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The list of things to do on your Overland Tanzania adventure is a long one and probably deserves a website all to itself. However, we’ve identified the most popular activities based on what our past overlanders have enjoyed the most and find easiest to arrange.
Clustered at Kilimanjaro’s base, everyone oohs and aahs at the classic view of this snow-capped mountain, but imagine what the view is like from the top.
Climbing Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, is one of those lifetime moments, an experience that puts you on the roof of a continent after taking you up through an amazing journey (of about 5 days) of changing environments that include rainforest, moorland and glaciers. And it’s not even that difficult: Kilimanjaro is a mountain that can be walked up - no technical climbing experience is necessary - but remember that at just under 6 000 metres, Kili is no pushover.
You’ll need to be reasonably fit, have proper clothing and equipment and be prepared for the random but often debilitating effects of high altitude. We’d strongly recommend going with accredited hiking companies that use qualified guides and doing some training before you lace your boots up at the start of the trail.
Every visitor to Africa remarks on the continent’s huge open skies: so why not explore them? Hot air ballooning has really (ahem) taken off in the last decade and the extraordinary vistas of the Namib Desert, the Serengeti/Masai Mara and diverse South Africa are now unfolding beneath adventurous types who are increasingly beginning their day at 1 000 feet.
Hot air balloon rides are best done in cool, still air so it’s usually a morning activity, over and done with before the sun starts to create havoc with thermals. Expect a wincingly early start and a bumpy drive to the take off point but once the big bird gets airborne, all the early morning grumbles will melt away as the spectacular scenery fizzes into life with the rising sun.
Some wildlife can be seen if you take a flight over the Serengeti/Masai Mara environments and your professional pilot will adjust the balloon’s altitude to get the best possible angles but you’ll hardly be getting close ups. Just lean back (not too far) and absorb the atmosphere.
Following the Wildebeest Migration
Nature’s greatest and most dramatic migration takes place in the greater Serengeti/Masai Mara ecosystem, an annual event of massive proportions and unparalleled drama.
Overstatement? Not if your timing is right and you get to see large chunks of the 2 million or so animals - wildebeest, zebra and gazelles - that move in great dusty columns clockwise around the region, grazing, giving birth, mating, and of course dying as they fall victim to the A - Z of predators that harry them on their way.
Be aware however that it is an event that is fluid, ever-changing and localised - you need to get your timing right if you want to see the classic images of, for example, river crossings or thousands of wildebeest calves, as different stages of the migration happen in different areas and at different times of year.
Things begin with the October rains. The herds have been patiently waiting in Kenya’s Masai Mara and come thundering out, moving south and moving fast, heading for the new grazing of the southern and central Serengeti.
Then, during the February - March wet season, one of wildlife’s most amazing spectacles occurs. In less than a month, 90% of the female wildebeest give birth, flooding the Serengeti plains with thousands of newborn calves each day.
As the southern plains dry out and become overgrazed by April/May, the wildebeest then gather in huge numbers and turn north, heading into the western and northern Serengeti where they face a number of river crossings, made hazardous by the presence of enormous Nile crocodiles that are silently waiting for the panicky herds to cross.
By June/July, the herds have drifted back onto the now-recovered Masai Mara grasslands to resupply before the onset of the October rains triggers them into movement.
The one thing to remember about the migration is that all is not lost should your timing be out or your Overland itinerary has you going to an area of the Serengeti that had the herds last month: there is always good game viewing in the Serengeti/Masai Mara and unless you are on a specialist trip to see the migration at a specific point and time, a certain amount depends on good old fashioned luck and what random factors have been added to the year’s climate.
Snorkelling & Diving in Zanzibar
With some of the best reefs in the Indian Ocean, Zanzibar offers unparalleled snorkelling and diving excursions - and since it’s just a short ferry ride away from Dar es Salaam on the Tanzania coast, it would be unfathomable to not include it in your Tanzania overland adventure!
Most of the resorts and hotels in Zanzibar offer PADI certified diving courses, while snorkelling gear can be found pretty much anywhere. It’s all a matter of booking yourself onto a boat trip out to one of the nearby reefs and getting into the water! You might see whale sharks, swim with dolphins or even come face to face with the rare dugong!
Other Zanzibar activities include everything from watersports to spice tours in Stone Town and hikes through Jozani Forest. But it’s definitely the diving and snorkelling that takes the cake!