Thinking Tanzania? Tanzania is synonymous with iconic African sites and phenomena such as the Great Wildebeest Migration in the Serengeti, snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, the vast Ngorongoro Crater and of course the spice islands of Zanzibar. Besides being a great country for either a honeymoon or family safari where you can combine seeing the animals with time out on a palm fringed beach, Tanzania is perfect for safari purists and nature lovers who have perhaps been on their first safari and now want to do a deep dive into some of the many remote, untouched national parks that take up most of the land surface of this country. In this post, we will focus on the national parks of Tanzania that we are most likely to include in our East Africa itineraries for our clients.

The Serengeti

Tanzania’s most well-known and certainly oldest national park, the Serengeti, has been classified as a world heritage site and is most renowned for the annual migration of thousands of animals across its grassy landscape. Picture hundreds of thousands of zebra, wildebeest, buffalo and other plains game kicking up dust and shaking the earth on their pilgrimage in search of new grazing and water. This is perhaps the greatest wildlife show on earth and as such the Serengeti is on our top seven things to do in Tanzania! Apart from the great wildebeest migration, there are also several activities geared toward the region’s human visitors including hot-air ballooning and, of course, thrilling game drives.

serengeti by Eric Isselee
An elephant enjoys a refreshing drink. Photo by Eric Isselee

The Ngorongoro Crater

The Ngorongoro Crater is well-known for its high concentration of predators on the wide, grassy crater floor especially lion and cheetah. There are no safari camps or lodges down in the crater and visitors to the crater need to stay in one of the many lodges up on the crater rim and drive down into the crater for game viewing.

Pal Teravagimov sunset ngorongoro crater
Sunset at the Ngorongoro Crater. Photo by Pal Teravagimov

Lake Manyara

Lake Manyara is one of the few East Africa locations where you’ll get to see a variety of safari habitats in one place. From rain forest dwelling primates to the big cats stalking through the grassland to water-loving birds and animals that prefer being near the shores of the lake. The national park is comprised of two-thirds lake and is famous for being the home of many pink flamingos and tree-climbing lions.

Lake Manyara
Drinks stop at Lake Manyara

Tarangire National Park

In complete contrast to fertile Lake Manyara, the Tarangire National Park has been leached dry of water by the harsh African sun, leaving caked earth and red sand. Visitors can expect to see many elephant troupes and the quintessential African postcard scene of an orange sun setting behind baobab trees. Known as the ‘Land of the Giants’ visitors can look forward to the incredible sight of up to 300 ellies at any one time and superb birding. Enjoy the splendor of both Tarangire National Park and Lake Manyara from Chem Chem, a luxury safari lodge conveniently situated between the two.

Tarangire moiz husein
Lioness of the Tarangire. Photo by Moiz Husein

Ruaha National Park

The Ruaha National Park is difficult to access and therefore relatively untouched. The result is fewer tourists than any other park on the Northern circuit, ensuring exclusivity and privacy. You will definitely need a guide to traverse this tricky terrain, but it is well worth the effort to experience such remote and pristine wilderness. Safaris here are far more intimate and exclusive due to the limited numbers. Expect to see big herds of giraffe and buffalo, as well as the greater kudu, which is found nowhere else in Africa as well as a good concentration of predators. Elephants also make their way through here on their migratory walk to the East.

wildebeest migration
The ‘Great Migration’ of wildebeest

Selous Game Reserve

The Selous Game Reserve is a vast, remote tract of protected land that used to be a famous hunting concession, but which is now predominantly preserved for photographic safaris. Located in southern Tanzania, it was named after an Englishman, Sir Frederick Selous, who was an early conservationist and ex big game hunter. Due to its remoteness, it is expensive and time-consuming to get to. This is not a region that you can pop in and out of for three nights (like the Kruger), but rather one in which you stay and appreciate the authenticity of the experience. The park boasts large numbers of black rhino, cheetah, hippopotamus, crocodile and giraffe and has a variety of vegetation zones ranging from wooded grasslands to dense thickets. Ideal for safari purists, birders and serious nature aficionados!

Selous National Park
The remoteness of the Selous Game Reserve

Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest mountain and is a challenge that many mountaineering and nature enthusiasts have on their bucket list. This majestic mountain is an incredible sight to behold, but there is far more to the region than the summit. Terrain-wise, the surrounding area is like a world tour – from grassland and desert to near-tundra and rain forest. There are no safari lodges in the park itself – only campsites – but more formal but basic hotels can be found in Moshi, the town just outside the park.

mount kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro

Tanzania is no one-hit-wonder. Each of its stellar national parks offers travellers something so unique and diverse, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were in a different country at each destination on your itinerary. Whether you’re looking to see the Big Five, are interested in the incredible array of birdlife that can be found here, fancy spending some time in the rain forest, are up for a challenging mountain trek to the roof of Africa or looking for an action packed yet romantic honeymoon safari, you can be assured that you’ll find it in one of these natural wonders.

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