Heartland of Tanzania’s wild and vast national parks
Siringitu: the place where the land moves on forever.
Serengeti National Park, a vast and beautiful expanse of 14,763 square kilometers, is perhaps the world’s most famous wildlife sanctuary. A World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve, the Serengeti supports the largest concentration of plains game in the world. In addition to watching the incredible procession of almost two million wildebeest and zebra that takes place each year from December to August, many people visit the Serengeti to search for big cats.
The park draws 90,000 visitors annually, all hoping to view the long files of wildebeest and the predators that stalk them. Given the important biological value of the park, several conservation and research efforts are underway in the Serengeti. The Tanzania National Park Association and the Frankfurt Zoological Society manage the park jointly.
Often called the eighth wonder of the world, Ngorongoro Crater is the largest unbroken caldera in the world, and is one of the only places in Africa you can view every member of the "big five" (rhinoceros, lion, cheetah, leopard and elephant) on a single game drive. Unique to Ngorongoro, indigenous tribes are permitted to live in the conservation area and local Maasai graze their livestock on the crater floor in harmony with nearby herds of buffalo and wildebeest. Walking is permitted in Ngorongoro Conservation Area but not on the Crater floor.
Tarangire National Park is famous for its giant baobab trees as well as the thousands of elephants and giraffes feeding along the banks of the Tarangire River. It is home to large lion prides and boasts around 500 bird species. Tarangire has the largest termite mounds in Tanzania, some of which reach up to fifteen feet in height. Many of Tarangire's animals migrate out of the park during the wet season; thus Tarangire's best game viewing is during the dry months of July through November when wildlife congregates around the Tarangire River. Bush walks and night drives are permitted from some camps in Tarangire.
Lake Manyara National Park lies 130 kilometers outside of Arusha town and encompasses Lake Manyara and its surroundings. There are five different vegetation zones including groundwater forest, acacia woodland, open areas of short grass, swamps and the lake's alkaline flats. The park's wildlife includes more than 350 species of birds, baboon, warthog, giraffe, hippopotamus, elephant and buffalo. If lucky, catch a glimpse of Manyara's famous tree-climbing lions. Night game drives are permitted in Lake Manyara.
Karatu is a picturesque farming town that lies just outside Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Many upscale hotels have opened in Karatu over the last few years, making it an easy launching point for safaris to Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater.
The oft-overlooked Arusha National Park offers some of the most breathtaking scenery in Northern Tanzania. Arusha National Park includes Mount Meru, and game highlights include giraffe, cape buffalo, elephant, zebra, flamingo and hippo. Several primate species including black and white colobus monkey, Syke's monkey and vervet monkey thrive in the tropical forests. The patient ornithologist will be rewarded with opportunities to spot elusive forest birds such as Hartlaub's Turaco. Bush walks and canoe safaris are permitted in Arusha National Park.
Lake Eyasi is a mildly alkaline lake about 50 km in length. It takes a little over an hour to get there from Ngorongoro Crater, and is mostly visited as a cultural tour to see the Hadzabe and Datoga Tribes. The highlight of a visit to Lake Eyasi is an early morning hunt with the Hadzabe. One of two remaining hunter-gatherer tribes in Tanzania, the Hadzabe speak a unique click language.
Lake Natron is off the beaten track, with attractions including a river walk with two waterfalls, a hike across a soda lake with flamingos, and a trek up Ol Doinyo Lengai, an active volcano. Ol Doinyo Lengai is located in the heart of the Great Rift Valley and has erupted at least a dozen times over the last century. A challenging hike to the top of the "Mountain of God" offers an opportunity to view molten lava. Visitors to Lake Natron can also interact with the local Maasai community.
With a population of more than 500,000 people, Arusha is Tanzania's fourth largest city. Lying in the shadow of Mount Meru, Tanzania's second highest mountain, Arusha is situated at an elevation 1,400 meters and has a pleasant year-round climate.
Arusha is known as Tanzania's safari capital and much of the life in the city revolves around tourism. There are excellent souvenir shops while many upscale restaurants and hotels have opened in the last few years. During a walk through Arusha, expect to meet vendors selling anything from art, safaris and last week’s newspaper. Arusha is home to the United Nations Rwandan War Crimes Tribunal and other economic activities in the area include agriculture and mining.
Saadani, one of Tanzania's newest national parks, is the only park in Tanzania that offers wildlife viewing and beautiful beaches in one location. Saadani includes the Wami River delta, and it is possible to take boat trips up the Wami River to view hippos, crocodiles and many species of birds and mangroves. Few tourists visit Saadani, making it an excellent destination for those who want to view animals in their natural state and have a more personal safari experience. Game highlights include lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and giraffe, along with several species of antelope.
Mkomazi National Park lies just south of the Kenya border in the shadows of the Pare Mountains. Although it is difficult to spot game in Mkomazi, its dry savannah is one of the best spots to bird watch in Northern Tanzania. There are more than 400 bird species and virtually no tourists or safari vehicles, even during peak safari season. The reserve is also home to the Mkomazi Rhino Project, a conservation effort that is reintroducing black rhinos and African wild dogs to the area. Walking safaris are allowed in Mkomazi.