If you’re considering a safari holiday to Tanzania, it’s a good idea to have an understanding about the different national parks and game reserves to ensure that you visit the areas which are best suited to your interests and travel preferences.
Our tailor made Tanzania itineraries focus on both the north and south of the country. The ‘northern circuit' gives you an opportunity to visit the famous Ngorongoro Crater and the iconic Serengeti: two of the most spectacular areas in East Africa.
We also send an increasing number of our clients to the remote parks and reserves of southern Tanzania, which offer a real African wilderness experience. For those wanting to get away from the crowds, the south is an extraordinary experience and many 2nd or 3rd time safari goers are likely to prefer the authenticity of southern Tanzania.
To help you plan your trip we’ve put together this guide to our favourite northern and southern national parks and game reserves; however if you’d like to know more about the different parks or if you’d like to book a Tanzanian safari please call us on 0203 143 4293 or send an online enquiry.
Tanzania's Northern Circuit
Serengeti National Park
The Serengeti National Park is Tanzania’s oldest, largest and most famous national park and it offers some of the best wildlife viewing in Africa.
The Serengeti NP is home to the greatest wildlife spectacle on earth - the Great Wildebeest Migration, also called the Serengeti Wildebeest Migration. Every year, over 1.5 million wildebeest and zebra migrate from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya. If you're there at the right time, you’ll see herds of wildebeest and zebra stretching to the horizon.
This spectacular park is also renowned for its stunning scenery. It has grassland plains in the southeast, whilst the northern part of the park is more hilly and rocky and in the west there are valleys, rivers and forests.
Lake Manyara National Park
Lake Manyara National Park is located beneath the cliffs of the Manyara Escarpment, on the edge of the Rift Valley. It’s located on the way to Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti, however Lake Manyara NP is well worth a visit in its own right.
The alkaline soda of Lake Manyara, which covers 230 square kms, attracts pink flamingos and other birdlife. You’ll also see resident hippo pods at the lake.
The park is known for its large elephant population and tree-climbing lions, plus leopards and hyenas are present, although they aren’t seen that easily. Also prolific are buffalo, wildebeest, giraffe, zebra, waterbuck, warthog and impala. There’s also a huge primate population including baboon, common monkey, vervet monkey and the nocturnal bushbabies.
The Ngorongoro Crater is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s a unique natural phenomenon: arguably the most impressive on the continent. It’s one of the most beautiful natural wildlife safari sites in the world with a backdrop of the 600m/1968ft high crater wall, and it offers some of the best wildlife viewing in Africa.
A visit to the Ngorongoro Crater is an experience of a lifetime and you’ll see an abundance of wildlife, including zebra, buffalo, warthog, wildebeest, hippo and elephants. There’s also a huge population of predators - lions, hyenas, jackals, cheetahs and the elusive leopard. The resident population of black rhino is a real treat, as rhinos are very difficult to spot elsewhere in Tanzania.
Tarangire National Park
Tarangire is an ideal park to visit for a couple of nights at the beginning or end of a ‘northern circuit’ safari. Many people either miss out Tarangire altogether or they only venture into the park for a quick morning or afternoon game drive into the northern areas. A longer stay means that the southern reaches can be explored away from the crowds where it offers a much quieter safari experience than other parks in northern Tanzania.
During the dry months (June -October) the park offers spectacular wildlife viewing opportunities. You’ll see all the big African game, including large herds of elephant (sometimes up to 300 strong) that congregate along the riverbanks. The concentration of game is exceptional at the right time of year.
Large populations of wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, giraffe, eland, impala and warthog all go in search of water. Lions and spotted hyenas follow accordingly. Lions and leopards can be found throughout Tarangire, however cheetahs are mostly found in the open areas of the south. Wild dogs sometimes pass through the park, although sightings of them are rare. Tarangire National Park is also famed for its ancient baobab trees, as well as its prolific birdlife.
Tanzania's Southern Circuit
Selous Game Reserve
Selous is Africa's largest game reserve covering over 50,000 square kms, yet it remains one of Tanzania’s least known reserves and the numbers of visitors to Selous are much lower than the northern parks.
Selous is dominated by the Rufiji River which runs through vast areas of the reserve and sprawls out to endless lakes and deltas which fill and empty with the seasonal rains. The rivers and lakes of Selous host some incredible game, including the largest crocodile and hippo populations in Africa, and along the banks of the Rufiji River you’ll find large herds of elephants, especially in the dry season (June to November).
The reserve also boasts good numbers of buffalo, giraffe, zebra, impala, eland, wildebeest, baboon, hyena, lion and leopard, plus over 50% of the remaining endangered African wild dog.
One of the great advantages of the Selous being a game reserve is that your guide can go off road in your safari vehicle. This means you can get much closer to wildlife than you can in National Parks where you are tied to the roads. Another key benefit is the range of activities available, which include walking safaris, river safaris (using a motorboat) and fishing.
Ruaha National Park
With an incredible concentration and diversity of wildlife, Ruaha is the most significant National Park outside of the Serengeti.
It’s one of Tanzania’s lesser known parks and only receives about 5% of the volume of tourism that the Serengeti does, however it’s definitely worth visiting if you’re looking for an adventurous and authentic bush experience.
The main feature of the park is the Great Ruaha River, which attracts an abundance of animals in the dry season. The game viewing is excellent and includes huge herds of elephants - some herds being the largest in East Africa. Ruaha is particularly good for spotting predators, including huge prides of lion and the endangered African wild dog. The park is also home to some lesser known animals like the Kudu, Roan and Sable antelope that enjoy the dry, open woodland areas.