Your tell-all safari guide on all things Tanzania

We visit Tanzania at every opportunity we can and always get rave reviews from our YPA travelers when they return. It’s probably because it’s quite impossible not to fall in love with the Serengeti’s endless grass plains and wide-open spaces. Add to this spectacular wildlife sightings; thrilling helicopter rides above flamingo-filled lakes; and sustainable, beautifully designed and thought-out mobile tented camps that offer an authentic bushveld experience, and we’re pretty sure this will soon become a favorite destination of yours too.  

Over the years, we’ve strengthened our Tanzanian networks and hand-picked our favorite places and private guides. One such guide is Mark McKenzie, who has over 25 years’ experience working all over Africa for the likes of &Beyond, Singita, and Robin Pope Safaris. He’s passionate about encouraging his guests to really immerse themselves in a destination, creating rich and memorable safaris that they will never forget.

Mark shares our love for Northern Tanzania, not only because it “has all the elements of an iconic safari destination”, but also because there isn’t another region that comes close to offering so many renowned highlights in one single area, from Mount Kilimanjaro and the Ngorongoro Crater to Serengeti National Park, the Great Migration, and the majestic Lake Victoria.

Who better, then, to help us dream up an itinerary of three of Tanzania’s most spectacular highlights? Here goes…

#1: Explore an extreme environment: Get up close and personal with an active volcano when you visit Ol Doinyo Lengai and the area around Lake Natron.

  •   SEE: A hot, dry, rugged and extreme landscape where the wildlife really seems to eke out an existence. Take in the splendor of the flamingo-filled soda lake and the stark beauty of the active volcano.
  •   BEST TIME TO GO: During the slightly cooler dry period between June and November, which also coincides with the flamingos breeding. These cooler months also offer beautiful walks through the rugged landscape and the challenge of climbing the volcano in the early morning to enjoy the sunrise from the summit.
  •   TOP TIP: Although you can find accommodation around Natron, the comfortable but basic camps don’t appeal to everyone. Mark suggests visiting by helicopter for an enthralling and fully packed day trip rather than staying overnight.

#2: Get riled up by the drama of the Great Migration’s rutting season: To observe the mating battles at their finest, visit the Western Corridor, specifically the plains around Nyasirori Ranger Post in the Serengeti National Park and Sabora plains in the adjoining Grumeti Reserve.

  •   SEE: This is where the bulk of the wildebeest move through during the most intense period of their annual cycle, “the rut”. The atmosphere is absolutely charged; herds are on the move, the bulls are rutting, fighting, and displaying, and the calves are bleating and trying to reunite with lost mothers. “The noise is incredible!” Mark enthuses. “Adding to the drama is the rapidly disappearing surface water and the predators taking their toll. It is intense, dramatic, and beautiful, and it stimulates all the senses.” “Scenically, this is one of the most beautiful areas in the system,” Mark says. “It’s a mix of vast short and tall grass plains, dotted with Balanites (Desert Date) trees, fringed with wooded rocky hills, and bisected by tree-lined river courses – it’s so easy on the eye I would happily drive around just to explore the beauty of this corner of the Serengeti.”
  •   BEST TIME TO GO: June and July are the rutting months.
  •   TOP TIP: Some of Mark’s top accommodation recommendations in the area are Mila Tented Camp (Legendary Expeditions), Sabora Luxury Tented Camp (Singita), and Singita Explore Mobile Camp. The Grumeti River forms the southeastern boundary of these plains and according to Mark, it is compulsory to take your shoes off and walk in the soft sand of the riverbed in the shade of giant Sycamore figs at least once during a visit.

#3: Soak up the sensational scenery of the Seregenti’s Northern Lamai/Kogatende region: For quintessential Serengeti scenery, it doesn’t get better than this.

  •   SEE: One of Mark’s all-time favorite spots in the Serengeti ecosystem is the Northern Lamai/Kogatende region – known for the crossing of the Mara River in the North. “I love the granite boulders and ‘koppies’ (small mountains) that dot the landscape south of the Mara River,” Mark says. “They function like islands in a sea of grass, often vegetated with massive fig trees and thickets, and harbor a huge diversity of wildlife from reptiles and rock nesting birds to klipspringer, hyraxes and leopard. The Mara River itself is quite something with its steep banks and huge crocodiles.
  •   BEST TIME TO GO: The wildlife is spectacular all year round, but Marks says he would choose to visit outside of migration time when it is not so busy with tourists. Herds of elephant, giraffe, leopard especially around the kopjies, and cheetah on the plains, are permanent residents. The little antelope Oribi can be seen, and big pods of hippo and crocodile in the Mara River which makes for excellent game viewing. If you do go during the Migration, however, the wildebeest and zebra numbers are highest from June to September/October, and Lamai is still a relatively quieter location from which to view the action.
  •   TOP TIP: Mark’s preference is almost always to favor small, temporary tented camps over permanent, structured lodges. With less structure and less stuff, there’s a feeling of being closer to the surrounding environment. Also, Mark advises travelers not to get fixated on river crossings, because there is so much more to see throughout the year.

Whether including a well known destination like the Serengeti or a lesser known destination like Lake Natron we’ll customize an itinerary that gives you truly unique experiences so you’ll want to come back to Tanzania over and over again. Whenever possible, we’ll arrange for Mark to be your private guide and local expert on all things extraordinary and unique to the area.

Be inspired!

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