At a Glance
Dates: August 7th - August 20th, 2023
Extension: We do not currently offer any extensions to this itinerary.
Prices: £7,350 pp sharing (with a £700 single supplement), excluding international flights.
In a sentence: Just a stone's throw from the crowds of the Serengeti, jewels like Mkomazi and Saadani are just waiting to be unearthed.
How can it possibly be that tens of thousands of tourists, armed with a spirit of adventure and best camera-gear the world has to offer, pass by areas like Arusha National Park and Mkomazi each year without even popping in for a visit? It is a tragedy that the admittedly remarkable ecosystems of the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro draw visitors away from beautiful but under-appreciated areas just a few hours drive away. This tour leaves the traditional tourist route behind, heading east from Arusha instead of west. The reward are national parks with a true wilderness feel, where rare species can be found with no other tourists to be seen. Arusha offers some of most prolific birding in the region, whilst Mt Kilimanjaro's foothills protects both one of the rarest primates in the world, the Mt Kilimanjaro guereza, as well as the incredibly elusive Abbott's duiker. Mkomazi is truly wild, part of a massive cross-boundary reserve roamed by black rhino, wild dog, lion and cheetah, alongside dry-country species such as lesser kudu and gerenuk. Amani offers a real change of pace, with its dense forests creating an environment in which birders and botanists will never have a dull moment. Our last stop, Saadani, is probably our favourite stop of the entire tour. Here, the bush descends onto the beach, and elephants, giraffe and sable can be seen whilst sunbathing! Lion and even cheetah have been seen in recent seasons too. All in all, this itinerary oozes with wilderness appeal, making it a Pictus Safaris favourite.
On arrival into Arusha, you will be met by your Pictus Safaris tour leader and transferred to your city centre hotel. There is a pre-tour briefing in the hotel this evening, with the remainder of your day at leisure.
This morning we head directly to Arusha National Park. Most 'Northern Circuit' safaris begin in Arusha town, but this park is still surprisingly under-touristed. It is a truly beautiful area, with the forested foothills of Mt Meru giving way to open savanna. After getting settled into our lodge, we will enjoy our first game drive of the tour, focussed on the elephants and giraffe that call the park home, as well as the entertaining blue monkeys that can be found bouncing on the branches of ancient trees in the forests. Once we've had lunch, our afternoon will be spent canoeing on the breath-takingly beautiful Momella Lakes. Here, the birding is splendid, with frequent gatherings of greater flamingo interrupted only by giraffe parading to the water to drink. This is quintessential Africa, and we usually have it all to ourselves.
After canoeing, we return to the lodge for dinner and some rest.
Our full day is spent in Arusha NP today. A morning game drive allows us to focus on Arusha's 'big game', including elephant, buffalo and giraffe, as well as the pretty fringe-eared oryx and red duikers found in different habitats throughout the park.
After lunch at the lodge, the relative paucity of large predators here mean that this is a wonderful location for walking safaris. Guided by an armed ranger, we will head out on foot to explore the park. This is a great way to gain a different perspective on the wildlife here - giraffes never seemed taller! - and for many this is a real highlight of the itinerary. After a walk of 2-3 hours, we return to the lodge for dinner.
We leave Arusha early this morning to transfer to the foothills of Mt Kilimanjaro, reaching our lodge just outside the main entrance to Mt Kilimanjaro by midday. Most staying here are heading off on an assault of the summit of 'Kili', but we have very different goals in mind. This afternoon we will hike the low-altitude forests that surround the mountain, keeping our eyes peeled for the attractive Mt Kilimanjaro guereza, a large colobus with a highly-localised distribution. The birding here can be quite different from that which is to come, so keep your binoculars handy! After our hike, we return to our hotel for dinner.
It's an early start today! We leave our hotel on foot at first light this morning, following the world-famous 'Machame Route', one of the most famous routes to the summit of Kilimanjaro. Don't worry, the snow-capped peak is not our ambition this morning, we're after something much more special. Near a hut on this route is a small area where several ultra-rare Abbott's duikers have recently been photographed. We will wait until all hikers have moved past us and then carefully position ourselves to patiently wait for this, one of the rarest ungulates in Africa. Our day will be spent at camp viewing the duikers today, and we overnight at a basic campsite here tonight,
This morning we have a final opportunity to view the Abbott's duikers, before we head down the way we came to be collected and transferred approximately four hours to Mkomazi NP. Mkomazi is the definition of the word 'wild', extending all the way to the Kenyan border (where it is contiguous with the famous Tsavo). Much of this park is never visited and we will barely scratch the surface during our visit, but our evening drive will be a great chance to experience this wonderful park. The fauna here feels much more desert-adapted than their cousins further west, with dry-country species such as lesser kudu and gerenuk doing very well. If very lucky, black rhino, wild dog, and even cheetah and lion may be spotted today. After dinner in our excellent camp, we will head out a night drive, aiming to find local specials including rufous sengi and Somali dwarf mongoose.
Days Seven to Eight
We can enjoy morning, afternoon and night drives over the next two days in Mkomazi. We will target both localised dry-country species and 'big game' - with luck, we hope to encounter our first big cats of the trip over these two days.
This morning we transfer to the forests of Amani Nature Reserve, arriving by early afternoon. Part of the famous Usambara Mountains, which are renowned as a biodiversity hotspot, the birding here is probably the most challenging but rewarding in all of Tanzania. There is a substantial list of endemic and near-endemic bird species here, and our afternoon walk will focus on birding. Mammal-watchers should always keep their wits about them, though, as both Sokoke dog mongoose and Swynnerton's bush squirrel can be glimpsed here. Dinner is served in camp this evening.
Days Ten to Eleven
Morning and afternoon hikes are a superb way to explore the forests of the Usambaras. We hope to record bird species including the Usambara eagle-owl, long-billed forest warbler and Amani sunbird, as well as several enigmatic mammal-species as we walk.
This morning we transfer to the superb Saadani National Park, arriving in time for a late lunch. This park is one of very few that offers the chance to sunbathe on the shores of the Indian Ocean and view big game at the same time! The bush disappears into the beach just a few metres from our accommodation, and there is an other-worldly feel about such a relaxing and exciting game experience. Our afternoon game drive will focus on some of the park's most beautiful residents, including sable antelope, but also big cats, which have been seen here very regularly here in recent seasons. Lion and cheetah will be key targets on this drive, before we return to our oceanside lodge. A night drive after dinner will again focus on predators, although we may also spot the eerie eyeshine of Rondo dwarf galago as we go.
Our final full day allows us to explore Saadani by vehicle and boat. Our last evening activity will be a boat safari on the Wami River, where large pods of hippo can be easily seen alongside some very hefty crocodiles. Our last meal will be served on the beach this evening..
This morning you are transferred to Dar es Salaam, where your tour ends.
Please be aware that whilst we make every effort to follow the above itinerary as closely as possible, circumstances may
occasionally arise that mean the tour deviates from the itinerary.
Dates and Prices
This tour will run in August 2023, aiming to take advantage of the dry season when wildlife populations congregate around water sources, and when large predators are at their most mobile. The tour will run from August 7th to August 20th.
The cost of this trip is £7,350 per person excl. flights. This includes all meals, accommodation and wildlife-focussed activities. Drinks are not included. We regret that we must levy a single supplement of £700 pp for this trip. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £2,950 plus any single supplement must be paid.
Flights and Visas
Pictus Safaris do not offer flight booking services. However, we do recommend the use of travel comparison websites such as skyscanner.net or momondo.com to identify the best fares, and then booking with the airline directly where possible. This will reduce the likelihood of complications and fees should any issues with your booking arise. If you wish to spend an additional night in Dar es Salaam at the beginning or end of your tour, we can arrange this for you at an extra cost. We strongly recommend booking flights leaving Dar es Salaam after 22.00 on your return, if leaving on the same day that we return to Dar es Salaam to avoid disruption to your plans.
British nationals do require a visa to enter Tanzania. Clients of other nationalities are advised to check well before travel whether they require an entry visa. Details of the process of obtaining a tourist visa for Tanzania will be provided to you upon booking. The cost of a Tanzania entry e-visa for UK citizens is $50 - these may be obtained online or on arrival into Tanzania.
Weather and What to Bring
The weather in Tanzania in August is mild and dry, with maximum temperatures of around 24 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 15 degrees Celsius.
A full packing list will be circulated at least two months prior to departure. Pictus Safaris will be able to provide one extra set of binoculars and two spotlights per group, and clients are welcome to bring additional camera, videography and scope equipment should they wish to. Please note that the use of drones is not permitted in many protected areas. We strongly recommend bringing comfortable, loose-fitting and neutral-coloured clothing on safari - please do not bring camouflage clothing. We recommend against dark coloured clothing (e.g. black or dark blue) as this attracts biting flies. Worn-in hiking boots with ankle support are a must, as are sunglasses, sun protection and a hat.
Do also remember to budget for any expenses not included in the cost of the trip, including for gratuities and additional activities. We recommend bringing US Dollars.
Safety and Security
The security situation in Tanzania is good - however, there is some unrest in Mozambique close to its northern border with Tanzania. At this stage, this has not spread to Tanzania, but we are constantly monitoring this situation and will advise all clients should the security situation in Tanzania deteriorate.