National Parks and Conservation Areas of Tanzania
There are 15 national parks and other major safari destinations in Tanzania. Ngorongoro Crater, for example, sits inside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area that includes the world famous Olduvai Gorge.
The three parks – Tarangire, Lake Manyara, and Serengeti – that, along with Ngorongoro, comprise the "northern circuit" (close to the border with Kenya) are the most popular because of ease of access.
Many of the parks below the northern circuit are much more difficult to reach except by air and have far fewer camp and lodge facilities than the northern circuit parks.
As Paul Mbutu notes in his welcome letter, Tanzania offers superb information on their parks at http://www.tanzaniaparks.com.
To flesh out this information for you, below we offer some photos taken in the national parks of Tanzania by our safari guests.
Tarangire and Lake Manyara are each approximately a 6.5 hour drive from Nairobi, including border formalities. Either park makes an ideal beginning for a safari coming from Nairobi.
Another option for a safari in Tanzania is to enter Serengeti National Park by way of the Maasai Mara in Kenya.
Whichever parks you choose, Dream Wild Safaris and Photography will be pleased to take you there by ground or air.
Tarangire National Park
The Tanzania Parks Department says of Tarangire "It’s the greatest concentration of wildlife outside the Serengeti ecosystem – a smorgasbord for predators – and the one place in Tanzania where dry-country antelope such as the stately fringe-eared oryx and peculiar long-necked gerenuk are regularly observed."
Wildlife is excellent in the hot dry season (December–February) and perhaps best in the cooler dry season of July and August. A scarcity of rain brings wildlife to the Tarangire River, the one permanent source of water in this very large park (2,850 km2/1,096 sq miles).
Tarangire’s year-round green swamps are a magnet for the some 550 bird species in the park, the most breeding species to be seen in any habitat in the world.
In addition to lions and leopards, Tarangire’s trees are home to pythons. Large herds of elephants may be seen through out the year.
A short drive over good roads links Tarangire with Lake Manyara.
Lake Manyara National Park
Ernest Hemingway called Lake Manyara "the loveliest I had seen in Africa."
With few exceptions, each of the larger East Africa lakes has much to recommend it, including a unique scenic setting for each lake.
Among the lake parks and reserves, however, Lake Manyara may well have the greatest diversity of eco zones within the smallest area.
The park comprises 330 km2 (127 sq miles). Within that comparatively small area are eco zones of grassy flood plain, woodland (acacia), a prominent and extensive run of rocky ridge, and a forested area thick with growth from ground water and home to leopards.
Diverse habitats result in diverse wildlife. Lake Manyara is an excellent example.
Elephants are numerous and the park is famous for its tree-climbing lions, often easier to see than those in Tarangire.
Other animals you may see include: large herds of buffalo on the plains grazing with wildebeest and zebra in significant numbers as well; small antelope – dik diks running amongst the lower forest growth and klipspringers along the rocky ridge; hippo; impala; and several species of monkeys.
Almost 400 species of birds inhabit the park. Many of you will know about Lake Manyara"s well-publicized flamingo flocks, often reaching near uncountable numbers. You may not, however, know about its raptor population. 28 species live in the park year round. During the migratory seasons, the number of raptor species present may nearly double that count.
The Tanzania Parks Department calls Lake Manyara National park "a virtual microcosm of the Tanzanian safari experience."
Easily accessible from either Arusha town or Nairobi, Lake Manyara is well worth an overnight stay on any safari in Tanzania or combined with the southeastern parks of Kenya.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Often listed among the Eight Wonders of the Natural World, the centerpiece of the conservation area is Ngorongoro Crater.
With the exception of giraffes that are entirely absent, the Crater is a microcosm of the East African plain, filled with grazing herds and their predators. 25,000 animals are estimated to live in the Crater, including the endangered black rhino and the largest known single concentration of lions. Servals occur widely in the crater as well.
Included in the Conservation Area is Olduvai Gorge, the site where anthropologists have unearthed humanoid remains and artifacts so important for the study of our origins that the Gorge has become known as the "Cradle of Mankind". Donald Johnson found the famous "Lucy" skeleton there in 1974.
Visits to the crater and the gorge are easily combined.
Serengeti National Park
You may have been surprised by the photos of the Maasai Mara in our section on the parks and reserves of Kenya. The photos show quite different ecological areas and terrain than the seemingly endless, flat, open plain that many people associate with the Serengeti.
The Mara is, of course, the northern extension of the famous Serengeti Plain into Kenya. Tanzania"s park, however, is no less diverse.
In addition to grasslands, ecological areas in Serengeti National Park include woodlands, riverine forests, rocky outcrops, and swamp.
This is not surprising given the very large size of Tanzania’s oldest and most famous park: 14,763 km2/5,700 sq miles).
This vast area is home to more than 70 species of larger mammals and approximately 500 species of birds.
The Great Migration of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle occurs earlier in Serengeti than in Kenya. The usual time is the months of May and June.
Calving season occurs January to April in the southern portion of the Serengeti.
Regardless of the time of year, wildlife abounds in this park, though some areas are better than others depending on the season.
If you would like to include Serengeti National Park on your safari itinerary, Dream Wild will insure that you visit the best parts of the park for wildlife viewing at the time of year that you come.
Arusha National Park
Although not even an hour distant from the Tanzanian capital, Arusha is an often-overlooked jewel.
Arusha admittedly lacks size (542 km2/209 sq miles) and some usually sought-after wildlife. Lion and cheetah are absent. Elephants are difficult to see because of their preference for the montane forest areas around Mt. Meru, Africa’s fifth highest mountain.
Animal life is hardly missing all together, however. You can see buffalo, warthog, baboon, giraffe, zebra and several species of antelope, including dik dik and waterbuck (both common and Defassa). The park wildlife population also includes blue and black-and-white colobus monkeys. Arusha is the only location on the northern Tanzania safari circuit where the latter more easily can be seen.
Over 400 species of birds may be seen in the park.
A visit to Arusha is repaid in the magnificent scenery of the park that includes the Momela Lakes (each a different shade of blue or green), extinct volcano craters, alpine moorland, and the opportunity to see Mt. Kilimanjaro on the eastern horizon.
Mt. Meru may be climbed and doing so is a useful preparation if you intend to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. January and February are the best months to climb Mt. Meru.
Arusha is easily seen in a half-a-day and well worth doing so.