YOUR TANZANIA QUESTIONS ANSWERED
There are a variety of safaris available in Tanzania; watch the migration in the Serengeti or travel the less trodden paths in Western Tanzania. Follow the migration in a mobile tented camp, or stay in a luxury lodge with your own 4×4 vehicle!. With some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, including the Ngorongoro Crater, and some amazing, wildlife Tanzania is a great bet. Tourism here is ahead of a lot of other destinations, with lots of good roads and a wide range of accommodation.
Please see below some answers to those frequently asked questions in Tanzania, and if there is anything you think we are missing or you would like to know – please get in touch.
Not all camps/lodges in Tanzania have mosquito nets. It all depends on their individual location, i.e. altitude, near open water, etc.
Also, much of the accommodations are tented camps. These tents tend to be tightly sealed and zipped tight avoiding the need for mosquito netting. Furthermore, at most camps/lodges, while you enjoy dinner, housekeeping will complete a turndown service and spray the rooms with mosquito repellent. Regardless of mosquito netting, you should always bring insect repellent with DEET, trousers/slacks, sports/long sleeved shirt and/or blouse and dress/skirt for ladies.
The drive times from lodge to lodge will vary but most of the lodges in Tanzania are between 5hrs and 8hrs drive.
There are, however, a number of lodges that are only an approximate 3hrs drive from one another. You may only be travelling 200kms to your next lodge but road conditions, especially during the wet seasons, lengthen the journeys. Also, in many locations you will be game driving and participating in other activities en-route to your next lodge meaning that you may check into your next lodge at sunset.
For the majority of the time however we recommend flying between the various lodges you are staying at; this offers you a quick and reliable means of transportation and also offers you some stunning views!
Ruaha National Park is perfect for people looking for ‘off-the-beaten-track’, camp fire and cultural experiences.
Ruaha National Park is Tanzania’s largest National Park at 20,300km2. Activities in Ruaha centre around the Ruaha River, with its spectacular river systems, pools and rocky kopjes. Huge baobab trees stud the landscape and tall palms and riparian forest line the river which follows the south-east boundary for 160km. Other habitats include swamps, grasslands, and acacia woodland.
Ruaha has a hot, dry climate particularly between June-Nov, with the hottest period generally being Oct and Nov before the rains break leaving the Ruaha River dwindling with pools of water swarming with crocodiles and hippopotamus and dry rivers of sand. The rain mainly falls between Oct-May and towards the end of the wet period the Ruaha River becomes a flooded torrent. Game viewing is at its best from June-Nov when the animals concentrate around the Ruaha River, but the bush is greener and prettier from Jan-June and the birding is best during the European winter months of Dec-April.
And the wildlife…
Ruaha is an ecological meeting point; it is the only protected area in which the flora and fauna ofeastern and southern Africa overlap. It lies at the southerly extent of the range for east African ungulate species such as lesser kudu and Grants gazelle but it also harbours a number of antelope species that are rare or absent in northern Tanzania such species include greater kudu, roan antelope, and sable antelope.
The elephant population is the largest of any Tanzanian national park with some 12,000 elephant individuals migrating trough the Greater Ruaha Ecosystem. Ruaha is an excellent national park for predators. There can be close sightings of lions of over 20 individuals to a pride. Cheetah are resident in the open plains particularly in the Lundu area north east of the Mwagusi River and leopard is also frequently spotted. Over 100 African wild dog inhabit the Greater Ruaha Ecosystem. Visitors have the chance to spot one pack of African wild dog, consisting of approximately 40 individuals, as they move into the Mwagusi River area. Other predators include black-backed jackal, spotted hyena and the striped hyena (rare to spot as it is at the southern limit of its range). Ruaha’s most common ungulates include giraffe, zebra, buffalo, impala, waterbuck, bushbuck, reedbuck, eland, dik-dik, and warthog. Other wildlife includes mongoose, porcupine, wild cat, and civet.
Ruaha is an excellent birding destination with over 450 species recorded and has a good mix of southern and northern species. In particular, the Tanzanian endemics black-collard lovebirds and ashy starlings are found at their southerly extent of their distribution while the crested barbet, a southern African species, inhabits the park replacing the east African red and yellow barbet. Eurasian migrating birds flock to Ruaha twice a year (March-April & Oct-Nov).
Visitors can enjoy game drives, and depending on the lodge/camp guided game walks based at a lodge/camp, and mobile walking safaris between mobile fly camps.
The Ngorongoro Crater is home to much more than wildlife safaris, with important cultural and archaeology here too.
Away from the wildlife, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area has other areas of significance. Oldupai Gorge is one of Africa’s most important archaeological excavations where some of the world’s most humanoid remains were discovered. Inhabitants such as the Hadzabe and Tatoga people, hunter-gatherers and pastoralists, have lived here for thousands of years. Amongst the winding sandy tracks through the open grasslands and acacia trees exist the Shifting Sands. With religious associations for the Masaai the Shifting Sands are remarkable, moving along in the exact same formation at a rate of approximately 5mtrs per year. It consists of volcanic ash deposits from Oldonyo Lengai, too heavy for the winds to blow away. Since 1969, the sand has drifted some 2km’s.
Walking safaris to the Olmoti and Empakaai Craters is one of the little known secrets in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. There exist wonderful views at the Empakaai Crater rim, 6km’s in diameter, of its lush and fertile crater floor and lake. This alkaline, deep soda lake (85m in depth) is surrounded by steep walls of the caldera, blanketed in forest, which rises to almost 300m above the crater floor. The views along the trail downwards are spectacular at every point with changing views of Empakaai itself. Upon descending towards the lake there are chances to spot buffaloes, bushbucks, blue monkeys, and birds such as sunbirds and turacos. Waterbucks and elands frequent the quiet and wild lake-shore.
By venturing to the northern and eastern side of the crater there exist great views out to the dramatic cone of the still active volcano, Oldoinyo Lengai and on a clear day wonderful views of the Great Rift Valley and Lake Natron beyond Oldoinyo Lengai are on show. This is also a great area to see the Embulbul depression, a shallow, grassy basin formed where the slopes of Olmoti, Empakaai, Lolmalasin and Losirua volcanoes join with the outer rim of Ngorongoro. Maasai and their livestock, as well as eland, buffalo, and reedbuck inhabit the area around the Olmoti Crater. The Munge River, originating from the waters of the Crater walls, plummets hundreds of metres over the cliffs into the steep sided ravine below.
When travelling to foreign destinations it is always respectful to dress modestly and we suggest the emphasis is on comfortable clothing.
It is often warm on the plains and at lower altitudes but cold in the hilly and mountainous areas; a rain jacket, fleece and good quality walking shoes/boots are essential.
The remote regions of southern Tanzania make for a wild and raw safari experience than the more accessible national parks and reserves of northern Tanzania.
The vast areas of Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park consist of secluded and pristine wilderness areas and a wealth of wild game. Throughout these areas it is still possible to enjoy a game-drive without seeing another vehicle.
Three times the size of the Serengeti, the Selous Game Reserve is the largest wildlife sanctuary on the African continent covering an astounding 54,600km2. The Selous forms the nucleus of the 155,000km2 Greater Selous-Niassa Ecosystem, the largest tracts of relatively untrammelled bush in Africa, containing perhaps the greatest concentration of big game left on earth. Selous has a particularly high variety of habitats including Miombo woodlands, open grasslands, riverine forests and swamps. The reserve’s fire-climax vegetation creates soil erosion during the heavy rains. During this period, what once was a network of dry rivers of sand quickly become raging river torrents, creating a very dynamic ecosystem. As a consequence, roads within Selous become impassable and most camps close towards the end of the wet season (April – June) and reopen in July.
Selous Game Reserve is home to some of Africa’s large mammal populations including globally significant populations of African elephant (70,000), black rhinoceros (150) and wild hunting dog (1,300). It also includes one of the world’s largest known populations of hippopotamus (40,000) and buffalo (200,000). There are also important populations of ungulates including sable antelope (8,000), Lichtenstein’s hartebeest (55,000), greater kudu, eland and 100,000 white-bearded wildebeest (common in Tanzania & Kenya but at the most southerly extent of its range with the Rufiji River forming a natural barrier between the ranges) and Nyassa wildebeest (at the most northerly extent of its range again with the Rufiji River forming a natural barrier between the ranges). In addition, there is also a large number of lion (4,000), leopard, puku antelope (50,000), wildebeest (100,000), zebra (35,000), impala (25,000), giraffe (completely absent south of the Rufiji River), Nile crocodile, side-striped jackal, spotted hyena, Sharpe’s greysbok, topi, bushbuck, waterbuck, reedbuck, klipspringer, red and blue duikers, warthog, Sanje crested mangabey, Uhehe red colobus monkey (vulnerable), blue samango monkey, black and white colobus monkey, and yellow baboon amongst others. There exists a rich array of bird life in Selous, with an approximate 450 species including the endemic Udzungwa forest partridge (classed as vulnerable) and the rufous-winged sunbird (also vulnerable). Other species include knob-billed duck, southern ground hornbill, bateleur eagle, Stierling’s woodpecker, and white-headed lapwing. The globally threatened wattled crane, corncrake and lesser kestrel also occur.
Despite its vast area, the Selous is divided into two uneven parts split by the Rufiji and the Great Ruhaha Rivers. The approximate 5,000 foreigners who visit annually (1% of tourist arrivals to Tanzania) enjoy wildlife spotting in an area north of the Rufiji River, in just 5% of the total surface area. Game drives are particularly good towards the end of the dry season (Sept-Nov) when the large mammals concentrate along meandering Rufiji River, and the network of 5 attractive lakes and adjoining narrow streams, channels, swamps and volcanic hot springs.
Lion kills are regularly witnessed in Selous. Indeed, visitors have a higher chance to witness a lion kill here than almost any other reserve in Africa. This is partly because the dry season forces the lions to resort to an unusual diurnal hunting strategy. During this period, the lions rarely move from the lakes and wait to pounce on their prey.
Selous is probably the best place in Africa to see the endangered free-ranging African wild dog with an approximate population of 1,300, twice the total of any other African country, let alone any individual game reserve and close to 1/3rd of the worlds total population. The denning season between June-Aug is the best time to view the 3 separate packs (60 individuals) that live north of the Rufiji River.
With a herd of approximately 150 black rhinoceros Selous has the largest herd to be confined within any east African conservation area. Visitors to the reserve will search for the 10 resident individuals that inhabit the area north of the Rufiji River, in the Kidai sector and the Beho Beho hills of the north-west. During the dry season the elephants partake in an ancient migration between the Selous and Mozambique’s Niassa Game Reserves. This is one of the largest natural trans-boundary eco-systems in Africa with up to 70,000 elephant individuals roaming the two parks, 84% on the Tanzanian side.
Being a game reserve the Selous is not subject to the regulations that govern the national parks of Tanzania. Visitors can enjoy boat trips along the sandbanks, oxbow lakes, lagoons, and channels of the Rufiji River, tiger and vandu catfish fishing trips, game drives, excursions to the hot springs, guided game walks based at a lodge/camp, and mobile walking safaris between mobile fly camps.
A vast country and home to some of nature’s greatest events, Tanzania is accessible all year. However to see what you want, you must be there are the right place in the right time…
The vast Serengeti plains and the hills of Kenya’s Masai Mara are the setting for the world’s greatest wildlife spectacle, the 1.5 million animal ungulate (wildebeest) migration. Over 1.4 million wildebeest and 200,000 burchell’s zebra and gazelle, relentlessly tracked by Africa’s great predators, migrate over 3,000km during their circuitous annual pilgrimage in search of rain ripened grass. There exist over 10,000km2 of nutrient-rich short-grass plains in the southern Serengeti National Park while the western and northern sections are defined by their long grass and acacia woodlands.
Once the ‘short rains’ fall in November and December (sometimes as early as October) the migration moves from Kenya’s Masai Mara down through the eastern side of Tanzania’s Serengeti into its sweet and fertile southern-grass plains. It is the Serengeti’s nutrient-rich short-grass plains that consist of high levels of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus derived from volcanic ash blown for millions of years by easterly winds from the Ngorongoro Highlands that provide the vital nutrients and elements for the pregnant wildebeest and their newborn young.Here, the wildebeest and other ungulates settle between January and April, hosting the greatest concentrations of animals.
There is no bad time to visit Tanzania as each season is brimming with activity and each season has its advantages, however if possible, it is worth trying to avoid the peak tourist season, the northern hemispheres ‘winter’. June and July are particularly busy but this is also the best time for viewing the wildebeest migration and river crossings in the northern Serengeti. The dry season, particularly between June and October, is also great for trekking, which include trekking Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru. Temperatures on the coast tend to be more bearable at this time of year and there is generally less mosquitoes. Chimpanzee tracking in western Tanzania can be done all year round however some of our favourite times are during the months of July to October when the chimpanzees are on the lower slopes of the Mahale Mountains making for easier trekking.
The wetter period of the year between November and April is the greenest, particularly in the Serengeti. This period offers the best in birding with resident species supplemented by a number of Palaearctic and intra-African migrants. The wettest months are March and April, when parts of the country may experience storms daily.
For more details, head to our Tanzania When to Go Guide.