EPIC ROAD'S SAFARI BLOG

Entries in Tanzania (3)

Saturday
Aug112018

The Best Way to Experience the Ngorongoro Crater

 

One of the best places in Africa for a safari to see the Big Five and other wildlife is Tanzania’s Ngorongoro crater. Here in northern Tanzania, the dense concentration of some of Africa’s most iconic species paired with the dramatic landscape formed by the crater makes this one of the best places for a safari for everyone from families to honeymooners. The Ngorongoro crater is the largest volcanic caldera in the world and was formed millions of years ago when an active volcano exploded and collapsed on itself. The crater rim is a natural enclosure inside which is a rich and fertile grazing ground for wildlife that live there, including elephants, lions,  wildebeest, zebra, gazelles, leopards, African wild dogs, cheetah, hyena, buffalo, and flamingos. Most famously, there is a number of critically endangered black rhino living within the protected area.

There are plenty of fantastic options for luxury accommodation around the Ngorongoro Crater. Some of our favorites include the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge for its romantic ambiance, The Highlands for its incredible views all the way to the Serengeti, and Entamanu for its high level of privacy. All of the best properties near the Ngorongoro Crater have expert guides and a variety of activities beyond just the usual descent into the crater to see wildlife from afar. You can have a picnic on the crater floor while hippos come to drink water in the lake, or watch the sunrise or sunset from atop the crater’s rim.

One of the best times to visit the Ngorongoro Crater is from December - March, which is the best time to see the great migration and wildebeest calving. Combine a few days near the Crater with some time in the Serengeti. Understand the best time to go to Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater and other safari destinations and make sure to plan the best safari possible with help from our experts at Epic Road.

Thursday
Mar132014

Top Natural Wonders of Africa

Botswana SafariAt Epic Road we’re privileged to have travelled through some of nature’s most breathtaking places and inspiring landscapes,  and we’re often asked which would make it onto our bucket list of the world's most spectacular must-see natural wonders. It’s a tough choice, but here are our favorites for sub-Saharan Africa:

1.) Botswana – The Okavango Delta: In the middle of the arid Kalahari Desert lies a miracle of nature: a lush oasis of waterways and islands, teeming with birds, wildlife, and flowers. This remote, remarkable wetland known as The Okavango Delta is flooded each year with approximately 2.63 cubic miles of water, which eventually evaporates, transpires and drains into the adjacent Lake Ngami.  The floods peak between June and August when the delta expands to three times its normal size, and the abundance of water attracts animals from surrounding territories, resulting in one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of wildlife. Visitors to the Delta can expect to see bush elephant and buffalo, hippopotamus, blue wildebeest, giraffe, lion, cheetah, leopard, brown hyena, spotted hyena, black rhinos and white rhinos, along with one of the Africa's richest pack densities of the endangered wild dog. Birders will also be kept busy trying to spot the more than 400 species of birds that inhabit the area.

We love the Okavango Delta because it is a place where conservation is prioritized and travelers have access not only to a place of great natural beauty and peaceful energy, but can also learn, explore and experience amazing adventures while on their luxury African safari

Related Epic Road Luxury African Safaris:

Selinda & Okavango Delta - Botswana's Water Wonderland

Botswana Family Safari: The Lion King Experience

2.) Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda – The Virunga National Park: The Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo runs along the border between Uganda and Rwanda, and boasts a rich diversity that surpasses any other park in Africa.  This UNESCO World Heritage site covers an area close to 2,000,000 acres, with multiple habitats that include swamps and steppes, the snowfields of Rwenzori, lava plains and grassy savannahs. The Virunga Mountain range also consists of eight, mostly dormant volcanoes, except for Mounts Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira (both in the Democratic Republic of Congo)—which also happen to be the most active volcanoes on the continent.

The park is also home to iconic African animal and plant species—many of which are red listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature—including the critically endangered mountain gorillas and eastern lowland gorillas, African elephants, chimpanzees, owl-faced monkeys,  and more than 20,000 hippos.  We are in awe of the men and women who toil tirelessly in efforts to protect all wildlife in the park.  It is one of the most incredible biomes in the world, definitely worth saving, and definitely worth a visit on your African safari !

Related Epic Road Luxury Safaris:

Gorilla Tracking in Rwanda

Rare and Endangered Wildlife in Uganda

3.) Kenya – the Rift Valley: If watching the Great Wildebeest Migration from a hot air balloon isn’t on your bucket-list, well, it should be, as the the experience is an unbeatable way in which to view one of nature’s most incredible shows.  The Migration ends in Kenya's Maasai Mara region,  situated in the Rift Valley, with the Serengeti Plains running along its southern end.  The Mara covers 200 square miles of open plains, woodlands and riverine forests and is home to an enormous variety of wild life, including zebra, giraffe, gazelles, monkeys, buffalo, elephants, and hippos. It is a place where mighty herds congregate, where the cycle of life plays out daily, and Maasai warriors share their ancestral homeland with the fierce predators of Africa.

From July to October every year, the search for fertile grazing grounds and water draws more than 1.3 million Wildebeest who migrate in a single massive herd across the Serengeti over the border into Kenya—an amazing display of nature that stretches from one horizon to the other. The Mara River presents a formidable challenge for the Wildebeest, who plunge into the raging waters, fighting against swift currents and the constant threat of hungry crocodiles.  The Wildebeest herds are then followed by predators, most especially lions, though cheetah, hyena and jackals are also commonly sighted.

The region is also home to the Maasi people, who value tradition and ritual, and who rarely hunt, preferring to live harmoniously alongside wildlife. It is this rare co-existence of man and wildlife that makes the Maasai one of the most unique natural habitats in the world, and one of the most unforgettable places you can visit on your luxury African safari.

Related Epic Road Luxury Safaris:

Crossing the Mighty Mara River

Maasai Wilderness and Elephant Conservation Safari

Maasai Walking Safari: A Slow Safari Experience

Conserving Africa's Big Cats - Kenya

4.) Mozambique - Vamizi: There are times when it’s not only what you see on the surface that takes your breath away; sometimes you have to look a little deeper, like the beautiful landscapes of Vamizi, one of 32 tropical islands in the Quirimbas Archipelago. This narrow stretch of land is covered with thick forests of Acacia, Hibiscus and Casuarina trees, and edged by glittering white-sand beaches that give way to the pristine turquoise ocean. Vamizi is a sanctuary for humans and animals alike: a place where green turtles make arduous journies up the sands to lay their eggs, giant coconut crabs nestle within the coral, and rare samango monkeys and exotic birds make their homes within mangrove forests.

It is when you venture beneath the surface of the gentle waves, that you realise the true natural beauty of Vamizi. Here, the coral reefs have been protected from bleaching by cool rising currents from the deep, and are alive with vibrant colourful sponges, corals and a myriad of fish species. The huge laced gorgonian fan corals which cling to the sides of the drop offs and the whip corals swaying in the gentle currents are mesmirizing, and for experienced divers the opportunity to explore Neptune’s Arm—considered one of the top ten dive sites in the world—will be impossible to resist.

We love Vamizi for its exquisite tranquility above and below the surface, and because of the emphasis on sustainable luxury safaris, leaving the island refreshingly free of the damage that often results from tourism and development.  

Related Epic Road Luxury Safaris:

Vamizi Island, Mozambique: Castaway Chic

5.) Namibia – the Namib-Naukluft National Park and the Kunene Region: Namibia is known for its varied dramatic landscapes, and the strikingly beautiful dune fields of the Namib and the Sossusvlei, found in the Namib-Naukluft National Park in the southern part of the Namib Desert, are absolute must-sees. The Sossusvlei is a salt and clay pan surrounded by massive dunes, many of which exceed 600 feet, and glow vivid shades of red, orange and pink, the result of high iron deposits in the sand.  Vegetation grows on the higher dunes, drawing water from underground ephemeral rivers which occasionally flood the surface, and when dry the pans turn almost white from the resulting concentration of salt.  While the Sossusvlei is not teeming with wildlife, there are many small animals in their area which can survive with little water, including small reptiles, rodents and jackals, as well as larger mammals such as oryxes and springboks and ostriches.

The Kunene region is one of even more contrasts. You wouldn’t expect it but the arid, lunar-like landscape is becoming a genuine wildlife destination where you’ll regularly see desert-adapted animals including elephants, black rhino, lions, Hartmanns Zebra, giraffe and gemsbok. We love that the government had the foresight to give local communities land management rights, resulting in more than 70 conservancies and wildlife sanctuaries, and successful conservation efforts that have led to an increase in the number of desert-adapted black rhinos, one of the largest and fastest-growing rhino populations on the continent.

Related Epic Road Luxury Safaris:

Romance and Luxury in the Nambian Desert

6.) South Africa – the whole country: South Africa has so much to offer visitors that we’re declaring the entire country a natural wonder!  This modern, cosmopolitan nation has an incredibly rich biodiversity, which plays out across some of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, along with rich forests, stunning coastlines and deserts. The Cape Floral Kingdom, found in the southwest portion of the Western Cape, contains 9600 plant species, 70% of which do not grow naturally anywhere else on earth. Table Mountain, in the heart of the Floral Kingdom, has more than 1,500 plant species alone, and the views from the 3,500 fot, flat-topped sandstone peak are spectacular. 

Then there’s the incredible wildlife. While South Africa covers less than one percent of the earth’s land mass, it is home to six percent of the world’s mammal and reptile species, and ten percent of the world’s plant, fish and bird species. Sightings of Africa’s Big Five happen on a daily basis, particularly in the Kruger National Park. South Africa is also the custodian of 80 percent of the world’s rhino population, and the opportunity to catch sight of one of these prehistoric creatures during your South African safari is an experience that will linger for a lifetime.

Related Epic Road Luxury Safaris:

Jet Set in Cape Town

Vintage Wine and Fantastic Food in Cape Winelands

Microchip a Rhino in the African Wild

South Africa Family Safari: Luxury, Wildlife and Adventure for All

7.) Tanzania - Kilimanjaro National ParksNgorongoro Crater: With Serengeti (shared with Kenya) and Kilimanjaro National Parks and Ngorongoro included on the list of winners of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, it’s easy to understand why we include it on our top ten.  To begin with, the Great Wildebeest Migration, which occurs from July to October of every year, starts in the Serengeti, and is considered one of the most spectacular wildlife events in all of nature. Then there's the iconic Mount Kilimanjaro, one of Africa’s best known attractions and one of the the most accessible of the world's highest peaks.  The landscapes of Kilimanjaro are diverse, with the cultivated lower slopes making way for lush forest, and encompassing habitats for elephants, leopard, buffalo and the endangered abbot’s duiker, along with other small antelope and primates. Higher up the slopes you’ll find the moorland zone. Higher still, the alpine desert which supports very little life, and gives way to the ice, snow and majestic views from atop the roof of continent.

In addition to these wonders, Tanzania contains the nearly three-million-year-old Ngorongoro Crater, a vast un-flooded volcanic caldera home to almost every species of wildlife in East Africa—an estimated 25,000 animals.  And also not to be missed on your Tanzania safari: the fascinating, historical Zanzibar Archipelago, off the Tanzanian coast, which include the culturally significant islands of Unguja (known more commonly as Zanzibar) and Pemba. Zanibar's location in the Indian Ocean made it a natural regional trading center, famous for its spices, Stone Town (a UNESCO World Heritage site), and exquisite coastlines.  Unguja especially is renowned for its powdery white sand beaches and fringing coral reefs, rich in marine biodiversity.

Related Epic Road Luxury Safaris:

Safari in the Ngorongoro Crater

Serengeti Safari: Witness the Great Migration

Safari in Zanzibar: Low Key and Local

Tanzania Family Safari: A Classic African Experience

8.) Zambia and Zimbabwe - Victoria Falls: When it comes to understanding the incredible power of nature, there is nothing like an African adventure safari at Victoria Falls. Located on the Zambezi River at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, this awe inspiring curtain of water has columns of spray that can be seen from miles away. The falls are classified as the largest in the world based on their width of 5,604 feet and height of 354 feet, and at the peak of the rainy season more than 1.766 cubic feet of water per minute plunges into the river gorges below, transforming the generally placid Zambezi into a ferocious torrent of rolling rapids and rolicking waves.

The walls that encase Victoria Falls are capped by mist-soaked rainforest, and the surrounding area also contains two national parks: The UNESCO designated Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park which runs over 16,000 acres on the Zambian side, and the 5,683 acre Victoria Falls National Park in Zimbabwe.  There are also a number of smaller parks—including the Zambezi National Park, Matetsi Safari Area, Kazuma Pan National Park and Hwange National Park—containing sizeable populations of elephant, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, and a variety of antelope. Vervet monkeys and baboons are also common, and the portion of the Zambezi River above the falls is also home to large populations of hippos and crocodile.

Related Epic Road Luxury Safaris:

Re-Imagining Victoria Falls

Zimbabwe Safari: Autheticity by Car, Boat and Foot

Victoria Falls Family Safari: A Water Wonderland

 

Friday
May172013

Rebuilding the Circle: Africa's Conservation Success Stories

Africa conservation of animals

The African continent is one of the few remaining places where we can witness the breath-taking range of nature’s diversity. Although 45 percent of the world’s wilderness lies in Africa, the human population is growing at nearly twice the global rate. With a growing population come serious threats to the natural majesty of the continent. From the windy crucible of the Cape to the steaming jungle of the Congo, from the red moonscape of the Kalahari to the blizzards of the Atlas Mountains—totally unique biospheres are disappearing before our eyes.

But the future isn’t hopeless. The tireless efforts of individuals across the continent to turn back the tide of environmental degradation make a difference every day. Here are some inspiring examples of conservation efforts in Africa that are succeeding.

Gorongosa National Park: Gorongosa National Park lies at the southern end of the Great African Rift Valley, in the heart of central Mozambique. Known as “Africa’s lost Eden,” Gorongosa was recently and miraculously brought back from the brink of disappearance. Years of civil war in the country decimated the large mammal population (including hippos, elephants, buffalo, zebra, and lions) by over ninety percent, and ravaged the natural landscape.

But in 2004, the American-based Carr Foundation and the Government of Mozambique teamed up to restore the park. They reintroduced both large mammals and tiny critters, like ants, essential to rebuilding a complete ecosystem, and refurbished Chitengo Safari Camp. Since then, Gorongosa has emerged as one of Africa’s greatest success stories—wildlife is thriving and the park is once again beginning to function as a wonderful place to experience African safari. As E.O. Wilson, one of the world’s most celebrated biodiversity scientists, said, Gorongosa gives us the rare opportunity to “see earth as it looked and felt before the coming of humanity.”

Vamizi Turtle Preservation:

Mozambique’s Vamizi Island is famous for its private resort, its simple luxury, and its unspoilt beaches—but it’s also home to a large population of green and hawksbill turtles, who lay their eggs on the same pristine beaches where we tan and swim. When baby turtles hatch each winter, they immediately begin an arduous trek down to the water’s edge. Turtle survival is already one of nature’s greatest lotteries, made much more difficult by the intervention of humans who poach them for their shells or catch them in fishermen’s nets.

Since 2012, the WWF has been working with Vamizi to stabilize the turtle population. A fulltime staff of nine protects the nests, nurtures hatchlings, spreads the turtle news throughout the local community, and encourages the island’s guests to get involved hands-on.

The plight of the turtles is one of the most compelling and accessible conservation stories on Earth, and as a result, success stories are multiplying. Why not combine a world-class luxury retreat in Vamizi with the life-changing opportunity to watch hatchlings emerge from shells, and nudge them towards survival?

Singita Grumeti Anti-Poaching Unit

Before 2002, illegal poaching across Singita Grumeti in Tanzania, west of the Serengeti, was a daily occurrence. Poaching undermined the tourist potential of the reserves and, in doing so, undermined the ability of local communities to reap sustainable benefits from the area’s rich natural resources.

In 2002, Singita Grumeti Lodge, alongside the Tanzanian Wildlife Division, created an anti-poaching unit to patrol the area, consisting of 120 rangers (many of them ex-poachers) and resulting in unprecedented success. Since the creating of the unit, illegal poaching within Singita Grumeti has been virtually eradicated, and ecotourism is thriving.

Recently, Singita Grumeti has reintroduced black rhino into the reserve, as part of the “Save the Rhino” repatriation initiative, in the hope of revitalizing the population’s numbers and genetic diversity.  

Big Life Foundation

Singita Grumeti isn’t the organization that’s successfully tackling poaching in East Africa. The Big Life Foundation, founded in 2010 by photographer Nick Brandt and conservationist Richard Bonham, is dedicated to coordinated cross-border poaching prevention. In its first 22 months of existence, Big Life made 627 arrests and confiscated 1639 weapons in the Amboseli ecosystem across Kenya and Tanzania where Big Life operates. They are successfully protecting 2 million acres on a daily basis with a team of more than 250 rangers—all of whom are hired from local communities.

Since its inception, Big Life has branched out into other, innovative conservation efforts, such as GPS rhino tracking, doggy rangers, a compensation fund for livestock killed by endangered predators, and a Maasai Olympics.

The efforts of these committed conservationists are keeping certain species afloat. But much of their success depends on continued interest in the region, which spurs demand for conservation and makes it financially viable. Tourism is essential to keeping Africa’s biodiversity alive.

By choosing an African safari that engages and explores these issues, you’re choosing to keep the efforts to solve them alive.