Tanzania is blessed with a variety of wildlife and attractions, from its more popular northern circuit that includes the famous Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater to the quieter and equally spectacular southern circuit of Selous and Ruaha. To the east, the tantalising paradise of Zanzibar boasts wonderful beaches and marine adventures. Combining the parks and attractions of this inspiring country creates an enticing blend of safari, wildlife and beach.
The Serengeti has become synonymous with African Safaris, often filling heads with images of golden sunsets over the savannah, or heavy hoofs rising clouds of orange dust, lions stalking in the wake. This is easily the most famous National Park in Tanzania and offers unparalleled safari experiences, including the biggest spectacle on earth, The Great Migration. Mainly consisting of flat rolling grasslands, interspersed with rocky outcrops which act like magnets for the wildlife, each area has its resident animals, as well as those that migrate through. The Serengeti is also excellent for big cats, especially during the Great Migration.
Often referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera. With the appearance of a natural amphitheater, it is world-renowned for being the most incredible sanctuary for wildlife, enjoying the highest density of mammals in Africa across its crater floor. Located in Northern Tanzania, the Ngorongoro Crater is notably one of Africa’s most famous national parks. This ancient volcano was supposedly as high as Mount Kilimanjaro two to three million years ago until it later imploded, leaving the world’s largest intact caldera, complete with 600m-high walls. The attraction of game to this area comes from the high fertility of the soil along with a year-round supply of water, satisfying one of the highest concentrations of life in Africa. Measuring approximately 16 miles in diameter, tusker elephants, leopard, rhino and lion all roam the depths of the crater. It is a place where wildlife and game viewing is easy and excellent year-round, making it one of Tanzania’s most popular places to visit, and the best location in the country to view the ‘Big Five’.
Well-known for its congregating herds of elephant (up to 500), the park consists mainly of arid, open plains filled with more vegetation than the Serengeti, including baobab trees and acacia, with a network of swamps dominating the land to the south. Spanning an area of 2,600 square kilometres in total, Tarangire is located in the northern area of Tanzania, just southeast of Lake Manyara on the Tarangire River from which it takes its name. The park is an easy two hour drive from Arusha or shorter still from Lake Manyara. Game viewing in Tarangire can be spectacular during the dry season and elephants in particular gather here in large numbers, with up to an awe-inspiring 500 along the river banks. Other animals you may witness include herds of buffalo, Thomson’s gazelle, wildebeest, zebra, gerenuk, hartebeest, kudu, and oryx. The birdlife of the park also offers great variety, with in excess of 500 species being recorded. It is not unusual to see flocks of yellow-collared lovebirds and some of the superlatives of the bird world, including the heaviest flying bird, the koi bustard, and the world's largest bird, the stocking-thighed ostrich.
Dominated by the Mahale Mountain Range, this rugged and wild landscape is famous for its magical chimpanzee trekking. Bordered by a 1.6 kilometre wide section of Lake Tanganyika to the west, the park starts on the powder-white sandy shores, overshadowed by wild jungle. Gazetted in 1985, the park is about 1,613 square kilometres in size and is a hilly terrain, untamed and unruly. The forests are alive with sound, the chattering of primates in the trees and the shuffles of warthogs on the earth.
At just 35 square kilometres, this fragile strip of land is the smallest of Tanzania’s national parks. Characterised by steep rich valleys veined with swift streams year-round, its fame stems from Jane Goodall’s research of chimpanzees which started in the 1960s and is still ongoing to this day – making it the longest running study of its kind in the world. Gombe Stream National Park features a similar environment to Mahale - a sandy beach backed by the steep slopes and river valleys of vegetated mountains. Despite its size, there is still a good mix of landscapes, with rolling grasslands, evergreen and steep slopes covered in semi-deciduous forest. Bordered by Lake Tanganyika to the west and the high rift escarpment to the east, it has become a small isolated ecosystem and prime chimpanzee habitat. Gazetted as a game reserve in 1943, it was not until Goodall’s research began that it became a national park in 1968.
A huge wilderness area, located just 200 kilometres west of Dar es Salaam, the unbelievably vast Nyerere National Park may be lesser known, but its area equates to four times the size of the Serengeti, making it Africa’s largest, and as an ecosystem it enjoys little human intervention, which means it is a truly authentic safari experience. One of Tanzania’s three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Selous enjoys a varied topography of rocky outcrops, savannah woodlands and open grasslands, with the Rufiji River morphing into a network of lakes and streams backed by riverine vegetation, attracting plains game to congregate and drink from its waters when the heat of the afternoon starts to rise. Crocodile and pods of hippo can be regularly seen as they submerge in the glistening lagoons, whilst 350 bird species include the rainbow-coloured and exotic. Wild Dogs, elephants and buffalo are found in the reserve as well as an abundance of hartebeest, zebra, baboon, kudu, wildebeest, sable antelope, eland, reedbuck, bushbuck and giraffe. Primates such as blue samango monkeys and colobus monkeys are also found.
Tanzania’s second largest national park is one of the most exciting dry season destinations. A wild and thrilling atmosphere emanating from its unrestricted wilderness, the great action and range of experiences along with the prolific game and predators here will ensure you of the most unique encounters in the natural world. A vast tract of semi-arid bush, this rugged land is in the heart of Tanzania, taking fewer tourists than Selous/Nyerere, or any parks on the Northern Circuit. With just a small percentage of the park visited on the normal tourist trails, a good guide can mean the difference between a good safari and an unbeatable one, taking you into remote and unexplored areas. Being in a transition zone where the southern and eastern species of flora and fauna combine creates a huge variety of landscapes, plants, and animals. Miombo woodlands, similar to those in Zambia, give way to open savannah, similar to that of Kenya, for which much of Tanzania is renowned.