Tanzania offers safari experiences without equal on the planet. No one single image can sum up the Tanzanian experience, with a diversity of wildlife and landscape that is simply too much to take in on one trip. That’s why we’ve created the below guide to Tanzania National Parks.
Guide to Tanzania National Parks
We’ve aimed to detail the best Tanzanian safari experiences to help you narrow down your options – from the iconic Serengeti and Kilimanjaro to the isolated and remote Katavi. All of which can be visited on a safari with Ecological Wilderness Adventures.
You’ll discover herds of wilderbeest migrating, the last remaining wild chimp colonies, big game and waterbirds, amongst a whole range of other unforgettable safari experiences.
The Serengeti is Tanzania’s oldest and most popular national park, a world heritage site and widely proclaimed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. It’s also famed for its annual migrations, when millions of animals make their way across the park.
Take in zebras, Thomson gazelles and wildebeest as far as the eye can see in one of nature’s great spectacles. The perfect place to kick off this Guide to Tanzania National Parks. How about combining the Serengeti migration with climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
Arusha and Ngorongoro Crater
Often thought of as the safari capital of Tanzania because of the sheer scale and diversity of habitats visitors can experience in just a few hours. Enter through the mysterious forests populated by blue monkeys, wander the grassy hills and tranquil beauty of the Momela Lakes, turned pink with flamingos. With herds of giraffes and grazing zebras populating the grasslands.
Nearby is the stunning Ngorongoro crater, a large volcanic caldera and UNESCO world heritage site. Situated in the highlands near Arusha, it’s well worth a dual visit. The two can be combined with Lake Manyara and Tarangire for a budget four day safari including some of the best Tanzanian safari experiences.
A vast area surrounding the Tarangire River, which more often than not is reduced to a mere trickle by the scorching sun. Herds of nomadic wildlife wander the park looking for watering holes, stalked all the time by the world’s fiercest and most incredible hunters. The fringe-eared oryx and gerenuk make a tasty meal for the prides of lions that also call the park home.
Just the name conjures up images of a vast snow-capped mountain looming large over colossal grasslands. No visitor is disappointed by its majesty. The name translates as either ‘Mountain of Light’ or ‘Mountain of Greatness’, the locals know it only as Kipoo.
The mountain is a metaphor for the intense beauty of Tanzania, the highest peak on the continent, sitting in a breath-taking landscape. Attempt a summit or explore the park, with its varied elevation creating habitats for exceptional animal and plant life.
Home to some of Tanzania’s best big game viewing, this is a wilderness like no other. It’s home to species that can’t be found anywhere else, including the Greater Kudu, as well as unexplored ecosystems.
The park takes its name from the river, a source of water for elephants, buffalos, antelopes and even wild dogs. The river is also home to hippos, crocodiles and varied fish species. In all, it’s a truly unique ecosystem.
Stretching for around 50 kilometres along the Rift Valley escarpment, Lake Manyara is a place of outstanding natural beauty. Lush jungle landscapes are home to baboon troops and blue monkeys, with hornbills making a racket up in the forest canopy.
As a contrast, the expansive floodplain is home to herds of giraffes and zebras, with tree-climbing lions and elephants lurking too. Add in numerous water bird species and this is a true natural paradise and easily a best Tanzanian safari contender.
Located just below the Usambara and Pare Eastern Arc Mountain ranges, with snow-capped peaks in the distance, Mkomazi is home to some breathtakingly beautiful scenery. Herds of giraffe, eland and hartebeest roam the arid savannah here. It’s also home to two of the country’s most highly endangered species, the black rhino and the African wild dog.
One of the most isolated and least visited parks in Tanzania, Katavi is as close as you can get to true wilderness. Despite being rarely visited, it’s one of the country’s biggest, lying within an offshoot of the great Rift Valley. It’s characterised by unique woodlands and the shallow Lake Rukwa, where you’ll see antelope species.
In the rainy season, this marshy terrain is also home to countless waterbirds, as well as crocodiles and hippos. Elephants, buffalo, impala and zebra herds also wander the park’s vast expanse.
The Mahale Mountains National Park is home to some of Tanzania’s and Africa’s last remaining wild chimpanzees. Experience the magic of tracking this population of roughly 1,000 chimps through the forest, and take in views of the majestic Lake Tanganyika. It’s the longest, second deepest deepest and one of the least polluted freshwater lakes in the world and home to incredible fish species.
Lying next to Africa’s largest game reserve, the Selous, and dissected by the road between Dar es Salaam and Iringa, this is one of the country’s most accessible national parks.
Wide open horizons of the Mkata floodplain are home to huge herds of Zebra, wildebeest and impala. Giraffes tower over termite mounds, eland and antelope roam, and kudu wander the foothills of the park’s borders.
One of the largest game reserves in the world, the Selous was designated a world heritage site in 1982 owing to its diversity of wildlife and undisturbed nature. There is no human habitation in the reserve and permanent structures are not permitted.
Animals like elephants, crocodiles, hippos and buffalo can be found in larger numbers in the Selous than anywhere else in Africa. Although much of the reserve is set aside for game hunting, it’s still an incredible place to visit just to see these amazing animals. Trip idea, combine Selous with Ruaha and a beach holiday in Zanzibar.
The best Tanzanian safari circuits
As well as visiting individual parks, it’s possible for visitors to take in a number of the best Tanzanian safari destinations on a circuit. These are divided geographically and follow routes across large sections of Tanzania, taking in the very best wildlife along the way. The three most popular safari circuits are described below.
The most popular circuit starts from Kilimanjaro International airport or Arusha and takes in both of the parks bearing those names. The tour also includes the Serengeti, Tarangire and Lake Manyara.
With some of the biggest names in world safari included, it’s easy to see why it’s a hit with visitors. You can also combine your trip with climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or the great Serengeti migration.
Perhaps not quite on a par with the northern circuit in terms of wildlife density or ease of access but it comes with its own ‘off the beaten track’ charm. Fewer visitors gives this a wilder and more remote feel.
Ideal for more adventurous explorers, with the added bonus of a beach break at Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar. Visit the huge Selous reserve, Ruaha and Mikumi parks to see some of Africa’s rarest species.
The stars of the Western circuit are the chimpanzees living in the Gombe and Mahale Mountains along the shores of Lake Tanganyika. It’s harder to get to but offers one of the most unique chimp tracking experiences on the planet.
Combined with visits to Katavi, the savannah reserve and one of the least visited parks, this is a truly unique circuit unlike any other on the continent.
So, that completes this guide to Tanzania National Parks. We think you’ll agree that the best Tanzanian safari holidays rank among the world’s greatest. All that’s left for you to do is to choose your destination.
Ecological Wilderness Adventures can arrange a trip to any combination of the destinations included in this guide to Tanzania National Parks. They tailor every package to their clients needs ensuring it is the best Tanzanian safari experience for you. Find out more by visiting: www.ecologicaladventure.com