Welcome to Birdquest
Birdquest’s Northern Tanzania birding and wildlife tour, which includes the Same plains, the Arusha area, Tarangire National Park and Lake Manyara National Park, as well as the unforgettable Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti plains, is not just a fantastic birdwatching experience (turning up a huge bird list in just two weeks) but also an extraordinary mammal-watching experience as well (including Lions, Cheetahs, Leopards, Black Rhinos and many, many others). There are not many birding tours where you can combine finding a series of endemics and other avian specialities with piling up a large bird list and at the same time enjoying one of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles! Join us on this marvellous African adventure: you are not going to be disappointed!
Sunday 1st April —
Saturday 14th April 2018
Leaders: Mark Van Beirs and local naturalist guides
Group Size Limit: 11
Tour Category: Easy walking and comfortable or very comfortable accommodations
The most awesome wildlife experience on Earth is most surely to be found in Northern Tanzania. The huge Serengeti National Park and the adjoining, and almost equally famous, Ngorongoro Conservation Area are so remarkable that one cannot do justice to these incredible places in words alone. Over two million large mammals live in this immense African wilderness that has miraculously survived, thanks to the remarkable understanding of the people of Tanzania, who, despite all the pressures upon them, have kept faith with the vision of the park’s founders. The vast herds still circulate across the Serengeti in the same way as they did when Man’s earliest ancestor’s walked these very plains, followed by their attendant carnivores in a cycle of life that has continued unbroken for millions of years. How incredible that we can still say this about any place on Earth in the 21st century, when so much of our planet has been changed out of all recognition!
For birders, Northern Tanzania offers the chance to happily combine top level African birding, featuring a very rich avifauna that includes a whole series of endemics and other regional specialities, with some extraordinary mammal-watching that just happens to coincide with the best birding route through this marvellous part of the world.
We shall travel through this magnificent region with some really fine driver-guides who are great companions as well as endlessly patient and accomplished individuals who will make sure we really do have ‘the experience of a lifetime’. We will travel in 4x4 Land Rovers or Toyota Landcruisers that have been specially adapted for safari work, with large roof hatches that make observation and photography easy. These vehicles are a huge improvement on the safari minibuses still used by some bird tours, being more comfortable, more spacious (with a much larger opening in the roof) and better able to cope with any difficult road conditions. They cost a lot more than a minibus, and this must be reflected in the tour price, but we have never met anyone who did not consider these excellent vehicles as worth every extra penny!
The awesome gathering of gnus (wildebeeste) and zebras on the shortgrass plains of the southeastern Serengeti occurs between January and April each year, while much of the local birdlife comes into breeding plumage in March and April. For birdwatchers, March/April is absolutely the time to visit the area. There is simply no comparison with the other months of the year.
Our journey will first take us through the dry bush country of the Pare plains. Here we shall be wanting to find White-headed Mousebird, Scaly Chatterer, Pringle’s Puffback and Tsavo Purple-banded Sunbird, as well as a marvellous selection of more widespread dry country birds typical of this part of East Africa.
In the region surrounding Arusha, in the shadow of the two great volcanoes, Meru and Kilimanjaro, we will look for a variety of forest birds (many of which we will not see further west), see the restricted-range Taveta Golden Weaver and visit the dry bush plains towards the Kenyan border, home to the extremely rare and very range-restricted endemic Beesley’s (or Pygmy Spike-heeled) Lark, before we head further west.
Next we will explore the thornbush and baobab country of Tarangire National Park, home to large numbers of African Elephants, endemic Yellow-collared Lovebirds and Ashy Starlings, and restricted-range Northern Pied Babblers and Pangani Longclaws, and so much else besides.
We will break the journey to the Crater Highlands with a stop at Lake Manyara National Park, spectacularly situated at the bottom of the Great Rift Valley. Famous for its waterbird spectacle, Manyara also holds a good selection of large mammals.
These areas will, however, provide just a foretaste of the glories to come, for our next destination is the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, both a scenic and a wildlife wonder of the world. Here we will have some thrilling close encounters of the animal kind, as most mammals in the crater are extraordinarily unafraid of vehicles, and some great birding. Pride of place here goes to the critically endangered Black Rhinoceros, but other stars include Kori and Black-bellied Bustards, flocks of pink flamingoes and some marvellous Hippos.
After this wonderful experience we will descend from the Crater Highlands into the endless plains of the southeastern Serengeti. We shall be visiting the area at the prime season, when the rains have usually turned the entire area from a parched thirstland into a green paradise that attracts over a million large mammals, the great majority being Brindled Gnus (or Blue Wildebeeste), Burchell’s Zebras and Thomson’s Gazelles, to the shortgrass plains. Here we will be based first in the south-central part of Serengeti National Park and finally in the famous Lake Ndutu area, probably the finest Serengeti wildlife area of them all.
As well as being a fantastic experience in its own right (chatting round the campfire under African skies, quite possibly with Lions roaring in the distance, is something one never forgets!), being based in these remote lodges will get us right in amongst a fabulous selection of birds, including such specialities as Grey-breasted Spurfowl, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Fischer’s Lovebird, Tanzanian Red-billed Hornbill, White-tailed Lark, Karamoja Apalis, Grey-crested Helmet-Shrike and Rufous-tailed Weaver, and some amazing mammals, including such dramatic and highly photogenic subjects as Lion, Leopard and the incomparable Cheetah, never mind a sea of gnus and zebras.
The rich bird and mammal life of the Serengeti is awesome enough, but the whole experience is made even more special by the amazingly beautiful scenery, with dramatic cloudscapes and sunsets, seas of bright green and tawny grass, those evocative flat-topped acacia trees, and granite kopjes and distant mountain ridges rising above the plains.
By the time we end our East African odyssey we will have seen so many avian, large mammal and scenic wonders that it will be hard to appreciate that all this has happened to us in just two weeks! Northern Tanzania will produce vivid, unfading memories that one will treasure for the rest of one’s days.
Birdquest has operated tours to Northern Tanzania since 1983.
Accommodation & Road Transport: The lodges are of good or very good standard throughout. Road transport is by specially adapted Landrover or Toyota Landcruiser 4x4 vehicles with opening roof hatch. Main roads are mostly good or reasonable (but there are also plenty of rough tracks in the sanctuaries and some ‘off-road’ driving).
Walking: The walking effort is easy throughout. Walking is restricted to a limited number of specified areas in the national parks/game reserves. This is of little hindrance and indeed we can approach many large birds and mammals far more closely in a vehicle than we could on foot.
Climate: Typically, it will be warm or hot, dry and sunny for much of the time, but overcast conditions are fairly frequent and there will be some rain. At higher altitudes temperatures are cool to warm.
Bird/Mammal Photography: Opportunities are outstanding.
Tanzania Tour Prices: Prices in Tanzania, in common with many of the ‘safari’ countries of eastern and southern Africa, are high by the general standard of tour costs in ‘less developed’ countries. There are two main reasons for this. In the first place ‘safari travel’ appeals to a very well-heeled audience from across the globe, not just to birders and wildlife enthusiasts, and the high quality and remote location of many of the safari lodges (which are truly wonderful places to stay to be sure) is reflected in their very high prices. In most areas there are no mid-range accommodation options available. Secondly, the high quality way to go ‘on safari’ is to use specially modified 4x4 vehicles, typically Landrovers or Toyota Landcruisers. Import taxes and running costs for these vehicles in Tanzania are very high, and the vehicles take only a small number of people in each, so costs per person are correspondingly steep. The cheaper alternative, still used by some bird and wildlife tour operators, is to put folk into a small minibus (passenger van) that will have less space, a less comfortable ride on bumpy dirt roads and which usually has no 4x4 capability and so can struggle to pass muddy or rutted sections of road (conditions regularly present in Tanzania). If you see a Tanzania tour description and it does not specify 4x4 Landrovers or Landcruisers, check with the tour operator in case they are going to have their clients travel in minibuses.
These are provisional prices
Tour Price: £4690, €5530, $6140 Kilimanjaro/Kilimanjaro.
Price includes all transportation, all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.
Single Room Supplement: £260, €307, $341.
Deposit: £600, €720, $780.
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.
Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate
Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QYtop of page
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