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Great Migration and Birds

Day 1

You will arrive at Kilimanjaro airport in Arusha in late evening and undertake a 40-minute drive to our lodge, where we will stay for the first two nights.  Our lodge has a stunning location, surrounded by a garden and the forest, it offers an impressive diversity of birds.  The pathways that wind around the grounds make the most of the river and forest’s natural charm and you will enjoy gourmet country cuisine that the restaurant specialises in.

Day 2                                      

Our first full day in Tanzania will be spent exploring the Arusha National Park.  Set between the towering peaks of Mount Meru (4,566 m) and Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895m), the park has a varied landscape ranging from the lush swamps and mixed woodlands of the Ngurdoto Crater, soda and fresh water of Momella Lakes, to open savanna. The park is especially noted for the large concentration of unusually tame Masai Giraffes, but the forested rim of the Ngurdoto Crater is a good vantage point to see other mammals grazing on the crater floor, including African Buffaloes, Thompson’s Gazelle, Common Zebra and African Elephants.  In the forest, we are likely to see Bushbuck, Harvey’s Duiker, the photogenic Blue Monkey and the Black-and-white Colobus Monkey foraging in the tree-tops.  The birdwatching here is superb, and species such as Bar-tailed Trogon, Hartlaub’s Turaco, Pangani Longclaw, Taveta Weaver, Kenrick’s Starling, Spotted-flanked and Brown-breasted Barbets, White-winged Widowbird, Scarlet-chested and Tacazze Sunbirds, are all possible encounters. Verreaux's Eagles and Lammergeiers nest on the cliffs and Lesser Flamingos abound in the alkaline Momella Lakes. 

Day 3

Today, we will travel westwards towards the edge of the Rift Valley, stopping en route at various locations to view the birds and mammals.  

Our luxurious tented accommodation is located on the shores of Lake Manyara at the border of two national parks: the Manyara and Tarangire National Parks.  We should reach the lodge with plenty of time to relax at the bar, have a swim in a pool or simply admire the surrounding and free roaming animals from private decking, before an al fresco dinner.  Birdlife around the camp is rich and will not disappoint, with most likely species to be seen include Beautiful Sunbird, Southern Red Bishop, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Rufous-tailed Weaver and Superb Starling.   

Day 4

After early morning birding around the camp and breakfast, we will head towards Tarangire National Park, famed for its high concentration of African Elephants, congregating in herds of up to 600 animals.  The landscape is primarily open savanna dotted with Acacia woodland and large Baobab trees, where large numbers of game can be seen.  The park offers superb birding opportunities, with over 550 species of birds recorded, some of which are best seen here, including the African endemic Yellow-collared Lovebird, Red-throated Tit, Northern Pied-Babbler and Ashy Starling.   We will encounter a good diversity of hornbills, woodpeckers, rollers, weavers and pigeons.  The Wahlberg’s, Tawny and Martial Eagles, and Pigmy Falcon are most notable raptors here.   Other possible species include Orange-bellied and Brown Parrots, Nubian Woodpecker, White-bellied Go-away-bird, D’Arnaud’s Barbet, Southern Ground and Von der Decken’s Hornbills, Spotted Morning Thrush, and White-headed, Red-billed and Vitelline Masked Weavers, to name just a few.

Day 5

Today, we will travel to the Serengeti-Ngorongoro ecosystem, heading first for the Lake Manyara escarpment.   Manyara National Park nestles beneath the dramatic cliffs of the East African Rift Valley and is perhaps most famous for its large concentrations of Greater and Lesser Flamingos.  African Fish Eagle and Palm Nut Vulture patrol the area here and extensive reed beds, parklands scattered with acacia trees and open grasslands are home to various sunbirds, weavers and bee-eaters.    

Later, our scenic journey will take us to the edge of the magical Ngorongoro Crater.  We will slowly climb up the forested slopes of the Ngorongoro caldera to reach the rim of the crater, where a spectacular view stretches down to the crater floor dotted with animals.   However, since we will spend the last two days of our tour here, we will press on to reach our lodge at a reasonable hour.  

As we leave the crater behind and enter the Ndutu region, which lies at the junction between the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Conservation area, the open short-grass plains, filled with grazing mammals, will stretch to horizon.  The increase in the numbers of grazing Blue Wildebeest will be particularly noticeable as we travel further south to reach our lodge.   Spotted Hyena, Lion, Cheetah, Leopard and Bat-eared Fox are all possible encounters en route.   Birds would also be difficult to ignore and we are likely to see Martial Eagle, African Harrier Hawk, African Grey Hornbill, Common Scimitarbill, Lilac-breasted Roller, Little Bee-eater, Magpie Shrike, Chinspot Batis, to name just a few.  

Our lodge is the only permanent accommodation in the Ndutu area in the south-eastern Serengeti National Park.  Surrounded by indigenous trees and shrubs, the lodge attracts a host of mammals and birds, including endemics such as Fischer’s Lovebirds and Grey-breasted Francolin.  We will another opportunity here to observe wildlife from our own verandas.

Day 6                  

We will spend the day exploring the short-grass plains, open woodland and lakes around Ndutu in the early morning and afternoon, but return to the lodge in the middle of the day for lunch and a siesta.  

Every year, between January and March, some 1.3 million Blue Wildebeest and thousands of Plains Zebra and Thompson's Gazelles congregate here to give birth, creating one of the greatest world’s wildlife spectacles.  At this time of the year, the majority of the game animals will be tending their newly born youngsters and wandering between the short grass plains of the southern Serengeti and the neighbouring Ngorongoro Conservation Area to graze in the best feeding conditions.  We will, therefore, be visiting different parts of the region to track down the migratory herds, which slowly would start moving towards the Central Serengeti.   Predators are plentiful and we will be unlucky not to come across a Cheetah or a Lion hunting or feasting on their prey. 

The Ndutu area is also home to great assemblage of birds: Kori Bustard is common, and so is the Secretarybird and scavenging vultures.   Other raptors include Tawny, Wahlberg's and Steppe Eagles, Black-chested Snake Eagle, Pallid and Montagu's Harriers, Black-shouldered Kite, Lesser Kestrel and Lanner Falcon.  At a nearby Lake Masek, we will see some waterbirds, and in the more wooded areas, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Greater Honeyguide, Pin-tailed Whydah, African Paradise Flycatcher and Marico Sunbird could be found.   No doubt our stay here will provide some highlights for the trip.

Day 7

Today, we will travel north to the central Serengeti National Park birding, game viewing and birdwatching along the way.   The landscape will gradually change from open grassland to more heavily wooded areas, offering a much greater diversity of birds.  We will stop at the Naabi Gate, located at a granite kopje, with a spectacular view over the Serengeti National Park. 

Our luxurious camp is located on a small hillside in the middle of Serengeti, offering a great view of the African plain.  A short walk will give you personal encounters with Masai Giraffes, Thompson Gazelles and Buffalos.  There is no better way to explore the Serengeti as from this intimate location.  

Day 8

With a wake-up coffee/tea you will be able to sit outside your tent, enjoy the sunrise over the Serengeti and listen to the dawn calls of the African wilderness.  Magic!

We will explore the Central Serengeti today and are likely to see some migrating game, but their exact location can never be predicted.  While Cheetah favours more open areas, the prides of Lions typically lurk around the woodland edges, where we also stand the best chances to see a Leopard.  Spotted Hyenas are common as well as Golden and Black-backed Jackals, Servals, Honey Badgers and Bat-eared Foxes.   Birds of prey and vultures abound, with Lappet-faced Vulture and the scarcer Rüppell’s Griffon being possible highlights.  Black-bellied Bustard, Rufous-crowned Roller, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Usambiro Barbet, Superb and Hildebrandt’s Starlings, Ruaha Red-billed Hornbill, Grey-headed Silverbill, Karamoja Apalis, Grey-crested Helmetshrike and the stunning and iridescent Superb Starling are just a few we will be on the look out for.

Day 9

We depart Serengeti National Park this morning and drive to the famous Ngorongoro Crater, our final destination for two nights.  Once again, this is a very scenic journey, which should provide numerous encounters with migrating wildebeests, zebras and gazelles. 

We will break the journey for lunch at the Oldupai Gorge, located in the Great Rift Valley between Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.  This is one of the most important paleoanthropological sites in the world, where hundreds of fossilized bones and stone tools dating back millions of years, were found and led to a conclusion that humans evolved in Africa.  Those who are interested will have the opportunity to visit a museum.  Southern Grosbeak can also be seen here.  

The final leg of the journey will take us up the dramatic forest-clad hills of the Crater Highlands.   On reaching the top, we will find once again the most amazing sights of the Ngorongoro crater floor dotted with animals.   The crater’s rim is good for birds, and while we travel around it, we might pick up Schalow’s Turaco, White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, Jackson’s Widowbird, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater and Hunter’s Cisticola. 

Our lodge is ideally situated on the edge of the crater with magnificent views down to the crater floor. The lodge’s grounds team with birds and likely species to see here include Brown Parisoma, Golden-winged Sunbird and Brown-backed Woodpecker, amongst others.  

Day 10

After breakfast, we descend 600m into this magnificent Ngorongoro Crater for a full-day game drive. Supported by a year round water supply and fodder, the Ngorongoro National Park hosts a vast variety of mammals, including Blue Wildebeest, Burchell’s Zebra, Grant’s and Thomson’s Gazelles, Buffalo, Bat-eared Fox, and this is perhaps the best site in Africa to see the endangered Black Rhino.    Not surprisingly, there is a huge population of predators, such as Lions, hyenas, jackals, Cheetahs and the ever-elusive Leopard. The crater, undoubtedly, is one of the best areas for photography, and there will be no shortage of exciting encounters to keep us going.  

Birdlife abounds here too, with a good range of waterbirds, including waders, as well as Grey Crowned Crane, large flocks of Abdim's Stork, Grosbeak Weaver, Red-collared Widowbird and thousands of Greater and Lesser Flamingos that line the saline shores of Lake Magadi.  A visit to a Fever Tree forest might bring some new species, such as Grey-capped Warbler, Brown-crowned Tchagra, White-headed Barbet and Holub’s Golden Weaver.  

Day 11

After breakfast and some birdwatching on the lodge’s grounds, we will travel to the Kilimanjaro International Airport in Arusha to catch our plane home.  We will continue birdwatching and mammal watching en route and will break our journey for lunch.

As our flight is not until late at night, we will visit a lodge just beyond Arusha, where you will have the opportunity to refresh, re-pack and have a last evening meal, before heading for the airport. 

For more pictures from Tanzania please look in the Gallery: Birds of Tanzania and Wildlife of  Tanzania, or read the article in the News section: Migration in Tanzania.

Trip Report 2018


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Serengeti National Park

Wildebeest Migration in Tanzania

Serengeti National Park

Zebras in Serengeti

Buffalos in Ngorongoro

Lion in Serengeti


Spotted hyena with a prey

Black-backed Jackal

Secretary Bird in Ngorongoro

Red-and-yellow Barber

Southern Ground Hornbill

Splendid Starling

Von der Decken's Hornbill

Fish Eagle

Rufous-caped Lark

Green-headed Sunbird


Grey-crowned Crane