Tanzania Vacations – Enjoy Incomparable Wildlife Safaris in the Top-Five National Parks in Tanzania
Tanzania national parks and game reserves are home to an amazing diversity of wildlife, making for incomparable Africa game watching safaris. Among these game reserves, the five parks below stand out as the best of the best.
Ruaha National Park
Ruaha national park occupies 12,950 sq km, making it the second largest national park in Tanzania. Located 128 km from Iringa, this park is named after the great Ruaha river, which attracts many thirsty animals to its banks, among them lions, leopards, hyenas, water bucks, and reed bucks. The river also hosts several hippos and crocodiles. Other animals found in Ruaha include zebras, wild dogs, giraffes, lesser and greater kudu, impala, and several antelope species. Ruaha national park is unique in that it combines Southern Africa and Eastern Africa flora and fauna.
Ruaha has a landscape suited for walking safaris and hiking. Bird population in the park reaches its peak during the rainy seasons March to April and October to November, with over 350 bird species that include migratory birds from Europe and Asia. Generally, the park has a hot and dry climate, with temperatures getting to 40 degrees Celsius in October. Until very recently, Ruaha was totally inaccessible. Today however, you can go their by either road or flight. By road from Dar es Salaam, it takes 10 hours, while by flight, you’ll take one and a half hours. The dry season from May to December is usually the best time to visit this amazing national park.
Lake Manyara National Park
Lake Manyara National Park is situated between Lake Manyara and the wall of the Great Rift Valley – rising 610 metres above. The park supports a thriving population of birdlife and hence it is one of Tanzania’s best birding destinations. Common birds in the park include waterfowl as well as some migrants. The lush green vegetation of the national park offer some of the best places to view leopards. Tree-climbing lions can also be spotted on the grassy shores of the lake.
The best time to visit Lake Manyara National park for wildlife safaris is from December to February, and from August to September, though you can still see wildlife throughout the year. The national park has three distinct habitats: open floodplains, lush groundwater forest, and acacia woodlands. Since the park is very accessible, you can get to see most of its main attractions within two hours.
Tarangire National Park
Named after the Tarangire River, Tarangire National Park is also part of the northern tourism circuit. The park area is approximately 2,600 sq km and has a high concentration of wildlife during the dry seasons as well as a high number of elephants. With over 570 bird species, the place is surely a birdwatchers’ paradise.
Visitors who want to take game drives around Tarangire should do so during the dry season from June to September. This is the best time to view wildlife as animals tend to congregate while drinking the waters of River Tarangire. In addition the vegetation is not so dense, unlike the case during wet season. While at Tarangire chances of spotting python seem to more than even for some or other reason maybe because they have taken to climbing the trees in the area.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Ngorongoro Conservation Area is situated at the north of Tanzania and covers an area of over 7,000 square miles. The park is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, having been declared so in’79. At the conservation area’s north west, it merges with the Serengeti plains. Part of the world-famous great wildebeest migration between Serengeti and Masai Mara takes place here.
The Ngorongoro crater is the focal point of the entire conservation area, and covers an area of 264 square km. The crater’s floor is a habitat for a wide range of animals; meaning game drives around the crater are quite rewarding. As a result, the crater attracts more than 350,000 tourists annually – making it one of the most popular safari destinations in Tanzania.
Within the park, you get to see big herds of herbivores grazing along river banks, among them antelopes, gazelles, and zebras. Likewise, elephant herds roam from one corner of the park to the other. During your game drives here, you are also likely to hear lions roar echoed off the crater walls, and also see prides of the king of the jungle lazing under tree shades. This experience can be both exciting and shocking at the same time. Ngorongoro is also well suited for birdwatching, for example at Lake Ndutu, which hosts a thriving bird population. Flamingos, stocks, and ducks are just some of the common bird species found here.
Serengeti National Park
The name “Siringit” in Masai language means unending plains, and it is this word that aptly gives Serengeti national park its name. The park covers 12,950 sq km in the same ecosystem as Masai Mara game reserve on the other side of the Kenya-Tanzania border. The Serengeti plains hosts around 500 bird species, and over 30 species of large mammals.
The “great wildebeest migration” takes place in the Serengeti. This event is the largest and longest overland migration of mammals in the world, earning it a recognition as the world’s most spectacular wildlife show. Together with the mighty Victoria falls and the Ngorongoro crater, the migration is also recognized as one of the ten natural wonders of travel in the world.
It is almost impossible to accurately predict the dates for the migration from Serengeti to Masai Mara, though generally it takes place between July and August. The reverse journey occurs around October. The event involves nearly 2 million herbivores moving from Serengeti to the Mara then later back to Serengeti in search of green pasture. One of the most dramatic moments of the migration is when the animals cross the Mara river.
You can travel to Serengeti from Arusha by either flight or road. By road, Arusha is 320 km from Serengeti, taking about hours. If you prefer flying, you have the option of taking a charter flight or scheduled flights from Kilimanjaro International Airport in Arusha to any of the airstrips in Serengeti including Kirawira and Seronera airstrips.