Tanzania is a nation full of protected national parks. While the Northern corridor is the most popular with tourists, due to the close proximity of the parks and the concentration of animals, there are popular parks spread all over the country. Equatorial Safaris can arrange trips to any of the parks, including these below.
The wildlife reserves of the north are most easily accessed from Kilimanjaro and by road from Nairobi in Kenya. The Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater are without doubt the most popular destinations in Tanzania and whilst the Crater can get a little busy it is the nearest we can come to “guaranteed game viewing” because most of the game is resident and the drivers know their habits.
By contrast the Serengeti is immense and particularly in the western corridor you can get well away from it all. Less known and usually included in this northern circuit is Lake Manyara National Park with the Great Rift Valley escarpment for a dramatic backdrop.
The southern national parks are less visited and offer a great opportunity to explore wild and unspoiled bush.
Likewise the western national parks of Gombe, Mahale and Katavi are remote and little visited. The cost of charter flights in and out prohibit many from visiting but for those who get there the uniqueness of the experience and of the region is quite simply unique.
SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK:
This northwestern national park is 14,763 square kilometres and stretches reaching up to the Kenyan border. It is said that it is to be the finest in Africa. Here are 35 species of plain-dwelling animals, including wildebeest and zebra, which feature in the spectacular Serengeti migration, and also an extensive selection of bird life. The best time to see the animals is from November to May, when they have migrated down from the Massai Mara National Park in Kenya into the Serengeti.
The vast, open grasslands of the Serengeti are without doubt one of Africa’s finest wildlife viewing areas, and being there at the height of the migration is a never-to-be-forgotten experience.
NGORONGORO CONSERVATION AREA:
Ngorongoro is the largest intact volcanic craters in the world, and some scientists maintain that before it erupted and collapsed, it would have stood higher than Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa. Covering a mere 260km², the 600 metre deep crater is home to a permanent population of more than 30 000 animals, and is one of the only places in Tanzania where you stand a very good chance of seeing the ‘Big Five’ (lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant) in the course of a morning or evening’s game drive.
LAKE MANYARA NATIONAL PARK:
This is one of the most diverse of Tanzania’s national parks, a tiny (325km²) combination of Rift Valley Lake, dense woodlands and steep mountainside. Manyara was established specifically to protect the elephant herds that have made the area world-renowned. But heavy poaching in the 1970s and 1980s decimated the herds, although they are now recovering and returning to their former strengths. Families of giraffes are also frequently seen here.
TARANGIRE NATIONAL PARK
This national park is considered to be one of the most beautiful and had great game viewing year round. Visitors are likely to witness impressive herds of up to 600 elephants. The dry season months of June-October bring migrating elephant, wildebeest, zebra, eland, hartebeest, buffalo and oryx, from the dry Maasai steppe to the gleaming Tarangire River. November to February is the green season. During this time wildebeest and zebra can be seen giving birth and caring for their babies.
ARUSHA NATIONAL PARK
Arusha National Park is the park closest to Arusha town. This park has three distinct zones: Ngurdoto Crater (often described as a mini Ngorongoro), the Momella Lakes, a group of shallow alkaline lakes fed by underground streams, and Mount Meru, one of the most rewarding mountains to climb in Africa.
Animals here include buffalo, elephant, hippo, giraffe, zebra and a variety of antelope, blue monkey and black and white colobus monkey, leopard and hyena.
MIKUMI NATIONAL PARK:
This park lies to the north of the Selous Game Reserve and is only 283 km away from Dar-Es-Salaam. The Park was established to protect the environment and resident animals but is also an important educational centre for students of ecology and conservation. The Mikumi flood plain is the main feature of the Park along with the bordering mountain ranges. Animals commonly found here include lion, eland, hartebeest, buffalo, wildebeest, giraffe, zebra, hippo and elephant. The Mikumi elephants are mainly grazers and do not cause tree damage.
Lions roam the Mikumi plains and will take refuge in the branches of trees. Wild dogs can be seen in packs here. Mikumi’s vegetation includes woodland, swamp and grassland with two water holes, Mkata and Chamgore. Apart from the saddle-bill stork, hammerkop and malachite kingfisher, you will also find monitor lizard and a deadly python inhabiting the pools.
SELOUS GAME RESERVE :
Selous is the largest game reserve in Africa – 4 times the size of the Serengeti. It possesses a diverse landscape from hot volcanic springs, sporadic lakes and channels from the Great Rwaha and Rufiji rivers. Walking is permitted with an armed ranger. With over 350 species of bird and 2,000 species of plants to see, this the most heavenly sanctuary to explore.
RUAHA NATIONAL PARK:
Ruaha National Park in southern Tanzania is the second largest national park in the country covering an area of about 10,300 km2. It was established in 1910 as part of the Saba Game Reserve and was named a National Park in 1964. The area was previously inhabited by small groups of the Wahehe people. The Park is part of the Ruaha ecosystem which also includes Rungwa-Kisigo Game Reserve to the northwest.
The ecosystem, which covers an area of approximately 45,000 km2, protects a large part of the catchment for the Great Ruaha and Mzombe rivers.
MAHALE MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK:
Named a National Park in 1980, Mahale National Park lies 120 km south of Kigoma on a peninsula that cuts out into Lake Tanganyika. Its centre is at about 6o 15’S, 29o 55’E. This remote and rarely visited park is 1577 km2 in size is dominated by the Mahale Mountains chain running from north-west across the middle of the park (the highest peak being 2462 m above sea level). The park vegetation is mainly Miombo woodland with narrow strips of riverine forest. The park holds a variety of animal species from elephants, warthogs, giraffes, zebras, roan antelopes, buffalos, hyenas, and wild dogs to lions in the eastern woodland. Also found in Mahale are chimpanzees and blue monkeys. According to recent census there are more than 700 chimpanzees in about 15 communities. There is a small guesthouse near Kasiha village and a luxury tented camp.
RUBONDO ISLAND NATIONAL PARK:
Founded in 1977 with an area of about 457 km2, Rubondo National Park is located on an island in Lake Victoria, west of Mwanza town. Rubondo Island National Park is unique in its being the only wildlife park in the vast lake Victoria. The lake is the largest in Africa (with 26200 sq miles) and second largest in the world. It provides a variety of habitats ranging from savannah to open woodland, dense forest and papyrus swamps.
Animal species (some introduced to the area about 20 years ago) found in the park include hippos, crocodiles, bushbucks, sitatunga, giraffes, elephants and chimps. Rubondo is also unique in bird life. Birds from east, central and southern Africa can be observed breeding at the Two Bird Island. There are campsites and huts for accommodation.
GOMBE STREAM NATIONAL PARK :
Situated 16 km north of Kigoma town in western Tanzania at 40o S, 29o E, Gombe National Park occupies 52 Km2 of land. Commissioned in 1968, Gombe is a narrow strip of a mountainous land bounded by the crest of the rift Valley escarpment to the east and by Lake Tanganyika to the west. Gombe is a park without roads, where you can walk and experience nature with all your senses. Due to its altitude, the park’s vegetation varies from evergreen forests of tall trees to open woodlands and grassland.
Primates are the main inhabitants in this national park. These include chimpanzees, baboons, blue monkeys, red tailed monkeys and red colobus monkeys. World Famous biologist and environmentalist Jane Goodall did all of her research on chimpanzees in this park. Her research assistants are still at work studying the families, as well as assisting visitors to the park. Places of stay include a hostel and campsites within the park and hotels in Kigoma town.
KATAVI NATIONAL PARK :
This southwestern park includes Lake Katavi in the north and Lake Chada and Katuma River to the south. These water sources sustain thousands of animals. The watery grasslands and miombo woodlands hold the largest herds of buffaloes on earth! There are up to three thousand Buffalo in one herd, and when they are on the move, they create clouds of dust which can be seen from afar. Where there are Buffalo there are also predators like Hyena, Leopard and the most successful Buffalo hunter of them all – lion!