Masai Warrior watching sunset in the Serengeti

Tantalizing Tanzania – Gem of East Africa

April 27, 2015

Tanzania has been synonymous with wildlife for decades; almost a quarter of the total landmass of the country has been set aside for wildlife preservation, and her extensive network of national parks and reserves are thought to be home to almost 20% of Africa’s remaining large animals. The Serengeti sets the stage for the annual wildebeest migration, and you can also see the big five, many predators and even go chimpanzee trekking in this remarkable country. But there is a lot more to Tanzania than the magnificent wildlife. Standing guard over the impressive landscape is soaring Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain, while Mount Meru (5th highest in Africa) is only slightly less impressive. The spectacular coastline is dotted with paradise islands, while inland the lakes and rainforests offer an unsurpassed natural tapestry which weaves its way through the superb Rift Valley landscape.

The remarkable natural attractions of Tanzania can be roughly divided into 4 areas, each of which offers visitors a completely different type of holiday experience.

Northern Circuit

The vast majority of safari visitors will opt for the Northern Circuit, which includes the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, all dominated by marvellous Mount Kilimanjaro. The Northern circuit is better suited to longer safaris as distances between the star attractions are considerable and there is such a lot to see. These parks are also generally more crowded and the mid-range lodges tend to be much bigger and a little less personal.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Wildebeests and Cebras Migration in Tanzania
Many visitors report seeing all of the Big Five on a single game drive in the Ngorongoro Crater.

The Ngorongoro Crater is unique in that it is the only un-flooded, unbroken volcanic caldera in the world; it is also home to an unsurpassed density of animals. Because game viewing is restricted to such a relatively confined area, many visitors report seeing all of the Big Five, and much more besides, on a single game drive. Imagine watching the setting sun paint the sky a myriad of colours as it sets over the rim of the crater – pure African magic. If you have very limited game-viewing time, this is the place to spend it.

Serengeti National Park

The annual Wildebeest Migration spectacle is unique in the realms of wildlife watching with 6 million hooves reverberating across the plains.

The Serengeti is Tanzania’s oldest and most famous park. Its main claim to fame as a World Heritage destination is the fact that it hosts the annual Wildebeest Migration. This natural spectacle is unique in the realms of wildlife watching; imagine the sights and sounds of 6 million hooves reverberating across the plains. You can follow all the action on a mobile safari, spending a few nights in each of several mobile camps as the herds head towards the Maasai Mara National Reserve. This quintessential East African safari adventure is what dreams are made of.

Tarangire National Park

Tarangire is situated a little off the beaten tracks of the Northern circuit and is often overlooked, which is a real shame. This lovely quiet park offers exceptional game viewing particularly if you love elephants, who regularly migrate through this park to enjoy the permanent water of the Tarangire River, a true god-send during the dry winter months. The elephants are joined by thousands of other animals and particularly good sightings are common from July to October. Birding is also exceptional in this park and the swamps host vast numbers of breeding birds during the summer (December to March).

Mount Kilimanjaro and Arusha National Parks

Mount Kilimanjaro
Many aspirant climbers come to trek Mount Meru over 3 to 4 days to acclimatize themselves to the altitude before commencing their ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro.

These two national parks, on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru respectively, are two of the most scenic in all of Tanzania. Although there is a good selection of wildlife to be found at the lower elevations of both parks, the emphasis here is on the amazing hiking and trekking experience. Many aspirant climbers come to trek Mount Meru over 3 to 4 days to acclimatize themselves to the altitude before commencing their ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro. Even if you have no desire to climb Africa’s highest mountain you can still enjoy a wonderful hiking experience in these parks.

Lake Manyara and Lake Victoria

Stork Bird
Lake Manyara is home to thousands of water birds, including flamingos, pelicans, cormorants and storks.

Lake Manyara National Park stretches along the base of the Rift Valley escarpment and includes several diverse habitats along the border of one of Africa’s most scenic bodies of water. The lake is home to thousands of water birds, including flamingos, pelicans, cormorants and storks, while the forested areas beyond the floodplain are a favourite haunt of the famous tree-climbing lions of Manyara. On Lake Victoria, Rubondo Island National Park offers a very special kind of wild, Robinson Crusoe-type of safari adventure where you will be surrounded by dense forest just brimming with wildlife.

Southern Circuit

The Southern Circuit includes marvellous Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park among others, which offer a very different type of experience and are better suited to those who have less time (and money) available as they are easier to reach by road. These parks offer drives in open-sided vehicles, as well as walking and boat-based safaris (which are mostly unavailable in the North) and the lodges are generally smaller and more intimate.

Selous Game Reserve

Selous Game Reserve is a vast, untamed wildlife gem just waiting to be explored. There are a host of activities on offer including walking and boating safaris and even fly-camping trips for the adventurous. There are excellent numbers of animals in this reserve; lions and leopard are particularly plentiful and the reserve also hosts almost 50% of Africa’s remaining wild dog. Accommodation options in all budget categories mean that nobody needs to miss out on the world-class wildlife experience at a very competitive price.

Ruaha National Park

Elephants drinking water in the Ruaha National Park
The wildlife viewing in Ruaha National Park is simply amazing, and the remote situation of the park ensures that visitor numbers never impact on the “wild” feel of a safari here.

Ruaha National Park is even more untouched than Selous. The wildlife viewing is simply amazing, and the remote situation of the park ensures that visitor numbers never impact on the “wild” feel of a safari here. The park is renowned for playing host to animal species endemic to both east and southern Africa, so there are some special surprises in store for seasoned visitors who are familiar with the varied species of antelope. Some of the camps offer walking safaris, but most of the game viewing is by traditional game drives.

Mikumi and Udzungwa National Parks

Mikumi National Park and Udzungwa National Park on the northern border of the Selous are the quickest parks to reach from the coast. If you have limited game-viewing time, Mikumi is a reliable destination to see a wide selection of game, including elephant, buffalo and plenty of predators, especially around the Mkata floodplain. Of special note are the very large pods of hippos in two pools just 5 km from the main gate; there are also plenty of crocodiles and a good selection of water birds. Udzungwa is a very beautiful park tucked away in the mountains and rainforest, and is an especially good place for hiking and bird watching.

Buffalo Herd in Tanzania
Mikumi National Park is a reliable destination to see a wide selection of game, including elephant, buffalo and plenty of predators, especially around the Mkata floodplain.

West Circuit

Primate fans will definitely want to visit Gombe National Park and Mahale Mountain National Park on the south-western border where you can go chimpanzee trekking in unspoilt rainforest bordering the stunningly beautiful Lake Tanganyika.

Katavi National Park

Katavi National Park is remote, untouched and untamed – often considered to be one of Tanzania’s best kept secrets. Very few tourist venture this far west, but for those who do the rewards are considerable. During the dry months thousands of elephant, buffalo and other plains animals converge on the diminishing water of the Katuma River, eagerly followed by a very good representation of predators. This is also the best place in Tanzania to see huge numbers of hippo and witness their bloody territorial battles.

Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains

Chimpanzee in Mahale National Park
Gombe Stream and the Mahale Mountains are prime destinations for primate lovers.

Gombe Stream and the Mahale Mountains are prime destinations for primate lovers. Mahale Mountain National Park borders beautiful Lake Tanganyika, so when you are not experiencing the magic of chimpanzee trekking in the rainforest, you can be enjoying the beach activities of the lake. The chimps of Gombe and Mahale are some of the last remaining free-ranging chimpanzees in Africa; they have been habituated to humans over many years and observing and following them about their daily routine is an unforgettable experience. Although the chimps are the prime attraction, there are several other species of primate to be seen including Olive baboon and Colobus monkeys. Bird watching is also exceptionally good in both these parks.

East Coast

Finally, most visitors will want to wind down their active safari with a few days of relaxation on one of the picture-perfect islands along the East coast where you can relax in the sun, visit ancient historic towns or explore the under-water wonderland.

Zanzibar

The Zanzibar archipelago, also known as the Spice Islands, lies just 15km off the east coast of Zanzibar, more or less opposite the bustling metropolis of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city. The archipelago comprises several picture-perfect paradise islands, the perfect spot to relax and have some fun in the sun after your busy safari. The main island is Zanzibar itself, which has over 20 idyllic beaches and some wonderful resorts to choose from. As you can imagine, water sports feature high on the list of activities; kite-surfing, game fishing, sailing, kayaking, snorkelling and scuba diving are all available in the year round warm azure waters.

Zanzibar Rock Restaurant
Zanzibar archipelago, also known as the Spice Islands, comprises several picture-perfect paradise islands, the perfect spot to relax and have some fun in the sun after your busy safari.

Pemba and Mafia Islands

Pemba and Mafia Islands sit astride a superb pristine coral reef and both offer some of the best dive sites in the world. Mafia Island is the site of a wonderful marine reserve which provides critical breeding grounds for some very rare animal species such as the dugong and the sea turtle as well as countless migrating marine bird species.

If you can drag yourself away from the beaches and water sports, spend a day exploring fascinating Stone Town, the oldest continually occupied and functioning historical town in East Africa. There are many wonderful narrow little streets lined with amazing historical buildings featuring a wide variety of architectural styles.

Tanzania - a must visit country in Africa

Tanzania offers first-time and returning visitors to East Africa an unforgettable safari experience, encompassing startlingly good wild-life viewing. Opt for the popular parks like the Serengeti and Ngorongoro, or experience the very essence of wild Africa in some of the most remote settings in Africa. Follow the Migration, see the Big Five or go birding and chimp trekking – the choice is yours. There are accommodation options to suit everyone from the pure luxury of some of Africa’s most outstanding private lodges to mid-range traditional safari camps. Then wind down with some precious days on a fragrant tropical island – Tanzania beckons – heed the call for a holiday experience like no other!

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