karamoja Apalis, Long-tailed Cisticola, Buff-bellied Penduline and Red-throated Tits, and Steel-blue Whydah to mention a few. Among the many mammal species we hope to see are Cheetah, Leopard, and Topi, while Rock Hyraxes and Klipspringer should be found in the rocky koppies and herds of Hippopotamus wallow in muddy pools. We’ll be staying in a tented camp where, after dinner, we can sit around the camp fire and listen to the nights sounds of the African bush. Night at Mbuzi Mawe Tented Camp.
Day 8: One feature that fills the maps of this region is the massive Lake Victoria, our destination for today. As we head for the seclusion of Speke Bay Lodge for a two-night stay, we pass alongside the Grumeti River where we’ll stop to look for giant Nile Crocodiles, relicts from a seemingly distant era and of course there will be plenty of birds to stop for on the way as well. The quiet backwater of Speke’s Bay on the southeastern shore of Lake Victoria will provide us with an introduction to several more westerly African bird species and once there we’ll spend the rest of the day on foot birding in the lush grassland along the lake shore and along the fringing papyrus beds. Night in Speke Bay Lodge.
Days 9: Speke’s Bay Lodge is a wonderful location where you can just sit back, relax and let the birds come to you. Right within the grounds we’ll find Heuglin’s Courser and Square-tailed Nightjars roosting quietly in the shade while brightly coloured Slender-billed and Yellow-backed Weavers feed among the flowers and Angola Swallows, African Paradise, and Swamp Flycatchers dart after insects. The lake shore attracts large numbers of African Open-bill Storks and huge flocks of Whiskered and White-winged Black Terns while wintering Ruff, Little Stint and Lesser Sandplover scurry along the beach.
Walking further into the lodge grounds, we can find Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, Eurasian Nightjar, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Blue-headed Coucal, Black-headed Gonolek, Red-chested Sunbird, and Northern Brown-throated Weavers and of course no visit to Africa would be complete without a selection of those puzzling cisticolas and today we may find time to sort out the Rattling from the Zitting, Croaking, Winding, and Red-faced. There will also be the opportunity to take a boat ride along the edge of the lake to visit a nearby fishing village while inland from the lake we can visit more open grassland in search of wintering Caspian Plovers, some in full breeding plumage. Nights in Speke Bay Lodge.
Day 10: Leaving Lake Victoria, we re-enter the Serengeti National Park, driving back east through the western corridor towards Ngorongoro and the Ndutu Safari lodge. During the time of our visit the great migration of mammals will moving westwards and with luck we’ll intercept the large herds Wildebeest and Zebra. There will be all kinds of other wildlife to look for ranging from Bat-eared Foxes in the shorter grassland to Common Genets which run along the rafters in the Ndutu bar of an evening.
At Lake Ndutu we’ll watch both Greater and Lesser Flamingo feeding in the shallows, while Cape Teal appear to drift between their legs. Along the lake edge there will be Chestnut-fronted Sandplover and Black-winged Lapwing, while away from the water Gull-billed Terns scour the plains from the air for grasshoppers and dung beetles and Hooded and Egyptian Vulture patrol the skies. Night at Ndutu Safari Lodge.
Day 11: We’ll spend all day in the short grass plains and acacia woodland where the eastern Serengeti blends into the Ngorongoro Conservation area, easily one of the greatest wildlife locations on Earth. Taking a picnic lunch we’ll be free to wander this remote area, stopping to look at whatever grabs our attention. We’ll study mammals and hopefully find some hunting Cheetahs. Lions and Leopards are distinct possibilities. There should as well be a host of new birds in the form of Spotted Eagle Owl, Usambiro Barbet, African, Didric, Klaas’s, Great Spotted and Jacobin Cuckoos, Red-fronted and Black-throated Barbets, Silverbird, Schalow’s Wheatear, and Cliff Chat among many other. As our lodge is located in the heart of the African bush, we sit around the camp fire and listen to strident calls of Hyena and Zebra close by. Night at Ndutu Safari Lodge.
Day 12: Today we begin our journey back towards Arusha, breaking the Journey with a night at Tlona. Our lodge is situated on the edge of some goood forest and which we’ll explore looking for White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, Grey-capped Warbler, and Holub’s Golden Weaver, among others. Night at Tlona.
Day 13: We’ll spend the morning forest birding. After lunch we’ll continue our journey back to Arusha.
The tour concludes this evening in Arusha.
Updated: 18 February 2012
- 2014 Tour Price Not Yet Available
- (2013 Tour Price $6050)
* Tour invoices paid by check carry a modest discount. Details here.
* This tour is organized by our British company, Sunbird. Please review the explanation of our Sunbird pricing here.
Maximum group size 12 participants with two leaders.
Participants who prefer to join the group in London should contact the WINGS office. Participants already in Tanzania can arrange for an earlier Day 1 transfer to our first night’s lodge.