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Wish You Were Here: Get Wild in Tanzania

Serehgeti National Park

Serengeti National Park draws thousands of visitors to Tanzania annually to see the great migration – the primeval movement of hundreds of thousands of hoofed animals across the grasslands of East Africa. “It’s the greatest wildlife spectacle on the planet,” says Huntington Harbour resident Carl Palazzolo DVM, a frequent visitor. Palazzolo, an exotic animal veterinarian and expert wildlife photographer, leads small tours in his spare time, specializing in alluring, off-the-beaten-track locations where wildlife viewing is the main attraction. An upcoming tour will visit Botswana’s game reserves and the nearby Victoria Falls. See more of his wildlife photography on the Long Beach Animal Hospital website; follow the Wildlife Photography link.

Why Tanzania?
It offers a wildlife extravaganza. More wildlife documentaries have been made there than any other locale for good reason: It has 16 national parks (including the Serengeti, the most famous) and has placed nearly a third of its land into parks, game reserves and wildlife management areas. It also has the world’s largest population of lions and the timeless annual migration of millions of wildebeest. In addition, Tanzania has spectacular landscapes such as the Ngorongoro Crater and Mount Kilimanjaro.

Time is Right
June through September is considered the high season, but my favorite time to visit is during February, when crowds thin out and you can see the baby wildebeest being born by the hundreds of thousands at the Lake Ndutu area of the Serengeti. These babies bring out the predators, and you will have daily sightings of cheetahs, lions, hyenas and leopards. At the Ngorongoro Crater, you have a good chance of seeing a black rhino on a day trip. The crater, 12 miles wide and 2,000 feet deep, is home to more than 20,000 large mammals and is the best place in Tanzania to see the rhinos.

Secret Tip
A visa is required to enter Tanzania. You can get it upon arrival at Kilimanjaro airport, so do not pay someone to do this for you or send your passport to the Tanzanian embassy ahead of time. Reputable travel companies will meet you when you get there, gather your passport prior to customs, and get the visa for you for $100.

After Dark
The best nightlife is not at a disco in Arusha; it’s a night game drive with a park ranger in selected areas. The African bush comes alive. You might see lions and leopards on the prowl and learn how to identify animals by the reflection of their eyes.

Must Do
Take a walking tour with an armed ranger. Most people see the vast plains of Serengeti National Park only from the windows of a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Wahen you slow down and get up close and personal, the experience is much richer. The rangers are experts on the ecosystem and will explain the interaction of the plants, animals and topography.

Best Bite
Arusha Coffee Lodge is an authentic coffee plantation with excellent indoor and outdoor dining. The grounds are beautiful, and it’s an ideal place to stay after your international flight. (It’s about five minutes from the domestic airport, with flights to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.)

Buy in
Arusha, considered the safari capital of Eastern Africa, is where the shopping is. There are multitudes of shops along the streets, and it is the best place to purchase authentic African wood carvings, sculptures and paintings. Your guides will take you to the reputable ones. If tanzanite interests you, there is no better place to buy it than Shanga & Shanga Foundation, which employs the disabled.

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