Tanzania is truly the ultimate African safari destination for wildlife lovers! Some of the animals you can see on a Tanzania safari are lions, elephants, buffaloes, cheetahs, leopards, hippos, zebras, giraffes, wildebeests, gazelles, hyenas and warthogs. All the usual African celebrities! And you see them in spectacular settings, from forests and marshlands to open savannah, wooded valleys and more.
Tanzania has 16 large and beautifully maintained national parks. It also has five additional protected areas, which include the world-famous (and personal favourite!) Ngorongoro Conservation Area. They offer varied game-spotting opportunities, from the flamingo-choked waters of Lake Manyara National Park to the millions-strong mammal migration across the endless Serengeti Plains. Going on a Tanzania safari is truly an unforgettable experience!
Here’s a sneak peak of the adventure, animals and beauty that await you on a Tanzania safari …
Fun fact: Tanzania dedicates more of its land to national parks than any other wildlife destination in the world! Its parks cover an astonishing 42,000 km² – that’s the same size as the Netherlands.
The north of Tanzania has the largest concentration of national parks, including the stars of the show which are Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park. There’s also our beloved Mt Kilimanjaro National Park, which lets you go game viewing in the shadow of Africa’s highest mountain! We therefore head straight to the north for our Tanzania safari adventure.
Here’s a roll call of Tanzania’s many fantastic national parks, including what each is most famous for and where to find them. We did the fun exercise of limiting ourselves to just one sentence per park, which isn’t easy given how we usually want to wax lyrical about them!
|National park||What it’s known for||Location in Tanzania|
|Arusha National Park||Home to Mt Meru (4,565 m)||NE Tanzania, near city of Arusha|
|Gombe Stream National Park||Home to chimpanzees||NW Tanzania, on shore of Lake Tanganyika|
|Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park||Home to Zanzibar red colobus||On the island of Zanzibar|
|Katavi National Park||Seasonal Lake Katavi and Lake Chada floodplains||Western Tanzania, very remote|
|Mt Kilimanjaro National Park||Home to Africa’s highest mountain, Mt Kilimanjaro!||NW Tanzania, near Kenyan border|
|Kitulo National Park||Great many flowering plants, incl. 45 varieties of orchids||South Tanzania, in the mountains|
|Lake Manyara National Park||Incredible density of elephants||North Tanzania, close to Arusha|
|Mahale Mountains National Park||Of the lake’s 193 fish species, 90% are endemic||Western Tanzania, on shore of Lake Tanganyika|
|Mikumi National Park||Home to baobabs and tree-climbing lions||Eastern Tanzania|
|Mkomazi National Park||Home to African wild dogs and black rhinos||NE Tanzania, near Kilimanjaro|
|Ruaha National Park||Largest protected area in East Africa||Central Tanzania|
|Rubondo Island National Park||Offers incredible birdspotting||NW Tanzania, on island in Lake Victoria|
|Saadani National Park||Can see wildlife lolling on the beach||Eastern Tanzania, on the coast|
|Saanane Island National Park||Smallest national park in East Africa||NW Tanzania, on island in Lake Victoria|
|Serengeti National Park||Enormous park that’s home to the Great Migration||North Tanzania, touches Kenyan border|
|Tarangire National Park||Allows walking safaris||North Tanzania, very accessible|
|Udzungwa Mountains National Park||Boasts the second-largest biodiversity in Africa!||Central Tanzania|
We’re often asked which parks in Tanzania are the best for wildlife viewing. A natural question, with a difficult answer. Everyone has their different favourites! That said, pretty much everyone would place Serengeti National Park at the top of their list! This is because the Serengeti National Park is so large, possesses such an amazing quantity and diversity of animals, and is home to the Great Migration!
Other particularly notable parks and game reserves are:
What’s definitely noticeable is that many of the best national parks in Tanzania are clustered together in the north of the country. This is why so many visitors head to the north to go on safari in the area known as the Northern Circuit.
The map below shows the locations of northern Tanzania’s most famous national parks, including the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (home to the fascinating Ngorongoro Crater). The pale lines shows the major roads. As you can see, there’s the choice of flying into Kilimanjaro International Airport for easy access to these parks.
Some of the highlights of going on Northern Circuit Tanzania safari are:
So what exactly does a Tanzania safari look like? Where do you start, which parks do you visit, what animals do you see at each one, and where do you lay your head at night? All important questions, and we think the answers will have you getting pretty darn excited!
A quick note: The itinerary below is just a suggestion. It takes in our favourite Northern Circuit parks. We can make the itinerary longer or shorter to suit your timeframe, include extras or leave them out according to your budget, and do a little more of this and a little less of that to match your preferences. Basically, we can tailor the itinerary to ensure its caters for your dream safari!
We’re happy to tailor the itinerary to ensure you head off on your dream safari!
In the morning after breakfast we kick off our adventure by driving to one of the following two options:
Read a little about each park below to help you decide which appeals to you more …
Lake Manyara National Park is one of Tanzania’s smaller parks, but it certainly shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s probably the most underrated of all the country’s parks. We almost don’t want to let the cat out of the bag, as its under-the-radar status means it offers a quieter safari, which is very special (there are no long lines of jeeps all trying to see the same animals!).
Stretching for 50 km along the base of the Rift Valley escarpment, Lake Manyara National Park is a scenic gem. It offers incredibly ecological variety for a small area, ranging from savannah to bush plains, marshland, woodland, salt pans and evergreen forest. The chance to see elephant families moving through the forest is reason enough to come, but there are also tree-climbing lions and an abundance of birdlife. Portions of the lake are at times covered in a pink-and-white blanket of flamingoes and pelicans.
We recommend choosing Lake Manyara National Park if you’re going on safari between mid November and mid May.
Tarangire National Park is anther lesser known national park that offers incredibly rewarding safaris. Its drawcards include enormous elephant herds, tree-climbing lions, impressive wildlife diversity, and many beautiful baobab trees. The word tarangire actually means ‘river of warthogs’, so expect to see plenty of warthogs in Tarangire National Park too!
Another major attraction of Tarangire is that it allows walking safaris. None of the other Northern Circuit parks permit you to exit your vehicle, so this is a great park if you’re really keen to get out on foot to explore the wildlife.
Tarangire National Park is at its very showiest in September.
Whichever park you choose, we’ll spend the entire day there, exploring and game spotting. In the evening, we’ll lead to a local lodge for dinner and a rest.
After breakfast, we’re off to do a game drive in Serengeti National Park, one of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The enormous park is home to many millions of animals, including lions, leopards, rhinos, hippos, buffaloes, wildebeest, zebras, antelopes and warthogs. Its unique ecosystem has inspired writers from Ernest Hemingway to Peter Mattheissen, filmmakers like Hugo von Lawick and Alan Root, and numerous photographers and scientists. The sheer quantity of wildlife as well as the beauty of the landscape makes the Serengeti Tanzania’s most popular national park.
Serengeti National Park is also the oldest park in a country deeply committed to conservation. The park offers us a rare glimpse into the pristine natural wonder of Africa from long ago.
Later in the day we head off on an evening game drive in the central Seronera section of the Serengeti National Park.
Serengeti National Park is the primary site of the Great Wildlife Migration. Every year it sees immense herds of wildebeests, zebras and other antelopes move across the plains in search of greener pastures. The river crossings of these herds are pandemonium, with many being taken out by the stampede and others by crocs. The Great Migration is, in fact, the second largest mammal migration in the world!
If you’re keen to see the Great Migration (and believe us, it’s epic!), speak with us so we can advise you on a Serengeti itinerary that allows for this. 🙂
On the way into Serengeti we can stop at the famous Olduvai (or Oldupai) Gorge. This is where Dr Louis and Mary Leakey made their discovery of the first man to walk the Earth. The gorge is subsequently one of the most important paleoanthropological sites in the world. It’s also an incredibly beautiful and awe-inspiring natural feature.
Today is another great day of game spotting! We spend the day winding our way southwards through the park, to end up at Ngorongoro Crater for the night. This means driving through varied landscapes through the central and southern portions of Serengeti National Park.
The word serengeti means ‘endless plains’ in the Maasai language. During our game drive it becomes clear why this name was chosen – the trees and plants stretch endlessly before us, dotted everywhere with wildlife big and small. Large predators including lion, cheetah and hyena are drawn to the plains because of the abundance of antelopes that migrate throughout the park.
Today we go on a game drive in the majestic Ngorongoro Crater. We guarantee this is an experience you’ll never forget!
Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest inactive, unbroken and unfilled volcanic caldera. It was formed long ago when a large volcano exploded and collapsed in on itself. The volcano is thought to have been between 4,500 and 5,800 m high! Today, the crater is like a Noah’s Ark of East African wildlife, sheltering almost every species indigenous to the region. In fact, the crater is home to around 30,000 animals! Many consider the crater to be the eighth natural wonder of the world.
During the game drive you can expect to see lions, elephants, zebras, hippos, flamingoes, jackals, rare black rhinos, antelopes, hyenas, buffaloes, wildebeests, zebras and many more fantastic creatures. The large bull elephants that reside in the crater have extremely large tusks because of the rich mineral content of the volcanic soil and its grasses. Leopards stick to the trees of the crater wall, so keep your eyes peeled for these magnificents as your jeep winds its way into the crater.
The birds seen in the crater include eagles, vultures, flamingoes, storks, bats, giant vultures, sacred ibises, kori bustards, blacksmith plovers, herons and cattle eagles.
Lunch today is very special, as we picnic at the Hippo Pool inside the crater.
For those who are keen, we can stop at the Maasai Culture Boma to enjoy lunch with a Maasai community. The Maasai are a Nilotic people who live in northern Tanzania and southern Kenya. They’re widely know for their dancing, which involves incredibly high jumping. They’re also known for their tradition of wearing bright clothing and intricately beaded jewellery. We spend some time learning about about their rich history and culture during our community visit.
Want us to book accommodation for you on either side of the safari? We can totally do that!
Tanzania is also home to Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak and the world’s tallest free-standing mountain. We run trips to Kilimanjaro throughout the year. How about combining a Tanzania safari with a Kilimanjaro climb?! Feel free to give us a shout if this idea appeals to you.