When you begin planning a safari in Tanzania, it can be tricky to know where to start. This fantastic country is home to 22 National Parks spanning 99,000 square kilometres, so choosing where to go can make your head spin! Some of these National Parks are famous worldwide, while others have escaped international attention.
One thing is for sure - no trip to Tanzania is complete without visiting the iconic Serengeti, home to the Great Migration. If you aren't familiar, the Great Migration sees millions of wildebeest, antelopes, zebras, and other herd animals make the epic trek from the Serengeti all the way to the Masai Mara in Kenya.
If like me, an African safari is high on your bucket list and you’ve spent years dreaming of the Serengeti, it does not disappoint. In fact, it’s almost exactly as you imagine in your mind’s eye. The only difference is that the Serengeti is even more magical in real life.
In my opinion, the best way to make the most your safari is to combine the Serengeti National Park with a lesser-known, but no less spectacular, park. I had the pleasure of not only spending time in two of the quieter corners of the Serengeti (in terms of humans, not wildlife!) as well as Ruaha National Park. For me, this was the perfect safari experience.
Upon arrival at Kilimanjaro Airport, we transferred to the domestic terminal to take an internal flight to the Serengeti National Park. Seeing the park from above was an incredible experience – what a way to arrive!
When we arrived at the Seronera airstrip, we were greeted by our driver and guide. We started on our transfer to our first lodge which generally takes around an hour. However, this is wild Africa, and we didn’t want to miss any opportunities, so our transfer turned into our first game drive.
Within an hour or so we were blessed with giraffes, elephants, hyenas, gazelles, and more zebra than you could shake a stick at. Incredibly, we even saw a leopard, which are notoriously difficult to spot. I’m unsure if it was beginners’ luck, but we saw four leopards throughout the week!
In the late afternoon, we arrived at our camp - Asanja Moru. This luxurious bush camp is perfectly positioned to see the herds of the Great Migration, but there’s also a high concentration of wildlife throughout the year. It’s not unheard of to wake up to animals wandering through the camp!
Nestled between rocky islands known as the Moru Kopjes, the camp itself provides an authentic bush camping experience with all the creature comforts you might need. In total, there are seven ensuite tents and one family tent. Each tent is unique, with individual character and decor.
The staff couldn’t be more helpful; nothing was too much trouble. They were incredibly knowledgeable and, most importantly, they were all local. The food was great, and the sundowners were perfect. We were treated to delicious bush breakfasts and surprised with safari stops in the wild for snacks and drinks. It was perfect.
One of the highlights of my Serengeti safari tour was spotting my first lions. Not just one or two lions, but a whole pride! I saw four cubs feasting on their breakfast after their elders had filled their bellies, three adolescents playing, and a ‘honeymoon couple’, as the locals call them. I really couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
Not only is the wildlife incredible, but the landscapes are beautiful too. Near Asanja Moru, you can visit Gong Rock, where you’ll see genuine Maasai paintings and rock drums. You can also make a stop at Saline Lake Magadi, a favourite spot for thousands of flamingos. The variety is staggering.
One of my favourite parts of travelling is getting from A to B. Whether it’s the Haast Pass on New Zealand’s South Island or Route One past Big Sur in California, you never know what’s around the next corner or over the next brow of the next hill. So, imagine my delight at the transfer from one side of Serengeti to the other, especially during the Great Migration.
At certain points, all I could see was a long line of herbivores all searching for greener pastures, stretching right into the horizon. This brings the hunt, with predators and scavengers alike waiting for their chance to pounce.
I now really understand what Mufasa means when he tells Simba about the 'Circle of Life', as you really do feel it in Tanzania. Anyone that has ever seen The Lion King will be belting out some Elton in no time.
Perhaps the best thing about this trip from one end to another was realising how not to visit the Serengeti. Passing through the Central Serengeti – the busiest area for tourists - we saw plenty of animals, but we also saw processions of cars lined up around them. Not great for the animals, nor for the observer. I felt extremely glad to be on a more responsible safari that put wildlife first.
By the time we reached our camp in the Grumeti Game Reserve, the rest of the tourist traffic had disappeared. Grumeti Game Reserve is tucked away in a quiet western corridor of the Serengeti, with only a handful of camps and lodges scattered across its 340,000 acres. I felt as though we were back in the African wilderness again.
Grumeti is an important area for conservation, as the Great Migration makes a perilous crossing at the Grumeti River. It’s one of the most dramatic and dangerous moments of their journey. The river is also famous for its hippo and crocodile populations, while rare colobus monkeys swing through the lush forests and herds of elephants plod across the plains.
Asanja Grumeti offers a truly exclusive and wild experience, with only three ensuite guest tents and luxury service levels. Each tent has an outdoor shower and a private veranda with uninterrupted views. They even offer a wild camping night where they will set up a comfortable tent away from the camp with a star-gazing window in the top, as the night sky is free from all light pollution.
From a wildlife standpoint, there were two main highlights of my time in Grumeti. Firstly, I saw the herd of elephants that call this area home. At one point we spotted at least sixteen altogether, from the matriarch all the way down to the babies. It was mind-blowing. My second highlight was seeing the migration in action, and this time remarkably close by. I stepped out of my tent to see a huge parade walking past, no more than fifty metres away. Just incredible.
Next, we transferred back to the airstrip for our flight to Ruaha National Park. Again, you’ll never experience a ‘boring transfer’ in Africa. Every journey is a game drive and another chance to spot wildlife. In fact, on our way to the airstrip, we spotted another leopard in a tree with its kill, along with a troop of baboons and a cute little dik-dik. We also saw hippos by a waterhole and a bunch of Thomson gazelle.
We were travelling privately, so we flew direct from Serengeti to Ruaha National Park, in central to southern Tanzania. After landing at Iringa airstrip, we were collected by our driver and transferred to Asanja Ruaha, our next camp. Surrounded by untouched forest and ancient baobab trees, Asanja Ruaha is home to eight luxury guest suites. Each tented suite has its own private veranda and plunge pool. You can even book a pop-up spa between game drives!
Ruaha really has two main seasons, and both provide completely different but equally brilliant experiences. I arrived in mid-November, which is the tail end of the dry season. This meant that the landscape was arid rather than lush. The river ran dry, but it was still home to many baboons and lots of other animals, such as buffalo. Being dry created the perfect terrain for a walking safari with our exceptionally knowledgeable Masai guide.
Asanja Ruaha sits right on the riverfront. In the wet season, the park is lush, drawing in a variety of animals. Hippos can even be spotted on the bank just outside the lodge. Whether you travel in the wet or dry season, you’re guaranteed epic East African landscapes and an exceptional wildlife experience.
My main highlight of Ruaha was the night safaris. During these night drives, I saw four of the Big Five - lion, buffalo, elephant, leopard and rhino. I also saw all five of the ‘Ugly Five’ - vulture, hyena, warthog, wildebeest and Maribou stork). In addition, I saw four of the ‘Lesser Spotted Five’, sometimes known as the ‘Shy Five’ – porcupine, aardwolf, aardvark, long-eared fox, and meerkat.
On the night safari, not only did I see animals that I never knew existed, but my senses heightened, and my adrenalin was high. Nothing can compare to watching lions stalking their prey through the grass after nightfall.
All three bush camps operated by Asanja were run impeccably and each one was even better than the last. The locations, the drivers, the guides, and the facilities were excellent from start to finish. Everywhere you go, you’ll receive top-notch service.
As most of the staff are Maasai, you get a cultural experience that feels natural and a learning experience that doesn't feel forced. Overall, my safari was beyond anything I could have ever imagined.
Sadly, when my safari came to an end I needed to get straight back to work. However, the greatest way to balance the excitement (and early starts) of a safari, is to pair it with beach time. In Tanzania, this is easy. From Dar es Salaam, it’s less than a 2-hour flight to either Zanzibar or Pemba Island, for that perfect Robinson Crusoe experience.
We can put together all kinds of exciting safari holidays, from family adventures to wild romantic honeymoons. To start planning an unforgettable Tanzania safari, simply give us a call on +44 1273320580 or send us a quote request by email.