The wildlife reserves of the north are most easily accessed from Kilimanjaro or Arusha Airports and by road from Nairobi in Kenya. The Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater are without doubt the most popular destinations in Tanzania and whilst the Crater can get a little busy it is the nearest we can come to “guaranteed game viewing” because most of the game is resident and the drivers know their habits.
By contrast the Serengeti is immense and particularly in the western corridor you can get well away from it all. Less known and usually included in this northern circuit is Lake Manyara National Park with the Great Rift Valley escarpment for a dramatic backdrop.
The southern national parks are less visited and offer a great opportunity to explore wild and unspoiled bush.
Likewise the western national parks of Gombe, Mahale and Katavi are remote and little visited. The cost of charter flights in and out prohibit many from visiting but for those who get there the uniqueness of the experience and of the region is quite simply unique.
Serengeti National Park:
This is a plain-dwellers’ stronghold of 14,763 square kilometres reaching up to the Kenyan border and claimed to be the finest in Africa. Here are 35 species of plain-dwelling animals, including wildebeest and zebra, which feature in the spectacular Serengeti migration, and also an extensive selection of bird life. Probably the best time to see them is from December to May.
This is one of the best places in Africa to see lion and cheetah close up. The vast, open grasslands of the Serengeti are without doubt one of Africa’s finest wildlife areas, and being there at the height of the migration is a never-to-be-forgotten experience.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area:
This is the largest intact volcanic calderas in the world, and some scientists maintain that before it erupted, it would have stood higher than Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa. Covering a mere 260km², the 600 metre deep crater is home to a permanent population of more than 30 000 animals, and is one of the only places in Tanzania where you stand a very good chance of seeing the ‘Big Five’ (lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant) in the course of a morning or evening’s game drive.
Lake Manyara National Park:
This is one of the most diverse of Tanzania’s national parks, a tiny (325km²) combination of Rift Valley Lake, dense woodlands and steep mountainside. Manyara was established specifically to protect the elephant herds that have made the area world-renowned. But heavy poaching in the 1970s and 1980s decimated the herds, although they are now recovering and returning to their former strengths.
Tarangire National Park:
is not a seasonal park, it is spectacular at any time of the year and you are likely to witness impressive herds of up to 600 elephants. The dry season months of June-October bring migrating Elephant, Wildebeest, Zebra, Eland, Hartebeest, Buffalo and Oryx, from the dry Maasai steppe to the gleamingTarangire River. November to February is the ‘Green Season, and during this time of plenty, Wildebeest and Zebra can be seen giving birth.
Arusha National Park:
The park has three distinct zones: Ngurdoto Crater (often discribed as a mini Ngorongoro), the Momella Lakes, a group of shallow alkaline lakes fed by underground streams, and Mount Meru, one of the most rewarding mountains to climb in Africa.
Animals here include buffalo, elephant, hippo, giraffe, zebra and a variety of antelope, blue monkey and black and white colobus monkey, leopard and hyena.
Mikumi National Park:
to the north of the Selous, is only 283 km away from Dar-Es-Salaam. The Park was established to protect the environment and resident animals and is also an important educational centre for students of ecology and conservation. The Mikumi flood plain is the main feature of the Park along with the bordering mountain ranges. Animals commonly found here include lion, eland, hartebeest, buffalo, wildebeest, giraffe, zebra, hippo and elephant. The Mikumi elephants are mainly grazers and do not cause tree damage.
Lions roam the Mikumi plains and will take refuge in the branches of trees. Wild dogs can be seen in packs here. Mikumi’s vegetation includes woodland, swamp and grassland with two water holes, Mkata and Chamgore. Apart from the saddle-bill stork, hammerkop and malachite kingfisher, you will also find monitor lizard and a deadly python inhabiting the pools
SELOUS GAME RESERVE :
The largest game reserve in Africa – 4 times the size of the Serengeti. It possesses a diverse landscape from hot volcanic springs, sporadic lakes, channels from the Great Rwaha and Rufiji rivers. Walking is permitted (with an armed ranger) which with over 350 species of bird and 2,000 species of plants to see makes this the most heavenly sanctuary to explore.
RUAHA NATIONAL PARK:
Ruaha National Park in southern Tanzania is the second largest national park in the country covering an area of about 10,300 km2. It was established in 1910 as part of the Saba Game Reserve and was gazetted as a National Park in 1964. The area was previously inhabited by small groups of the Wahehe people. The Park is part of the Ruaha ecosystem which also includes Rungwa-Kisigo Game Reserve to the northwest.
The ecosystem, which covers an area of approximately 45,000 km2, protects a large part of the catchment for the Great Ruaha and Mzombe rivers.
Mahale Mountains National Park:
Gazetted in 1980, Mahale National Park lies 120 km south of Kigoma on a peninsula that cuts out into Lake Tanganyika. Its centre is at about East. The park which is 1577 km2 in size is dominated by the Mahale Mountains chain running from north-west across the middle of the park (the highest peak being 2462 m above sea level).
The park vegetation is mainly Miombo woodland with narrow strips of riverine forest.
The park enjoys the habitat of a variety of animal species from elephants, warthogs, giraffes, zebras, roan antelopes, buffalos, hyenas, and wild dogs to lions in the eastern woodland. Also found in Mahale are chimpanzees, blue monkeys. According to recent census there are more than 700 chimpanzees in about 15 communities. There is a small guesthouse near Kasiha village and a luxury tented camp.
RUBONDO ISLAND NATIONAL PARK:
Gazetted in 1977 with an area of about 457 km2 and surrounded by a number of islets which are part of the park, Rubondo National Park is located in Lake Victoria Island west of Mwanza town. Rubondo Island National Park is unique in its being the only park in the vast lake Victoria. The lake is the largest in Africa (with 26200 sq miles) and second largest in the world (next to Superior – 31830 sq miles). It provides a variety of habitats ranging from savannah to open woodland, dense forest and papyrus swamps.
Animal species (some introduced to the area about 20 years ago) found in the park include hippos, crocodiles, bushbucks, sitatunga, giraffes, elephants and chimps. Rubondo is also unique in bird life. Birds from east, central and southern Africa can be observed breeding at the 2 Bird Island”. There are campsites and huts for accommodation.
GOMBE STREAM NATIONAL PARK :
Situated 16 km, north of Kigoma town in western Tanzania at , Gombe National park occupies 52 Km2 of land. Commissioned in 1968, Gombe is a narrow strip of a mountainous country bounded to the east by the crest of the rift Valley escarpment and by Lake Tanganyika to the west. The beauty of Gombe national Park is unique; it is a park without roads, where you can walk and experience nature with all your senses. Due to its altitude, the park’s vegetation varies from evergreen forests of tall trees to open woodlands and grassland.
Common mammals found in the park are forest species mostly primates. These include chimpanzees, baboons, blue monkeys, red tailed monkeys and red colobus monkeys. In a sense, the park is indeed an island of wilderness surrounded on three sides by cultivation and on the north by the lake. Places of stay include a hostel and campsites within the park and hotels in Kigoma town.
KATAVI NATIONAL PARK :
Katavi National Park is blessed with Lake Katavi in the north and Lake Chada and Katuma River in the south. These water sources provide sustenance for thousands of animals. The watery grasslands and miombo woodlands reverberate with the largest herds of buffaloes on earth! There are up to three thousand Buffalo in one herd, and when they are on the move, they create clouds of dust which can be seen from afar. Where there are Buffalo there are also predators like Hyena, Leopard and the most successful Buffalo hunter of them all – lion!
More information at http://www.tanzania.go.tz