Safaris are meant to be full of blissful moments of serenity. Listening to the various calls of lapwings and rollers on the open plains, smelling the fresh water of the cascading rivers that meander through the landscape and the feeling of being at one with nature is the reason people travel half-way across the world to explore the vast wildernesses of Africa.
The problem however, is that if you don’t know what camp to go to or what park to visit, you can become bogged down by busy sightings, long queues and noise pollution that doesn’t allow you to experience nature in all its serenity. Below we have an insight into the best ways to avoid the crowds whilst you’re visiting Tanzania.
The Great Migration of wildebeest is a world famous spectacle – and rightly so. All year millions of wildebeests and hundreds of thousands of zebra take on a journey that sees them battle numerous dangers in an attempt to follow the rains. From August through to the end of October is when the wildebeest are normally seen crossing the Mara River and this well documented period of the drama is of course when the majority of visitors come to see the wildlife. Each year though, more and more videos surface online that shows far too many vehicles in one area.
The key to observing wildlife is to enjoy the exclusiveness of your sighting, especially if you’re a photographer. The last thing you would want is a vehicle obstructing your chance to grab that ‘once-in-a-lifetime-shot’.
It is therefore worth spending a little bit more time and money by flying across to the Lamai Wedge. This triangular area of land is cornered between the Mara River and the Masai Mara in Kenya. Due to the extra travel involved, there are generally less visitors on this side of the river allowing exclusivity that is hard to come by, especially in the busy months.
Although the migration moves year-round, the majority of visitors who come to the Serengeti do flock to wherever the migration happens to be. If you are thinking of visiting the Serengeti but want to avoid these crowds, inform yourself on where the migration is and head to the opposite area of the park. No matter the time of year, there will be resident game such as lions, elephants, cheetahs and a whole host of other game that does not follow the wildebeest’s migratory route.
If you do however want to see the migration but still avoid the crowds then picking the correct lodge for you is vital to your stay. For example, Namiri Plains is a camp located over forty-five minutes from another camp and over an hour and a half away from the central Serengeti region. This means that sightings are often exclusive and private giving guests the best possible opportunity to observe and spend time with the wildlife in the area. In the months when the migration ventures into the Eastern section where Namiri lies, other camp’s vehicles can only get to that area late in the morning when you’re already back at camp!
Don’t be put off by the rain. Many people avoid the Serengeti during the rainy season, but this is often when the best sightings occur. Camps will have vehicles designed to cope with any deluge and the prospect of rain drives away the majority of people. Don’t forget this also sees a drop in most lodge prices! The prospect of rain isn’t always fulfilled and visits to the Serengeti in the ‘rainy months’ often sees guests coming away with intimate and relaxed sightings with some exceptional photos.
Southern Tanzania has often lived in the shadow of the famous North. Whilst the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater pull in the majority of visitors, it is the seclusion and privacy that is easily available in the South of Tanzania that makes it such an attractive destination.
Selous is a huge game reserve and isn’t to be confused with a national park. Made up of a variety of different concessions, the Selous is so big that it’s quite normal not to see another vehicle whilst out on game drive. It is extremely accessible from Dar es Salaam and its range of activities like boat safaris, walking safaris and fishing mean that most guests are dispersed through the differing activities so there is little chance of over-crowding. Affordable luxury accommodation also caters for more price conscious travellers.
Unlike the national parks, off-roading is allowed in the Selous which offers fantastic opportunities to get closer to the animals and it provides magnificent photographic opportunities. It also allows you to keep up with the highly endangered wild dogs as they swiftly weave in between shrubs and bushes in search of prey.
Ruaha is even more wild and untamed than Selous. Located further away from Dar es Salaam, the slightly pricier flights often deter people from travelling here. This national park is the size of Kruger in South Africa but only has a handful of lodges. This means areas of this remote wilderness have hardly been explored and sightings are private and intimate.
Jongomero is a beautiful camp nestled on the corner of a dry river bed that offers splendid views. Located hours away from the main airstrip, Jongomero has its own quiet corner of Ruaha in the South of the park. It is rare to see another vehicle whilst out on game drive down here and the huge herds of elephant and buffalo are abundant. Lions follow the buffalo relentlessly and predator, prey interactions are frequently seen.
Both Selous and Ruaha are unique in their own ways. Whilst Selous has the meandering waterways that bubble with hippos and crocodiles, Ruaha is a far drier habitat where the wildlife of Southern Africa and Eastern Africa come together. With a vast array of flora and fauna, there are so many different things for you to see in the South of Tanzania without the crowds that often plague other safari locations throughout the world.
If you have the time (and budget) a mixture of the North and South of Tanzania is definitely a must!
Marc Harris is Managing Director of Tanzania Odyssey. Tanzania Odyssey is a leading tour operator that has specialised in Tanzania since 1998.