Do not miss out on Quito, gateway to the Galapagos

Do not miss out on Quito, gateway to the Galapagos

Don’t miss out on Quito – Gateway to the Galapagos

Quito is not a place on the wish list of most travellers but as gateway to the Galapagos Islands, it’s an opportunity to see a little of Ecuador.

We receive a lot of enquiries from clients who visit our Galapagos Specialists website and, as you might imagine, the focus of these enquiries relate to visiting the Galapagos Islands.  To get there you do have to fly into Ecuador first – usually Quito or Guayaquil – and it seems a pity to miss the fantastic often unthought-of gem which is the Ecuadorian mainland and the city of Quito.

 

© Shutterstock  – Alessandro Pinto

Most Tribes’ guests fly into Quito first, and often have just the one night there. You are likely to be surprised on arrival at how modern the airport is. It was only opened in February 2013 to replace the old airport which sat in the middle of the city and could no longer safely handle the increasing volume of larger aircraft and passenger numbers. It sits about 11 miles East of Quito (at 0 degrees Latitude on the Equator) To make this easy for you, we generally have a representative meet you in the arrivals hall to guide you through to your private transfer for the 40-minute journey (a little longer at peak hours) to the city centre.

Quito itself, a UNESCO World Heritage City, sits at 2850 metres (9350 feet) in a spectacular setting. It is quite something when coming from the mainly flat Suffolk, where I now live and work, to be surrounded by mountains (and an active volcano) on all sides.

I looked around at residential houses on different hills and, while they are only separated by short distances in a straight line, getting from one to the other looked like a game of snakes and ladders. I asked my guide how people visited each other, to which he wryly replied, “Down, around and then up.”

It’s also a pretty good description of walking around Quito, either going up or going down, but the architecture and views are certainly worth it. I did a little online research before leaving and read that, “The historic centre of Quito has one of the largest, least-altered and best-preserved historic centres’ in the Americas”, and it is a sentiment I can certainly agree with. I was fortunate to be accompanied by a genuinely interesting guide who clearly possessed a depth of knowledge of Ecuador’s pre- and post-colonial history, people and culture.

© Shutterstock – Papa Bravo

Two things which fascinate me – and travel provides the opportunity to experience them – are nature and culture. I was glad to have a good guide in Quito so that when we visited the Church of La Compañía de Jesús, a Baroque style church begun in 1605 and built by Native Americans, he was able to point out some things which he knew would interest me.

The church itself took 160 years to build; men spent their entire working lives on it and went to their graves never seeing it completed. Inside, the whole church is profusely decorated with gold leaf, the attention to detail is something that must be seen to be believed. I am not religious at all but found it to be quite moving.

My guide wanted to show me something at the high altar and, as he pointed out the different figures, he asked me what I could see above them all. It was the symbol for Inti, the ancient Incan Sun God, so I asked him how it got there in a Catholic church.

“That’s how the Spanish encouraged the native people to embrace Christianity. They said ‘Look, even your own Sun God shines down on our religion.’”, he replied. Right there above the altar was the historic intersection of two very different cultures 400 years ago, preserved in gold leaf. I would have easily missed it without my guide, instead it turned into one of the memorable moments for me where a work of art brought history and culture alive.

There is so much more to see and do that I wished I had longer there myself. One night is definitely not enough to do justice to the culture and architecture of this amazing city. A gateway to the Galapagos, yes. But also a destination in its own right.

© Shutterstock – SL-Photography

A morning encounter with wild dogs

A morning encounter with wild dogs

A morning encounter with wild dogs

It’s 5.30am and I’ve had my shower, coffee and fruit muffin, and I’m jumping aboard the 4×4, armed with my camera and binoculars. It’s my first morning game drive in the private Kwando concession in Northern Botswana…

African wild dogs are elusive creatures.

As we leave camp we are greeted by the call of the African fish eagle – or ‘bush music’, as it’s known. The tracker, perched on a special seat built onto the front of the vehicle, points out a day-old impala, a family of chakma baboons and wallowing warthogs, all in the first 15 mins. His eyes, along with the guide, are scouring the bush and trees for signs of life and movement. Added to that, they constantly scan the ground for tracks and spoor, pointing out anything interesting.

The vehicle stops suddenly and while the floor is being scrutinised, the tracker jumps down from his ‘perch’ and the guide gets out. They follow the ‘signs’ on the floor together, pointing out possibilities and conversing deeply. Then it’s back to the vehicle and they announce they’ve picked up wild dog tracks and ask if we want to try our luck and follow them…???? Um YES PLEASE! 

 

African wild dogs are elusive creatures. Endangered and beautiful, they are also known as ‘painted wolves’, and if you get a chance to see them in the wild, grab it!
It’s a matter of minute
before we find the pack
– and they are on the hunt.

It’s a matter of minutes before we find the pack – and they are on the hunt. There are only four on the hunt, and they spot a small herd of impala in the distance and stop. They seem to converse for a few seconds before flattening their ears and forming a single file, a stalking tactic. They are able to get pretty close, as they resemble another antelope, and then they bolt!

The impala panic and run away in various directions. We race after them, hanging on as the 4×4 bumps through the bush in a desperate attempt to find them. After reading more ‘bush signs’, a couple of minutes later we find three of the wild dogs tucking into two baby impalas, devouring every part. The fourth wild dog is a short distance away eating a third baby impala. It’s a brutal reminder that safari can be about nature very much in the raw; of course, there is sorrow for the tiny impala, but this is the natural order of things in the bush.

From start to finish the exhilarating experience was around 20 minutes. It’s only 6am and we leave the wild dogs, excited about what else the Kwando concession has in store for us! The beauty of Kwando is that you can go on day and night drives, walking safaris, boat trips and canoe and mokoro safaris – so we have much to look forward to!

HAVE YOUR OWN WILD DOG ADVENTURE

We love Botswana – in fact we love and know it so well we have our own specialist division that is dedicated to this stunning country. To learn more about this wonderful place, and to discuss your perfect safari, contact our expert Botswana Specialists team.

If you would like your own encounter with wild dogs in Kwando, our Falling for Wild Dogs trip could be perfect for you – and it also takes in the private Kwara reserve in the Okavango Delta and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

 

Shutterstock

In the Tribe: face-to-face with… Jeff Webster

In the Tribe: face-to-face with… Jeff Webster

In the Tribe: Face-to-face with… Jeff Webster

In this first of a new series meeting some of Tribes’ travellers, Suffolk-based Jeff Webster, a keen photographer who is now retired from a career in banking in London, tells of his and his wife Sue’s love of wildlife, Africa and Antarctica.

When did you first experience wildlife ‘in the wild’?

The answer may not be what you expect! In 1981 Sue and I – who had spent our lives in the suburbs until that point – moved to a rural location near Bishops Stortford. Until then my only experience of wildlife of any sort had been through the television – David Attenborough, of course, but before that (for those who are old enough to remember!) I also watched Armand and Michaela Dennis, who were earlier pioneers of wildlife broadcasting.

That first summer in our first rural home was very hot and one night, sleeping with the windows open to try to let some breeze in we heard a strange noise from the garden. We shone torches around the garden and to our great surprise and delight it was a badger! It had found a group of snails and was snacking away.

That started a love of watching wildlife that has endured ever since. Badgers became regular visitors to our garden. Sue and I would turn off the house and outside lights and sit on the terrace and they would wander into the garden and walk amongst us. We would even invite friends to join us sometimes. The badgers attracted foxes, and we would have visiting fox cubs in the spring. We joined a badger protection group, learnt how to handle injured badgers and dug sets for orphaned ones. Over the 25 years we lived in that house we were visited by badgers thousands of times. Strangely, since moving to rural Suffolk, we have only seen one live badger – and that was an injured one we found by the roadside, which died in my arms.

When did the travel bug bite you?

As a child growing up in Leeds and Manchester my holidays were restricted to family trips to Scarborough and Morecambe.  I didn’t go abroad or fly at all until I was 38 years old, when Sue and I went to Crete, which was the beginning of nearly a decade of Mediterranean holidays for us. However, in 1989 we decided to take a long-haul trip, and did so quite comprehensively, with a trip that included India, Hong Kong and China!

It was quite an eye opener for us both – when you have only travelled in Europe and then you land in Delhi…. I remember the taxi taking us from the airport to the hotel and Sue exclaiming “Good heavens, there’s a naked man walking along the street!”, and our driver explaining that it was a holy man.

On that trip we saw macaque monkeys and Asian elephants and that inspired us to take our first African safari, which we did in 1990, travelling to Kenya with a travel company that we picked because they promised us a window seat in the safari vehicle!

To say we enjoyed it is very much an English understatement – since that trip we have travelled once and sometimes twice every year and have visited every continent on earth apart from Australia.

What are your most memorable wildlife experiences from your travels with Tribes?

In 2011 Tracy arranged a trip to Western Tanzania for us, taking in Selous, Ruaha, Katavi and Mahale. Our main aim was to see chimpanzees in the wild, something we had failed to do with previous trips to Rwanda and Uganda. We very nearly saw them in Uganda – we had walked to be very close to them but then it started raining and they went quiet and that was it! Tracy understood what we wanted and she suggested Mahale because the chimps there are habituated to humans, as they have been monitored for years by, I think, Kyoto University.

The experience was memorable for many reasons – not least the flight from Katavi to Mahale. It was a small plane, of course, and Sue and I were the only passengers. As we flew over the Mahale mountains it started to rain – torrentially. Lightening was crackling around us and the fuselage was battered by the downpour. You know it’s not a good a sign when the pilot stops talking. When we finally landed the pilot said “Now that was interesting.” He followed that up with, “And what you didn’t know is that that’s only the second time I have ever flown solo with passengers”….

The next day we trekked for two hours to meet up with a group of chimpanzees, and Sue and I got our wish. It was fantastic and well worth all the effort – I was 66 at the time, and there was an American lady on the trek with us who was celebrating her 38th birthday and said it was the physically hardest thing she had ever done.

 

In 2010 we travelled with Tribes to Botswana, where we encountered meerkats on the Kalahari scrublands. We sat down and they were all around us. It was enchanting – but also surprisingly cold. We had to be there in the early morning for this and I hadn’t expected to encounter frost in Africa! On that same trip we slept under the stars on the Makgadikgadi Pans. And we were literally under the stars – no tent, just a double bed and the sky above us. Magical!

Old Mondoro Camp in Zambia’s Lower Zambezi is one of our favourite places. In fact, it’s the only one we have every visited twice, and it was there, on a night-drive, that we saw honey badgers for the first time. And last year we went to Zimbabwe where we saw Boswell, the big-tusker elephant made famous by David Attenborough’s Seven Worlds One Planet programme, in which he stands on his hind legs to eat from the higher branches of trees. He stayed on all four legs when we saw him but was still a magnificent sight.

Travel is also about the people that you meet – you must have had some fascinating encounters over the years, both with native populations and your fellow travellers?

I’m not sure I’ll ever forget the American gentleman I met in Zimbabwe last year, who asked ‘Hey man, can you explain the difference between a rhino and a hippo?”.  Sue answered for me – ‘One is endangered and the other isn’t.”

But it’s the poignant encounters that leave the most lasting impression. In 2005 we went to Rwanda, ten years after the genocide. Rwanda was just opening up to tourism at that time and the devastation caused by the genocide was still very much in evidence. I remember the holocaust museum, with its mummified bodies, and the caretaker there, who had survived being shot and bore a bullet hole scar in his forehead.  He asked me to photograph him, “So that the world can see the horrors we suffered”.

Do you prefer walking near wildlife or watching them from a safari vehicle or a boat? I imagine it rather depends on the wildlife…

I like to do it all! That’s why I find Zambia so very special – you can go on walking safaris, night safaris and also boat and jeep safaris. Walking safaris are fascinating. The bigger wildlife spots you long before you spot it, so you start to notice the smaller things instead. I remember a trapdoor spider that lurked underground…

To get closer to the larger wildlife you need to be in a boat or vehicle – though we have at times been a bit too close to hippos while in a boat!

You’re a keen photographer – is this something that you’ve always done or something that became a stronger interest the more you travelled?

It’s something that has become a greater interest the more we have travelled. I started with print film then switched to slide film, as slides take up less space. Now, of course, I shoot digitally. I still don’t have the most expensive kit but I travel with two camera bodies and include a long lens.

Your most recent trip (not a Tribes one) was to Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean. Obviously a rather different experience to an African safari or the SouthWild Jaguar Flotel in Brazil! Tell us about the wildlife you saw on that icy trip.

This is something we have wanted to do for quite a while. Five or six years ago we travelled along Russia’s Kamchatka coastline and after we left the boat it was going on to Wrangel Island. We weren’t sure at that time if politically it would be an easy place to visit but this year on a ‘if we don’t do it now we may never do it’ impetus, we went there.

It is obviously very remote – it’s the last place where woolly mammoths survived – and the wildlife, and the quantity of wildlife, is astonishing. We saw over 50 polar bears, hundreds of walruses and, I’m told, some 250 humpback and grey whales. Birdlife is impressive here as well, notably the horned puffins and the lovely tufted puffins. We were looking out for snowy owls but, strangely, saw just one! Then we sailed along the Northern Siberian coast, where we spotted Arctic foxes and Russian brown bears.

We also met several of the native Inuit people, who have been restricted to one settlement since the Stalin era; I remember the distress of an elderly lady as she reminisced about the village from which everybody had been evicted in the 1950s.

What is the wildlife photograph that you’re most proud of, and why?
On that trip to Tanzania in 2011, it was the end of the season and we basically had Katavi National Park to ourselves, other than an Australian couple who shared our vehicle. Our guide suggested that, rather than driving around in search of wildlife, we park up under a tree and see what unfolded before us.

We were entertained for a while by a lion cub repeatedly jumping onto its father until the adult gave it a whack and it scampered up a tree, gazing reproachfully down on its parent. We then drove down to a riverbed, where three female lions were stretching out in the sun, with four cubs nearby. The lionesses started to walk away and a crocodile walked towards them. They all appeared to be ignoring each other and then something triggered the lionesses and they circled the crocodile then launched an attack. It was quite a tussle but ended in a stand-off, albeit with the crocodile sustaining a nasty gash on its rear leg. Then the lionesses sat down as if nothing had happened – and it’s the shot of the tussle, with the four cubs watching from a safe distance, that I’m the proudest of.

And what was the most memorable photograph to take? It may not be one that you consider your best, but the experience itself makes it particularly satisfying.

There are two. The first was when we were gorilla trekking in Rwanda. We left at 7am and trekked to a family of 46 gorillas. However, the male silverback wasn’t well and, rather as with human ‘man flu’ he involved everybody as he decided to head up the mountain to cooler climbs. It took us six hours trekking up the steep sides of an extinct volcano to find them…

The second photo was taken when we travelled to Borneo and the Malay peninsula one year with the aim of seeing wild orangutans. We saw them in the reserve at Sepilok but hadn’t seen them in the wild, and we had arrived at our last camp and our guide was becoming anxious! Then he announced “The good news is that a male orangutan has built a nest just outside the camp. The bad news is that we’ll have to get up before sunrise to see him.” So, the next morning we all got up and got dressed in the dark and travelled to beneath the tree where he was nesting. Dawn came and there was no sign of him. Then one hour passed. And another hour. People started to give up and head back to camp for breakfast, but we stayed put. Finally, at 9.10am a hand appeared on the edge of the nest and there he was! His name was Abu and it was definitely an experience and picture worth waiting for.

Clearly Africa is a great love – why do you and your wife love it so much?
The wildlife! There are still some elusive creatures that we have yet to see there. On our recent trip to Zimbabwe our guide asked us what we wanted to see. “A caracal would be nice” I replied. He was quiet for a while and then said “Anything else?”

We also love the colour and wildlife of India.

Where else in the world that you have travelled to (not necessarily with Tribes) do you consider to be particularly special?

The Antarctic – it is so special and, with global warming, it is changing all the time.

Finally, if you could only travel to one place – either one you’ve been to before or have yet to visit – where would it be, and why?

Well, Africa is always front of mind of course but I think if it really was a case of ‘this is the last place you are allowed to travel to’ it would have to be the Antarctic.

 

All photos © Jeff Webster

Sunrise in Selous

Sunrise in Selous

Sunrise in Selous

Tribes’ client Patricia McKay experienced a glorious sunrise while travelling in Tanzania with us. And she describes it – and some of the other highlights of her trip – in the most beautiful way!

© Shutterstock – Ondrej Prosicky

“The dawn creeps up upon you stealthily and almost imperceptibly at first.”

Sunrise in Selous

The dawn creeps up upon you stealthily and almost imperceptibly at first. Around 5:30am there is a just perceivable lightening which enables you to make out the shapes of the trees around the camp. The hippos are grunting to each other, some from the lake in front of the tent and others from the land behind it. The more musical grunting calls of the Southern ground hornbills can also be heard.

As the sky above Selous lightens other birds join in until there is a true dawn chorus of trills, twitters and cheeps, none of which I can identify. By 6 o’clock it is light enough to see a bit, and from the comfort of my bed I can observe two small birds in silhouette as they sit together side by side on a nearby palm frond. A couple of hornbills fly over, their shapes dark against the brightening sky.

By 6:30am it is daylight, though the sun is not yet up. I can stand it no longer in bed, so I creep out and sit on our verandah. The first openbill stork of the day flies past, its perpetually open bill showing clearly against the sky. An African fish eagle flaps slowly past on its enormous dark wings, its dazzling white head and tail gleaming in the sun like beacons. In the sedges and rushes in front of the tent a cattle egret stalks past, looking for frogs or insects, or some other such tasty bite. The fish eagle flaps back again, this time carrying a large branch, which it takes to its nest in a palm tree, closely followed by its mate, who bears a similar burden. Out in the lake the hippos are just visible with their pink ears and noses glowing in the first rays of the sun. Every so often a smooth dark back appears above the surface of the water for a moment, only to sink back underwater a few seconds later. The grunting continues together with the odd snort and splash.

By now it is 7 o’clock, and my personal alarm clock goes off in the shape of a Masai warrior wrapped in the traditional red chequered blanket, complete with a wooden staff in one hand and a cell phone in the other, who strolls down the path to our tent to deliver my requested morning wake-up call.

“Hello, jambo – good morning” he calls out until I answer back with a smile and “Hello, good morning – assante!” “Karibou – you’re welcome,” he responds, and strolls off, his job done. It’s time for breakfast!

 

© Shutterstock – Grober du Preez

“…wonderful close looks at golden impala, gleaming in the sunshine.”

My first giraffe

We flew from Dar es Salaam to Ruaha on a small plane which only had seats for 12 passengers, however on this particular flight we were only six in total – four passengers, and two pilots, who welcomed us personally as we boarded. The flight was short and soon we were landing on a dirt runway.

We met our guide Maulidi, and driver Godson,  and were soon on our way for our first game drive as we travelled to Mdonya Old River Camp. We had not even got out of the airstrip parking area before we saw our first animals – wonderful close looks at golden impala, gleaming in the sunshine. I had already told Maulidi that I was particularly interested in birds, and he immediately showed me some Fischer’s sparrow-larks, and the spectacular lilac-breasted roller, both of which were life birds for me.

For the next hour I was held spellbound, as we looked at more and more birds and animals, until we rounded a corner, and suddenly, there he was! My first-ever wild giraffe, placidly grazing on an acacia tree.

We looked at each other for a minute or two, and then, having decided that we were harmless, he casually strolled away to the next bush with the curious stately gait that all giraffes have. It was a truly magic moment….

 

©Karen Coe

Breakfast with the baboons

One of my most memorable events was the bush breakfast that we had on our last morning in Ruaha.  The driver, Godson, pulled the jeep into a small clearing next to a very small pond.  The area was populated by many impalas as well as baboons.  The impalas immediately fled to the far side of the pond while the baboons examined us and then decided we were of no interest.  The very young baboons however carried on with their swinging from branch to branch, for which they were then reprimanded in no uncertain terms!  We enjoyed our breakfast watching all the animals interact.  And to our surprise and delight there was a hippopotamus relaxing in the water of the pond.  He/she graced us with a giant yawn and some grunting for having disturbed his/her early morning nap.  It was a lovely way to start the day and end our stay in Ruaha National Park.  

Except where all stated, all images are © Patricia McKay

Amazing Antarctica

Amazing Antarctica

Amazing Antarctica

Image ©Shutterstock – Pole2PoleImages

For a once-in-a-lifetime experience why not consider a true ‘holiday on ice’? Antarctica is simply glorious – the largest wilderness on earth is untouched, awe-inspiring and about as far as you can get from a ‘run of the mill’ holiday destination.

“The stark landscapes of this polar desert have their own distinctive beauty.”

© Shutterstock – Foto-4440

The world’s highest continent also boasts one of the most severe climates, strong winds and extreme dryness, but the stark, unique landscapes of this polar desert have their own distinctive beauty.

Some 98% of Antarctica is covered in ice which can be as much as 2km thick. But it also has rivers, mountains – and six months of darkness. The main tourist season is the austral summer (November to March), when there is daylight for almost 24 hours a day!

It is impossible to visit Antarctica without feeling as if you were on one of those famous expeditions we all learnt about at school. Today the resident population is primarily made up of scientists, based in several dozen research stations, and travellers can visit both present-day and historic research stations and can also visit the old whaling station on Deception Island.

Exploring the White Continent on board a purpose-built expedition vessel is a fabulous way to experience this unique place. You can relax in warmth and comfort as the boat navigates the icebergs and fjords, then take an excursion on an inflatable zodiac boat to visit Elephant Island, Anvers or Wiencke islands or the South Shetlands, hiking through the snow to get closer to the glaciers and wildlife and visit historic buildings. You can even go sea kayaking and showshoeing, while each evening presentations from expert guides help you learn even more about this glorious place.

Happily, advances in cold-weather clothing mean you can be toasty warm and comfortable as you venture out onboard a zodiac or stand out on deck to watch the Southern Lights put on a spectacular show. The Aurora Australis are not as frequently seen as their northern counterpart the Aurora Borealis, but when they do appear they are astonishingly beautiful, adding purple, orange, pink and gold to the blue and green of the Northern Lights.

 

 

© Shutterstock – Vladsilver

 Along with the vast, spectacular landscapes and seascapes, you also get vast, spectacular mammals in the form of the many whale species found in the waters of Antarctica. Blue whales, orcas, minke, humpback and sperm whales all thrive here in the summer months when they gather to feed in the Southern Ocean.

 

 

© shutterstock – reisegraf.ch

© shutterstock – reisegraf.ch

© shutterstock – Jared Cohn

“The creatures that can survive in this white wilderness are enchanting.”

While you don’t get the wealth of wildlife that you’ll see on a safari, for example, what you do see is very special. The creatures that can survive in this white wilderness are enchanting – who doesn’t love a penguin?  And Antarctica has six different species of this wonderfully charismatic, flightless bird – adelie, southern rockhopper, king, chinstrap, gentoo and emperor.

The ocean is the source of nourishment for most of the wildlife. In order to survive here they need to be warm-blooded and they also need to quite large – those layers of fat are essential. Southern fur seals, Weddell and Crabeater seals, the intimidating leopard seals and huge elephant seals make their home in the icy water and on the surrounding ice and rocks.

In a continent where your spine will be tingling nearly all the time (and no, not because you’ll be cold!) the sight of the highly endangered wandering albatross, that iconic and legendary protector of seafarers, soaring above you is something you are unlikely ever to forget. The snow petrel, with its pure white plumage, is quite lovely, as is the agile Arctic tern. The feisty South Polar skua boasts a wingspan of up to 140cm, while the distinctive, blue-eyed shag, can dive to a depth of more than 100m.

Enjoy an Antarctic Adventure with Tribes

For a luxurious take on an Antarctic adventure, our Antarctic Peninsula Adventure 2021 is hard to beat. You’ll stay on board the splendid RCGS Resolute, with its gorgeous dining room with 270-degree views, heated salt-water swimming pool and sheltered Jacuzzi. Spending time on the 360-degree observation deck is a must, while the on-board laboratory is a fascinating place to learn from the researchers and naturalists. Guests are always welcome on the bridge, so if you want to learn about navigation, this is your chance! 

Our Classic Antarctica Fly and Cruise holiday flies you from Punta Arenas in Chile to King George Island where you board one of the small but very comfortable expedition vessels operated by Antarctica21 and travel through the South Shetland Islands and the western cost of the Antarctic Peninsula.

 

How to avoid crowds in the Ngorongoro Crater

How to avoid crowds in the Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro without the crowds…

 

Its wealth of natural attractions make the Ngorongoro Crater a particularly sought-after spot for wildlife enthusiasts coming on safari in northern Tanzania. As a consequence it can get very busy – but there are ways to avoid the crowds!

“Its wealth of natural attractions…”

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a Unesco world heritage site in northern Tanzania. The focus is the outstanding Ngorongoro Crater which, at 16kms diameter, is the world’s largest caldera (the remains of an extinct volcano).

As well as savannah grasslands and acacia forest there is a freshwater lake and a soda lake. The ancient landscape is dramatic and very photogenic, and within the walls of the crater live a diverse range of species including hippos, elephants, zebras, antelopes, hyenas, lions, cheetahs and even black rhinos. The birdlife here is also excellent.

In my opinion the Crater is still worth visiting even with the large number of visitors that you’ll be sharing the sights with.

However much you pay for your safari you should always expect people and other vehicles to be around, but there are ways to give yourself the best chance of keeping away from the crowds.

 

 

Consider travelling in the low season

Low generally means rainy, so that’s from about mid-March to the end of May when the long rains are due. Certainly the rain puts a lot of travellers off coming, and of course game viewing is never quite as wonderful in the rain, but it doesn’t always rain and the hotels and lodges that stay open at this time also tend to offer some very good deals on prices. Grab yourself a bargain and hope for the best.

Stay overnight close to the Crater

There are two entrance roads to get into the crater. More people use the one in the west, and it tends to take longer to get down from that side. If you stay in a lodge on the east side, you can use what is generally known as the Sopa road and you’ll be one of the first into the Crater if you set off early. This might give you at least an hour (or more) before the main crowds arrive as many come from much further away.

Choose a guide/driver who is not lazy! 

Some drivers simply look out for other vehicles stopping and then head towards them assuming that they’ve seen something good (or they radio to them to ask). This way of game driving inevitably leads to bunches of vehicles around sightings – not good for the animal and not good for most true wildlife enthusiasts. Whilst you won’t be able to avoid some of this, and will have to share viewing experiences, we tend to advise our drivers not to head for masses of vehicles, but rather head away from them. There is always something else to see, and you might see it by yourself if you allow for that chance to happen.

Book a private picnic

The Crater has a few (very few) private picnic spots. These are a really wonderful way to enjoy the Crater without other people around. They can only be booked in advance and all drivers know that they are not allowed there if they have not reserved the spot. How perfect to sit in a beautiful area of the Crater enjoying a gorgeous brunch or lunch with just you, your party/family and your guides. Certainly this is added expense, but we highly recommend this as a special treat!

CAN WE HELP YOU AVOID THE CROWDS?

We’d love to help you take in the Ngorongoro Crater but leave out the crowds.

Our Tanzania experts can tailor-make a holiday for you or you might like to consider one of these itineraries:

A Taste of Tanzania

On this eight-day holiday you’ll have your own driver/guide, stay in good quality camps and lodges and visit three key areas for wildlife – Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and Manyara or Tarangire.

Tanzania Family Safari and Beach

 This 11-day holiday is a real family-pleaser, combining safaris in Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire with five nights on the spice island of Zanzibar.