The perfect post-safari getaway
“We wander the narrow maze of streets that make up the atmospheric Stone Town. Spice vendors vying for business, kids playing with an old tyre, artisans aplenty, the carved doors, churches, a fort, imperial buildings, the old slave markets – there is a real sense of history, just begging to be explored…”
The island of Zanzibar (or Unguja, to give the main island its proper name) is the perfect post-safari, get-away-from-it-all destination. Powdery white sand beaches, lush forests, offshore reefs and sultry, spice-scented alleyways combine to add a relaxing, exotic element to any safari. Silence and solitude if you wish, hustle and bustle if you want it.
Inhabited by numerous cultures over the centuries, Zanzibar is a heady mix of influences – from spices to coloured glassworks to the heavily carved iconic Zanzibar doors and imperial buildings that epitomise Unguja. Aside from spices it’s the salve trade that made these islands famous. At its height, some 60,000 people were shipped annually to Stone Town. Each of its tiny, dingy cells housed 75 people. And should be seen to be believed.
But, whether it’s the pristine beaches of the east coast, the monkeys and colourful birds of Jozani Forest or the intoxicating streets of Stone Town that entice you to the island, one thing not to be missed is the evening streetfood market at Forodhani Gardens (in Stone Town) – a reason to visit Zanzibar in itself.
Home to Jane Goodall’s pioneering chimpanzee project
“Chimpanzees have given me so much. The long hours spent with them in the forest have enriched my life beyond measure. What I have learned from them has shaped my understanding of human behaviour, of our place in nature.” Jane Goodall
Tanzania’s smallest national park (just 52km2), Gombe Stream rises steeply from the sandy northern shore of Lake Tanganyika to the Rift Valley escarpment. Synonymous with Jane Goodall, whose groundbreaking chimpanzee project started here in 1960, the park is home to around 100 chimps. Aside from chimps, Gombe is home to a troop of exceptionally habituated beachcomber olive baboons. While red-tailed and red colobus monkeys – the latter regularly hunted by chimps – stick to the forest canopy.
There’s also rich picking for birdwatchers, with 200-plus species to look out for.
Africa’s premier chimp-tracking destination
“A continuous screeching emanates through the forest. We catch sight of a large male chimp, swinging from branch to branch. He pauses, hanging for a while. He manoeuvres himself along the branch, before reaching out a long arm to grab a fruit snack…”
The steep jungle-clad slopes of Mahale Mountains are home to around 1,000 of Africa’s remaining wild chimpanzees. Known as one of the most isolated parks in Africa, Mahale covers 1613km2 of rugged terrain along the eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika. Its tranquil white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters are a welcome spot to rest up after a hard day tracking chimps. You can often spot warthog and bushbuck wandering on the sand.
The park is also home to many other species, including leopard, various antelope, a wealth of other primates and forest birds, many of which are normally associated with West Africa.
One of Africa’s greatest secrets
“A true wilderness, teeming with game, evoking for those few intrepid souls who make it there a thrilling taste of Africa as it must have been a century ago...”
Said to have the greatest density of wildlife of any park in Africa, Katavi is one of the continent’s best-kept secrets. Located miles off-the-beaten track in the southwest of the country, in a shallow arm of the Rift Valley, Katavi is Tanzania’s third-largest national park. The brooding expanse of Lake Rukwa (the largest body of water entirely within Tanzania) makes up its southern border. Utterly remote (some 3-5 days drive from Arusha or Dar es Salaam) it receives fewer than 1,000 visitors a year.
However, for those hardy souls that make it there, the journey is more than worthwhile. Practically inaccessible during the rains, Katavi is best visited in the dry season when sightings of lion, elephant, thousand-strong buffalo herds and large pods of hippo are prevalent.
A truly wild safari with exceptionally varied game viewing
“The game viewing starts the moment the plane touches down. A giraffe races beside the airstrip, all legs and neck, yet oddly elegant in its awkwardness. A line of zebras parades across the runway…”
Ask any seasoned Tanzania traveller, “What is your favourite game reserve?” and odds are their answer will be “Ruaha”. Ruaha National Park provides an experience akin to an old-style safari, away from the crowds, in an area that has remained unchanged for centuries. This compelling park with its evocative wild atmosphere and dramatic geography is a vast unspoilt wilderness of some 13,000km2 in central Tanzania.
Second only to Katavi in terms of untrammeled wilderness, but far more accessible, Ruaha is known for exceptionally varied game viewing. The park supports one of Africa’s largest elephant populations, abundant lion prides and packs of wild dogs. Leopard sightings are frequent and there’s birldlife aplenty, as well as an impressive tally of antelope. The park also represents a transition zone where eastern and southern African species of fauna and flora overlap.
The relaxing safari
“The unique environment and only Selous Game Reserve a World Heritage List, there are various types of vegetation from rivers, lakes, ponds, Sandbanks, green vegetation and forests, the entire reserve scenic and picturesque…”
While the northern parks of Tanzania are a rush of adventure and more visible game, the south is far more intimate and relaxed. The Selous, Africa’s largest game reserve (45,000km2) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is wild country. Its plains, lagoons, sandbanks, lakes and shores of the Rufiji River host a wide array of wildlife.
With wide range of vegetation is not surprising that the park also harbors a large number of animals which were reduced by war, ivory elephants, wild dogs, which is over 1300, black rhinoceroses, and many birds. Selous is the only park in Kenya and Tanzania, where game viewing can be done by car, foot or boat.
This reserve is pleasantly varied landscape with the only green vegetation, grass and tangles that cause the film line-depleting photo moments with each turn of the road. Tall Borassus palms characterize the river routes. The Selous Reserve, Tanzania, that people cannot afford missing because it has everything from wild life in the beautiful scenery, which is photography.
Tanzania’s most accessible park
“At the southern end of the plains yellow baboon, impalas, reedbucks and other antelope can be seen, while to the north it’s hippo country…”
Mikumi is possibly the most easily visited of Tanzania's national parks – either in tandem with other southern parks or as a round trip from Dar es Salaam.
The open grasslands of the Mukimi flood plains, bordered on two sides by mountain ranges, are home to all kinds of wildlife. Giraffe, elephant, buffalo and eland gather on the Mkata Plains, the woodland supports sable antelope and greater kudu, lion and spotted hyena are common, and African wild dogs often pass through. To the north, numerous hippos wallow in natural pools. The plains that surround them are home to an array of game, from Lichtenstein's hartebeest to wild dog.
Home to an African icon
“Kilimanjaro. The name itself is a metaphor for the compelling beauty of East Africa. Shrouded in mystery, Kili spends much of its day veiled in clouds. But when it does deign to show itself it is utterly inspirational…”
Kilimanjaro’s distinctive silhouette and snow-capped peak form one of Africa’s most iconic sights – rising majestically above the surrounding plains. Not only is it the highest peak on the continent, at 5,895m, it is also the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. Kilimanjaro is one of the world's most accessible high summits – most climbers reach the top with little more than a walking stick, proper clothing and determination.
But there is so much more to Kili than her summit. The ascent of the slopes is a virtual climatic world tour, from the tropics to the Arctic. Even before you cross the national park boundary (at 2,700m), the cultivated foothills give way to lush montane forest, inhabited by elusive elephant, leopard, buffalo, the endangered Abbot’s duiker, and other small antelope and primates. Finally, the last remnants of vegetation give way to ice and snow – and the magnificent Roof of Africa.
For those that don’t want to undertake the ‘long uphill walk’ to Uhuru Peak, an opportunity to spend a night within sight of Kili is not to be missed.
A truly alluring destination
“The entrance gate leads into the shadowy Montane Forest, its canopy alive with playful black and white colobus and inquisitive blue monkeys. Colourful turacos and trogons build their nests in the trees…”
This small, often overlooked gem of a park is just 45 minutes drive from Arusha town – Tanzania’s self-styled safari capital. Here there’s the opportunity to explore an enchanting diversity of habitats. The Montane Forest is home to the acrobatic black-and-white colobus monkey (the only place on the northern safari circuit where they are easily seen), while the Momella Lakes allow kayakers to get up close to buffalo and waterbuck. The lakes also support a large seasonal concentration of flamingo.
In the midst of the forest lies the Ngurdoto Crater, whose steep, rocky cliffs enclose a wide marshy floor dotted with herds of buffalo, giraffe and warthog.
Not forgetting the grandstand views of Mount Meru and the snow-capped peak of Kilimanjaro.
Elephants and baobabs abound
“It is the vast number of baobabs that first catch your eye as you enter Tarangire. The gently rolling countryside is dotted with these majestic trees, which seem to dwarf the animals that feed beneath them…”
This baobab-studded park, two hours easy drive from Arusha, is spectacular in the second half of the year, when huge herds congregate near the perennial Tarangire River. These nomadic tribes of animals drawn to it like a
magnet. Elephant, wildebeest, zebra, eland and oryx all gather here until the onset of the rains, when they move on again in search of good grazing areas. And, of course, where there are herds, there are predators – lion, leopard and more. It is also a fine birding destination.
Tarangire is second only to the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area in concentrations of wildlife. The elephant viewing here is truly fabulous - it is not unusual to see several hundred pachyderms in a single game drive.
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