This Western Tanzania Safari takes you off the beaten track to the western wilderness of Tanzania, where few travelers roam.
Kilimanjaro International Airport
You’ll fly into Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania, a small and friendly airport with options to obtain your visa on arrival. You will be met by a local representative in the international arrivals hall, and then transferred by private vehicle to Arusha Coffee Lodge, your hotel for the night. The drive usually takes around 1.5 hours, and the remainder of your day is free for you to relax or explore at your leisure. Hidden on the outskirts of town, among one of the largest coffee plantations in Tanzania, Arusha Coffee Lodge is a gorgeous retreat. Set on the rolling foothills in the shadow of looming Mount Meru, the aroma of coffee radiates through the lodge, and you’ll enjoy the freshest morning brews. The lodge is homely and comfortable, designed around the original landowner’s home from the early 1900s, and you’ll also find a swimming pool, garden terrace, and miles of lush plantation to explore.
Enjoy an early breakfast before meeting your driver at the lodge, who will transfer you to Arusha City Airport for your scheduled light aircraft flight (Arusha City Airport is only five minutes’ drive from Arusha Coffee Lodge). Your flight may touch down at Manyara or Kogatende (Serengeti) to pick up additional guests if they have pre-booked the service, and you will touch down in Tabora for a refueling stop and a toilet break. Your flight arrives in Katavi at Ikuu Airstrip and you will be met by a local representative and driven to Chada Katavi Camp, your camp for the next four nights. You’ll stay at Chada Katavi on an all-inclusive basis, included safari activities on a shared basis (game drives & walking safaris), all National Park and conservation fees, full board meals, all drinks (except champagne & fine wines) as well as laundry service. Chada Katavi Camp is a seasonal tented option in Katavi National Park. The camp itself is extremely comfortable and stylish, with six luxury tented suites, elegantly hosted and expertly guided.
You’ll have three full days on safari in Katavi National Park with Chada Katavi Camp. It’s an exceptional savannah safari reserve, and a special addition to any safari enthusiast’s bucket list. The wildlife viewing during the June to November dry season is incredible, with over 4,000 elephants inhabiting the greater area, vast herds of buffalo, scores of giraffes, zebras, hartebeest and topis, as well as strong numbers of lions, cheetahs and leopards. However, it’s the massive hippo pools and tunneling crocodiles that take center stage in Katavi. During the dry season hippos converge on a small number of large pools, but in such vast numbers that they completely fill them. Nowhere in Africa will you see such incredible entanglements of grunting, irritable hippo fresh, constantly arguing and fighting for space. Crocodiles also gather in large numbers, digging caves into the riverbanks and lying nose to tail in snapping swarms.
The wildlife is exceptional in Katavi National Park, but it’s the remoteness of the place and its extremely low visitor numbers which really makes Katavi one of the holy grains for safari aficionados. At around 4,500 square kilometers, Katavi is a very large and significant national park. It’s the third largest in the country, after Ruaha and Serengeti, and claims to have the highest bio-density of any national park in Africa. Largely covered by dense brachystegia woodland, the main areas of interest are a number of wonderful floodplain areas which become beautiful sprawling wetlands during the green rainy season from December to May and open grasslands during the dry season from June to November.
The regulations in Katavi National Park are a little less restrictive, and you’ll have the freedom to go out on walking safaris through the park, accompanied by your guide and an armed ranger. You can also go off-road driving, enabling you to make the most out of important animal sightings. Night game drives and fly camping are also available, however note that these activities are optional extras and incur additional costs.
Enjoy a final morning game drive or a leisurely breakfast this morning, before checking out of Chada Katavi Camp. You’ll be driven to Ikuu Airstrip in time for your scheduled light aircraft flight to Mahale Mountains National Park. You’ll then board a 1.5 hour boat trip, with snacks provided on the boat, before arriving at Greystoke Mahale Camp, your camp for the next three nights. The sheer remoteness of this park significantly heightens the sense of adventure that one feels when visiting. To land at a remote lakeside airstrip and then take a boat for another hour and a half along this enchanted lake really is extraordinary.
You’ll have two full days on safari in the Mahale Mountains National Park with Greystoke Mahale Camp, a very high specification permanent lodge in a prime beach-front location. With it’s charming style, ultimate location, wonderful hosts and expert guides, Greystoke Mahale is a much sought-after camp, and must be booked well in advance to secure a spot in one of their six guest suites. Mahale Mountains National Park is absolutely stunning and the top place in Africa for viewing chimpanzees. It’s comprised of towering forested mountains, and pristine beaches lined with palm trees and a remarkable lake. As well as the awesome chimpanzee tracking experience, activities include hiking, sailing, canoeing, kayaking, swimming and snorkeling. Despite its incredible beauty and rich wildlife, Mahale Mountains National Park has extremely low visitor numbers – there are rarely more than twenty visitors in the park, and often a good deal less, so you’ll likely have this spectacular corner of the world all to yourself.
Tracking chimpanzees in Mahale Mountains National Park is one of the most special experiences in Africa. Chimps are an incredibly engaging animal to observe as they are omnivores and often move fast through the forest on hunts, convening at intervals to scream and shout with each other in the most amazing fashion. Turning a corner to find yourself in a small clearing with chimps sat looking around you is an incredibly moving experience. There remains only one group of habituated chimps in the park and the numbers cannot grow significantly, making for a very unique and privileged experience. Guests at the lodges in the reserve are able to join guided hikes into the forest in search of the chimps. Some days this can mean a short stroll out the back of the camp, other days it can involve arduous trekking along slippery and steep mountain trails, following instructions radioed in by a team of trackers up ahead. They are most accessible during the dry season from June to November, but they can usually be found throughout the year a little further into the forest. It’s important to note that there are tight restrictions on chimp tracking and there’s always a small chance you may not see them. Guests need to be reasonably fit and there is a minimum age of 12 years old for chimp trekking.
It’s time to say farewell this morning. After checking out of Greystoke Mahale Camp (with a picnic lunch in tow), you’ll take a boat transfer back to the Mahale Airstrip, in time for your light aircraft flight to Kilimanjaro Airport. From there, you’ll board your international return flight home. Although you’re incredible Western Tanzania Safari has come to an end, you’ll leave with many special memories and more than a handful of photos and stories to share when you return home. After nine thrilling days of wildlife encounters and spectacular natural wonders, in some of the remotest corners on earth, we’re sure you’ll be hooked on Tanzania and the African continent.