Tanzania Journey: Ngorongoro Highlands Trek and Wildlife Safari

Destination: Tanzania

| Activities: Hiking, Wildlife Safari, Cultural Exploration

Join us in Tanzania for our Ngorongoro Highlands Trekking and Safari trip. We will spend two weeks traveling, trekking, and experiencing the best of Northern Tanzania. On this adventure, we do it all: from multi-day trekking, to safari, to cultural connection! You will get off the beaten track on a three-day, 2 night “glamping” trekking journey through the Ngorongoro Highlands discovering the real Tanzania on foot. With our local naturalist guides with us, we are sure to spot beautiful local animals like zebra, flamingos, and giraffe! On either side of the trek, we will be learning all about Tanzanian culture through cultural experiences and multiple days of safari drives. First up is Tanzania's Tarangire National Park where we will spot wildlife on a night game drive, then hike through Lake Manyara National Park and learn about medicinal herbs on a walk around the park, trek through the Ngorongoro Highlands, and spend the final days of the trip in the famous Serengeti National Park for the elusive Big 5 of Tanzania: lions, leopards, buffalo, elephants, and rhinos! Each night, relax in the luxury accommodations, maybe treat yourself to a massage, and enjoy the famous African sunsets during your sundowners.
Maximum group size: 12

Highlights

  • Experience the wonder and thrill of African safaris in multiple national parks
  • Spend your nights under the twinkling stars in luxury tented camps
  • Trek off the beaten path on the Ngorongoro Highlands
  • Immerse yourself in Maasai culture, hospitality, and traditions
  • Spot Tanzania's Big 5: lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo, and rhinos
  • Explore Tanzania's best parks: the Serengeti, Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and Lake Natron

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Inclusions

  • Local, Tanzanian guides
  • Armed guards during our treks
  • Twelve nights in shared accommodation
  • All meals as described on the itinerary
  • All transportation and luggage transfers within Tanzania, including internal flight from Serengeti to Arusha
  • All entrance fees and activities as described in the itinerary

Not included: alcoholic beverages, optional sunrise hot air balloon excursion, transportation to and from Tanzania, guide gratuities and trip insurance (mandatory).

Trip Documents

Trip Info

This trip is for women in good physical condition who enjoy trekking in a beautiful setting while learning about the history, culture and ecology of Tanzania. Although for the most part, the hiking is moderate, you will have a few long days in the highlands. The other half of this trip will be on land safaris driving through multiple national parks and wildlife reserves. This trip is designed for women in very good physical condition who enjoy hiking and other activities and want to explore Tanzania. Hiking is generally 3 - 7 hours on dirt trails, rocky paths, and occasionally uneven footing. A rating of 3 requires aerobic conditioning, such as walking vigorously up hills, jogging, cross country skiing or stair stepping for 30 - 45 minutes at least 3 - 4 times a week. For this trip you should be working out at the upper end of these ranges. Rating: 1 2 [3] 4 5.

This trip is for women in good physical condition who enjoy trekking in a beautiful setting while learning about the history, culture and ecology of Tanzania. Although for the most part, the hiking is moderate, you will have a few long days in the highlands. We will be doing one day hike in Arusha National Park before our 3-day, 2-night trekking journey in the Ngorongoro Highlands. A few days of our journey will be experiencing cultural activities like traditional cooking classes, a medicinal herbal walk, walking tours of local villages, and a morning spent with a Maasai tribe. Four days will be spent on safari drives! The safari drives are usually very exciting, but also inactive, as we are unable to leave the jeep while we are in national parks. We will be in a safari jeep for all of our drives throughout the trip. The roads will be bumpy, but it will be an adventure!

All accommodations on this trip are very comfortable, high-end lodgings. While in Moshi, we will stay at a modern hotel just outside of town with ensuite bathrooms. In Tarangire National Park, you will stay in Tarangire Safari Lodge, one of the most historic camps in the area, with an amazing deck view of the Tarangire River. You can watch elephants and giraffes rest and drink at the river throughout the day. We will spend two nights at Acacia Farm Lodge, a luxury lodge with a swimming pool. While on the trek, all your camping gear will be carried by porters. Each night your tent will be set up with cots, sheets, blankets, and pillows. While you won't be able to shower while on the trek, hot water will be available for you to wash up every morning and evening. While at Natron, we will be staying at Lake Natron Halisi Tented Camp. This camp has bucket showers (common for tented camps), compostable toilets, and fresh water available for washing hands and brushing teeth. While in Serengeti, we will be staying at Nikyani Tented Camp with amazing savannah views during the June trip and Nyikani Migration Camp during the September trip. At both camps, tents have ensuite bathrooms, flush toilets, and bucket showers. You will be able to do laundry at most of the Lodge accommodations.

Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.

DAY 1
Welcome to Tanzania! Arrive at Kilimanjaro International Airport where you will be met by AGC representatives, who will transfer you to the lower slopes of Kilimanjaro via Moshi for our stay at Chanya Lodge.
Overnight: Chanya Lodge (D)
DAY 2
After a delicious breakfast, we head out to Old Moshi for a fascinating full day of historical and cultural immersion. We catch our first glimpse of the fertile and lush countryside surrounding Mount Kilimanjaro, filled with banana and coffee farms galore. Your local guide will guide you through this typical rural Tanzanian mountain village, learning about farming practices, and the life of the Chagga people and their chiefdom system. You will see coffee plantations, hear the story of Chief Meli and hike through the forest of Kilimanjaro. Visit historical sites and find out about the rich history of Old Moshi as you hear stories dating back prior to German and British colonization in the area. For lunch, we visit a local home where we learn to cook traditional foods with a local women’s group. After lunch, we learn the traditional coffee preparation methods, and get to taste the fruits of our labor! We will finish the day with a breathtaking hike through the valley to Kwa Mambori waterfalls. Take in the beautiful landscape and sounds of Old Moshi as you hike down winding footpaths, carved centuries ago, to the tallest waterfall around Mt. Kilimanjaro. The waterfall is around 400 ft tall, rushing from imposing cliff faces to form natural pools in which you can swim. Don’t forget your suit! We will return back to our hotel after an adventure-filled day. After dinner, make sure to take time to sit by the fire, and enjoy the stars before heading to bed.
Overnight: Chanya Lodge (B, L, D)
DAY 3
Depart Moshi heading north eastwards to the Arusha National Park. Despite its small size, this park has a rich variety of wildlife and within its three vegetation zones, many different kinds of animals can be found. The Mount Meru eco-system is especially diverse and home to some of the more elusive larger mammals, such as leopard and hyena. Almost 400 species of birds have been recorded in the park, some of which are migratory and only present between October and April, whilst others are permanent residents.

After a game drive, we will take a three hour hike through the park, accompanied by an armed ranger, offering a freer way to enjoy the park and its nature away from the usual safari game driving. There are several walking routes we can choose from and these can be discussed in advance with the safari guide.

We had a wonderful and big day in the park, and our hotel is just outside Arusha city, where you will have dinner and stay overnight at the lush Tumbili Lodge.

Hiking: 3 hours
Overnight: Tumbili Lodge, Arusha (B, L, D)
DAY 4
In the morning, we will make a short visit to Shanga Workshop and about this self-sustaining social enterprise. From there we begin our drive to Tarangire National Park, taking a game drive on route and arriving for lunch at Tarangire Safari Lodge. After lunch, we return to the bush for another game drive in the park. Tarangire is famous for its unique backdrop of large baobab trees and its dotting of large termite mounds! Enjoy watching the park’s huge herds of elephants, and even spot a baby or two. Throughout the dry season, thirsty antelope and elephants trek hundreds of kilometers to drink at the Tarangire River. Also home to more than 550 bird species, the park will excite any bird enthusiast.

Late afternoon, head to the strategically located Tarangire Safari Lodge, overlooking the Tarangire river bed and giving great views of the park and its resident wildlife. A sundowner drink on their clifftop porch is a must.

Take advantage of our only night game drive in Tarangire National Park. Though the sun may have set, Tarangire is still not asleep. After an early dinner, you can take a night game in the park in an open vehicle, accompanied by an armed ranger, specialist guide, and a tracker. This is a thrilling and adventurous sensory experience where you can discover the nocturnal wildlife of the national park and tune into the night sounds and movements of the park, whilst stargazing. Drive into the pitch black of the night to see animals, some of which are rare and inactive during daytime, including porcupines, genet, and civet cats. If we are lucky, we get to see prowling lions and the elusive leopard, both of which are active in the night rather than daytime.
Overnight: Tarangire Safari Lodge (B, L, D)
DAY 5
After a more leisurely breakfast, take an on-route game drive in Tarangire National Park as you exit the park and continue to the town of Mto Wa Mbu, literally meaning River of Mosquito, adjacent to Lake Manyara National Park. Isoitok Camp Manyara is a tented camp deeply connected with the community and offers grassroots cultural immersion opportunities within the local Maasai community. After lunch at Isoitok, take an afternoon guided Maasai medicine walk. Here, you will learn about the different root and plant extracts still being used by the Maasai people on a daily basis. Visit an Orpul (healing retreat) area where young warriors learn an age-old tradition from their elders and the medicine man of the village. This gives you a deeper understanding of the real Maasai culture.

Next, drive to the well-known and amazing FAME hospital in the highlands town of Karatu for a tutorial and talk about their inspirational story. Hear about the founders and how they realized their dream of building such an ambitious hospital in Tanzania and learn about its humble beginnings with simple outreach clinics in remote areas.
Overnight: Acacia Farm Lodge (B, L, D)
DAY 6
In the morning, we head to the town of Mto Wa Mbu for a cultural immersion experience. Mto Wa Mbu is home to some of the different people of Tanzania, notably the Mbugwe, Iraqw, Gorowa, Irangi, Chagga and Maasai, a lot of different peoples of Tanzania living alongside each other. A local guide from the Mto Wa Mbu Cultural Tourism Program will walk with you through the backstreets of the town. Each day is different in Mto Wa Mbu, and you will get an understanding of the daily lives of people living around this area. There will also be opportunities to see local handicrafts and buy directly from the artisans! You may visit a Chagga family who grows bananas and brews banana beer, or a farmer from Kigoma who makes palm oil presses. Alternatively, a walk towards the Papyrus Lake brings encounters with the Rangi people who collect materials from the lake to make baskets and mats. On the way through town, you may meet rice farmers and visit Sandawe families who still make traditional bows and arrows for hunting. The Makonde family of artists, from Mozambique, will introduce everyone to the skills for carving wood, which are passed down through families from generation to generation.

The morning ends with a delicious homemade Tanzanian meal prepared by a local women's group using traditional methods, and made with local and indigenous vegetables and spices! You better be hungry because the mama’s won't let you leave without an empty plate!

After lunch, we will head to Acacia Farm lodge for rest and relaxation or swimming in the pool.
Overnight: Acacia Farm Lodge (B, L, D)
DAY 7
We will wake up early in the morning, and depart from our lovely home in Lake Manyara, passing the highlands town of Karatu, then on to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is also considered one of the natural wonders of the world! The conservation area is unique in that it allows well over 40,000 Maasai pastoralists with their cattle goats and sheep to live alongside the abundant wildlife in a natural setting. Descend into the Ngorongoro Crater for a game drive, including a picnic lunch in the crater. Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest caldera measuring 1,968ft in depth and covering 96.5 sq mi in area. It is a spectacular setting and contains an abundance of wildlife with over 20,000 large animals including Tanzania’s remaining critically endangered black rhino. There is a good chance of seeing the Big Five in this vast natural enclosure!

We soon head northwards to the Nainokanoka Ranger Post and onwards to the Ngorongoro Highlands. We will be able to spot Olmoti Crater and Mount Lolmasin, Tanzania's third tallest mountain. Picturesque raw and lonesome landscapes emerge as we head towards the Empakaai Crater, one of the multi volcano calderas and geographical beauties of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Empakaai elevation at its maximum point is 10,500 ft above sea level and with this high altitude, the rim is always misty, whilst the lake in the crater appears emerald or deep blue. Here, we will meet our trekking staff for the next few days! They will have set up camp on the crater rim at Empakaai’s Special Camp for the night. This is trekking and glamping at its finest. Take a short nature walk around the rim. Bushbuck, buffalo and blue monkey can be seen on the rim, which boasts superb views on a clear day northwards to Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano, Lake Natron, as well as the dramatic Great East African Rift Valley. Enjoy a hearty camp dinner around a campfire, whilst watching the stars twinkle in the dark African sky.

Empakaai Crater walk: 2.8 miles, 978 ft descent/ascent - 2 hrs round trip
Overnight: Empakaai Crater (B, L, D)
DAY 8
Today begins our Ngorongoro Highlands trek! This remote trek with fresh air, peace, and tranquility in the wilderness, offers the world's most stunning sights: misty forests and rolling hills, ancient craters and colorful blazes of Maasai who inhabit this unique land. You will be rewarded with striking views of ancient and recent volcanic mountains, including Mt Lolmasin, Gilai, Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru. Whilst trekking, your guides will carry the tents, cooking equipment, and luggage, while you have your day pack with water, layers, and snacks! An armed ranger will also accompany the group for safety whilst you trek in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Each day will be an approximate 5-7 hour trek. Wake up to an aromatic coffee and enjoy a delicious breakfast prepared for you by the team’s cook before packing up for the day.

Descend by foot into Empakaai’s crater floor, a 984ft descent. Take time to appreciate the lush landscape and wildlife in this crater, which is famous for the pink flamingos that congregate here, turning the lakeshore a pretty pink. After exploring the rainforest inside the crater, we begin our ascent out of the crater. You meet the Maasai herders and their donkeys, who will carry all of our gear to the next camp. We trek downwards into the highland meadows to the small Maasai village of Nayobi, a trading center for the local communities. Here, we will take a short rest and have a delicious picnic lunch prepared by their cooks.

We end our hike today at Acacia camp. This campsite is set under these yellow-barked acacia trees, with magnificent views of Ol Doinyo Lengai, the Maasai Mountain of God.

Empakaai to Acacia Camp: 10.4 miles – 5hrs hiking Elevation gain 1,053’, Elevation loss 2,838ft
Overnight: Luxury tent camping at Acacia Camp. (B, L, D)
DAY 9
After an early breakfast, trek into the Rift Valley. As the group follows the edge of the Great East African Rift Valley Escarpment wall, Lake Natron shimmers in the distance ahead whilst the volcano Ol Doinyo Lengai dominates the view eastwards. We will learn all about the Rift Valley walking through this dramatic geological landscape. We will follow a trail downward along an ancient trading route to the foot of Lengai. For centuries, this road has been used by the Maasai on the lower plains near Lake Natron to trade their goods with the Maasai of the Ngorongoro Highlands. Upon reaching the bottom of the escarpment wall, safari vehicles will be waiting for the group to transfer you to our tented base camp for the night.

Lake Natron Halisi Tented Camp is a camp run by Maasai from the local community. You will enjoy a much deserved al fresco lunch and a cooling shower. The afternoon can be spent taking rest at the camp and recovering from the trek. Alternatively, opt to take a short walk to the creek behind the hill next to the camp. Under this secluded shaded space trekkers can refresh their feet by dipping their legs in this creek and relax here, with a drink in hand! Later, we enjoy our sundowner on a hilltop with magnificent views of the valley, and celebrate a job well done!

Hiking: 6.2 miles, 4 - 5 hours, Elevation gain: 240 ft; Elevation loss 3,133 ft
Overnight: Lake Natron Halisi Tented Camp (B, L, D)
DAY 10
After a leisurely morning, we take a walk to see the scenic Lake Natron, an almost surreal giant alkaline lake which is part of the Rift Valley chain of soda lakes. Set at an altitude of 2,000ft, below the Rift Valley Escarpment, Lake Natron offers incredible bird and game viewing. It is the only breeding ground for East Africa’s millions of flamingos, who usually congregate to breed here between August and October. Witness the age-old practice of extracting dried alkaline crust (magadi) from the lake bed and how it is used medicinally and as a nutritional supplement for cattle and local cooking. From here, drive to the Hominid Footprints to see some of the oldest footprints of Homo Sapiens, dating about 120,000 years. There are more than 400 footprints crisscrossing the dark gray mudflat near the lake.

After a delicious homemade lunch, we head to the Ngare Sero waterfalls oasis for a refreshing afternoon canyon walk! Walk through the rocky Ngare Sero River Gorge via the Saitoti River Trail until you reach the waterfalls, which is fed through underground water springs all the way from Ngorongoro Highlands. Take a natural shower in the waterfalls, plunge in the natural pool and relax in its cooling water.

Late afternoon, return to the camp. The group finishes off their evening with a celebratory traditional Maasai goat BBQ to say goodbye to our wonderful hosts.

Waterfall hike: 2.2 miles; elevation gain: 377'.
Overnight: Lake Natron Halisi Tented Camp (B,L,D)
DAY 11
We start our day with an early morning wake up to visit the local Maasai boma (homestead), a cultural immersion opportunity to understand the typical morning routine and daily life for this semi-nomadic community. Learn about the Maasai clan and homestead structure. Meet the Elders, Moranis (warriors), the boma’s women and children and find out about the status and rankings within each age group and within a family. Get a glimpse of livestock rearing, cooking and jewelry making, all whilst supporting the boma. You can try your hand at milking cows and get a glimpse of the daily routines before children/herdsmen head out with their cattle for the day.

Return to camp for breakfast and then drive north eastward to Serengeti National Park. This is a 4 - 5 ride through a bumpy, but unique and fascinating ancient volcanic earth. This is not a transfer, it’s a game drive in its own right and seeing the plains of the Serengeti for the first time is an unforgettable moment. We have finally made it to Serengeti National Park! Serengeti, or Seringit in Maa, meaning ‘endless plains’, is one of the oldest ecosystems on earth. The essential features have changed little in a million years; Serengeti’s famous plains are interspersed with wooded hills, towering termite mounds, rocky kopjes and rivers lined with acacia trees. Late afternoon head to Nyikani Serengeti Tented Camp for dinner and overnight stay.

Overnight: Nyikani Serengeti Tented Camp (B, L, D)
DAY 12
We wake up early for a game drive before the heat of the day sets in and animals seek shade. We have the opportunity to see lounging lions, active pools of hippos, and so much more before the sun rises! We make our way back to camp for breakfast before heading out on a full day game drive through the Serengeti with a picnic lunch en route. The Serengeti National Park was established in 1952, however, the Serengeti ecosystem is far older and greater than the park. The ecosystem reaches over 12,000 sq mi and was previously inhabited by the Maasai. This is home to the famous annual migration of more than a million wildebeest, hundreds of thousands of zebras, and all kinds of antelopes following the rains, undertaking their long journey to new grazing grounds. Also be on the lookout for lions, cheetahs, leopards, and hyenas.

Late afternoon, return to Nyikani Serengeti Tented Camp for dinner and overnight stay for a second night.
Game drive: 6 - 8 hours

ADDITIONAL EXTRA OPTION: Hot air balloon ride across the Serengeti Plains. Leaving around 5AM, head to the launch site of the hot air balloon, a good opportunity to get a glimpse of some of the elusive nocturnal inhabitants of Serengeti. As dawn breaks, the spectacular hot air balloon adventure starts. This is a once in a lifetime magical experience of viewing the animals and the vast landscape of the Serengeti plains from a different perspective.
DAY 13
After breakfast, with packed lunch, the group proceeds with a short on route game drive whilst transferring to Seronera Airstrip for the 11AM flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport. A representative of Planet Lodges will transfer the group to Airport Planet Lodge for a day room to rest and freshen up prior to the evening international flight. The lodge will transfer the travelers back to the airport. (B)

4.8

(5 reviews)
4.4 Food
4.2 Lodging
4.8 Safety
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*These are the unfiltered reviews of women who have been on this trip in answer to the question "What made this trip special for you?". We take reviews very seriously and often tweak itineraries based on feedback. Please feel free to contact us about any questions you have.

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Laurie L.
0 months ago

Broad exposure to topography, flora/fauna and culture

Chanda H.
0 months ago

Lainie the AGC guide was wonderful, Rama and Agray our Tanzanian tour guides were also incredible. The trip itself was a wonderful experience and going with a trusted organization like AGC helped make it special.

Diane F.
0 months ago

The local guides really made this trip special. Agreey especially shared a tremendous amount of knowledge about the animals, culture and communities.

Erin C.
0 months ago

The authenticity of the experiences of this trip allowed me to fully experience and appreciate the remarkable nature and people of Tanzania. Our AGC and local guides each contributed to the intimate and immersive nature of the trip.

Ghislaine C.
0 months ago

  1. Where do we eat?

    All breakfasts and dinners will be in our accommodations and lodges. During the trek, our cooks will be preparing our meals, and while at lodges and tented camps, meals will be prepared by hotel chefs. Due to the remote nature of some of these accommodations, your meal will be chosen for you, all while adhering to your dietary restrictions. Most lunches will be picnic style, ordered from our accommodations.
  2. What dietary preferences or restrictions can you accommodate on this trip?

    If we know well in advance, we can accommodate vegetarian, lactose-free, and gluten-sensitive diets. We cannot guarantee a completely gluten-free diet and they cannot provide a kitchen guaranteed to be free of cross-contamination. If you are vegan, we ask that you bring some additional protein bars; and if you are gluten-sensitive, please bring some gluten-free snacks. If you have severe allergies, Celiac disease and/or other significant dietary restrictions, please call the office before you register.
  3. I have selected a single supplement, what will my that look like?

    You will have a single supplement for every night of the trip, except for when we are on our Ngorongoro Highlands Trek. You will either have a lodge room or a luxury tent all to yourself. During the trek, you will be sharing a simple, but comfortable camping tent
  4. What are the bathroom facilities like?

    At all of our accommodations and lodges, you will have a private ensuite bathroom with a shower, toilet, and sink. You will use hot water "bucket showers" while staying in the luxury tented camps inside national parks. A very unique and fun Tanzanian experience! During the trek there will be a "toilet tent" set up every night to give you some privacy and a hot basin of water will be brought to your tent in the morning and again in the afternoon.
  5. What is the food like?

    While staying at the lodges and inside the national parks, our food is western-style prepared by accomplished chefs and cooks.
  6. Will there be electricity in my room?

    Yes! In all lodges and luxury tent camps, you will have access to power to charge things like a phone or a tablet. Tanzania uses prong round-pin plugs, but in most accommodations, there are universal adapters for you. We will not have power in the rooms while staying at the eco-camp Lake Natron Halisi Camp, but there are charging stations in the dining room for you to use.
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