Arriving at Kilimanjaro Airport we then transfer to Arusha. There is a free afternoon to relax after your flight, lie by the pool or explore the town
This morning we drive from Arusha to Lake Manyara National Park, one of Tanzania's more intimate parks. The lake shore teems with birds and the park is famous for its elusive tree-climbing lions. There is also a surprising number of large mammals and the striking cliffs of the Rift escarpment form a dramatic backdrop to our first experience of the regions magnificent wildlife.
We head towards the Serengeti National Park arriving after lunch, the rest of the afternoon is spent game viewing in the vast plains that are broken only by stands of acacia trees and the occasional kopje (rock formation). Between December and February we will normally meet the migration with large herds of wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle. There are always plenty of resident animals, such as giraffe, buffalo, and elephant, and many large predators such as lion, cheetah, and leopard. We camp tonight within the park. During the Dec, Jan, Feb period we will stay at the short grass plains or at Seronera to be close to the migration, and during July and August we will go to the Western Corridor, where there are the famous river crossings and the giant crocodiles. At other times we will be staying in the Seronera area, which has the biggest resident animal concentration.
We have another full day in this wonderful park, rising early to make the most of our time. Our guides will choose the best spotting locations for the time of year; we can spend time at the Hippo pool watching these majestic animals laze about in the cool water happily living alongside the crocodiles, watch a big pride of lions, be in the middle of the migration, sometimes surrounded by wildebeest, sometimes by zebras, which travel with the wildebeest. We journey from the wide open plains to the kopjes: these volcanic rocky outcrops provide protection and shelter for a wide variety of animals and from the top we can look out across the vast grasslands of the Serengeti. This diverse and interesting landscape will provide us with the ultimate in game viewing, we will hopefully see all of the plain games; elephants, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, lions and it you are lucky the elusive leopard and cheetah, as well as huge amounts of interesting bird life, from the elegant secretary birds to the flightless ostrich.
We have a final game drive in the Serengeti before heading back into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, en route there is an opportunity to visit Olduvai Gorge. It is within this steep sided ravine that Louis and Mary Leakey made some of the world's most important archaeological discoveries in the 1950s. Here in a small museum we are able to see evidence of our ancestors that have been dated back to 2.5 million years ago. From here we drive on to the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater where we spend the night.
Sleeping near the Ngorongoro Crater means that we are one of the first vehicles to descend into the caldera. Ngorongoro is a special place in that it is a Conservation Area, not a National Park. This means that the whole area is managed for both the animals and the local Masai people who graze their cattle alongside the indigenous wildlife. During the drive in Ngorongoro we have a chance to glimpse something of the Masai's lifestyle, the crater walls provide a natural sanctuary for the animals, which means there is plenty to see: lions, elephants, buffalo, rhino and leopard (if you are lucky enough). The only animal you won't see in here is a giraffe, whose long legs are unable to cope with the steeps sides of the crater. Later this afternoon we will leave the crater.
Today we head to Tarangire National Park. The park, which has its own source of water, comes into its own in the dry season as birdlife congregate on the Tarangire River and herds of giraffe, zebra, buffalo and, in particular, elephant can be seen. Predators such as lions and leopards are also regularly spotted here.
On our last day we have an optional early morning balloon ride (which should be pre-booked) before heading back towards Arusha and, for those on the group flights, Kilimnajaro Airport in time to catch our flight home.