The word safari is one of the Swahili words that has been incorporated into international usage. The meaning of the word is simply "trip". Outside of East Africa the meaning has become more specific to mean a trip offering wildlife viewing in the natural habitat. Tanzania with over 30% of its land being protected, this means that it is not difficult for a Tanzanian trip to be a safari. While safari destinations are to be found all over the country, Gladys Adventure has elected to stay focused close to our base in Moshi, Tanzania - "in the shadow" of Mt Kilimanjaro. We offer northern Tanzania safaris for the time being. But, with the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater as the highlights along with several other solid destination choices there is a great opportunity to see amazing sights. While the animals are amazing so is the scenery and the cultures. From the smoldering live volcano Ol Doinyo Lengai, to the majestic crater walls in Ngorongoro, tribal visit to the Maasai, watching the Hadzabe tribe on a hunt, visiting Olduvai Gorge. The possibilities are endless.
Your safari can start on any day of the year that you like. Each group can decide if they want to keep their safari private or open it up for others to join. We will never add people to your group unless you request us to open the group up to others. In those instances, the price of the safari is adjusted accordingly. Each participant will always have a window seat and each of our safari vehicles has a pop up safari viewing roof. We use Toyota Land Cruisers for our safaris. We have both standard and extended vehicles to use according to the number of participants.
We offer a variety of overnight accommodations while on safari, from basic camping to luxurious lodges and tented camps. For all levels, the vehicles, guides and game drives are the same. Only the meals and accommodations differ. Lodges and tented camps will have their own food service so only on basic camping safaris will we bring a cook and food.
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The oldest national park in Tanzania, the word Serengeti is derived from the Maasai word meaning "endless plain". With a reputation so huge, it might seem impossible for the park to live up to its hype. But it does indeed deserve its fame. As host to most of the continual cycle of the animal great migration this is a very good start. The Mara River crossing in the north (Kogatende portion of the Serengeti) is the most famous and spectacular portion of this cycle (Little known fact: both sides of the Mara River where the wildebeest crossings occur are in Tanzania). If you want a chance to witness this, August - September are the best bets. But there is also an excellent spectacle in February - early March. The birthing season of the wildebeest. During approximately a 3 week period over 400,000 calves are born. This occurs in the Ndutu area, which straddles the Southern Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The birthing is done in unison, which works as a preservation since predators can only eat so much at at a time. A mother can delay birth up to one month to be in unison with the others. A newborn calf will be able to stand within 2 - 3 minutes of birth and is able to run within 5 minutes! Overall, the movement of the migration is based on the best grazing at the moment. This in turn is based on the weather. But, there migration is not the only reason to visit the Serengeti. It is great year round. The park is known for the large number of cats (lions, cheetahs, leopards, caravels, servals). It is also one of the best places to find black rhino.
From Moshi, the central Serengeti (Seronera) is a 9 hours drive, which requires you to drive across Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), but not through the crater. There is no game viewing opportunities along this route until you arrive in the Serengeti. This long drive (and in parts a bit rough) is often broken up by either visiting Tarangire, Lake Manyara or stopping at Ngorongoro Crater for the night. There are several airstrips inside of the Serengeti to fly into by small plane. There is also a medium size plane that flies from the Seronera to Zanzibar.
Accommodations in the Serengeti can range from basic camping to exclusive lodges costing more than $10,000/night. Tented camps and lodges can fill quite early in Kogatende (August & September) and Ndutu (February & March). Campsites are always available for basic camping. If very short on time, you can squeeze in a Serengeti safari in 3 days but it is quite tiring and short. At least 4 days is best. To drive to the northern Serengeti, an absolute minimum of 5 days is needed.
Along with the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater is a destination not to be missed. Named as a World Heritage Site, the NCA is not a national park. Unlike national parks, the indigenous population is still allowed to be in the area but with certain restrictions, balancing preservation, human development and tourism. The highlight is Ngorongoro Crater, the largest unbroken caldera in the world. Winding your way down the 600m walls brings you into an area amazingly dense with animals. Most of the animals here are non-migratory so this is a reliably great destination. It is easier to list what you can't find here rather than all you can find. You will not see giraffe, topi or gazelle inside of the crater. Yes, it is possible to spot the "Big Five" in just a few short hours. The crater is only open from 6am until 6pm. All people (including Maasai) and vehicles must be out of the crater except during these hours since the environment is fragile. The crater is only 10km in diameter though so all will be seen in the recommended 6 hours maximum inside.
All accommodations are outside of the crater. There is enough elevation-- 2,286m (7,500 ft) at the top if the crater to feel the difference in oxygen and the chill. It also tends to be quite windy at the top so bringing sufficient layers of clothes is important for your comfort. There is a pubic campsite (Simba Campsite) and a number of lodges/tented camps inside of the conservation area. There are many more just to the east of NCA, a few kilometers outside of the boundary. These are good choices except not practical if coming from the Serengeti to the west. In addition to the daily conservation fee (entry fee $60/person + 18% VAT = $71/person), there is an additional fee for each vehicle that enters into the crater. At $250 + 18% VAT ($295 total) for each vehicle entering into the crater this makes a Ngorongoro Crater safari more pricey than other destinations. All Gladys Adventure prices include all park fees and taxes, so this is already calculated into any price quote. In addition to the crater itself having a restriction of people being out from 6pm until 6am each day, the NCA itself does not allow entry or exit from 6pm until 6am daily. Being a 5 hours drive from Moshi, this makes a day safari to Ngorongoro Crater possible but a tight schedule and tiring.
There is more to the NCA than the crater itself. On the way from the crater towards the Serengeti is Olduvai Gorge museum ($30 + 18% VAT admission per person). Here you can learn about the findings of Dr Leakey and his staff. This can be a 1 - 2 hours stopover on the way to/from the Serengeti. There are also some Maasai villages in the area to visit ($20/person). North of Ngorongoro Crater is a smaller crater, Empakai Crater. There is a chance for a short walk with a park ranger here. There is a public campsite near this area.
Mentioned in the Serengeti section, is Ndutu, which straddles the Serengeti and NCA. During February and March. The animals wander back and forth in an unpredictable manner between NCA and Serengeti so it is best to have permits for both destinations during this time as their location can change from morning to afternoon or one day to the next. In this area are some nice tented camps but no public campsites. If on a budget safari you could visit as a day trip from your campsite.
This is a beautiful and underrated park with plenty of elephants and giraffe. This park is at its best during dry months (January - February, July - October) since the only water source in the area is the Tarangire River which winds its way through the park. The landscape is dotted with the massive and unusual baobab trees and huge termite mounds. In addition to the numerous elephants and giraffe, it is possible to find lions, buffalo, wildebeest, zebra, hippo, various antelope, impala, gazelle, leopard, warthog, monkeys, baboon, ostrich. You won't find rhino and there are almost no cheetah. The park has some nice lodges and tented camps. Typically we like to spend an afternoon, overnight followed by morning game drive before exiting the park. This amount of time is sufficient. The park is about 3.5 - 4 hours drive from Moshi, making it a good option for a day trip if you are short of time. Otherwise it pairs well with a trip to the Serengeti, breaking up the long drive. As a 2 day safari with either Lake Manyara or Ngorongoro this works well also.
Located along the Great Rift, this park includes the shallow soda lake Manyara. During wet season (March - May, November) this lake hosts many flamingos. The chemistry of the lake is changing so that in drier months there are no longer many flamingos at all. The park is favored greatly by bird watchers, with over over 400 species of birds present. The most numerous animals present include giraffe, zebra, lions, cheetahs, leopards, gazelle, hippos, elephants, impala, baboon and monkeys. Typically spending half day here is sufficient time. We prefer the accommodations that are found just outside of the park.
This is a very convenient park to get to, less than one hour drive from Moshi or Arusha. But the park is not heavily visited. It has lovely landscape and contains Tanzania's second highest mountain, Mt Meru. It has large numbers of giraffe and antelope but lacks lions, cheetahs, rhino, and other tourist favorites. Walking safaris are an option here, with a mandatory armed park ranger. And we typically offer this destination as a day trip. The Mt Meru climb is a good option also (4 days typically -- see our trekking page for details).
This shallow soda lake located to the east of Ngorongoro Conservation area and to the south west of Lake Manyara is home to one of the most fascinating culture tours - a visit to the Hadzabe and Datooga tribes. The Datooga are pastorialists who have also turned to some agriculture. They are a very isolated tribe, resisting outside influence and education. Only 5% speak Swahili and their literacy rate is at 1%. They are skilled craftsmen and are experts at melting scrap metal and molding arrowheads and knives which they trade with the Hadzabe tribe. Outside of this interaction, they are not a friendly tribe towards outsiders typically but will welcome your visit with a local guide. In the past young Datooga warriors would improve their status by killing any outsider. Fortunately this no longer is the case. They are a shy tribe but, when escorted by a local guide, welcomes visitors.
The Hadzabe (Hazda) are one of the last true hunter-gatherer tribes left in the world. They love their lifestyle and have completely rejected government attempts to assimilate them into modern society. Free houses and schools were left abandoned as they quickly returned to their traditional ways. They are very opportunistic, hunting anything with bow and arrow from mice to giraffe, with baboon being their favored prey. For large prey they use poison tipped arrows. Their dwellings are very primitive and temporary to the extent that if a large animal such as a giraffe is killed, they will move to the kill site rather than bring the animal to their camp. Since their huts of sticks, mud and leaves can be built in a few hours. They are experts at gathering wild honey and foraging for edible roots and berries. You can accompany them on a hunt, learn how to make fire without matches, compare your archery skills and join them in dance. They are a very friendly tribe.
The surrounding area is a very harsh environment with onion farming being the mainstay. We can arrange a visit to one of the small farms for an insight into the local life of the inhabitants.
To the north of Ngorongoro Conservation Area is Ol Doinyo Lengai (mountain of god --translated from the Maasai language). This is an active volcano 2962 m ( 7,650 ft) high that is sacred to the traditional Maasai religion. For geologists this volcano is of special interest due to the unique composition of the lava. This lava is much cooler than any other (but still 600°C). it is not hot enough to give off light in the daytime but emits a dull glow at night. The lava is not thick but water-like, making it flow very quickly (and dangerously). The molten lava is black in color but solidifies into a white powder. The volcano is quite active and unpredictable. The surrounding area is very desolate, dry, dusty and hot. With daytime temperatures regularly in excess of 40°C (104°F). The mountain can be climbed in half day, but is considered the toughest climb in the country (surpassing Kilimanjaro and Mt Meru). It is steep, covered with loose gravel, dusty, without shade. Gaiters to keep stones out of your shoes are essential, plenty of water must be brought (4 - 5L recommended per person), gloves for scrambling on your hands, bandanna or face mask to filter dust and good sun protection are all vital. The local authorities require climbing with one of their local guides. They do not have any safety training or equipment, very few of them speak any English and they will climb at a very fast pace with little regard to your ability to keep up. The climb starts at midnight to avoid the scorching heat of the day. It will be cold at this time so a layer of clothing is important. Most climbers return from the climb at mid morning. We do not recommend this climb but can offer it to you with a liability waiver.
Along the Kenyan border is Lake Natron, a shallow lake with a pH of the water near that of ammonia. Nothing can survive in these waters except an algae highly favored by flamingos. At times several hundred can be seen crowding the shallow waters. A trip to Lake Natron would include walking along the lake shore, hiking at a waterfalls and cultural tourism of the Maasai community. This is truly off the beaten path in a remote, desolate, scorching hot but amazing environment. One day at this destination is sufficient to see all.