One of the most popular safari routes in Africa is the Northern Circuit in Tanzania. The Northern Circuit is home to incredible wildlife in national parks and private reserves, including Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park. I was lucky to spend nearly two weeks exploring this region last month.
“My time in Northern Tanzania did not disappoint! From my first ever cheetah sighting to elephant numbers in the hundreds to lion prides dozing by our vehicle to more babies than we could count, our days were filled with one spectacular wildlife sighting after another.” - Beth
Our safari began in Tarangire National Park, known for its beautiful baobab trees and giant herds of elephants. It was clear right away that it has received that reputation for a reason! It seemed like we saw a new elephant family around every turn and I never tire of seeing these gentle giants. We had ample opportunities to observe their behavior – from our game drive vehicle, on the deck at Kuro Camp and on our walking safari.
Walking safaris are a wonderful opportunity to get out of the vehicle and get up close to nature. Our group twisted and turned to avoid disturbing the many elephant herds, saw zebra and impala running at eye level, examined flora up close and then ended with sundowners with a view of the savanna.
“My time in Tarangire can be summed up as elephants, elephants, elephants! Seeing the herds was magical and gave me memories to last a lifetime. In addition to the elephants, we also had some great lion sightings and saw an abundance of varied wildlife. It was an amazing place to kick off our safari!” - Beth
From Tarangire National Park, we headed to the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area and our lodge on the rim of the Crater, Entamanu. The views from Entamanu were stunning and its proximity to the entrance gate made it the perfect place to begin our day exploring the Crater.
The Ngorongoro Crater is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the world’s largest inactive, intact and unfilled volcanic caldera. The views down inside the Crater were just as stunning as they were from the top. Our wildlife highlight in the Crater was the enormous herd of zebra that seemed to follow us wherever we went.
“I loved observing the zebra surrounding our vehicle and comparing their stripes. Like human fingerprints, no two zebra patterns are exactly the same.” - Beth
After the Ngorongoro Crater, our group traveled to Serengeti National Park. This World Heritage Site lives up to the hype! Millions of animals call the park home and the diversity of animals can’t be beat.
We stayed at two camps, a mobile camp called Serengeti Safari Camp (SSC) and a permanent camp called Lamai Camp. I was so glad to stay in both camps to experience the different styles. SSC was basic in amenities, but more than made up for it with a one-of-a-kind immersive nature experience. Lamai offered more camp amenities and gorgeous views at every turn.
Our game drives the first two days in the Serengeti offered an abundance and variety of wildlife. Lions walking by the vehicle, a serval near the road, crocodiles sunbathing on the Mara River and birds chirping the soundtrack to it all filled our days. It was baby season for many species, including impala, zebra, warthog and giraffe. One giraffe we saw had been born earlier that day!
I have an affinity for big cats and was crossing my fingers we would have luck finding cheetah in particular, as I hadn’t been in cheetah areas on previous safaris. Our last morning our group set out at sunrise on a ‘cheetah mission.’ Our guide had spent the previous night talking to other guides about where they’d found cheetah in recent days and compared that with where he’d spotted them on recent safaris, so we headed in that direction first.
Every few minutes, our guide Ali would stop the vehicle, scan the horizon with his binoculars and then continue driving. He asked us to be extra quiet in the vehicle so he could listen to the birds and other animals for cues. I’d secretly started to give up hope that we’d find them when Ali excitedly said he spotted cheetah ears in the distance. Off we went! He expertly parked the vehicle so we could see the cheetah brothers walk towards us.
The cheetahs walked right where he predicted and our group spent a long time watching them walk, scan the horizon for signs of danger, groom themselves, take a rest and then finally continue their morning stroll.
“Moments like this reminded me just how important a great safari guide is. Our guide was an excellent tracker and spotter and knew just where to park for the best up-close encounter.” - Beth
After our exciting cheetah spotting, we found not one but two lion prides. We spent the rest of the morning watching lions doze in the sunlight.
“Our last morning in the Serengeti was what safari dreams are made of! I can’t imagine a more perfect way to end our trip.” - Beth
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Beth’s Tanzania adventures continued on Pemba Island after her Northern Circuit safari. Check back soon for part 2 of her trip.
Photos courtesy AAC Marketing Director Beth McCabe