Sunday, 29 May 2022

Back to Africa - 2023 Tanzania Plans

Remembering Tanzania

I first went to Tanzania in 2010, flying out of a snowy Ronaldsway to an even more snowy Manchester in January. My friends, Fred and Elizabeth had been there since before Christmas with a third friend, Chris who I was yet to meet, but would be sharing with. I managed to negotiate Manchester and Amsterdam airports and eventually arrive late at night at Kilimanjaro International and meet my pick-up for the short drive to the airport guest house.

I woke early, as the sun was rising and soon found the view I had dreamt might be possible from the airport. Mt. Kilimanjaro looms above the plains to the north of the airport, with Mt. Meru off to the west as well.

Mt. Kilimanjaro, capped with snow, appears through the hazy dawn.

For the next sixteen days, we would visit some of the most iconic safari destinations in Tanzania and Africa, doing a tour of part of the northern circuit. After my first trip to Africa, I was already hooked, but this would be the trip where I would finally get to see the big game that I craved: a trip that would more than match my expectations and leave me totally addicted to the safari experience.

Black Rhino with calf, keeping their distance in Ngorongoro Crater.

A few of the million or more Wildebeest at Ndutu.

Lions devour an unfortunate Wildebeest just south of Ndutu.

My first Leopard, dozing in an acacia in the heart of the Serengeti.

I didn't know when I might get back to Tanzania, but I really enjoyed the first trip and hoped to return one day.

Thirteen Years

I never thought that it might be thirteen years before I would be able to return to Tanzania, but many trips to other countries in Africa and then a global pandemic have all marked the passage of time.

But, in a very quick decision process, we have made our plans (or rather, Fred has done sterling work and made plans) and we are returning to Tanzania at the start of February 2023. Although I would love to revisit some of the places from my last time there, we have decided to head further into the wild and concentrate on some of the southern destinations this time.

Tanzania is home to some of the largest and wildest National Parks and Reserves in the world and it's time for me to see some of them.

We'll fly with KLM once more - still my favourite - and land at Dar Es Salam very late at night on 3rd February, where Fred promises us a "modest B&B". I've had experience of Fred's modest bookings before and we'll be fine because anywhere is better than the Hotel Vanilla in Bundibugyo or the UWA Bandas in Semliki!

Tanzania with Parks and Reserves marked and our
destinations highlighted

A comfortable 300km drive to the south will take us to Mikumi Safari Lodge, for a couple of nights at one of the smaller National Parks, but with the promise of plenty of game. We'll also spend a day visiting Udzungwa National Park - mountains, forests and waterfalls with endemic primates and birds.

Next we head another 280km to the south-west and then spend time in and around Ruaha National Park, the largest in Tanzania at more than 20,000km². We'll start at Ruaha Hilltop Lodge which promises spectacular views over the plains and plenty to see and do. We'll then head to Tandala Tented Camp and probably just sit on our veranda and watch the comings and goings at the waterhole below. There's the tantalizing possibility of Painted Wolves (Wild Dogs) there in the back of my mind.

Finally in the Ruaha area, we'll spend a few days in the park at Mdonya Old River Lodge, right in the heart of the park for epic game drives in a true wilderness.

Finally, we fly from Ruaha to what is, for me at least, potentially the highlight of the trip. We're heading to Lake Manze in Nyerere National Park - the new park formed from the northern part of the Selous Game Reserve. The park is newly formed, but the Selous reserve (all 54,000km² of it - if it was a country, it would be somewhere between Croatia and Costa Rica, about two-and-a-half times the size of Wales). The Selous forms one of the last great wildernesses in Africa. I'm looking forward to the game drives and the possibility of a boat trip on the lakes and rivers looking for birds.

As you may be able to tell, I'm pretty excited to be returning to the Dark Continent once more and getting the camera back into action.