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Day 1: Wednesday 28 April - London Heathrow - Arusha
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we fly via a European hub to Arusha in eastern Tanzania. Located at the base of volcanic Mt. Meru, this city is the gateway to the best safari destinations and to Africa's highest peak, 5,895m Mt. Kilimanjaro, lying some 100 kilometers northeast. We meet our local guide and head to our hotel (distance 50 km, 50 mins). Depending on arrival time, we may do some birding enroute to the hotel, and/or on arrival. Overnight in Arusha at Planet Lodge Hotel.
Day 2: Thursday 29 April - Lark Plains to Tarangire
We leave early for dryland habitat north of Arusha where rare endemic Beesley’s Lark is found. We enjoy birding here for the morning, the array of birds including Abyssinian Wheatear, Banded Parisoma, Tiny Cisticola, Greater Kestrel, Eastern Chanting Goshawk, Red-throated Tit, Short-tailed Lark, Foxy Lark, Athi Short-toed Lark and White-headed Mousebird. We may be lucky to spot Mt. Kilimanjaro between the clouds, and should also see Mt. Meru. We also keep an eye open for key mammals including Maasai Giraffe and Common Zebra.
Later we continue to Tarangire, where excellent birding awaits. As we travel we will see Baobab trees, which enrich our journey. These magical trees have huge significance in the African culture, fable having it they were planted upside down. We may make a stop by the roadside to try the famous “Baobab tree hug”. On the way we may see new birds including Banded Parisoma, Hildebrandt’s Starling, Black Bishop, Two-banded Courser, endemic Yellow-collared Lovebird and near-endemic Rufous-tailed Weaver. Travel distance 140 km (2.5 hrs) We stay at an excellent tented camp, which we anticipate could be a favourite place for many! Overnight for two nights in Tarangire at Burunge Lodge.
Day 3: Friday 30 April - Tarangire National Park
We begin with birding around our lodge and the neighbouring area. We then head deeper into Tarangire National Park, a less explored birding gem, often known as the 'Land of Elephants and Baobabs'. We also scan the Tarangire Swamp and the beautiful banks of the famous Tarangire River. The local Acacia woodland is very graceful and full of birds, and highlights might include endemic Yellow-collared Lovebird, Woodland Kingfisher, Double-banded Courser, White-headed Buffalo-Weaver, Coqui Francolin, Pygmy Falcon, Brown Snake Eagle, Black Cuckoo, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Great Painted Snipe, Mottled Spinetail, Southern Ground Hornbill, Meyer’s Parrot, Bearded Woodpecker, Southern Red Bishop, Knob-billed Duck, Banded Parisoma, Miombo Wren-warbler, Green Woodhoopoe, Brubru, Magpie Shrike, Red and Yellow Barbet, near-endemic Rufous-tailed Weaver and endemic Ashy Starling. Big game will be encountered as we bird, and we might expect African Elephant, Banded Mongoose, Cape Buffalo, African Lion and Cheetah.
Day 4: Saturday 1 May - Lake Manyara
We drive to Lake Manyara, a pristine soda lake in the Rift Valley. We take a back road that enables us to enter this great habitat soon after leaving our hotel, and after around one hour we arrive at Lake Manyara to a spectacle of birds awaiting us. There are many Greater and Lesser Flamingos in the soda waters, and other birds include Grey-olive Greenbul, Crowned Eagle, Purple-crested Turaco, Crested Guineafowl, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Blue-capped Cordon-bleu, Grey Kestrel, Martial Eagle, Yellow-billed Stork, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Slate-coloured Boubou, Goliath Heron, Superb Starling, Hildebrandt’s Starling and Great White Pelican. Local game is mainly composed of monkeys, though we might also see Savannah Elephants, the famous 'tree-climbing Lions' and much more. Overnight in Karatu at Bougainvillea Safari Lodge.
Day 5: Sunday 2 May - Ngorongo Highlands and Crater
Today we visit the magical Ngorongoro Crater, immediately to the south of the Serengeti, and an amazing place, packed with wildlife. Ngorongoro is a large and scenic crater about 600m deep, located at about 2000m above sea level, with amazing views both from the top and inside. A truly unique location, the crater is nestled in a pristine natural forest, full of beautiful indigenous trees, and boasts incredible views. We begin birdwatching in the high forest around it's rim, and we might expect Hunter’s Cisticola, Golden-winged Sunbird, Eastern Double-collared Sunbird, Black-fronted Bush-Shrike, Bar-throated Apalis, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Brown Woodland Warbler, Southern Citril, Thick-billed Seedeater, Brown Parisoma, African Olive Pigeon, Brown-backed Woodpecker, Waller’s Starling, White-naped Raven, White-headed Barbet and Schalow’s Turaco.
Next we enter the majestic Ngorongoro Crater itself, rightly known as one of the wonders of Africa. Descending down to the crater floor takes us through great scenery, and we take note of the local Euphorbia tree varieties. Herds of wild animals are plentiful, and we watch for Lion, Cheetah, Savannah Elephant, Black Rhino, Golden Jackal (now called African Golden Wolf), Common Zebra, assorted gazelles, Nile Hippo and Wildebeest. Birds include Hildebrandt’s Francolin, Shelley’s Francolin, Grey Crowned Crane, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Pectoral-patch Cisticola, Lynes’s Cisticola, Pied Avocet, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Black-bellied Bustard, Kori Bustard, Secretarybird, Rosy-breasted Longclaw, Flappet Lark, Lesser Flamingo, Greater Flamingo, Chestnut-banded Plover and Rufous-tailed Weaver. We spend most of the day birding and enjoying game drives in the crater. Later in the afternoon, we ascend back to the crater’s rim, enjoying some more highland forest birds as we move higher. Travel is around 20 km, and we stay overnight at Rhino Lodge, Ngorongoro Crater.
Days 6 and 7: Mon 3 and Tues 4 May - Serengeti National Park
Leaving Ngorongoro behind, we drive across land inhabited by local Maasai Herders dressed in beautiful traditional attire, and we may come across their huge herds of cattle. On the roadsides, we also see several of traditional villages, often localy known as “Enkangs” or “Manyattas”. Roadside birding will be busy and we also come across a good number of mammals including Maasai Giraffe and Thompson’s Gazelle. Soon we arrive in Serengeti, where vast plains and lots of wildlife will be waiting. We enjoy game drives as we transect this vast savannah, and we sample local wetlands and scrublands to boost our species list.
Highlights include endemic Fischer’s Lovebird, Black Coucal, Steel Blue Whydah, near-endemic Usambiro Barbet, Swahili Sparrow, Rufous Chatterer, near-endemic Karamoja Apalis, Black-necked Weaver, African Scops-Owl, Temminck’s Courser, Black-winged Lapwing, Caspian Plover, Zitting Cisticola, White-tailed Lark, endemic Tanzania Red-billed Hornbill, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Northern White-crowned Shrike, Grey-crested Helmetshrike, Magpie Shrike, Silverbird, Black-lored Babbler, Cape Teal, Saddle-billed Stork, Blacksmith Lapwing and endemic Grey-breasted Spurfowl. Mammals here include Serval, Lion, Leopard, assorted antelopes, Common Zebra and Cheetah. Travel around 80km, (1.5 hrs). Overnight for two nights in Serengeti at Sopa Lodge.
Day 8: Wednesday 5 May - Serengeti NP to Arusha
Today we drive from Serengeti across the Ngorongoro Conservation Area on our way back to Arusha. Birding will be active all day, and we hope to also enjoy some good big game. Roadside birds likely include Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, African Penduline Tit, Taita Fiscal, Southern Grosbeak Canary, Red-throated Tit, Short-tailed Lark, Black Bishop, Two-banded Courser and much more. Travel around 250 km (4.5 hrs). Overnight once more in Arusha at Planet Lodge Hotel.
Day 9: Thursday 6 May - Departure
We enjoy breakfast at the hotel, before our airport transfer and international flights home, arriving in the morning of Day 10: Friday 7 May.