It is a popular destination for day trip visitors who are about to embark from the town of Arusha on longer northern circuit safaris. The small national park includes the slopes, summit, and ash cone of Mt. Meru, the Momela Lakes, Ngurdoto Crater, and the lush highland forests that blanket its lower slopes. Game viewing around the Momela Lakes is at a laid-back and quiet pace, and while passing through the forest many visitors stop to search for troupes of rare colubus monkeys playing in the canopy.
Climbing Mt. Meru or enjoying the smaller trails that criss-cross its lower slopes is a popular activity for visitors to Arusha National Park. The three-day trek to reach the crater’s summit is a quieter, and some say more challenging alternative than the famous peak of nearby Mount Kilimanjaro. Along the lower slopes, the paths to rivers and waterfalls create a relaxing day hike for visitors who don’t want to attempt the rather arduous climb. Ancient fig tree forests, crystal clear waters cascading from mountain streams, and a chance to spot colobus monkeys are the attractions and pleasures of Arusha National Park.
Lake Manyara National Park is a superb example of what the Rift Valley has to offer. The park sits at the bottom of the 600 meters high escarpment that is part of a tectonic crack that marks the entirety of East Africa, from Ethiopia to Malawi. With the soda lake itself running along its eastern edge, the park is a thin concentration of game and is the home to some of Africa’s most famous lions that have learned how to climb trees for a little rest and relaxation.
Along with the good elephant and some of Africa’s smaller breeds of antelopes, such as the klipspringer and some of the best raptor populations on the eastern side of the continent, this is truly a worthwhile destination. In the very north, the park features some large and hard softwood forests, with towering figs and mahoganies, giving cool shade and cover for the game. As you move down into the park, you will come across the lake itself and the marshland area that is a favorite of the Cape buffalo and the wandering elephant. From here, the park becomes more desolate, with hardy olive trees and boulders that have rolled off from the escarpment above.
Tarangire National Park is probably the least visited of the northern Tanzanian game parks, and retains a real air of undiscovered Africa, particularly in the south of the park. It lies at a little distance from the south east of Lake Manyara and covers an area of approximately 2600 square kilometers. It is named after the Tarangire River that flows through the park.
Animals can be seen in the greatest concentrations during the dry season that runs from June to November. The normal plains and savannah animals are found here in great numbers, along with many resident species. A wildlife census during the wet season in 1980 indicated animal numbers at the following levels 32000 zebras, 30000 impalas, 25000 wildebeests, 6000 buffaloes and 3000 elephants.
The Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest intact caldera (collapsed volcano). Over 30000 animals live within this enormous natural bowl, which is the most densely packed concentration of wildlife in Africa. Wildlife here offers some of the best game viewings in all the National Parks of Tanzania. It has a rich variety of birds and animals that make the area their home. Its varied habitats support between 30000 and 40000 animals a year.
In the crater, the Mandi and grog or swamps are areas of marshland, the legal forest is dominated by yellow barked acacia trees and in the center, and there is Lake Magadi, a soda lake, often visited by flocks of flamingos. The rainy season lasts from November through May, with the dry season running from June through October. June and July are the coldest months of the year. The rim of the crater is often shrouded in dense cloud.
The Masai word Serengeti means endless plains, which is a perfect description of this magnificent area of over 6000 square miles. Arguably the most famous destination for safaris in Africa, the vast, open plains of the Serengeti epitomize, are for many, what Africa is all about. In the Serengeti National Park, the grasslands are roamed by millions of wildebeests, zebras, and others, while being stalked by some of the continent’s fiercest predators, the mighty lion, the leopard, and the cheetah.
This stunning eco-system, part of the Serengeti grassland plains, has long been held as a must see destination, in part for the diversity and number of animals, but also for the uniqueness of this environment which, while often thought of as the norm in Africa, is actually quite rare. Loosely speaking, the southern plains of the Serengeti, around the Ndutu Plains, and the northern plains of the Lamai Wedge and into the Masai Mara, Kenya, are the two main feeding grounds for the wildebeest herds and they oscillate between the two on a yearly basis. In between these two open plains, there is a series of small ravines, rivers, and bushes, or scrublands. This area of the Serengeti National Park is a predators’ delight with plenty of places to lay in and wait for the unsuspecting calves as they begin their own safari, moving north and south.
Before crossing the national park boundary (at the 2,700m contour), the cultivated footslopes give way to lush montane forest, inhabited by elusive elephant, leopard, buffalo, the endangered Abbot’s duiker, and other small antelope and primates. Higher still lies the moorland zone, where a cover of giant heather is studded with otherworldly giant lobelias.
Kilimanjaro is the world’s highest free standing, snow-covered equatorial mountain. Located in the northeast of Tanzania, this magnificent beast can be seen from far into Kenya and Amboseli National park. Approximately 75,000 people climb Kilimanjaro per year so it is not the most remote mountain, neither is it the most arduous, but it is certainly a test for your abilities with altitude sickness being the main reason for climbers not to summit. Although it has become a must-do in most travelers’ lists and the experience slightly busy with other climbers, it is still highly recommended for anyone with a vague interest in mountaineering. On the most of the climbs up to the summit take between four to seven nights, with the likelihood of summiting increasing significantly with the amount of time and a recommended five or six nights. The walking itself is fairly simple with an average day consisting of around four to five hours of walking to a slightly higher altitude to then spend time acclimatizing. The attempt, however, is not easy and the final 48 hours on the mountain involves over two thirds continual walking to get from around 4,200 meters up to the summit and back down to around 3,100 meters.
Set below the verdant slopes of the spectacular Usambara and Pare Eastern Arc Mountain Ranges and overseen by iconic snow – capped peak of Kilimanjaro, Mkomazi is a virgin breathtaking beauty exhibiting unique natural treasures and immense sense of space – which adds to the fulfillment of high visitor’s enjoyment expectations – a much needed bridge between northern circuit and coastal attractions.
Mkomazi is a vital refuge for two highly endangered species, the charismatic black rhino and the sociable African wild dog, both of which were successfully reintroduced in the 1990s. Nomadic by nature, wild dog might be seen almost anywhere in the park, however the black rhino are restricted to a fenced sanctuary, ensuring their safe keeping for the enjoyment and prosperity of future generations. The park supports several dry – country specialists’ species that are rare elsewhere in Tanzania; these include the spectacular fringe – eared oryx, with its long back – sweeping horns, and the handsome spiral – horned lesser kudu. Oddest of all is the gerenuk, a gazelle distinguished by its slender neck, bizarre alien – like head, and having the habit of standing tall on its hind legs as it stretches for acacia leaves that other browsers cannot reach.
Udzungwa National Park is a lush high-elevation rain forest and a great site for walking and moderate hiking. It is one of thirty-four “World Biodiversity Hotspots” and one of 200 World Wildlife Federation ecoregions of global critical importance. The Udzungwa forest is part of the so-called Eastern Arc, which is a series of mountains ranging from the Southern Highlands through the Uluguru and Usambara mountains northwards to Pare. The forest is home to many indigenous species of plants, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, butterflies, and insects of which some of species are found nowhere else in the world. Udzungwa is also a unique cultural site for containing caves that have been used in the spiritual traditons and rituals of nearby tribes over many years—these have remained preserved so that one can get a sense of ancient religious traditions upon visiting.
Ruaha National Park, located in the middle of Tanzania about 130 km from Iringa, is the second largest park in Tanzania, covering an area of more than 13,000 km2. The main vegetation types in Ruaha are Miombo woodland, acacia grasslands, and large baobab trees, all which attract diverse number of animal’s species. Some of the major attractions include large populations of elephants, giraffes, impalas, buffalo, lions, leopards, and hunting dogs. The Great Ruaha River that borders the park in the east provides habitation for hippopotamus and crocodiles. Ruaha is also a prime destination for birdwatchers, with 436 species that have been identified so far.
Mikumi National Park is bordered to the south by Selous Game Reserve, the two areas forming a unique ecosystem. The vegetation of this area consists of savannah dotted with acacia, baobab, tamarinds, and some rare palm. Mikumi was named a National Park in 1967 and currently has an approximate size of 3,230 km2. Mikumi offers a unique wildlife experience with a large number of herbivores (buffaloes, giraffes, elephants and zebra) and a rich variety of bird species (more than 400) identified. On the hunt for all the herbivores, you will find large crocodiles, and of course lions and leopards.
Selous Game Reserve is the largest fauna reserve in the world, spanning over 55,000 km², almost four times the size of the Serengeti. Selous is considered important enough to be a World Heritage Site in which the lucky few can experience a safari in absolutely wild and unspoiled bush. The reserve was named after Englishman Sir Frederick Selous, a famous big game hunter and early conservationist, whose adventure books on Africa became best sellers in Victorian England. Among its unique attractions, the reserve contains one third of all the African hunting dog population in the world. Witness the majesty of large migrations of elephants, get close up with all the Big Five, and even enjoy game fishing while you are here.
Unwind after your safari and indulge your senses in the tropical paradise of Zanzibar! The main island of Zanzibar (known as Ungunja) and the surrounding islands and atolls of the archipelago are enchanting for their unspoiled tropical beauty, unique cultural richness, and culinary delights. The glorious abundance of unique sea life in the perpetually warm, turquoise Indian Ocean make this destination a diver’s paradise as well. Zanzibar is a romantic oasis full of mystique. Historically, it has been a center of commerce, international diplomacy, a beacon of learning, and a vestibule into Africa for the rest of the world, an island where merchants, traders, missionaries, and explorers dealing in spices and ivory, princes and slaves have visited over the past several centuries. Today, the history of Zanzibar is vibrantly alive in the form of traditional sailing vessels (dhows), carved wooden doors, and the narrow, maze-like alleyways between coral stone houses, the scent of lemongrass and cloves, and the smile of the hospitable Zanzibari Swahili people who welcome you to the “Spice Island”. Romance abounds here, as well, in the miles of white sand beaches, stunning accommodations, and sensory pleasures.