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2020 Tanzania: Serengeti Spectacular

Key Information

Date: Tuesday, June 16, 2020
Duration: 12 days
Cost: £5400, $7290, €6180, Kilimanjaro/Kilimanjaro. Single Room Supplement: £440, $600, €510.
Places: 5

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The most awesome wildlife spectacle on Earth? Serengeti is surely it! Serengeti and the adjacent, and almost equally famous, Ngorongoro Crater are so remarkable that one cannot do justice to this incredible place in words alone. Over two million large mammals live in this immense African wilderness that has miraculously survived, thanks to the remarkable understanding of the people of Tanzania, who despite all the pressures upon them have kept faith with the vision of the park’s founders. These vast migratory herds still circulate around the Serengeti in the same way as they did when Man’s earliest ancestor’s walked these very plains, followed by their attendant carnivores in a cycle of life that has continued unbroken for millions of years. How incredible that we can still say this about any place on Earth at the beginning of the 21st century, when so much of our planet has been changed out of all recognition!

As well as being a fantastic experience in its own right (chatting round the campfire under African skies, quite possibly with Lions roaring in the distance, is something one never forgets!), being on safari in Tanzania is made even more special on our Wild Images photography adventures because we are based in remote yet very comfortable safari lodges.

Staying in these fabulous locations, in a comfort one hardly expects in a wilderness area, will get us right in amongst a fabulous selection of large mammals, including such dramatic and highly photogenic subjects as Lion, Leopard and the incomparable Cheetah, never mind a sea of gnus, zebras and gazelles.

We will start our wildlife photography adventure at Kilimanjaro, the site of the only international airport in the north of Tanzania, from where we head westwards towards the famous Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania’s Crater Highlands.

The spectacular Ngorongoro Crater is both a scenic and a wildlife wonder of the world. The crater is just a small part of the vast Serengeti ecosystem (situated at its eastern edge) and yet here we will enjoy what will seem like an endless series of wonderful wildlife photography encounters, many at very close range, as most of the wildlife in the crater has become extraordinarily unafraid of vehicles. Pride of place here amongst the photography possibilities goes to the critically endangered Black Rhinoceros, but other wildlife stars include Kori and Black-bellied Bustards, flocks of pink flamingoes, large groups of Olive Baboons, Ngorongoro’s Lions and Spotted Hyaenas, huge old tuskers and some marvellous Hippopotamuses.

After this wonderful experience we will descend from the Crater Highlands into the endless plains of the southeastern Serengeti. We shall be visiting the area at the prime season for wildlife photography, when the rains have usually turned the entire area from a parched thirstland into a green paradise that attracts over a million large mammals, the great majority being Blue Wildebeest, Common (or Plains) Zebras and Thomson’s Gazelles, to the shortgrass plains. Here we will be based first in the south-central part of Serengeti National Park and finally in the famous Lake Ndutu area, probably the finest Serengeti wildlife photography area of them all.

At this time of year the number of predators and especially big cats has reached a maximum, so we are certain to be able to spend plenty of time with both Lions and Cheetahs, and we should also have some Leopard encounters, as well as chances for Servals and Wild Cats.

The rich wildlife of the Serengeti is awesome enough, but the whole photography experience is made even more special by the amazingly beautiful scenery, with dramatic cloudscapes and sunsets, seas of bright green and tawny grass, those evocative flat-topped acacia trees, and granite kopjes and distant mountain ridges rising above the plains.

By the time we end our African odyssey we will have seen and photographed so many wildlife and scenic wonders that it will be hard to appreciate that all this has happened to us in just under two weeks! Serengeti and Ngorongoro will produce vivid, unfading memories and photography encounters that one will treasure for the rest of one’s days.

What makes the Wild Images Serengeti Photosafari special?

The awesome gathering of the migratory wildebeest (or gnus) and zebras on the shortgrass plains of the southeastern Serengeti occurs between January or February and April each year, while much of the local birdlife comes into breeding plumage in March and April and the landscape becomes greener and much more photogenic as intermittent rain starts to influence the plains and brings out a host of wildflowers. In our view, based on our extensive experience, March-April is absolutely the best time to visit the southern Serengeti for wildlife photography. There is simply no comparison with some other times of the year. Often we see photography tours offered to this part of Serengeti at other seasons, including the end of the long dry season in September-October when animal numbers are just a fraction of what they are when we visit and when the backgrounds are, in our opinion, far less photogenic.

Another great aspect of April in particular is that there are far fewer visitors around at Ngorongoro and in Serengeti proper than in July-August (the Northern Hemisphere peak summer holiday season) or in December-February (the peak time for ‘winter escapes’), so that means fewer vehicles and a quieter more rewarding experience.

We will be exploring this amazing part of Tanzania in an extended, 9-seater Toyota Landcruiser that has been specially adapted for safari work, and is ideal for photographers with its large roof hatch. The tour is limited to just five participants and only one vehicle. Everyone has a window seat at all times.

Opinions about number of vehicles and loading do vary markedly between photosafari organizers, so we will spell out why we think just one vehicle is the best option. It is simply uneconomic to have 2-3 participants in each vehicle and yet a photographic leader in each (the safari price would be stratospheric), so one option is to have from two upwards to even four or five vehicles with just three people in each. That sounds good in theory, but there is usually just one leader with the group, so on most days participants are not in the vehicle with the leader. All that experience, skill and potential help is lost to you.

In theory each vehicle and set of participants could go off and do their own thing with the safari vehicle driver, with group members just meeting up for lunch and dinner, but this does not tend to happen. Participants know that their leader is the one with the highest wildlife photo expertise, so the vehicles stick together. Often the first vehicle gets the only prime spot and the other vehicles have to wait for the first to move on from the best spot. We think the disadvantages of multiple vehicles outweigh a bit less space in the vehicle. There is still plenty of room for five participants and their camera bags, you have the leader’s skills and tuition on tap all the time, and, if you are a bit shy, you don’t have the burden of constantly asking the driver to adjust the vehicle position to the optimum spots, as you do if you are in a leaderless vehicle.

Finally, this being a Wild Images photosafari, we get away in the morning at the very moment the national park or game reserve opens, so you can banish any thoughts of having to leave with most of the other guests: they will almost all be still in their beds or having breakfast. By the time they are up and about, we are far away, usually by ourselves, photographing wildlife at the prime time!

Accommodation & Road Transport

The safari lodges we use in Tanzania are of a very good standard throughout and are often wonderfully situated.

Road transport is by extended Toyota Landcruiser 4×4 with opening roof hatch and main roads are mostly good or reasonable (but there are also plenty of rough tracks in the sanctuaries and some ‘off-road’ driving).

Walking

The walking effort during our Tanzania wildlife photography tour is very easy throughout. Walking is restricted to a few specified areas in the national parks/game reserves.

Climate

At this season in northern Tanzania there will usually be plenty of dry and sunny weather, some dry and overcast conditions are very likely some rain. Owing to the relatively high altitude, days generally start off pleasantly cool, becoming fairly hot by the middle of the day.

Photographic Equipment

If you use a full-frame DSLR or mirrorless camera you will need to cover focal lengths from 200-600mm or more for most wildlife situations. If you use a crop-sensor camera, adjust the focal lengths accordingly. You will also find a wide angle lens good for landscape photography and a short focal length telephoto good for some wildlife situations (for example, very close elephants and other mammals, or groups of animals). There will be only limited opportunities to use a macro lens.

If you bring a good quality bridge camera it will be best if it has an optical zoom of 18-20x or more, combined with a reasonable wide-angle at the other end of the zoom range.

Be sure to bring plenty of spare battery power. Dust is ever-present in northern Tanzania, so cleaning equipment is important. A beanbag can be very useful here for wildlife photography from the vehicle.

If you would like to talk over suitable equipment, please contact our office. We will be happy to advise.

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