Arrival in Arusha
One of our driver will be meeting you upon arrival at Kilimanjaro International Airport or Arusha Airport. Please advise us about your arrival details.
You will be taken to your accommodation just outside Arusha busy town. Standing at an altitude of 1390m, the town is surrounded by fertile land that yields coffee, wheat and maize to the people of the Waarusha and Wameru tribes. You will meet your birding guide and your fellow travelers for this trip. A short briefing will give you all the practical information regarding your tour. Stay overnight at Karama Lodge - bed and breakfast.
Arusha National Park
After an early breakfast, you will head off, in a four wheel drive safari vehicle, (with picnic lunch) to Arusha National Park for a day of bird viewing and safari. Your specialist nature guide will tell you all there is to know about this small but very diverse park. Relatively few safari-goers visit Arusha National Park. The main reason for this may be that the park doesn't offer as much wildlife as the other parks of the Northern circuit. Cats, for example, are rarely observed, and you can't see the big five – there are no rhinos or lions. There are large mammals, though, including elephants, giraffes, and many other species as buffalo, bushbuck, waterbuck, warthog, vervet blue money, zebra and of course the guereza colobus monkey the trademark of the park which has indeed much natural beauty to offer.
Arusha National Park has three main areas, each one showing its special kind of nature. The Ngurdoto Crater is the remains of a now extinct volcano, and has crater sides covered in dense forest. The Momela Lakes are a mix of soda lakes and freshwater lakes, set in mainly open bush land. Finally, Mount Meru, the sixth highest mountain in Africa reaching to 4566m, constitutes the western half of the park, and offers a nature changing with altitude, from mountain forest to alpine desert. A number of observation points and picnic sites are scattered across the park.
The bird life is remarkably rich, yet the greatest variety is present between October and April, when many Paleartic migrants are present or passing through. More than 400 bird species have been recorded here. Out of these, the gorgeous Hartlaub's Turaco and both Narina and bar-tailed Trogon merit special mention. Finding these beauties takes time and effort, but they can be seen. Careful scanning over the evergreen forest canopy should produce views of exciting birds of prey such as Ayres's Hawk-eagle, African Crowned Eagle, African Goshawk, Augur Buzzard, African Hobby and Lanner Falcon.
Other impressive large birds, found especially around the numerous wetlands include Scaly Francolin, Spur-winged Goose, ducks such as Hottentot, Red-billed and Cape Teal, both Greater and Lesser Flamingos and both Black and Saddle-billed Storks; whilst overhead we'll hear 'yodelling' African Fish Eagles; stalking through the shallows we shall see Black-headed Heron, Intermediate Egret, Sacred and Hadada Ibis, hopefully the uniquely endearing Hamerkop, devoted pairs of graceful Grey Crowned Cranes, lily-trotting African Jacanas, Pied Avocet, skulking Greater Painted Snipe and the two-tone Blacksmith Lapwing.
In the fringing trees there should be African Green and Olive Pigeons, White-browed Coucals and perhaps an African Emerald Cuckoo. Well look aloft for six kinds of swift, Wire-tailed and other swallows and numerous kinds of martin. Along the forest edge there will be Brown-hooded Kingfisher, White-fronted Bee-eater, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Red-and-Yellow Barbet, Moustached Tinker-bird, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Ruppell's Robin-chat and Montane White-eye. In the grasslands we'll see Pangani Longclaws, some dun-coloured larks and streaky pipits. Other species should include Red-winged and Waller's Starling, Red-billed Oxpecker, Variable, Bronze and Amethyst Sunbird, Grey-headed Bush-shrike, Tropical Boubou, African Paradise-flycatcher and we will get our first taste of East Africa's bewildering array of smaller birds: from black-and-white batises and puff-backs to confusing warblers and those very hard to identify cisticolas, from brilliantly marked bishops and whydahs to the seed-eating sparrows and weavers, canaries, waxbills and buntings! Early evening, we will return, our minds replete with wonderful observations to Karama Lodge for dinner and your overnight.
Arusha to Tarangire National Park
After breakfast today, we will transfer our attentions to one of Tanzania's most interesting national parks, Tarangire. Established in 1970, it takes its name from the Tarangire River, a permanent watercourse that flows through the middle of the park creating spectacular views along its route. On approaching the park however, the most eye-catching aspect is a vista of ancient baobabs rising above the yellowing plain. These trees are instantly recognizable by their swollen trunks and often leafless branches – almost as if they were the roots of a tree planted upside down. The scars on their trunks bear witness to the presence of the large herds of Elephant that Tarangire supports. This is a well-wooded region with tall grasses that makes game viewing harder than out on the short grass plains of the eastern Serengeti. However as well as elephant it’s usually possible to find Lions, in the dry season there are many thousands of Wildebeest, Buffalo, Zebra, countless Impala, Grant's Gazelle, Eland and Coke's Hartebeest, as well as Leopard - if we’re exceptionally lucky. We will spend the whole day in the park (with a picnic lunch) and have many opportunities for wildlife viewing and of course, plenty of enjoyable bird watching.
Tarangire is in a boundary zone between different floral environments and thus provides a great variety of habitats for different birds. More than 500 species have been recorded in the park. With the bulk of the migrant birds present between October and April we will be here at the right time to find a fine cross-section of the park's avifauna.
Species such as Yellow-necked and Red-necked Spurfowl, Helmeted Guineafowl, Martial Eagle, Grey Kestrel, Emerald-spotted Wood-dove, White-bellied Go-away bird, Southern Ground Hornbill and Von der Decken's Hornbill, Greater Honeyguide, raucous Orange-bellied Parrots, the endemic Yellow-collared Lovebird, breath-taking Lilac-breasted Rollers, Green Wood-hoopoe, Nubian Woodpecker, Magpie Shrike, Long-tailed Fiscal, African Grey Flycatcher, Superb, Hildebrandt's and Ashy Starling - yet another of Tanzania's endemic birds, Slate-coloured Boubou, White-browed Scrub-Robin and the waxbills - Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Purple Grenadier and Green-winged Pytilia. Dinner and overnight stay at Maramboi Tented Camp -
Tarangire National Park and Karatu area
The whole morning will be dedicated to further bird watching in Tarangire National Park and you will have picnic lunch. Early afternoon, you will have a short drive to Karatu town and you will be able to enjoy a pleasant hike to Endoro Falls within the crater Highland Forest. You will descend to our accomodation for the night. Dinner and overnight at Endoro Lodge
Karatu to Ndutu Area
This morning, after an early breakfast, we will be driven higher into the beautiful mountain forests of the NCCAA, passing the world-renowned Ngorongoro Crater on our right hand side before commencing our descent to Ndutu Plains at the edge of the Serengeti - an 'endless plain' of grasses. Our destination, the Ndutu area, is within the eastern Serengeti short-grass ecosystem, yet lies outside the eastern boundary of the National Park. This allows our drivers to take us "off-road" and get as close as possible to the animals, yet without disturbing them unduly (within the park limits one must remain on the marked tracks, which can be frustrating at times). We will be able to savor the immense open plains and a very lovely marshland area within woodlands where many new bird species may be found. Ndutu is an amazing place to visit all year round. There is an abundance of resident game animals in this area apart from the annual circuit of the wildebeest migration which passes here at the end of the year. All six species of cat can be found, year round, at Ndutu: Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Caracal, Serval and African Wildcat, although some are easier to find than others! Other resident mammal species include Savanna Elephant, both Spotted and the far less common Striped Hyena, Bat-eared Fox, Ratel, two species of hare, plus various antelope and gazelles. Such a diversity of ecosystems within the Ndutu area, ranging from lofty acacia woodlands through open plains to soda lakes and marshes ensures that it is yet another of Tanzania's several exceptional birding locations.
We will have a picnic lunch here and spend several hours dedicated to studying the birds. What we hope to see includes: Southern Ground Hornbill, Kori and White-bellied Bustard, Little Bee-eater, Woodland and Striped Kingfisher, Usambiro Barbet, Rufous Chatterer, Silverbird and the endemic Rufous-tailed Weaver. Species like Crowned Lapwing, Rufous-naped Lark, White-crowned Shrike, Vitelline Masked and Red-billed and White-headed Buffalo Weavers are species which should be seen on every safari in northern Tanzania. However Ndutu has many fine specialties. In a landscape with so many big mammals the birds of prey are wonderfully common and soon make themselves apparent. Species seen on our safaris include Bateleur, Tawny Eagle, Secretary bird, Black-shouldered Kite and both Eastern and Dark Chanting Goshawks as well as migrant Lesser Kestrels all the way from Central Asia. Not as common, but regularly seen, are Martial Eagle, Long-crested Eagle and White-eyed Kestrel. African White-backed, Ruppell's Griffon, Lappet-faced and Hooded Vultures remain widespread in this seemingly pristine and ancient ecosystem, and we will certainly keep an eye out for that most endangered and extravagant-looking White-headed Vulture, an ornate species which thankfully still breeds here around Ndutu.
We will arrive late afternoon at the Ndutu Safari Lodge, home of wildlife lovers for decades. Do not be surprised if wildlife such as Genets come to our door step, this is part of the charm of the place where we will share our wildlife adventures around the camp-fire under the brilliant stars of an inky black African sky. Dinner and overnight at Ndutu Safari Lodge http://www.ndutu.com/
You will have the entire days to further explore this marvelous area and organize our birding activity accordingly. As a group, we might collectively decide if we want to come back to the Lodge for lunch or if we would rather like to spend the entire day ’out in the wild’. A walking safari (in option) is also possible. Dinner and overnight stay at Ndutu Safari Lodge.
Ndutu to Central Serengeti
After an early breakfast we will leave the Ndutu area and drive, via a short walk around Naabi Hill, to Seronera which lies at the hub of the Serengeti National Park. We will take a picnic lunch and enjoy a full day in the bush before reaching our comfortable permanent camp in the late afternoon. Here we will spend the next two nights. The Serengeti is justly famous for its mammals yet also undoubtedly a delight for any bird-watcher. More then 600 species have been recorded here, as many as are seen in all of Europe.
Among these are species with intriguing names such as: Bare faced Go-away Bird, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, Fischer's Lovebird, Brown Parrot, Secretarybird, Diederik and Jacobin Cuckoo, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Black-headed Gonolek, Karamoja Apalis, Grey-backed Fiscal, Ruppell's Long-tailed Starling, Red-faced Crombec, Banded Parisoma, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Siffling Cisticola, Yellow-spotted Petronia, Grey-headed Social Weaver to mention only a few. Dinner and overnight at Kati Kati Camp
The entire day today will be dedicated to exploring the central heartland of the Serengeti National Park. We will choose whether to take a picnic lunch or to return to the camp for lunch. We should get a chance to see two endemics - the Grey-breasted Spurfowl and the Tanzanian, or Ruaha, Hornbill. There will be more raptors such as Bateleur, Black-chested and Brown Snake-eagles, Martial, Tawny and Steppe Eagles, Pallid and Montagu's Harriers plus Pygmy Falcons and various kestrels.
Yellow-throated and Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse come to the pools to drink, near which there will be Plain-backed Pipits, Grey-crested Helmet-shrike in the Acacia gerrardi trees, there are several nightjar species here, and many other birds will likely be added to what should by now be an impressive list, even for this, a specifically bird-orientated, wildlife safari.
Dinner and overnight at Kati Kati Camp.
Seronera to Ngorongoro Crater
Today we will leave the Serengeti and drive back eastwards to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area enjoying a full day of game-viewing along the way. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area spans a vast expanse of highland plains, savanna, savanna woodlands and forests. Established in 1959 as a multiple land use area, where the wildlife coexists with semi-nomadic Maasai pastoralists practicing traditional livestock grazing, it includes the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest caldera. The entire area is of priceless global importance for biodiversity due partly to the presence of several globally threatened species, yet also to the density of wildlife inhabiting the area, plus the annual migration of wildebeest, zebra, gazelles and other animals around the entire Serengeti ecosystem. Extensive archaeological research has also yielded a long sequence of evidence of human evolution and human-environment dynamics, including early hominid footprints dating back 3.6 million years.
Once we arrive at the crater, we can enjoy a naturalist's walk along the rim. The mixture of forest, canyons, grassland plains, lakes and marshes provide habitats for a wide range of bird life. The short rains before Christmas herald the arrival of Eurasian bird migrants at the pools. White Storks, Yellow Wagtails and Barn Swallows mingle with the local inhabitants: stilts, Saddle-billed Storks, Sacred Ibis, Collared Pratincoles, Chestnut-banded Plovers and various species of duck. Lesser Flamingos fly-in (and out) overnight, from their breeding grounds at Lake Natron, to spend days feeding here. Impressive and iconic grassland birds - Maasai Ostrich, Abdim's and White Storks, Kori and Black-bellied Bustard, Grey Crowned Cranes, Rose-throated Longclaws and others - abound. Dinner and overnight at Rhino Lodge
Today, we will experience the unforgettable Crater of Ngorongoro, one of the most picturesque settings for observing wildlife in the whole world. With around 30,000 resident animals, game viewing here is excellent all year round and the photographic opportunities unrivalled!
Encounters with animals are very frequent in this "Garden of Eden", and there is a great variety to see. As mentioned Lake Magadi, a soda lake on the floor of the Crater, supports thousands of flamingos and other water birds. This is also one of the best places to see the endangered Black Rhino. We will spend the entire day in the crater (with picnic lunch) before heading to Karatu for dinner and an overnight stay at Ngorongoro Farm House
Karatu to Lake Eyasi
After an early breakfast, we will head out to Lake Eyasi (2h drive) and bird watch along the lake shores in a dramatic landscape, home to a multitude of migratory birds. The north-eastern edge of the lake lies in the shadow of Ol Doinyo Mountain on the border of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
Lake Eyasi occupies one of the oldest sections of the Eastern Rift Valley, where it runs northeast- southwest for a distance of about fifty miles below an impressive three thousand foot escarpment that forms the south-eastern boundary of the Serengeti National Park and Maswa Game Reserve. To the southeast of the lake is the Yaida valley, home to the Hadzabe people, a tribe of hunter-gatherers.
Eyasi is not somewhere to come in search of big game, but it is an interesting part of Tanzania to see if you're prepared to take things a little more slowly. All year flamingos, pelicans, herons and egrets frequent this shallow soda lake. So birders will likely think they've arrived in paradise here.
This lake attracts vast numbers of migrant water birds of all sizes and colors, from the larger species such as: Great White and Pink-backed Pelicans, Yellow-billed and African Open-billed Storks, African Spoonbill, the two species of flamingo, Grey-headed Gull, Pied Avocet to what, for some, may be at first a bewildering array of smaller waders and shorebirds, many from as far away as the tundra of arctic Siberia.
Fear not though, James will guide you patiently through them all! His Swarovski HD telescope at hand, so that you will get the closest views.
Lunch, dinner and overnight at Lake Eyasi Safari Lodge
This whole day may be dedicated to bird watching at the lake. Alternatively, for those people especially interested a bush walk with Hadzabe hunters is an option. This is unique experience since the Hadzabe represent the last group of hunter-gatherers surviving in Tanzania.
Lunch, Dinner and overnight at Lake Eyasi Safari Lodge.
Lake Eyasi to Arusha
After a late breakfast and time to enjoy the birds in the grounds of our lodge, we must leave Lake Eyasi and drive back to Arusha, either to catch an international flight, or to commence an extension to the safari, such as a beach holiday in Zanzibar.
If you need to spend an extra night in Arusha, we can arrange for you to stay at Karama Lodge (option). We can also arrange for you some extra excursions around Arusha, on the slopes of Mt Meru for example.