Tarangire is Tanzania’s sixth largest National Park and a sanctuary for unusually large elephant population. Majestic Baobab trees are the characteristic feature of the park, providing shade to the animals that feed them. Animals concentrate along the Tarangire River, which provides the only permanent water supply in the area, and the shrinking lagoons. There is a great diversity of wildlife including migratory wildebeest, zebras, buffalos, impalas, gazelles, hartebeest, elands, baboons and up to six thousand elephants. Depending on the seasons, thousands of animals migrate between Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Park giving it an amazing concentration of wildlife. It is actually the greatest concentration of wildlife apart from the Serengeti ecosystem.
Around 550 bird varieties can be found in Tarangire National Park. In drier areas, you may see ostriches and Kori bustards, while focused around the swamps are flocks of colourful yellow-collared lovebird, the Rufus-tailed weaver and the ashy starling – all endemic to the dry savanna of north-central Tanzania.
Location: 118 km southwest of Arusha
Activities: walking safaris, Maasai village visit, game drive
Time: year round
Arusha National Park is the closest national park to Arusha town, northern Tanzania’s safari capital. It started in 1960 and covers an area of 322 km2, including Mount Meru of a height of 4566 meters. A beautiful view of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain and highest freestanding mountain in the world.
History has it that the park was started around the year 1876, when a Hungarian by the name of Count Teleki visited the Lakes Momella. He then told about the large herds of hippos and rhinos he saw (unfortunately, there are no more rhinos in the park). In the year 1907, Trappe and his family moved to Momella to herd cattle.
Nowadays, you can observe black and white colobus monkeys, olive baboons, giraffes, buffaloes, zebras, warthogs, and a diverse bird life. On rare occasions, you can spot elephants and leopards! The Arusha National Park is famous for its flamingos, colourful toracos, and starling species, among many others.
Location: A few kilometers northeast of Arusha town
Activities: walking safaris, game drive, canoeing
Time: year round, with best views of Mount Kilimanjaro between December and February
Stretching from the base of the impressive Rift Valley escarpment in the west to Lake Manyara in the east, Lake Manyara National Park boasts some highly contrasting habitats with a wealth of flora and fauna. Lush green forest greets the visitor upon entering Park, where troops of baboons and Blue monkeys can be seen, as well as dainty bushbuck and numerous bird species (over 400 species recorded). Beyond the dense forest, buffalo, wildebeest, zebra and giraffe congregate in an expansive grassy floodplain adjacent to the lake. Here, thousands of flamingoes can be seen as well as other large water birds such as pelicans, herons and cormorants. The lake expands and contracts with the rains, covering as much as 200 km2 in the wet season but is virtually non-existent in the dry season. Between the forest and floodplain, a narrow strip of acacia woodland is home to the legendary tree-climbing lion and herds of elephants.
Location: 126 km west of Arusha, bordering the ethnically diverse market town of Mto wa Mbu.
Activities: walking safari, game drive, canoeing when the water level is sufficiently high, cultural tours, mountain biking tours
Time: Dry season (July to October) for large mammals and wet season (November to June) for bird watching and canoeing
Lake Natron is a salt and soda lake in the Arusha Region of Northern Tanzania. It is quite shallow, less than three meters deep. The lake has a maximum of 57 kilometres long and 22 kilometres wide. The lake is home to lesser flamingoes and some bird species.
Activities: waterfall hike, Oldonyo Lengai hike, Lake Natron walking
Time: All year round
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (809,440 ha) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was established in 1959 as multiple land-use areas for both wildlife and semi-nomadic Maasai pastoralists. It is best known for its spectacular Crater of 265 km2. This is the world’s largest intact caldera and considered one of the natural wonders of Africa.
The crater is home to between 20,000 and 30,000 wild animals, including the highly endangered black rhino. It is famous for being the only place where you spot the Big 5 in 1 day, with a little bit of luck. The conservation area is also famous for its ‘endless plains’ expanding all the way to the Serengeti. It is also home to Olduvai Gorge, where fossil remains of one of the earliest known specimens of the human genus, Homo Habilis, and 3.5-million-year-old human footprints have been discovered. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is an extraordinary volcanic landscape. It is also situated at a high altitude, which creates a malaria-free microclimate ideal for travelling.
Location: 3 hours from Arusha
Activities: Maasai village visit, game drive
Time: year round
Serengeti National Park is Tanzania’s largest National Park and one of the world’s greatest havens for wildlife. Its name means ‘endless plains’ in the Maasai language and the vast grasslands and fiery sunsets represent, for many, a typical African image.
The Serengeti is most famous for its annual migration of 1.5 million wildebeests and 250,000 zebras. At the end of the rains in April and May, vast numbers congregate in the central plains of the Serengeti and commence a spectacular migration, which takes them towards Lake Victoria to the west and the Masai Mara to the north. There, fresh pastures await them with permanent water during the dry season. This colossal army of wildebeests and zebras attracts the large predators, predominately lions and hyenas, who enjoy easy pickings of the young, old and sick. The Serengeti also harbours more than 500 species of birds from enormous ostriches to tiny honey birds, a delight for bird lovers.
The Seronera Valley, situated in the centre of the Park, is distinguished by grassy plains studded with acacia trees, an ideal habitat for grazers such as impalas and other gazelles, and for their predators, namely lions, leopards and cheetahs. Towards the north, the landscape becomes more undulated with scattered woodland. This is the kingdom of giraffe, impalas and elephants. To the west, in the region of Lake Victoria, the “black cotton soil” plains make it difficult to pass during the rainy season. The Grumeti River is located in this area, famous for its giant crocodiles as well as the black and white colobus monkeys and a multitude of birds.
Another rarity of Serengeti is the “Kopjes”, old granite islands of rock set in a sea of grass. These rocky outcrops possess their own unique ecology and provide protection for a variety of wildlife including lizards, mongoose, monkeys, dik-diks, Verreaux eagle and leopard.
Location: 335 km (around 8-hour drive) from Arusha, stretching north to Kenya and west to Lake Victoria
Activities: game drive, hot air balloon safaris, Maasai rock paintings and musical rocks
Time: to follow the wildebeest migration December to July, and to see predators June to October. Note that the route and timing of the wildebeest migration are unpredictable, therefore, we suggest that you give yourself at least 3 days to be sure to see them.