Tanzania is one of the best safari destinations in Africa. Its national parks promise endless, acacia-studded savannahs teeming with wildlife under the red sun - and deliver on that promise!
Tanzania in the east of the Black Continent attracts tourists with a real African safari feeling. The famous "Big 5" (buffalo, lion, leopard, elephant and rhino) are really showcased in the impressive national parks, some of which are among our top 10 sights of Tanzania.
Following the motto "back to nature", not a single protected area is fenced off and not a single national park road is asphalted. The wild animals can live in Tanzania of their own free will and can move completely unhindered - even beyond the country's borders.
This plays an important role especially at the time of the annual wildebeest migration ("Great Migration"), during which millions of ungulates migrate back and forth between Serengeti and Masai Mara in Kenya - always following the rainfall. But even apart from the tourist hot spots, Tanzania offers endless savannahs, tranquil lakes and majestic peaks.
Tip: To make the safari a success, you should be clear in advance about the best time to travel, necessary equipment and prescribed rules of conduct. Which animals can be seen in which national parks can also be helpful for planning.
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Serengeti National Park
Serengeti National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most famous national parks in the world. It is home to one of Africa's most pristine ecosystems and an incredible wealth of African wildlife, including the world's largest herds of ungulates, thousands of carnivores and close to 500 species of birds.
The Serengeti attracts thousands of safari tourists to the African savannah, especially during the Great Migration. From June to October, trains of wildebeest, zebra, gazelles and antelope up to 40km long move from Tanzania to southern Kenya before turning back in December to give birth to their young in the southeast of the Serengeti from January to March.
The Ngorongoro Crater is located just southeast of the Serengeti National Park and is also part of the wildebeest migration. Apart from this, the gigantic caldera is the largest dry volcanic crater in the world with the largest concentration of predators in Africa and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Meanwhile, grassy steppes, forests, bogs and gorges thrive in the midst of the cauldron, home to nearly every species of wildlife in East Africa, with some 25,000 animals. Accordingly, Africa's Big 5 live here, of course, as well as hyenas, jackals, servals, cheetahs, gazelles, wildebeests, antelopes, monkeys and thousands of flamingos.
Apart from the wildlife, the Olduvai Gorge in the Ngorongoro area is where the oldest finds of early man have been made. Since then, it is also known as the "Cradle of Humankind".
Tarangire National Park
The Tarangire National Park on the river of the same name is known for its gigantic number of elephants. Herds of up to 300 animals can be observed here. Lions, leopards, buffalos, giraffes, parrots, zebras, wildebeests, ostriches and cheetahs also live in Tarangire National Park. On the Big 5 only the rhinos are missing.
The second highlight is its large amount of century-old baobab trees, which look as if they are stuck upside down in the ground due to their thick trunks and sometimes very short branches. The breathtaking landscape with its exotic animals can be explored in the course of night game drives, hot air balloon safaris and even on a mountain bike.
Kilimanjaro National Park
Around the proud Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, stretches the national park of the same name. Elephants, leopards, guenons, buffaloes and 140 other mammal species and numerous exotic plants live on its flanks.
Besides the wildlife safari, the ascent of the extinct volcano is the second highlight in Kilimanjaro National Park. A summit assault on the highest free-standing peak in the world takes you from tropical conditions at 900 meters above sea level to arctic conditions at the 5,895m summit. Its ascent, best tackled from December to February, is nevertheless comparatively easy.
Gombe National Park
In the 1960s, Jane Goodall's work with chimpanzees made the small Gombe National Park on Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania world famous. The research project is still ongoing by the Gombe Stream Research Center and is now considered the longest wildlife field study in history.
Monkeys, especially the chimpanzees, are the main attraction of the cozy green national park on the border to the Congo. Here, for a change, you are allowed to move around on foot without a safari car. In addition to the fascinating apes, which you can experience in a completely natural environment, you can also meet baboons, guenons, rhesus monkeys and mute monkeys in the wild in Gombe National Park.
Lake Manyara National Park
The small Lake Manyara National Park at the Great Rift Valley is also greener than the classic savannahs, but here again mainly giraffes, buffalos, hippos, antelopes, baboons, elephants and lions can be seen. The latter are known to climb trees, but unfortunately this does not necessarily contribute to their better visibility (not even on the treetop walk).
Despite its proximity to Arusha, the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara National Park is rarely busy. This is also due to the fact that the main season in Lake Manyara National Park stretches from June to March, so the flow of visitors is spread over 10 months. In the afternoon there are always more safari cars or canoes to see, in the morning and early morning you are usually pretty much alone in the breathtaking landscape.
Arusha National Park
Speaking of Arusha: As a tourist administrative center and starting point for many classic safaris, the big city in the north of Tanzania naturally also has its "own" national park. On most tours, however, it is left out, because instead of the Big 5 there is the mighty Mount Meru, which can be climbed wonderfully as an extinct volcano, and mainly tropical birds and monkeys to see. But buffalos, giraffes and antelopes can be seen as "classic safari animals".
Apart from the 4566m high Mount Meru, the Arusha National Park offers some idyllic lakes and dense forests. On a clear day, Mount Kilimanjaro can be seen in the distance.
Nyerere National Park
Established in 2019, Nyerere National Park is part of the Selous Game Reserve, the largest game reserve in Tanzania. In southern Tanzania, human interference with nature has always been kept within strict limits, allowing an enormous diversity of plants to develop here. The different ecosystems are also home to numerous wild animals, including lions, leopards, hyenas, jackals, wild dogs, crocodiles, hippos, countless ungulate species and the gigantic number of 40,000 elephants.
Despite the large amount of animals, however, it can happen that you don't see a single living creature on the extensive terrain for the whole day. Nyerere National Park is also somewhat isolated from the other national parks, usually requiring an additional domestic flight to reach it. These are probably the reasons why there are fewer safari tourists here than in the north of Tanzania.
Ruaha National Park
With an area of 20,000 square kilometers, Ruaha National Park is the third largest national park in Tanzania after the Serengeti and Nyerere National Parks and is considered a rather budget safari national park. Nevertheless, the third oldest national park of the country in the center of Tanzania is not one of the most visited safari destinations.
Its animal stars include some 10,000 elephants, several prides of lions, as well as leopards and cheetahs. Among their prey are some rather uncommon antelope species, such as kudu, roan or sable antelope . Ruaha National Park is also one of the best places to encounter the endangered African wild dog. During the dry season from June to October, the wildlife likes to gather on the banks of the Ruaha River.
Katavi National Park
The wild, untouched Katavi National Park is also full of wildlife, but is one of the less visited safari parks. Except for the rhino, all Big 5 are represented here. Hippopotamus and lions are a common sight and huge buffalo herds of 1000 animals and more roam Katavi National Park, which is also known for its lush forests and waterfalls.
The best thing about it: the animals in Katavi National Park are often all to yourself. Because of its comparatively remote location in the west of the country near Lake Tanganyika, there are hardly any safari tourists in "Africa's best-kept secret".