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Northern Tanzania - July /August 2014


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Trip to Northern Tanzania – 20th July to 4th August 2014


I haven’t overloaded this report with photos – I plan to publish some of my better ones in the photography forums, so it’s more a description of the trip.



Flights were with KLM from Manchester UK / Amsterdam / Kilimanjaro and return. Outbound the flight from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro was a direct daytime flight. Return was via Dar Es Salaam. We were very happy with the flights. Were lucky enough to travel business class, and it was much, much better than British Airways. (For any USA based readers, we met quite a few Americans who had used the USA / Istanbul / Kilimanjaro route via Turkish Airlines, which they were complimentary about.)


The trip was booked through our usual agents, Expert Africa in the UK


We stayed overnight at Onsea House in Arusha

Then four nights in Oliver’s camp in Tarangire NP

Two nights in Lemala Lodge at Ngongoro

Four nights in Dunia camp in the Serengeti

Three nights on Rubondo Island in Lake Victoria



General Comments on Northern Tanzania

This was our first experience of Northern Tanzania (our only previous trip was to the Selous). Most of our other safaris have been to Zambia and Botswana. We expected it to be different, but not quite as different as we found it. I don’t want this to sound snobbish, but for regular safari goers I think it is important to know what to expect.


The first thing to comment on is how relatively few roads there are, let’s invent a new measure of “roads per hectare” or rph. The problem with the low rph is that it’s pot luck whether the game is by the road, or half a kilometre away, so we found it frustrating to be able to see a rhino in the distance, for example, but not be able to approach it. There is strictly NO off-road driving (which makes sense given the number of visitors) which also means a high concentration of vehicle on the roads. I won’t forget the sight of twenty land cruisers lined up looking at the head of a leopard in a tree 200 meters away.

There are also designated picnic areas (with toilet blocks) where you are expected to take your refreshments. Again, it makes sense given the visitor volumes, but it does lose spontaneity (sorry, guys – no sundowners).


I am sure that the park authorities do their best to keep the roads graded, but again the high volume of traffic means some pretty horrid corrugations.


Most of the vehicles we saw were closed Landcruisers with sliding windows and a pop-up roof. (Ours were a bit different – see comments below.) Often, they have up to eight people inside, which meant that game viewing must have been nigh on impossible for most of the guests. If you are planning on visiting the area, I would strongly suggest that you check what vehicles are in use.



Asilia Africa

When in Tanzania, we were hosted in Tanzania by Asilia Africa, who operated all the lodges except for Lemala. I was most impressed by Asilia. The lodges were well run, and they really look after their staff (for example, their guides are salaried and paid all year round. I don’t think I’ve come across another company where the staff were so enthusiastic about their employers. Each lodge also has at least one local community project and one conservation project. If I were travelling in an area where they operate, I would certainly want to use them again.


Their vehicles are a little different. Their in-camp vehicles are mostly open, with a canopy. For our longer journeys, we had a closed vehicle, but with proper wind down windows and fully detachable roof panels, which for what we were doing was probably the best compromise.


Here are picture of the three vehicle types:


Asilia Open




Asilia Closed




Standard Closed




The young man is our guide John, I’ll introduce him a bit later



Oliver’s Camp – Tarangire NP


Tarangire NP is well known for its elephants, and lots of warthogs. The latter is understandable once you know that the name should be written Tara Ngiri. Tara is the river on the southern boundary of the park and Ngiri is the local name for warthogs – so Warthog River J


Oliver’s camp is well situated, overlooking a plain where there are many animals. Here is a view from our “tent”:






Tarangire NP is well known for its elephants, and lots of warthogs. The latter is understandable once you know that the name should be written Tara Ngiri. Tara is the river on the southern boundary of the park and Ngiri is the local name for warthogs – so Warthog River J


Oliver’s camp is well situated, overlooking a plain where there are many animals. Here is a view from our “tent”






The accommodation is excellent, both the tents and the public rooms. After forty three years of marriage we were given the honeymoon suite – perhaps to avoid arguments between the two pairs of genuine honeymooners who were staying. It was distinguished mainly by twin (imitation!) bucket showers.


The main drag in southern Tarangiri is a road alongside “the swamp”. Cue obligatory picture of muddy elephants.





In truth there are many, many elephants in the plain beyond the swamp. On one occasion I estimated around one hundred. The only other time I have seen so many is in the north of Chobe in Botswana


There are other creatures. Zebras dust bathing.





And bat eared foxes





There is also an area with a fantastic collection of baobab trees (and a fantastic collection of tsetse flies, unfortunately). This was an impressive specimen, but note particularly the “browse line” marking the highest the elephants could reach






Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro


We flew from Tarangire to Lake Manyara airstrip, and met John, our Asilia guide for the next week. We were very happy with John. A young man, extremely competent as a guide, but also very personable and interesting to be with. I would certainly recommend him.


We had a flying visit to Lake Manyara. Interesting, it’s a large lake on the floor of the rift valley with huge numbers of pelicans (which we got close to) and flamingos (which we didn’t). Worth seeing if you are in the area, but not worth travelling to see, in my opinion.


Then on to Lemala lodge at Ngorongoro, the one lodge we stayed in not operated by Asilia. The lodge is perfectly situated. It’s on the crater rim, and offers the best access to the crater floor. We were down there first, and for an hour or two it was like “millionaires’ safari” – we were almost alone. Unfortunately, the lodge was not up to expectations. I have since had correspondence with both our booking agents and Lemala. Lemala were quick to respond, and promised to follow up on our comments, so I hope that things will improve. Still for now, enjoy for the location but temper your expectations.


The crater was where my wife had a once in a lifetime experience. You may not want to repeat this, but she was sprayed by a lion J I promise this was spectacular! Since this is a family site, perhaps I should not go into details. Thankfully, she has now showered.


Excellent lion viewings, and dawn over the crater rim is wonderful, but I still feel one day is sufficient.











The Ngorongoro conservation area and the Serengeti are adjacent, though it’s a bit of a dusty drive round the crater rim and along the main road. On the way you pass close by Olduvai Gorge where the Leakey’s did their ground breaking early man excavations. There is a museum close by, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit.

So on to:


Dunia Camp, in the Serengeti


Good, well run camp. An example of customer service. I am rather short, and my wife is even shorter. At Dunia, there are bucket showers. We couldn’t reach the on/off mechanism. The first day they brought an empty coke crate. Standing on a crate, trying to reach the lever was a bit (actually, a lot) fraught. In the morning, we told the camp manager. When we came back from the game drive they had rigged up some chains so we could reach, and they had emailed our next camp to alert them. That is customer service.

The Serengeti was busy, even though we were away from the main migration route. I’m sure that lots of folks will have reported on the Serengeti, so I’m not going to go into detail. There were certainly lots of animals, but again getting close was a lottery. Sometimes good results, though.









And I love this little fellow. I want to shout “don’t jump!”







The kopjes also added to the landscape







Rubondo Island

Finally on to our last stop at Rubondo island. Rubondo is in the far west of Tanzania, and is on an island in Lake Victoria. It’s a new destination: Asilia only completed the lodge last year, it is the only accommodation on the island except for the game guards’, and very fine it is. The “cabins” are well appointed and very comfortable, as are the public rooms, and from everywhere there are great views over the water.

The island and the waters around it are themselves a National Park. This Wikipedia article gives a bit of the history:



The official Tanzanian web site is I feel a bit misleading: if you want to go, the only sensible way is to fly in and stay with Asilia.


Rubondo is NOT a safari destination. The fact it is dense rain forest means that you are unlikely to see much game (mostly bushbuck and sitatunga). It is though a great place for two or three day’s relaxation at the end of a trip.


The lodge is situated right by the water and a small beach, facing the sunrise






And is hardly visible from the water






Boats are the way to look around. There are thousands of little egrets and cormorants on Rubondo and the surrounding islets, and the way to see them is by boat. There is also a family of otters which put in an appearance both days we were there.


There is also fishing from the boat for Nile perch, which can be quite exciting. First I caught this, which is a reasonable specimen by most standards, but back in it went.





Then it was my wife’s turn. This one we kept: it provided a starter and a main course for nine people at dinner that night.







Then the main event. It started on my wife’s rod, and after a few seconds she handed it to me, and I followed suit and handed it to the fishing guide, who eventually landed it. I think you can see why it was a challenge, estimated at 40kgs and it was said it would feed the camp staff for a week.







So, if I wanted two or three day’s relaxation at the end of Tanzanian safari I would definitely choose Rubondo over Zanzibar, where we have also been, if money were not an issue. It is expensive, partly because of the distance, but it was worth it for me.


I hope you have found the report interesting and helpful. Any questions or comments are welcome.



Edited by davidedric
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Thank you for this, very interesting. The road infrastructure in the Parks is, I agree, inadequate and I was often frustrated, however, I was lucky with close sightings in all the parks we visited.


I'll try to keep an eye out for the threads where your photos will appear.

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Were you able to take part in or see any part of the chimpanzee habituation program under way in Rubondo @@davidedric? If so, can you tell us something about it? Thanks!

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Nicely paced report @@davidedric, I'm very pleased that you speak so highly of Asilia.

Of course I'd have liked more photos but I guess I'll just have to be patient. :rolleyes:

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The evenness of the browse line on that baobab is really interesting. Also love your LBR closeup!

Edited by Marks
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Were you able to take part in or see any part of the chimpanzee habituation program under way in Rubondo @davidedric? If so, can you tell us something about it? Thanks!


Hi Sangeeta,


No, we weren't able to.


So far as I understand it, the introduction of the chimps has not so far been very successful in that their numbers have scarcely grown since they were introduced (unlike the elephants, who now number about eighty. They are in an inaccessible part of the forest, and tourists are being kept away, I suspect for the foreseeable future



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In response to popular demand :) I'm going to add more photos to the end of the thread (assuming it lets me).


For interest, are folks interested in photos of the accommodation we stayed in, or just the parks and wildlife?



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Looks like I have run out of time to edit, so here are a few more photos:



From Tarangire


More muddy eles. I love the way the baby is being "helped" along





One quick dash off-road yielded this fellow (his brother is hiding behind):






Banded mongoose on the lookout:






I think the little fellows deserve a look in, too:







Eles on parade:






Typical Tarangire (notethe red legs - breeding colours):







Lake Manyara pelicans (lots of them!)










Breakfast! :-)







The clouds roll in:










Euphorbia Candelabrum I like these plants!







Dik Dik. As well as being in the bush, these little fellow used to chase each other round the camp in the morning






For some reason (I think actually shallow water) these hippos kept rolling over. Most odd!











We also saw these two young giraffes play fighting. The weren't very proficient.


This would have been immediate disqualification for a low blow






And this was definitely a swing and a miss







No pictures of the Serengeti would be complete without a herd of tommies







and finally the lbr again. The expression just cracks me up









A bushbuck grazing in front of the lodge







And little egrets and a big croc:







And as a grand finale: Serengeti sunrise:






Hope you enjoyed,




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"Tarangire NP is well known for its elephants, and lots of warthogs. The latter is understandable once you know that the name should be written Tara Ngiri. Tara is the river on the southern boundary of the park and Ngiri is the local name for warthogs – so Warthog River "

I appreciated this little lesson.


Sprayed by a lion-wow. As long as the camera survived, I'm sure it was magical and maybe pungent.


The photos you have included are some beauts!

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