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Tanzania Birds & Big Cats

A 12-day birdwatching & mammals tour to Tanzania

Timed to coincide with the great annual migration of Wildebeest through the Serengeti Plain - a highlight on our eight previous May tours here - our 'Birds & Big Cats' safari to Northern Tanzania will introduce you to magnificent Arusha, Tarangire, Ngorongoro and Serengeti National Parks. Join our East Africa specialist Dalton Gibbs for what is arguably the greatest wildlife experience on Earth... and thrill to a super-abundance of East African birds and mammals in the most dramatic and beautiful of settings!

Tour Dates

2019

Spaces
3

Leaders
Dalton Gibbs

Max Group Size: 6
Duration: 12 Days

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Cost: £6395

inc return flights from London Heathrow-Kilimanjaro with KLM

Deposit: £700

Single Supp: £595
Land Only: £5795

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3AFR mammal Leopard tree best Tanzania Keith Bedford May 2009 IMG 1698B

Photo opportunities of fabulous beasts - such as this close encounter with a Leopard - helps to make Tanzania such an amazing destination! © tour participant Keith Bedford

Northern Tanzania offers perhaps the ultimate wildlife experience. Its forests, lakes and savannah teem with birds, including a suite of Serengeti endemics. There are also extraordinary numbers of large mammals, from unimaginable herds of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle sweeping majestically across the plains, through to top predators such as Lion, Leopard and Cheetah. Yet, even without this superabundance of wildlife, the backcloth to our tour is magnificent. Join our East Africa specialist Dalton Gibbs on a journey through some of the most awe-inspiring and incredibly beautiful landscapes on Earth!

Our visit is timed to coincide with the great annual migration of Wildebeest through the Serengeti - a truly astonishing spectacle and a major highlight of all our previous tours! But our travels begin at Arusha, in the shadow of two of East Africa’s great peaks: Mt. Meru and snow-capped Kilimanjaro. Where the dry acacia scrub gives way to mist-belt forest, troops of agile Guereza Colobus forage among branches draped with “Old Man’s Beard”. Their sudden alarm calls may betray a Crowned Eagle hunting above the canopy, while a brilliant flash of red transforms itself into the lovely Hartlaub’s Turaco or a stunning Bar-tailed Trogon.

To the south, lies Tarangire National Park with its thornbush scrub and gigantic baobab trees. A place synonymous with the African Elephant, this is also the haunt of three notable endemics: the striking Yellow-collared Lovebird, Ashy Starling and Rufous-tailed Weaver. Bordering Lake Manyara - famous for its concentrations of rose-pink flamingos - this ecosystem also offers stunning palm savannah and the dramatic cliffs of the Great Rift Valley.      

The alternating grass and bush plains of the fabulous Serengeti stretch beyond the horizon and can literally teem with animals as far as the eye can see - including the famous wildebeest migration and associated predators. Here we’ll find Africa's big Kori Bustard and Secretarybird, along with Serengeti endemics such as Fischer’s Lovebird and Grey-breasted Francolin. In the more wooded central Serengeti, Usambiro Barbet and Silverbird occur amongst an even richer diversity of birds - and we have our best chances of spotting Leopard!

The immense caldera of the Ngorongoro Crater is one of the scenic wonders of the world, its vast crater floor and highland rainforest a microcosm of equatorial Africa. Some 30,000 large mammals - including the rare Black Rhino - live within the confines of this spectacular natural amphitheatre.

As we return full circle to Arusha, we’ll look back at the wonders of the Rift Valley from our lunch spot overlooking Lake Manyara - our laststop on this superb wildlife tour - as raptors soar over the escarpment.

Guide Dalton Gibbs is our East Africa specialist and has led our last four tours to Northern Tanzania. Our May 2019 tour will be his fifth trip to Tanzania for us and Limosa's ninth visit there since 2009.

Red fronted Tinkerbird side view Tanzania Keith Bedford May 2009IMG 10851A

The repeated tonk, tonk, tonk... calls of the Red-fronted Tinkerbird are a characteristic sound of the African bush © tour participant Keith Bedford

Day 1
FLY LONDON-KILIMANJARO

Our 'Birds & Big Cats' tour to Tanzania begins with a morning flight from London Heathrow and onward same day connection to Kilimanjaro Airport (near the town of Arusha). Our guide Dalton will be waiting to welcome us on arrival there this evening. We transfer directly to our first lodge (about 45 minutes drive), which will be our base for two nights. Night Arusha

Day 2
ARUSHA NATIONAL PARK

Arusha lies at the base of two of East Africa’s great peaks, Mounts Kilimanjaro and Meru. Our first full day in Tanzania will be spent exploring areas at the foot of these mountains, where dry acacia scrub gives way to luxuriant mist-belt forests as one drives further up the slopes. Small troops of attractive Guereza Colobus monkeys, with their distinctive long, drooping black and white coats, forage amongst branches draped in ‘Old Man’s Beard’ lichen.

Many of the birds here are completely different to those we will see later in the trip and we’ll hope to enjoy the likes of Narina Trogon and Hartlaub’s Turaco, while the sudden alarm calls of the monkeys might well betray a powerful Crowned Hawk-eagle hunting overhead. We’ll see our first large mammals today too, with African Buffalo and Giraffe to watch for in the more open areas and, if we’re lucky, the dainty Kirk’s Dikdik in the forest understorey.

At the border of the park, African plains mammals such as Thompson’s Gazelle and Common Zebra mingle freely with the local Maasai herds of cattle and goats, in a seemingly harmonious tolerance. Definitely food for thought while watching Meru’s abundant wildlife, with regal Maasai herdsmen tending their flocks, their striking red shawls rippling in the breeze - and all presided over by the looming snowy peak of Kilimanjaro. Night Arusha

Day 3
ARUSHA TO LAKE MANYARA

We head south today towards Tarangire National Park and settle into our next lodge, on the edge of Lake Manyara. The palm savannah grassland here offers a stark contrast to the lush forests of Mt Meru. Our luxury, tented camp is visited by curious zebras and Thomson’s Gazelles, and the expansive views make for a very scenic base.

From the deck of our restaurant, we can ‘scope for waders along the ever-moving lakeshore, and watch jackals foraging for prey. Secretarybirds, Black-bellied Bustards and a host of cisticolas patrol the grasslands, while the acacia scrub holds the rather vocal Spotted Palm Thrush and groups of ‘duetting’ D’Arnaud’s Barbets. Night Lake Manyara, near Tarangire National Park

Day 4
TARANGIRE NATIONAL PARK

Today we make an early start to nearby Tarangire National Park, a place synonymous with the African Elephant. Indeed, there are few more scenic spots to view these jumbos than among that giant of African trees, the Baobab, which dominate this splendid reserve.

Tarangire is also home to some of the birds that are endemic to this part of Africa: the striking Yellow-collared Lovebird is common here, and Ashy Starlings and Rufous-tailed Weavers are plentiful, too. We will also encounter the tremendous diversity of hornbills, woodpeckers, rollers and weavers that make African savannah birding so rewarding – and, if we are very lucky, will perhaps see our first big cats!

There will also be time to savour close views of a rich variety of birds that frequent Tarangire’s picnic sites and the park headquarters, such as the colourful D’Arnaud’s Barbet. Night Lake Manyara, near Tarangire National Park

Days 5 - 6              
LAKE MANYARA TO NDUTU, NGORONGORO CONSERVATION AREA

After some further birding and lunch at the lodge, we will head up into the vast Serengeti-Ngorongoro ecosystem. One of the world’s great natural amphitheatres, it really is impossible to convey in words the feeling of awe and privilege one experiences in these vast, timeless landscapes with their abundance of wildlife. We shall spend a total of six nights enjoying this extraordinary region.

First, we’ll head up the Lake Manyara escarpment. Lake Manyara nestles beneath the dramatic cliffs of the East African Rift Valley and is rich in wildlife - but is perhaps most famous for its large concentrations of Greater and Lesser Flamingos.

Next, we’ll drive up the steep slopes of the Ngorongoro caldera - the crater of an ancient, collapsed volcano - that looms above the plains. The rim of the crater presents a quite different habitat to the grasslands down below, with fairy-tale forests of huge, gnarled trees with ‘Old Man’s Beard’ swirling in the morning mists. Since we will be spending two nights here at the end of the tour, today we will simply indulge in the impressive scenery, stopping for short scans and the chance to stretch our legs.

Looking westwards, the plains of the incomparable Serengeti stretch away to the horizon. We’ll head out of the crater and across the plains, hoping to encounter the migrating herds as they move towards the central Serengeti at this time of year. Our destination for these two nights lies to the southwest, at Ndutu. Renowned for its concentrations of wildlife, Ndutu makes an excellent base from which to explore the southern ‘short-grass plains’, lakes and woodland.

Endemic Serengeti birds are common around the lodge at Ndutu, with Fischer’s Lovebirds breeding in tree-cavities in the grounds and Grey-breasted Francolins displaying first thing out in front of the rooms. Kori and Hartlaub’s Bustards frequent the plains, and nearby Lake Masek is excellent for waterbirds. We may well encounter a pride of engorged Lions, lazily scattered around the previous night’s kill; or watch as scavenging vultures, hyaenas and jackals wait patiently for an opportunity to snaffle some scraps. As we search for them, we may see Bat-eared Foxes basking in the morning sun. With luck, we could even come across a Cheetah chasing Thomson’s and Grant’s Gazelles over the plains. Two nights Ndutu

Days 7 - 8
SERENGETI

Leaving Ndutu this morning, we will make our way northwards into the Serengeti National Park, where we shall spend the next two nights.

From our comfortable lodge, we will head out to explore the central Serengeti. There are more trees here, offering a larger diversity of birds – and our best chance of spotting a Leopard! Usambiro Barbet, Superb and Hildebrandt’s Starlings, Silverbird, Tanzanian Red-billed Hornbill and Grey-headed Silverbill are just some of those we should see as we explore the riverine loops, wildlife drives and rocky outcrops of this rewarding area. If we’re lucky, we will also find the little-known Karamoja Apalis and possibly encounter family groups of Grey-crested Helmetshrikes - though the floppy crests of this latter species are definitely outdone by Long-crested Eagle, just one of several different species of eagle we should find.

The largest concentration of Wildebeest should be present in this area at this time of year. While their exact position can never be predicted, we are highly likely to see some huge migrating herds - indeed, some areas can literally teem with animals as far as the eye can see! It is impossible to describe the sense of energy that one gets when surrounded by these hordes of grunting animals and the predators that accompany them. The herds are dominated by Blue Wildebeest (sometimes known as Brindled Gnu), but also contain vast numbers of Common Zebra and Thomson’s Gazelles.

With so many potential meals on the hoof, it will come as no surprise to discover that the vulture watching is excellent here, too! Star birds include the huge Lappet-faced Vulture and the scarcer Rüppell’s Vulture. Two nights Serengeti

Day 9
SERENGETI TO NGORONGORO CRATER RIM

As we leave the Serengeti, we’ll retrace our steps through the southern plains. If time allows, we will stop en route at the Olduvai Gorge museum, a world-famous archaeological site where the Leakey family unearthed the remains of some of Man’s earliest ancestors. It adds a sense of time and respect to think that the spectacle stretching-out in front of us has been going on for countless generations.

We should arrive late afternoon on the Ngorongoro crater rim. We’ll search for the lovely Schalow’s Turaco, with its distinctive long pointed crest, in the emergent tree canopies, while gorgeous Malachite Sunbirds forage for patches of upland flowers.

Perched on the crater rim, our lodge offers spectacular views across full width of the immense caldera. At night we may hear the calls of Montane Nightjar, Tree Hyrax and hyaenas. And the next morning, before descending into the crater itself, we may wake to the resounding grunts of the Wildebeest grazing below. Night Ngorongoro Crater Rim

Day 10
NGORONGORO CRATER

The Ngorongorocrater floor is justly famous as a natural sanctuary for the bountiful wildlife within. Nowadays, it is also the only reliable place in East Africa to see Black Rhinoceros - but the whole is like a microcosm of Africa, with a good population of large mammals, including Lion. Small lakes inside the crater hold a selection of flamingos, storks and plovers - stalked by Golden Jackals. Augur Buzzard is among an array of raptors that may also be seen and there'll be no shortage of other bird and mammal excitements to keep us fully occupied here today!

As the day draws to a close, we will return to enjoy our last evening’s drinks over spectacular crater views and gaze back down at the unique sights we have experienced earlier in the day. Night Ngorongoro Crater Rim

Day 11
LAKE MANYARA ESCARPMENT & KILIMANJARO, FLY LONDON

We travel westwards to our lunch stop overlooking beautiful Lake Manyara, the last stop on this wonderful tour. Our viewpoint will offer us final views of African raptors soaring above the escarpment.

After lunch, we make the three-hour drive back to Kilimanjaro Airport, where we say farewell to Dalton and catch our overnight flight home.

Day 12
ARRIVAL LONDON

Arrival in London, where our birdwatching and wildlife tour to Tanzania tour concludes.

3AFR mammal Wildebeest & Zebra Tanzania Jo Latham May 2010 (12)

In the thick of it... the Zebra family curse as they get caught up in the Wildebeest evening rush! © tour participant Jo Latham, wildlifephotocards.co.uk

What To Expect

Timed to coincide with the great annual migration of Wildebeest through the Serengeti Plain - a highlight on our eight previous May tours here - our 'Birds & Big Cats' safari to Northern Tanzania will introduce you to magnificent Arusha, Tarangire, Ngorongoro and Serengeti National Parks. Join our East Africa specialist Dalton Gibbs for what is arguably the greatest wildlife experience on Earth... and thrill to a super-abundance of East African birds and mammals in the most dramatic and amazingly beautiful of settings!

The climate in Tanzania is tropical year-round. May is one of the cooler months making it a great time to visit, with temperatures typically in the range of 10-30C (50-86F) and average daily temperatures of around 20-25C (68-77F); lower if there is cloud and mist on the mountains. April is the wettest month so we can expect the landscape in May to be vibrant, green and lush, possibly with some cloud and rain hanging over from April, especially near the mountain rainforests.

Temperatures fall with altitude and mornings can feel decidedly chilly on the Ngorongoro Crater rim at 2400m (down to perhaps 5C/41F at night) - so although we are in the tropics be sure to bring some warm clothing!

There are superb photographic opportunities on this tour - birds, large mammals and landscapes.

Birds

300-350 species

Mammals

30-50 species

Accommodation

10 nights accommodation in Tanzania staying at a selection of hand-picked hotels, guest houses, safari lodges/permanent tented camps. All rooms have private facilities.

Meals

All main meals are included in the tour price, commencing with light refreshments on arrival at the first lodge late evening on Day 1 and concluding with lunch on Day 11. Food is good. Most main meals taken at our lodgings, and lunches either as picnics or at the lodges.

Walking

Easy. Short walks, where these are permissible. Comfortable walking shoes and sandals are suitable.

In the parks, away from our lodgings however, please note that the presence of wild animals generally precludes excursions on foot so we travel by 4WD safari-style vehicle adapted for wildlife viewing with an open 'roll-top' roof.

Maximum altitude: on this tour we reach a maximum elevation of 2400m (7900ft) above sea level - even though much higher mountains loom above!

Travel

We fly from London Heathrow to Kilimanjaro (Arusha). KLM offer the best schedules and is our preferred carrier on this route. Please note that there are no direct flights from the UK to Kilimanjaro at this time so all routes do involve a change of planes (change in Amsterdam with KLM).

Ground Transport  We use 4WD safari-style vehicles (e.g. Landcruisers / Land Rover type) specially adapted for wildlife viewing with an open 'roll- top' roof.

3AFR mammal Elephant babies Tanzania Callan Cohen Deirdre Vrancken May 2010 MG 3609

African Elephants in the Serengeti National Park © Callan Cohen & Deirdre Vrancken

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1 RH, Tanzania 'Birds & Big Cats' tour Whole trip was 'stellar'! [empty string]
2 SW, Tanzania 'Birds & Big Cats' tour A fantastic trip - wonderful views of mammals - especially canids and cats (my main interests!). African Golden Wolf and Serval both new to me, and to 'eyeball' a cub of the former was just incredible! Birds and scenery also totally amazing! Tanzania is an awe-inspiring place. [empty string]
3 MC, Tanzania 'Birds & Big Cats' tour My best wildlife experience with Limosa. [empty string]
4 PB, Tanzania 'Birds & Big Cats' tour After several years of intense travel and birding I can rate this tour as my best travel experience to date. The quality of the sightings and total of cats/animals and birds made the trip. [empty string]
5 R&MB, Tanzania 'Birds & Big Cats' tour Excellent guides and organisation... Both Callan and Deirdre are a delight to be with - we look forward to being with them again... You always have such good leaders, stand out from some other companies. [empty string]
6 JG, Tanzania 'Birds & Big Cats' tour Callan Cohen is an outstanding tour leader, very ably supported by Deirdre who has an excellent knowledge of mammals. [empty string]
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