Tarangire National Park was rich with wildlife and charm. We met Frederick and Hashim, our trusty Tanzanian driver guides for the next seven days, at the Kuro Airstrip and headed in our pop-top 4×4 Land Cruisers into the bush on an hour game drive to Swala Camp. Along the thicket of acacia trees, we were greeted by elephant, Cape buffalo, zebra, giraffe, warthog, kudu, waterbuck, impala, and even a tiny tortoise. We were also unpleasantly greeted by the ever-dreaded tsetse flies, which are more prevalent in wooded areas. The best way to combat these pesky flies is to be pro-active – apply bug spray in advance (some people think it works), wear long pants and long sleeves, and avoid dark colors (black & navy blue which attracts the flies). Swala Camp can also be reached by road from Arusha – about a two hour drive to the park gate and then another 2.5 to 3 hour game drive into camp. We comfortably settled in at the luxury, 12-tented camp, nestled among a canopy of acacia trees before hopping into Swala’s 7-seater open air vehicles for an exhilarating night drive. After refreshing sundowners on a bluff, we continued our exploration for nocturnal activity and luckily spotted bush babies, zebras and one tiny chameleon perched on a branch. Back at camp, we were wined and dined (Swala is all-inclusive) by the friendly staff with gourmet food, a table set under the stars and the gentle chorus of a lion roaring in the very close distance!
Waking in hopes that the serenading lions were not too far away (fingers crossed we would spot them), we started our morning game drive through Tarangire, admiring the stunning scenery. Tarangire is not only known for its hefty herds of elephants but also for the striking baobab trees which stand tall along the horizon. There was also quite a bit of vulture activity as these scavengers were sharing a carcass with some Marabou storks. Along with the mighty baobabs, an abundance of resident game made for brilliant photos as we headed north. Other properties in the area include Tarangire Sopa Lodge (75 rooms, big pool & 10 minutes to a balloon launch site) and Tarangire Safari Lodge (35 tents, 5 bungalows & 15 minutes to the park gate). In my opinion, Tarangire Safari Lodge has the best views in the park, overlooking the Tarangire River. The camp is situated high on a bluff so that each tent and the outdoor lounge/boma look out over the river – you could spend all day on your verandah watching as the animals come and go to this dominant water source. Higher end choices include Oliver’s Camp (8 luxury tents offering specialty walking safaris) and Tarangire Treetops (20 suites, on a private game reserve bordering Tarangire NP).
En route to the Ngorongoro Highlands, our scenery changed from the local wildlife to the local culture. As the land became more lush and green, we observed the agricultural way of life. Local markets with colorful fruits and vegetables lined the road, and more bicycles, now toting bundles of green bananas, pedaled along. Mto Wa Mbu village, just minutes from Lake Manyara, is the perfect spot to enjoy a cultural visit during your safari. You can then continue on a game drive through Lake Manyara National Park to see the soda lake, pink flamingos and, with luck, tree-climbing lions. Some lodging options in the area include the Lake Manyara Serena (67 rooms & 5 minutes from the LM airstrip), Kirurumu Tented Lodge (23 tented rooms & stunning views of Lake Manyara). In Karatu, near the Ngorongoro Conservation Area border, choices include Gibb’s Farm (20 cottages, located on the slopes of a working farm), Plantation Lodge (16 rooms with flowering gardens & the intimacy of a owner-run lodge), and very luxurious, The Manor at Ngorongoro (5-star property nestled high up on a coffee plantation, 18 standard rooms & 1 stable cottage with private chef & butler). We ended our day at the Ngorongoro Farm House, which is a well-appointed lodge with 51 rooms, sustainable vegetable garden, wildly landscaped gardens and decent food. We rested well in preparation for our following big day in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.