Sky View - Grumeti Reserves , Tanzania, Tanzania

Grumeti Reserves

One of Africa’s great conservation success stories has occurred in the Grumeti Reserves. Thanks to the deep pockets and fierce commitment of venture philanthropist and conservationist Paul Tudor Jones II, this 350,000-acre reserve has seen dramatic increases in its animal population. (And yes, the establishment of some of the continent’s most luxurious lodgings as well. Read about the three lodges: Sasakwa, Faru Faru and Sabora) In 2003, when Jones acquired a 99-year lease on the reserve lying along the western edge of the Serengeti, wildebeest and antelope, as well as lion and elephant, were being poached regularly; today they are flourishing to the extent that the count of buffalo, giraffe, eland and impala have more than tripled. As large as the Masai Mara but with 100 guests compared to 6,000, Grumeti arguably offers more privacy and luxury than any other spot in Africa. The great wildebeest migration passes through in June, July and August, but now resident herds of giraffe, hartebeest and topi flourish.

Jones, who was one of the cofounders of the Robin Hood Foundation, does more than just preserve this prime parcel; all proceeds from his three lodges benefit the Grumeti Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to wildlife conservation and community development, providing education, employment and health care to local people, as well as water and sustainable agriculture. He knows that it is vital that the local community can be sustained by its tourist activities, so he’s involving locals in multiple ways. One of the first steps was to turn ex-poachers into avid trackers who are now passionate about preserving the wildlife and spreading their passion through their community. Teenagers come to workshops dedicated to the environment and tourism. Among the other initiatives that have been instituted are a sunflower oil project, a piggery, fishery, tree nursery and organic vegetable garden, so that much of the produce used in the kitchen comes from the local community.

When Singita first took over the Grumeti properties, some sniped that the attraction was the Big Glam not the Big Game because the opulence outdid the animal viewing. That is clearly not the case anymore. In the course of our stay, we saw a herd of more than 100 elephants, thousands of zebras, impalas, topi, hartebeest and dozens of giraffes, and buffalo as well as lion (including young cubs), cheetah and leopard (from a hot air balloon). In fact, since Paul Tudor Jones II and his team began instituting their conservation program here, others are learning from their methods.

Bottom Line: Yes, you can be more isolated in the Selous, Gabon and other areas but you won’t be able to order Chateau d’Yquem at dinner or swap a game drive for a spontaneous game of billiards, badminton or tennis. And while you may have those options at Singita Boulders, they don’t come with the vastness of the Serengeti plains.

Aerial View-Maasai Village Visit , Tanzania

Maasai Village Visit

Many of our preferred safari lodges in East Africa are involved with wildlife conservation as well as community development where they support medical and educational programs as well as conservation initiatives to help change attitudes toward poaching and community development.

On a recent safari, my family and I visited a local school, clinic and village, where we were invited into a Maasai home. The school was not in session during our visit but we were able to wander around the facilities. Our children were fascinated to see that many of the teaching tools, such as maps and diagrams, were painted on the side of the building. “Before the buildings were here,” our guide said, “the classes took place under a tree.” At the clinic, we were told that the most common illness treated was diarrhea, which stunned my children, who, used to clean drinking water and easy access to medicine, couldn’t understand why you would need to go to a doctor for that. “You can die from dehydration or malnutrition if it’s not treated,” explained the guide. “In fact, it’s the biggest killer of children in Africa.” (According to the World Health Organizations, one fifth of all child deaths are attributable to diarrheal illness.)

In the Maasai boma, the settlement where Maasai keep their cattle in a wooden enclosure at night and build their mud houses, we visited a matriarch whose four sons were out with the animals. Three tiny calves greeted us at the door. Too young to go out with the herd, they huddled inside until their mothers returned. A fire burned but gave off only smoke, not light. The small space had two sets of wooden planks set one over the other like bunk beds, where the family of seven slept. We sat on the only other furniture, a small bench. Our guide translated and told us the ages of her children, their daily routine. The Maasai mother, who had a broad grin and a few missing teeth, asked where we were from and about the children’s ages. “Would you like to marry my daughter,” she asked my son. “She is 14 and needs a husband.” His reply, not surprisingly, was “No, thank you.” (But that exchange inspired lots of dinner conservation about cultural traditions like multiple wives and marrying ages.)

When we left the house, some of the young children in the village had laid out their beaded crafts and jewelry. Our kids had brought pens and notebooks and small plastic figurines to give them, and though they spoke no common language; they shared mutual amazement at each other’s toys. Of course, the swapping could have gone on for hours. By dusk, one of the young men had returned. He sharpened a stick into a spear for my son and showed him a lion’s mane. One of the tribal rituals of manhood (a feat that proves whether a young Maasai is ready for marriage) remains hunting a male lion and returning home with its mane as a trophy. Indagare members can contact our bookings team to be sure that we work such a visit into your itinerary in advance.

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Sea View-Mount Kilimanjaro ,  Tanzania

Mount Kilimanjaro

The highest peak on the African continent draws adventurers and climbers from around the world who come to make the climb. Known as one of the most accessible high world peaks, Kilimanjaro has a summit that can be reached without any technical climbing. There are various routes to reach the crater’s rim or summit, with the easiest being the most crowded. But all offer an incredible diversity of landscape from tropical to alpine to Arctic in just a week’s trek.

Indagare members can contact our bookings team to arrange a Kilimanjaro trek that is suited to their abilities and interests.

To learn more about the experience of hiking Kilimanjaro, read Seven to Know: Mount Kilimanjaro.

Exterior View at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Tanzania

Ngorongoro Crater Safari

The Ngorongoro Crater is a large caldera, or collapsed volcano, that sits like a giant bowl on the Tanzania highlands. Considered one of the seven natural wonders of Africa, the crater has walls 2,000 feet high and a floor that covers 100 square miles. Like a gigantic natural terrarium, the Ngorongoro Crater is home to vast species of wildlife, approximately 25,000 large animals, and because many of the animals cannot scale the walls, they live within their own contained landscape. The area is known to have one of the densest populations of lions so the upside of a visit is that you are very likely to see many of the Big Five; the downside is that you will also see many other people and vehicles, which is why it is best to come early in your safari. You can cross the Big Five off of your list and head out into more secluded wilderness and enjoy the drama of what each day brings without the worry of whether or not you will go home without seeing a lion.

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Aerial View-Olduvai Gorge , Tanzania

Olduvai Gorge

Located in the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation area and the eastern plains of the Serengeti, the Olduvai Gorge is considered the cradle of man because it is where the oldest known fossils of the human genus have been found. Archaeologists Mary and Louis Leakey began their excavation work in the area in the 1950s and discovered numerous important fossils, including the earliest footprints of walking man. Their family continues their work today. Indagare can, by special arrangement, book time with the family or other archaeologists working at the site for Indagare members. Contact our bookings team for more information.

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Shop for Local Treasures

Tanzania is not a major shopping destination. Some of the top lodges have gift shops selling crafts and accessories fashioned by local artisans along with bush wear so you can find beaded and leather accessories or carved wooden objects or Tanzanite jewelry. Otherwise, you may find beaded Maasai jewelry for sale in the local villages. The boutiques at Singita SasakwaKlein’s CampNgorongoro Crater Lodge and the Four Seasons are among the best you will encounter in Tanzania.

Grazing Animals at The Great Migration ,  Tanzania

The Great Migration

Every year, two million grazing animals pass through Tanzania's Serengeti and Kenya's Maasai Mara on a migration that is considered one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth. Countless films, from the Oscar-winning documentary The Serengeti Shall Not Die to IMAX’s Serengeti, have celebrated and shared the parade of animals on their massive march over hundreds of miles. It’s a journey that repeats every year, and to see the endless plains swarming with herds of hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra is breathtaking.

In fact, the sound of the hundreds of hooves and the way the ground trembles with their thunderous movement may be even more impressive than the sight. Close to 1.5 million wildebeest, 200,000 zebra and 500,000 Thomson gazelle chase the wet season and prime grazing. Calving occurs between January and March when the grasses in the southern Serengeti are short so predators can be seen most easily. When the rains end in late spring, the wildebeest begin their march north from the Ndutu area toward the Grumeti River and around August cross the border with Kenya into the Maasai Mara, where they stay until fall. In November and December, they head south again to the Serengeti where the cycle begins again.

Ideal Tanzania itineraries should incorporate seeing the Great Migration. Indagare members can contact our bookings team to plan a safari tailored to their interests.

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Aerial View-The Serengeti , Tanzania

The Serengeti

The Serengeti, which means ‘endless plains’ in Swahili, covers an enormous plateau that lies between the Rift Valley to the east and Lake Victoria to the west. The region broadly encompasses the National Park itself, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Maswa Game Reserve, the Loliondo, Grumeti, Ikorongo Controlled Areas and the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.

Established in 1951, the Serengeti National Park permanently protects close to 6,000 square miles of eternal wilderness with the highest concentration of large mammals in one of the oldest ecosystems on Earth. The famous female pilot and author Beryl Markham wrote of the Serengeti plains in 1942,“In the season of drought they are as dry and tawny as the coats of the lion that prowl them, and during the rains they provide the benison of soft grass to all the animals.”

The hunters, the hunted, the crawling and the flying all find their place in the unique plains and savannahs, while the great herds of wildebeest continue their millennia-old Great Migration for which the area is famous. Its familiarity in our consciousness is thanks, in no small part, to the work of Professor Bernhard Grzimek who, along with his son Michael, spent two years in the late 1950s documenting the migration paths of the wildebeest. The resulting film, The Serengeti Shall Not Die is arguably the most influential wildlife film ever made, winning the Best Documentary Oscar in 1959 and alerting the world to the plight of Africa’s wildlife. In the 1960s, Tanzania’s president declared that one of the country’s founding principles was safeguarding its wilderness. In 1981, the area was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

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