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The Ultimate Africa Experience with Greg Downing - October 2017

Ultimate Africa Experience

Tanzania, Africa

Ultimate Africa Experience - Tanzania photography workshop with Greg Downing

Travel in luxury with Greg Downing to the east African country of Tanzania for a once-in-a-lifetime African safari. Featuring the Serengeti National Park, the Ngorongoro Crater, and Tarangire National Park, plus an optional extension to the NW Serengeti and the famous Mara River, this safari boasts the best of Tanzania in a custom small group setting.

Designed specifically for photography, this safari is guaranteed to maximize your photographic opportunities and make it an experience you will never forget. Our accommodations are luxurious and off the beaten path. Our drivers are seasoned explorers and know the parks and wildlife intimately. They take the time to move us away from the crowds when possible affording us the opportunity to find wildlife that others are not seeing and, in many cases, we will have these opportunities all to ourselves. Our vehicles are also among the best and most rugged in Tanzania and are set up perfectly for photographers. You’ll each enjoy your own row of seats and a supply of complimentary chilled water, soft drinks, and snacks in each vehicle.

Greg has designed every detail of this exclusive itinerary to offer the best photographic opportunities, vehicles, and drivers as well as luxurious and comfortable accommodations throughout. You simply cannot find a better value anywhere for a luxury Tanzania safari.

Having traveled to East Africa for more than a dozen years, Greg and has received many accolades for his past safaris to the region and beyond.

Here is what two clients had to say about one of Greg’s recent safaris to Tanzania:

“The reality of our experience with Greg Downing during the Ultimate Africa Experience workshop FAR EXCEEDED our expectations. We chose NatureScapes because of Greg. Based on our past interactions with him at conferences as well as a previous trip, we knew this trip would be well organized and that we would enjoy spending time with and learning from Greg. The itinerary that Greg designed certainly was “the ultimate African safari.” His photographic support was invaluable in making MANY high quality images. Both our driver/guide, Ellson, and the other driver/guide, Thomson, were also primary reasons why the trip was so enjoyable and successful; they were extremely knowledgeable and genuinely cared about providing us with the best safari possible. We were surprised at the opportunities to closely view and photograph an enormous number and wide variety of wild animals in their natural environment—many times with no one else around us for long periods of time. Ellson was especially patient and accommodating with our interest in seeing a variety of birds as well as the spectacular mammals. We thought of this as a once-in-a-lifetime-trip. Now, we are saving up for another African safari, hopefully with NatureScapes—it was THAT AMAZING!
–Deborah & Paul Novak

About this Photographic Safari

Tanzania offers some of the best and most amazing wildlife and birding opportunities in the world. The parks are populated with a plethora of exotic wildlife, including all of the Big Five: lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino. Tanzania contains many large and ecologically significant wildlife parks, including the famous Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park. Though it is the largest country in East Africa it remains mostly protected from hordes of tourists; much better than Kenya for example in this respect. We are there to enjoy the African experience together and to chase the best light. We will share knowledge and learn about the African culture and animal and bird behavior from our skilled and professional local safari guides. Greg Downing will be available to answer photographic questions along the way and work with you individually so that you get the most out of your photographic safari.

“One year we were greeted by a large group of giraffes as we landed on the grass landing strip—it was a wonderful way to start the trip!”
–Greg Downing

© Greg Downing

Itinerary

The following is an itinerary and some details on what we hope to see and photograph.

Optional Extension

Please see day 10 for the optional extension to the NW Serengeti and Mara River area. This area last year was absolutely incredible with leopard cubs as well as a crossing on the last day!

Day 1 • October 17
Arrival in Arusha, Tanzania - African Tulip Hotel

Arrive at Kilimanjaro International Airport in the early evening on KLM. VIP meet and greet and transfer to Arusha town (45 minutes) for dinner and overnight at the African Tulip.

VIP arrival services include the cost of your Tanzania visa pre‐paid and a private officer to assist you through immigration, baggage, and customs.

Anyone arriving early will be accommodated at the African Tulip as well and transfers will be arranged. We can also arrange extensions and day safaris for those wishing to arrive a day or two early or even extend their safari. Please inquire with us at editors@naturescapes.net for details.

Day 2 • October 18
Maramboi Tented Lodge - Tarangire National Park

After an early breakfast, drive to Tarangire National Park (2 hours to the main park gate) and enjoy two days of game drives in this scenic park at the end of its peak time of the year.

Herd animals from across the Great Rio Valley and surrounding conservation land, migrate into the park for water in the river and swamps. During this time elephant numbers can swell to over 6,500 inside the park, and predators are actively hunting the increased number of ungulates.

Tarangire National Park, is also considered the “Baobab Capital of the World” and renowned for its wild landscapes and diverse habitats. The Tarangire River, from which the park derives its name, is the only permanent water source within 2,600 square kilometers (1,625 square miles) of protected wildlife area. In addition to numerous animals, the park has over 300 species of birds and has the highest recorded number of breeding bird species of any habitat in the world. Visit www.tanganyikawildernesscamps.com.

© Greg Downing

Day 3 • October 19
Maramboi Tented Lodge - Tarangire National Park

Today will entrail game drive inside the park. During this, the end of the dry season, herd animals of all kinds (elephants, wildebeest, zebra, gazelles, and antelopes) migrate from the surrounding areas for the water found inside the park. This is the second largest migration of animals in Africa after the Serengeti Migration. Tarangire has a very large swamp, called Silali Swamp, which attracts animals and birds of all kinds. During the dry season, the famous giant rock pythons leave the swamp to avoid being stepped on by herd animals, and live in the trees on the edge of the swamp. Tarangire is also home to the last remaining pack of wild dogs in northern Tanzania. They remain an extremely elusive find.

Maramboi is a permanent tented camp with a total of 40 tents located ideally between Tarangire NP and Lake Manyara NP. The camp is 30 minutes outside of the main gate for Tarangire but offers quality accommodations as well as a stunning view of Lake Manyara.

Day 4 • October 20
Lion’s Paw Camp - Ngorongoro Crater

Today we’ll drive from Maramboi to the village of Mto wa Mbu and Lake Manyara National Park for a game drive. While Manyara is a relatively small park, it has diverse birdlife and is an ideal location for viewing hippo, giraffe, baboons, and Blue-faced Monkeys. We’ll enjoy a picnic lunch in the park. When we exit the park, we’ll continue through the village of Karatu and the Crater Highlands, checking in at the main gate for Ngorongoro Crater. We’ll then continue up to the rim of the Crater and to the eastern rim to arrive at Lion’s Paw Camp in the late afternoon in time for showers, a sundowner, campfire, and dinner. The benefit of being accommodated on the eastern rim of the Crater is a shorter and easier access to the Crater floor and we’ll avoid any morning crowds, as we will literally be the first to enter. Lion’s Paw is a mere 10 minutes from the Crater floor and actually inside the gate. The camp is comprised of only 7 permanent tents providing an intimate setting in the Crater Highlands.

Day 5 • October 21
Lion’s Paw Camp - Ngorongoro Crater

We leave camp by 5:45 AM so we can be the first vehicles on the Crater floor. Early mornings are an excellent time to see cats and there are far fewer tourist vehicles. Lion’s Paw is located inside the main ranger post so we are permitted to return to the camp for lunch and avoid the very public and very crowded picnic sites. Instead we’ll enjoy a hot lunch and discuss some of the photographic opportunities you enjoyed this morning. We return to the Crater floor in the mid afternoon when the light it best, often at a time when the majority of tourist vehicles are leaving the Crater to return to the lodges.

Ngorongoro Crater is one of seven World Heritage Sites designated in Tanzania, and it is the world’s largest unflooded caldera. This means the entire rim of the old volcano is intact. The Crater is a memorable experience, while only 100 square miles in total, it also offers six distinct habitats: acacia forest, swamp, short grass, long grass, riverine, and woodland. Each habitat attracts a variety of animals. NCA is also the world’s first multi-purpose land-use experiment, combining tourism, research, archaeology, wildlife management, grazing rights and farming. The rim of the Crater sits at 7,800 feet in altitude and the Crater floor descends to 5,000 feet above sea level. The Crater is home to almost 30,000 animals in an area naturally enclosed by the slopes of the volcano. The Crater is the best location for viewing black rhino and the huge old bull elephants. There is not enough vegetation to support the large cow and calf herds, but the old males retire to the Crater for the wonderful swamp grass and acacia forest. The only animals you will not see in the Crater are the impala and giraffe. It is not known why impala do not inhabit the Crater, but giraffe are unable to descend the steep grade without lowering their heads, which raises their blood pressure to dangerous levels.

© Greg Downing

Day 6 • October 22
Sametu Camp - Central Serengeti

Enjoy another very early morning game drive on the Crater floor and then ascend on the western rim no later than 11:30 a.m. Continue to the central Serengeti where you will spend the next four days exploring this cat-rich area. At this time of the year, the central Serengeti should be bursting with wildlife as the pregnant females and dominant males are streaming into these areas as they march toward the southern plains by calving season. Sametu Camp has 8 luxury permanent tents, with flush toilets, running water in the sinks, and 24‐hour electricity. A large dining and lounge tent completes the sense of relaxation and intimacy of the camp.

Day 7–9 • October 23-25
Sametu Camp - Central Serengeti

You will spend these next days with plenty of time to explore the vast areas of the central Serengeti including the nearby Sametu Kopjes, the Maasai, Simba, and Moru Kopjes as well as the Seronera River Valley. The migration is not nearly as predictable as the books indicate and the herds will follow rain clouds and divert to many different areas. Using Sametu as your base camp, you will be able to venture to the western corridor where you may see wildebeest, which have an extraordinary sense of smell, and will find rain clouds. On the other hand, zebra have an extraordinary sense of sight and they often can detect predators before wildebeest sense danger. This is one reason why the wildebeest and zebra stay close and migrate together. Our unique location allows us ultimate flexibility and traditionally very abundant wildlife this time of year.

Serengeti National Park is one of the most famous wildlife areas in the world. The park’s 5,700 square miles are part of the 9,600 square mile Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, home to incredible herds of wildebeest and other grazing animals. It is the largest national park in Tanzania, with a staggering animal population of about 4 million within 14,763 square kilometers. It is the largest wildlife sanctuary in the world and the site of one of the most breathtaking events in animal kingdom—the migration of more than one million wildebeest. The area consists of treeless central plain, savannah dotted with acacia and granite outcroppings called kopjes, and riverine bush and forest in the north. The park’s name is derived from the Maasai language “SIRINGET” which means endless plains. The famous wildebeest migration that people dream to experience is actually a dynamic process taking a full year to complete. There are different events that happen at different times of the year and in different locations in this park. The basic migration occurs in a clockwise direction, but it is guided by rain and the growth of grass, so at any time the animals can ignore tradition and just follow rain clouds in a more haphazard direction.

© Greg Downing

There are three seasons in the Serengeti. They are short rains, long rains, and dry season. During the start of the short rains of November and December, the large wildebeest and zebra herds leave the northern part of the Serengeti ecosystem (the Mara in Kenya) and travel east and south into the short grass plain of southern and eastern Serengeti. The herd traditionally splits the migratory routes, with pregnant females and dominant males moving directly south, through the Seronera area and onward to the shortgrass plains of southern Serengeti. The bachelor males move easterly around the Gol Mountains and then south through the Gol Pass, the Gol Kopjes, and onto the southern plains. The female wildebeest need to be in this area to begin the calving, as they rely on this particular kind of grass, which is high in calcium, potassium, and magnesium used for milk production. Wildebeest calving can begin anytime between January and March. More than 750,000 females will drop their calves within a 3-week period of time, so predator/prey activity is at a peak. The short grass plains also offer some of the best protection against predators, as they are more visible to the herd animals. Herd animals will remain in this area as long as there is decent rain that continues in the following months, although they only need short bursts of rain to be happy. April is usually the month of long rain, meaning it rains fairly constantly and heavy. At this time, the herd usually begins to move to the Central Serengeti and begins to prepare for the wildebeest rut of May and June. These are some of the most amazing herd sightings, as the male and female herds reunite for breeding. The herd movement continues both west and north between May usually to the end of July. At this point, the herd disperses a bit and males without females may migrate directly north to the Mara and some may move to the famous Western Corridor and remain year round in the Serengeti. If rains are normal, we can expect the majority of the herd to leave the Serengeti by the middle to the end of July.

The dry season of July–October remains excellent for viewing cats of all kinds. In fact, some cats are easier to locate because they must remain more active during the daytime to search for dwindling food. During these months, clients usually stay in the Central Serengeti, the Western Corridor, or northern Serengeti-Loliondo. The famous river crossings, which everyone hopes to see, are hard to predict and can occur in a short number of days.

Day 10 • October 26 - End of Main Safari

Extension to River Camp - NW Serengeti and Mara River or African Tulip Hotel - Arusha (for departure)

For those participants not extending to the Mara River, you will game drive to the Seronera airstrip and fly back to Arusha arriving by 12:15 for lunch at the Arusha Coffee Lodge and time for some shopping. Enjoy a dayroom at African Tulip Hotel and transfer early evening to JRO for your international flight.

Those extending enjoy a day’s game drive to the Mara River, located in the northwestern Serengeti. The game drive will take you though the Lobo Valley and Bologonja on your way to the Mara River which is an absolutely fascinating journey with lots to see. Spend your last three days in the bush near the Mara River. This is a wonderful time of year for one of three significant events that happens during the Great Migration—the annual river crossings. Witnessing a river crossing takes PATIENCE as the herd will often take hours to decide whether or not to cross, weighing the risk of crocodiles and speed of the river.

© Greg Downing

Day 11 and 12 • October 27 and 28
River Camp - NW Serengeti and Mara River

Game drives along the Mara River and surrounding areas. There are 9 crossing points along the river that the herds often cross from. River Camp is located at crossing point #1, which is the southern most crossing on the Mara River. River crossings are usually frequent at this time of the year and tend to happen between 10–2 p.m., but there is never a guarantee. This is where the large wildebeest and zebra herds are focused during the dry season, crossing back and forth for grazing on the rich grasses of the northern Serengeti. Due to a shrinking habitat in the Maasai Mara in Kenya and excellent conservation techniques by Tanzania National Parks, the grassland in the Serengeti is of higher quality, keeping the majority of the herd (65–70%) inside the Serengeti these days. The northern Serengeti is also home to a huge number of resident animals including lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, buffalo, eland, black rhino, and occasionally wild dogs are being seen.

Enjoy a sundowner and dinner under the stars (weather permitting) on one of your three nights at River Camp.

Day 13 • October 29
African Tulip Hotel - Arusha

Experience one last early morning game drive as you travel to the Kogatende airstrip to fly to Arusha. The bush flight leaves at 10:00 and arrives at the Arusha airport by 12:15. Stop at the renowned Cultural Heritage Center for a hot lunch and time for some shopping. Continue to the African Tulip for dinner and overnight.

*NOTE: We will attempt to adhere to this itinerary as much as possible. However, certain conditions (political, climatic, environmental, cultural, or wildlife migrations) may necessitate changes in the itinerary. We reserve the right to alter any itinerary at any time, if necessary. We will attempt to notify participants of changes as far in advance as possible.

© Greg Downing

In Summary

This Tanzania safari boasts all the amazing wildlife photography opportunities that Tanzania has to offer and arguably the best value for a photographic safari to Tanzania. Coupled with our experienced local naturalist guides, among the best around, you’ll be traveling in the company of Greg Downing a seasoned professional photographer an expert traveler to the region and the specific locales we visit for more than a decade.

All of the accommodations are clean and luxurious, and provide full plumbing service with private en suite bathroom facilities. In our luxury tented camp locations each private tent is furnished with real beds and bed sheets, private restroom facilities (with a real flushing toilet) and a hot shower. We will always have the opportunity for recharging our laptops, cameras, and other electronic gear. This will allow us to relax and savor our beautiful surroundings, but it will also afford us the ability to clean or recharge our gear as we go. We will travel via in-country flights and modified Toyota Land Cruisers. With your own row of seats in the vehicle you’ll always have access to both sides and ample space for your equipment.

Suitable for all levels of photographic experience, this safari will encourage you to ask questions, learn about the African culture and wildlife, and try out different photographic techniques. You’ll learn from Greg, from the other members of your group, and from our professional wildlife guides. Africa will get in your soul just as it has for our past clients who continue to find their way back!

Cost

  • Main Safari: $9,995 pp (double occupancy*)
  • Extension: $3,295 pp (double occupancy*)
  • Single Supplement: Main trip: $1,219; Extension: $522

Includes

  • All game park fees.
  • All Tanzania VISA fees and VIP meet and greet at the airport.
  • All accommodations, based on double occupancy (single supplement if required).
  • All meals inclusive of restaurant staff tips.
  • Services of guides and drivers.
  • All in-country transportation, via air and in safari land cruisers. Each of the three rear seat passengers has a complete row of seats to themselves, including access to windows on both sides of the vehicle and empty seats for photographic equipment.
  • Airport transfers to and from hotels.
  • All ground and in-country air transportation.
  • Complimentary bottled water and snacks on safari.
  • $30 Tanzanian airport departure tax, if KLM / NW ticket purchased through us.
  • All tips for camp staff and drivers is included in this safari!

Does Not Include

  • Fees for passport, immunizations, and insurance.
  • Alcoholic beverages or soft drinks while on safari.
  • Laundry, phone, and other items of a personal nature.
  • Single supplement charge for single accommodations.
  • International airfare.
  • Additional tips for porters, etc.

If you would like to register for this workshop, please fill out our registration form. A non-refundable deposit (listed above) is required to reserve your spot. Please refer to our workshop information section for our cancellation and refund policies.

Workshop Information
  • Dates: Oct. 17-26, 2017 (5 openings)
  • Cost: $9,995
  • Deposit: $1,500
  • Participants: 11

Optional Extension: $3,295
NW Serengeti and Mara River

Single Supplement: $1,219 (main trip)
Single Supplement: $522 (extension)
Single supplement applicable where available or required based on availability.

The single supplement fee reflects our actual cost and is subject to availability. If you are a single traveler and we are unable to place you with a roommate, you will be placed in a single room and charged the single supplement fee.
Leader

Greg Downing

Greg Downing

Greg has been traveling the world teaching professional and amateur photographers for more than 15 years hosting his instructional workshops and seminars. Instructing photographers of all experience levels Greg has earned a reputation for his gracious and generous teaching style.

Greg’s images are known for their unique style, exacting composition and strict attention to detail. Continue reading »

Testimonials
Just back from Tanzania with Greg Downing. What an amazing trip and experience. The wildlife photography was incredible. The guides outstanding. Wonderful memories for a lifetime. Seeing the Discovery Channel or Animal Planet come to life in front of me was the most memorable. In particular, I enjoyed seeing the wildebeest migration and the cheetah hunting.
Steven Grad
Ultimate Africa Experience - Tanzania
Words like ‘ultimate’ are readily used in the hype and spiel of a sales pitch. I have taken other African tours and none matched the meaning of ‘ultimate.’ Greg's trip, on the other hand, fit the bill of ‘ultimate’ perfectly. Great schedule, nice weather, good food and lodging, outstanding drivers, and awesome photographic opportunities in our dawn to dusk game drives. Bravo Greg!
Dennis S.
Ultimate Africa Experience - Tanzania
I have attended MANY workshops over the years, but no experience even begins to compare with the incredible Tanzania trip that we just experienced. In addition to learning more about life and more about photography, Dik and I had the time of our lives! We are huge Greg Downing fans! This was my fourth Greg workshop, but definitely not my last!
Patricia H.
Ultimate Africa Experience - Tanzania