February to early March marks the annual “calving season” for the wildebeests of Tanzania…an incredible time to witness the synchronized birthing of some 300,000 – 400,000 wildebeest calves in a couple weeks’ time and to see the Great Migration. If you’ve ever considered going on a safari in Tanzania, this is a great time to go – the weather is mild and dry, the Great Migration is in play near Ndutu and the Salei plains (Southern Serengeti/Ngorongoro Conservation Area) and you might even catch a glimpse of baby wildebeest calves being born!
Following the millions of wildebeests, zebras and gazelles, predators like hyenas and lions lurk closely behind in hopes of easy prey, making it an even greater spectacle…and opportunity to see Tanzania’s wildlife and Africa’s Big 5: The lion, the elephant, the rhino, the leopard and the buffalo. The term Big 5 was originally coined by big-game hunters and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt – but is now popular vernacular for tourists and tour operators when discussing safaris.
Our safari begins!
After landing in Kilimanjaro at 2am local time, we were picked up at the airport by a driver from Good Earth who took us to our first hotel for a few hours of rest. In the morning we began our journey. Our first stop, Tarangire National Park, is the sixth largest national park in Tanzania, with 2850 sq km. Known for its huge number of 300+ herds of elephants, it also holds the largest concentration of wildlife outside Serengeti.
One of the surprises for me on our trip was how lush and green parts of Tanzania are. I always pictured the land to be vast, flat and brown. But how wrong I was! The scenery was stunning, with beautiful greens, trees and rolling hills – and different topography with each park. Definitely a highlight of the trip.
The main attraction of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the crater – one of the largest volcanic calderas in the world, it measures about 20 km across, 600 meters deep and 300 sq km in area. A lush green valley home to thousands of animals and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, the conservation area measures over 8000 sq km and is the only place on earth where wild animals and mankind co-exist in harmony.
Tanzania’s oldest and most famous park, the Serengeti, consists of almost 15000 sq km of grasslands, woodlands and plains. The Masai phrase “Siringet” means endless plain, hence Serengeti. The park does seemingly stretch on forever. Serengeti is famed for its annual migration of the millions of wildebeest, zebras and gazelles as they trek through their 1000 km pilgrimage.
We enjoyed peeking our heads out of the pop-up roof on our jeep and taking in the view while our guide drove. Other than getting quite dusty, it was liberating feeling the wind in our faces. This must be why dogs love sticking their heads out the window. 🙂
And now the fun part…our animal sightings!
Calving season means lots of babies. We were lucky to see so many!
Good Earth Tours wonderfully arranged all our accommodations and they surpassed my expectations. If you have the option to stay in a permanent tent or a hotel room, I highly recommend the tents! Feels close enough to nature but with all the amenities 🙂
> A few things to keep in mind before going on safari in Tanzania:
- Check the CDC site – read the pertinent health information and make sure all your vaccinations are up to date.
- Hire a trusted tour operator – you will need one for the safari. We went with Good Earth Tours and they are highly recommended. We had a great time and saw all the wildlife we could imagine (including the Big 5)! Our driver was knowledgeable and personable – I think it really makes or breaks the trip so take time to do some research.
- Pack wisely – with most safaris you’ll be constantly on the go, spending only one night or so at each place. Try to pack light and choose your clothing with care depending on the weather and time of year. Insect repellent, hats, comfortable light-weight hiking shoes and sunblock are must-haves. Binoculars and a good camera with zoom lens are also great to have on hand. Ladies, you might also consider wearing a sports-bra…those roads are bumpy and the jeeps are bouncy!
- Don’t forget you’ll need a visa to enter Tanzania – it’s available upon arrival at the airport. The cost is $100 USD or $50 for residents of UK/European Union – payable only in cash so make sure you have enough to cover this.
- You can save some money by traveling with a bigger group. The jeeps can accommodate up to 5 or 6 people comfortably and you’ll be able to share the cost between more people (double-check this with your tour operator). Not only that but having more friends to share the experience with can also make for a better time. We went with our friends Thomas & Jenni and it was a great time.
Remember a fun safari means safety first! Use common sense and treat nature and animals with respect. This was a once in a lifetime trip for me and if you’ve ever thought about going, I hope you’ll get a chance to visit one day too. 🙂