Discover Animals wants to help you get the really best animal experiences. One of the trips of a lifetime for many people is an African safari, to see unique, unusual and often endangered species in their natural environment. Peter Stonham has recently returned from a fantastic trip to East Africa and has come back with great insights into what visitors can now enjoy by tailoring their programme to their own interests and tapping into available expert guides and special visit opportunities. An amazing experience getting up close and connected to rare and often endangered animals in Africa has left him full of stories and with a rich photographic record from his recent safari to Tanzania.
Peter was very impressed by the ability of his guide to find specific animals within the parks, which is helped by a CB radio network that the guides share to alert each other to movements and activities. As well as individual animal species and activities (eg mating, bathing and hunting for prey), the guides can help you understand the habitat, eco-system and the issues surrounding conservation and poaching, which is still sadly a problem.
If you are interested in trees or other plants, that can be a theme, as can the history of the parks and why maintaining their environment is such an important responsibility if the rare and endangered species are to survive. The beneficial effect of tourism in providing an economic motivation to conservation is another interesting dimension, as is the relationship with traditional African tribes like the Masai who are the only ones who are allowed to continue their activities in the parks as they live simply, only herd cattle and do not want to interfere with the eco-system themselves by growing crops or killing the wildlife. There are opportunities to meet Masai people and visit their villages, which could become a theme in itself, although there is generally a slight language problem as Swahili is the main language rather than English.
Accommodation within the parks is generally of a premium quality (and cost), as safari visits are targeted at the well off European, American and Asian markets. There are ways, however, to enjoy the animal experience slightly differently – for example, staying outside the parks themselves, but nearby – and taking advantage of the full African 12-hour equatorial daytime, which is the same throughout the year, when entering the park. Also, some wildlife can be enjoyed outside the parks themselves, although the main species are only comfortable in the special environments that the parks provide and don’t often venture outside.
Peter spent three weeks in the East African country, where he was lucky enough to be helped by a friend whose family-run a locally-based tourism company. He flew out to Entebbe in Uganda, which is the nearest international arrival point to the small town of Bukoba on Lake Victoria in Northern Tanzania, where he began the visit. He completed his journey there on a small eight-seater plane to Bukoba’s air strip, which was an amazing experience in itself. Although Bukoba is not in a national park or reserve, it was an early introduction to some amazing wildlife, particularly exotic birds. The town’s main park has a colony of storks, which Peter found a delight to watch with their huge wing span and swooping flight paths.
After 10 days in Bukoba – a really authentic African regional town with an amazing market and other historic features from its German and British colonial history and African tribal traditions – Peter began a memorable safari trip organised by Kiroyera Tours, which took in the world famous Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Volcanic Crater and Tarangire National Park.
A few particular memories Peter would like to flag up are watching a vast herd of wildebeest moving together, seeing a family group of hippopotamuses emerge from a watering hole to lumber along to another, observing a lion and lioness in a mating ritual, and marvelling at elephants crossing the road in front of the land rover in which Peter was travelling, to cool off in the mud right by the roadside. There were plenty of giraffe, zebras and okapi plus a rare lonely rhinoceros and lots of amazing birds too.
After three days in the parks, Peter headed for the town of Arusha, which is a major entry point for safari visitors. From there, he flew to the exotic island of Zanzibar with an amazing heritage of settlers from the Indian Ocean and Arabia. The main town includes the World Heritage Site of Stonetown with its iconic but often crumbling 19th century coralline rag stone buildings. On Zanzibar, Peter saw more great wildlife including vervet monkeys, giant tortoises and a butterfly sanctuary. There was also a visit to a spice plantation where famous produce includes vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom, not to mention exotic fruits like mangoes, pineapples and of course bananas!
All in all, Peter’s trip provided amazing experiences and new understanding, and that’s without mentioning his time in the rapidly growing Tanzanian capital, Dar-es-Salaam, with its massive marketplace of everything from fruit and vegetables to famous wax dyed textiles. He thoroughly recommends the journey and the benefits of working with a specialist local operator like Kiroyera Tours.