A guide to wildlife areas in Tanzania

A quick guide guide to wildlife areas of Tanzania

Northern Circuit

Mount Kilimanjaro

Mt Kilimanjaro is located inside the Kilimanjaro National Park and is Africa’s highest mountain at 5,896m. It is also the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, covering an area of 100km long and 65km wide. There are three volcanic peaks including Mawenzi, Shira and Kibo, which is where the Uhuru summit stands. There are six usual trekking routes to the summit with a handful of other more demanding hikes. The minimum recommended hike time is 7 days though ambitious hikers could do it in 5. Longer hikes allow a more leisurely experience and help with altitude sickness. The two main trekking seasons are January to March & June to October. Earlier months are colder and are often quieter. Prices vary but generally the cost covers a whole team supporting the climb to ensure a safe and successful summit.

Serengeti National Park

The Serengeti National Park is the most popular park in Tanzania, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Established in 1952, it is home to the famous annual Great Migration with over 1.5 million wildebeest and zebra migrating clockwise around the park from October/November through to July/August. The park covers 14,763 km2 and has over 500 birds and 300 mammal species, including the big five. There are a number of accommodation types, but ‘mobile camps’ are most popular for those following the migration. They move location throughout the year to be best placed for the herds. Activities besides game drives include hot air ballooning and some neighbouring conservation areas and reserves offer the chance to do horse- riding, night drives and walking safaris.

Lake Manyara National Park

Located beneath the cliffs of the Manyara Escarpment in northern Tanzania, Lake Manyara is on the way to the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti, and is a short drive from Tarangire National Park. It is therefore a perfect starting point for safari or fits in as a day trip when driving to/from Tarangire. The park is 330km2 of which the majority is the lake. It has a variety of ecosystems to support its rich wildlife and birdlife, including ground water forests, bush plains, baobab strewn cliffs, and algae-streaked hot springs. It is a birder’s heaven with over 350 species including thousands of pink flamingos. The park is also famous for its tree-climbing lions. Activities here include day and night game drives, canoeing on the lake (when water is high enough), cultural tours, mountain biking and walking safaris.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

The largest unflooded & unbroken caldera in the world, the Ngorongoro Crater is around 20km across, 600m deep, and 300km2 in size. A ‘must’ on a Tanzanian itinerary, it is said to have the highest density of wildlife in Africa. The crater floor does get very busy, however if guests stay near to one of the gate entrances it is possible to have some time alone on the crater floor before the crowds arrive. The rim of the crater is over 2,200m high offering amazing views. Other activities include visiting local Maasai villages. Not far from the Crater is Olduvai Gorge, often considered the ‘cradle of mankind’. Remains of the earliest humans have been found here. Olduvai is often included as a short stop between the Serengeti and the Crater, with the relatively new museum being a highlight.

Tarangire National Park

Located just a few hours’ drive from Arusha (or a short flight), Tarangire is often included before the Ngorongoro Crater & Serengeti. It is roughly 2,850 km2 and composed of granitic ridges, river valley, and swamps. The park has the highest population density of elephants compared to the rest of the country, and rarer more desert-adapted animals live here including long-necked generuk, oryx and ostriches. The park also has around 550 bird species, some endemic to Tanzania. It is worth being aware of tzetze flies here which have a sharp bite and can be problematic particularly if visitors wear black or dark clothing. This does not put visitors off including Tarangire in a trip however you may get asked about them.

Lake Natron

Located in northern Tanzania at the border with Kenya at the base of Ol Donyo Lengai volcano, Lake Natron is a mineral-rich soda lake which is also the most important breeding ground for Lesser Flamingos in the world. The dramatic views and scenery plus the flamingos are the real attraction here. It’s worth noting that the area cannot compare with others when it comes to big game. Activities here include village visits and exciting hikes to the lake shoreline where you can find the world’s largest collection of human footprints dating back some 120,000 years.

Southern Circuit

Ruaha National Park

Ruaha National Park is the largest National Park in Tanzania at 20,226km2 in size. It has a wide range of habitats including river systems, natural springs, wetlands, hot water springs, and kopjes in addition to beautiful rolling hills and mountains. The Great Ruaha River flows along the south-eastern margin, and there are two distinct regions within the park which means you can do two different safaris within the same park. The park is rich in wildlife and beyond the usual African suspects (hippos, crocodiles, elephants, etc) it is one of the best spots in the country to find Kudu, Sable and Roan antelope as well as the endangered wild dog. It is a birders paradise with over 570 bird species. The park is up to 2.5 hours from Dar es Salaam, an hour from Selous & nearly 2 hours away from the Serengeti by scheduled flight.

Nyerere National Park

Roughly 45 minutes by scheduled flight from Dar es Salaam, the Selous is an ideal park to include in a safari and beach itinerary, specifically pairing up with Zanzibar and the Tanzanian coast. Africa’s largest and oldest game reserve, the Selous is the size of Switzerland and 4 times the size of Serengeti. The park has recently been gazetted and 30,000km2 of the entire 50,000km2 has been designated as Nyerere National Park. This new national park status gives this area much more governmental protection. The park is rich in wildlife and has the largest number of wild dog population in Africa. A hydro-electric dam project was launched in June 2019 and has been a topic of controversy however the dam is hours away from where the main camps are and the country is in need of this type of energy. In addition to usual game drives, boating, walking and fly camping are highlights of a visit here.

Katavi National Park

Easily considered the most off-the-beaten-track park in the country, Katavi is the country’s third largest National Park (4,471 km²) and given the difficult access, it is very quiet and very wild. Located in the remote south-western of Tanzania, it can only be included in an itinerary by using private charter flights. It has a variety of habitats including flood plains of thick reeds, dense waterways, woodlands, forest canopies and seasonal lakes. Here you can find Tanzania’s densest population of hippos and crocodiles. Huge herds of buffalos and elephants can come into conflict with the numerous prides of lions and hyena making it an action-packed spot particularly in the dry season when water sources are scarce. Walking and fly-camping are activity highlights.

Mahale Mountains National Park

Located in western Tanzania on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and named after the Mahale Mountain range within
its borders, the park was originally created to protect thousands of chimpanzees who live here. It can be quite a journey to reach, however the main lodges and camps in this area offer regular flight schedules which are easy to book, or visitors can take private charter flights. The park is 1,650km2 in size and has a variety of habitats including rainforest, grasslands, alpine bamboo and woodlands, not to mention the lake which the park borders. A wildlife rich area, there are over 50 species of animals to be found including Angola colobus, red colobus, red-tailed and blue monkeys. Chimp trekking is the highlight, in addition to water-based activities on Lake Tanganyika which is the world’s longest and second deepest freshwater lake with over 1000 fish species, 90 of which are endemic.