Tanzania ranks extremely high among the world's great areas for large mammal photography—and its potential for bird photography is exceptional. With eleven shooting days, this exciting photo safari takes place entirely within the Greater Serengeti Conservation Area, which includes the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge and superlative Serengeti National Park.
"The tour exceeded our expectations due to the extremely well organized activities. Our ability to enjoy the scenic views as well as the closeness of the various animals and birds plus the variety of species made the trip."
Even without its wildlife, Ngorongoro Crater would be one of the scenic wonders of the world. This giant crater of an ancient volcano, with its 100-square-mile floor, is packed with animals. In its grassy plains and sparse forests are impressive herds of buffalos, zebras, wildebeests and other plains gazelles, together with numerous lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas and other smaller predators. The crater is also one of the world's most reliable places to see and photograph endangered black rhinoceros in the wild. From our comfortable lodge on the crater rim we descend about 2,000 feet into the world's largest, non-flooded and unbroken volcanic caldera—a virtual "lost world" that is home to more than 25,000 big and photogenic animals.
After exploring the crater, we continue westward toward the legendary land of the Serengeti Plains. Our route takes us to fascinating Olduvai Gorge located deep within the famous Great Rift Valley. Olduvai is considered the "cradle of humanity." Since the discovery of the earliest-known fossils of the "human genus"—Homo habilis and Homo erectus—by Mary and Louis Leakey at a location that was once the volcanic ash-covered shoreline of a vast primordial lake, it ranks as one of the most important archeological sites in the world.
Serengeti National Park! We spend a week in one of the world's most exciting destinations for wildlife photography. From atop its intermittent rock outcroppings, called kopjes, the Serengeti savannah rolls on as far as the eye can see—and beyond. It is quintessential Africa, the place of myth, legend and imagination—the Africa of the mind's eye.
At the time of our visit in March, the immense migrating zebra and wildebeest herds, now with young in tow, have moved southward with the rains to the central Serengeti. They've abandoned the drying and lifeless plains of northern Tanzania and Kenya's Masai Mara—both lush and green just a few months earlier. This is a time of plenty for Serengeti's big cats—lions, leopards and cheetahs. They play out a drama as old as the Pleistocene—their ancestors once pressured progenitors of today's sleek speedsters, such as Thompson's and Grant's gazelles and impalas, to develop an amazing level of athleticism.
We photograph the park's wildlife and wild places and watch the red sun rise over rolling grassland and set behind the silhouette of an artistically-shaped acacia. We see giraffes wandering the open plains as herds move from gallery forest to gallery forest. We watch hippos fight for dominance with water flying, mouths gaping and voices bellowing. And, of course, there are the kills!
While many companies advertise four photographers in each safari vehicle to cut costs, we place only three participants in each 9-passenger hatch-roofed Land Rover on this tour! You have exceptional room in the vehicle for unimpeded photo opportunities. We stay at prime locations to be at the most probable area to intercept the big herds. In addition, we fly to Arusha from the Serengeti at the end of our safari to reduce travel time and maximize our photography time in the field. These details can make all the difference in the quality of your Tanzania experience.
Don't miss this extraordinary opportunity to visit Tanzania, the heart of Africa's wildlife and the scene of humankind's earliest encounters with prehistoric species. It is a country that will capture your imagination for years to come. The thrill of viewing and photographing countless animals, up close and free in nature, is both a timeless and an unforgettable experience not to be missed.
For more information on this trip, check out this trip report in the Photo Safaris blog.
Depart from home.
Day 2 (Mar 10)
Arrive at Kilimanjaro Airport near Arusha, Tanzania, and transfer to our hotel.
A three-four hour drive takes us to Tarangire National Park. The park is famous for its elephant herds (some of the largest in Africa), a plethora of baobab trees and two distinctive species of antelope: the fringed-eared oryx and the gerenuk. We arrive at our hotel in time for lunch and an afternoon game drive in the park. (BLD)
After a morning game drive in Tarangire, we will head toward one of Africa’s crown jewels, the Ngorongoro Crater. When viewed from atop its steep volcanic walls, the 100-square-mile crater floor presents a breathtaking patchwork of habitat—changing constantly with the interplay of light and shadow moving across it. Often called the eighth wonder of the world, the crater appears suddenly, in the midst of the forest, like a lost world. After settling into and having lunch at our beautiful hotel, we descend to the crater floor for our first game drive. Descending the steep crater wall each day, we find year-round herds of elephants, wildebeests and zebras, as well as Ngorongoro’s famous black-maned lion prides, hippos and incredible birdlife. We spend the maximum possible time in good light exploring the many habitats on the crater floor, staying to watch the interplay of individual animals and different species wherever we encounter them. We return to our hotel overlooking the crater each evening. (BLD)
Our destination today is Ndutu in the southeastern Serengeti. Here, our comfortable lodge is well positioned to intercept the great herds of zebras and wildebeests as they wend their way across this vast savannah following the rains and the burst of fresh grass. We stop along the way at Olduvai Gorge. Located between Lake Natron and Lake Eyasi, the gorge is an archeological site of immense importance. In 1979 Dr. Mary Leakey discovered the 1.8-million-year-old fossil of Homo habilis
in a wall of the gorge. Later finds included hominid footprints dated to around 3.5 million years of age. (BLD)
This is a glorious time of year to photograph in the southern grasslands of the Serengeti. Wildebeest and zebras usually congregate in massive herds near Ndutu. Thousands upon thousands of very young calves and foals are interspersed among the throng of adults. Large prides of lions stalk these herds while sleek cheetahs prey on the accompanying gazelles and impalas. We divide our time between two locations in the Serengeti to ensure good access to large herds and a diversity of other wildlife, habitats and photography opportunities. Since movement of the wildebeest and zebras is governed by changeable weather patterns, the largest herds are in the southern Serengeti if the weather is wet, and closer to the central Serengeti and its rivers if the south is dry. To ensure our attempts to encounter the large herds, we adjust our location during our stay in the Serengeti to see different habitats and cover more ground if the herds are away from Ndutu. (BLD)
We drive north today to our lodge in the central Serengeti. Built in the Nyarboro Hills on the edge of an escarpment, it overlooks vast plains frequently covered with migrating wildlife during this time of year. (BLD)
We photograph from sunrise following the daily movements of the herds in their search for fresh grazing. Predators abound and we search for those secretive species, like leopards, as well as the more visible species, like lions. We expect to see frequent kills and photograph the assemblage of peripheral animals such as vultures, jackals and hyenas who wait patiently to claim their share of this abundance. (BLD)
Day 14 (Mar 22)
A one-hour flight takes us to Arusha, where we have dayrooms at a quiet hotel outside the city. There is time to rest, shower and prepare for flights home this evening. (BLD)
Tanzania was incredible; beautiful, green and hardly any other people around, but our group. You felt for a while you had the world to yourself. The photography was amazing; the guides knowledgeable. If you should pay 100% more for a Van Os trip...you will come away with a 100% more memories and the photos of a lifetime just a click away.
I don't know how I would improve this trip...it was just wonderful.
- Eleven days of photography at Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti National Park and Olduvai Gorge
- Intercept the large herds of zebras, wildebeests and their attendant predators in the heart of the Serengeti wilderness
- Only three photographers per 9-passenger 4x4 Land Rover
- Return flight from the Serengeti to Arusha maximizes photography time and shortens drive time
Mar 09 - Mar 23, 2018
Fee: $11,795 from Arusha, Tanzania