National Parks

Northern Tanzania Circuit Safari

The well-established ‘Northern Circuit’ safari of northern Tanzania offers some of the world’s most diverse safari experiences, consisting of National Parks, game reserves, conservation areas and private concessions.

Among these are the world-famous and iconic Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, and of course their less well-known neighbours, Tarangire National Park and Lake Manyara National Park. Learn more about each park, below.

elephants1

This small but spectacular national park is located very close to Moshi and Arusha regions, and features some of Tanzania ‘s most varied and beautiful scenarios. Highlights include Mt. Meru, Ngurdoto crater and the Momela lakes. See Mountain Trekking for information about trekking on Mt. Meru.

The park ranges in altitude from 1500 m to 4566 m (the summit of Mt. Meru), resulting in several different vegetation zones from open grasslands to high altitude forests.

Wildlife highlights include 400 species of resident and migratory birds, including huge flocks of large and lesser flamingos in the alkaline waters of the awesome Momela lakes.

Resident mammals include Hyena, Buffalo, Klipspringer, Gerenuk, Black and white Colobus and Blue Monkeys. Varieties of tropical Snakes, Chameleons, Alligators, Tortoise and Turtles display at close range at the Reptile and snake farm.

Walking safaris are available but should be accompanied by an armed ranger. The park is most ideal for a day’s trip from Moshi / Arusha.

To the south of the large open grass plains of southern Maasai land, Tarangire National Park covers 2600 sq km of grassland and floodplains, and a large proportion of tall acacia woodland. It is beautifully unspoilt, and wide views to distant variously purpled formations of volcanic mountain ranges along the drive are superb. Tarangire also has regions of quite dense bush, but with high grasses and huge old baobab trees instead of the green forests of Manyara.

The land is hilly and dominated by the impressive valley of the Tarangire River, which attracts good numbers of migrant animals during the dry months, especially between July and September. During these months the concentration of animals around the Tarangire river is almost as diverse and reliable as in the Ngorongoro crater, but again ecosystem here is balanced by a localized migration pattern that is followed by most the animals other than lion, who dont tend to abandon their territory.

The animals mostly disperse during April and May, when there is widespread greenery, vegetation and standing water to encourage all the grazers further afield. In June the eland and oryxes begin to return, followed by elephant towards the end of the month. Tarangire has quite a reputation for elephant ow-wows when different herds somehow agree to congregate in one area around the end of the rainy season, and the dominant males take advantage of the situation to sow seeds for future generations. The following 22 month gestation period should then be well timed to coincide with the rainy season two years later. Zebra and wildebeest return together through July, and by mid-August all animals are congregating around their last reliable water source, the Tarangire River.

The calving season falls in the early months of the year, through January, February and March, and so makes the most of the fresh grass during the rainy season.

But there are always a fantastic number of colorful birds swooping and strutting along the rough paths in front of your vehicle in Tarangire, with likely spots including the Paradise Whyder and endearing Yellow-collared lovebirds. There are a few resident lion, which are easier to find when the migration arrives to excite their taste buds. In other months they look quite mean and lean and slip easily between the grasses.

It is worth remembering that the park has become a wildlife concern because of its resident tsetse fly population – domestic animals do not build the same resistance to typanosoiasis – sleeping sickness – as wild animals, who have become immune. They are a pest, with an irritating stinging bite, but tend to hang out in swarms and a well-planned endows up approach seems to be the way to survive. They do not seem prevalent around any of the lodges. Recently the woodland habitat of fever trees, umbrella acacias along the Tarangire River has been made more open, primarily a result of fire and heavy utilization by elephant.

Location: In northern Tanzania. The entrance gate lies 1.5 hours(126km/80miles) west of Arusha along a newlysurfaced road, close to the ethnically diverse market town of Mto wa Mbu.

Getting there
By road, charter or scheduled flight from Arusha, en Route to Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater.

To do
Game drives, canoeing when the water levels is sufficiently high. Cultural tours, mountain bike tours, abseiling and forest walks on the escarpment outside the park.

Best time
Dry season (July-October) for large mammals; wet season (November- June) for bird watching, the waterfalls and canoeing.

Accommodation
One luxury treehouse- style camp, public bandas And campsites inside the park. One luxury tented Camp and two lodges perches on the Rift wall Overlooking the lake; several guesthouse and Campsites in nearby Mto wa Mbu.

The compact game-viewing circuit through Manyara offers a Virtual microcosm of the Tanzania safari experience. From the entrance gate, the road winds through an expanse of lush jungle like groundwater forest where hundred-strong baboon troops lounge nonchalantly along the roadside, blue monkeys scamper nimbly between the ancient mahogany trees, dainty bushbuck tread warily through the shadows, and outsized forest hornbills honk cacophonously in the canopy.

Contrasting with the intimacy of the forest is the grassy floodplain and its expansive views eastward, across the alkaline lake, to the jagged blue volcanic peaks that rise from the endless Maasai steppes. Large buffalo, wildebeest and zebra herds congregate on these grassy plains, as do giraffes- some so dark in coloration that they appear to be black from a distance.

Inland of the floodplain, a narrow belt of acacia woodland is the favored haunt of Manyara’s legendary tree-climbing lions and impressively tusked elephants. Squadrons of banded mongoose dart between the acacias, while the diminutive kirk’s dik-dik forages in their shade. Pairs of klipspringer are often seen silhouetted on the rocks above a field of searing hot springs that steams and bubbles adjacent to the lakeshore in the far south of the park.

Manyara provides the perfect introduction to Tanzania’s birdlife. More than 400 species have been recorded, and even a first-time visitor to Africa might reasonably expect to pink-hued flamingos on their perpetual migration, as well as other large waterbirds such as pelicans, cormorants and storks.

Ngorongoro has over 20,000 large animals including some of Tanzania’s last remaining black rhino, protected within its rim. This crater is also known as ‘the eight wonders of the world’, this heritage center harbors the most gorgeous wildlife Shangri-La on earth. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) covers some 8,300 square kilometres.

Nearly three million years ago Ngorongoro space needled parallel to Mount Kilimanjaro as one of the highest peaks in Africa. Later it tramped down during the turbulent birth of the Rift Valley, its volcanic top erupted at the time that ancient man first walked the plains.

Rifts and volcanoes shape the landscape of Ngorongoro and also cause lava or melted rock to penetrate to the surface where it hardens. If lava emerges from the same penetration for a long period, it builds up into a volcano.

In the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the main rifts are north of Lake Eyasi and east of Lakes Manyara and Lake Natron, where the nine volcanoes of Ngorongoro highlands were formed during the past four million years. Of these, only volcano Oldonyo Lengai is still active. The ash and dust from the eruptions was carried by the wind to form the fertile soils of the Serengeti plains.

Ngorongoro is also a pioneering experiment in multiple land use because it boasts the finest blend of landscapes, wildlife, people and archaeological sites in Africa. The concept of multiple land use in conservation perspective is a deviation from a traditional approach of regarding conservation as complete absenteeism of human interference.

The park’s Wildlife
Today, Ngorongoro’s caldera harbors the most ravishing wildlife haven on earth. They are not confined by the Crater walls, and can leave freely; they stay because conditions are favorable. Since most of the Crater floor is grassland, grazing animals predominate: gnu, zebra, gazelles, buffalo, eland and kongoni (Coke’s hartebeest) and warthogs. The rich pasture and permanent water of the Crater floor supports a resident population of some 20,000 to 25,000 large mammals. The swamp and forest provide additional resources for hippos, some of Tanzania’s last remaining black rhinos, waterbucks, giant-tusked elephants, reedbucks and baboons, bushbucks, and vervets. The steep inner slopes provide a habitat for dikdiks and the rare mountain reedbuck. Towering euphorbias adhere to the crater walls and on the floor. Fever tree and Fig tree forests give shade to an awe-inspiring array of creatures. All these animals in turn support large predators such as Lion and Leopard, and scavengers such as Hyena and Jackals.

For the best viewing and photography, approach the animals slowly and quietly and stay on the official tracks.

Birdlife
Bird life safaris at Ngorongoro depends intensely on the season of the year, because there are inhabitant birds and migrant birds. You are certain to see many residents, like ostriches, bustards and plovers all year round. In wet season they share the Crater with European migrants such as White Storks, swallows, Yellow Wagtails, etc. The migrants pass through from November through May, coinciding with the rains in Africa and the winter in Eurasia. There are also local migrants such as flamingos, storks and ducks which come and go depending on the state of the lake and ponds. Other birds you can see are Stonechat, Schalow’s Wheatear, Anteater Chat, Fiscal Shrike. Augur Buzzards, Verreaux’s Eagle and other raptors live in the Crater.

Ngorongoro safari lodges are established on the rim of the crater, which is 2,235 metres (7,264 feet) above sea level. It can get quite fresh up here, and gets very cold at night in the winter months of June to August, but is opposingly hot down in the crater during the day.

Rainy Season
It rains anytime from November to May, with the longer rains in April to May. The amount and pattern of rainfall varies and a dry period in January and February may split the rainy season into short and long rains. The forested eastern slopes get much more rain due to their elevation than the arid country to the west. The rain arrives in stormy showers usually during afternoons and nights, which cleanses the air to reveal clear views. The weather is usually dry from June to November. July is the coldest month and highland temperatures may fall below freezing.

The Ngorongoro Crater Floor
Interpretive game drives through the emerald plains and forests of the crater floor engender guests with a respect for the people and wildlife of this world wonder. The dominant feature of the crater floor is Lake Magadi, a shallow soda lake that supports large flocks of flamingo. Much of the crater floor is open grassland, making animal spotting relatively easy: black rhino, lion, wildebeest hyena, gazelle, and zebra are all commonly seen. Lodges and hotels around the Ngorongoro Crater .A sheer dirt road descends from Malanja Depression on the crater rim to the crater floor. At the top of the road, Masai women and children allow you to photograph them for a small fee. The hippo pool near Mandusi Swamp is a popular picnic spot. The Malanja depression is grassy open and is a good place to spot typical highland antelope such as mountain reedbuck and Kirks, dik-dik, and birds such as the striking auger buzzard and Schalows.

A million wildebeest each driven by the same ancient rhythm, fulfilling their instinctive role in the inescapable cycle of life: a frenzied 3 week bout of territorial conquests and mating; survival of the fittest as 40 kilometre long columns plunge through crocodile infested waters on the annual exodus north; replenishing the species in a brief population explosion that produces more than 8000 calves a day before the 1000 kilometre pilgrimage beings again.

More than 6 million hooves pound the legendary plains of the Serengeti. Every year, triggered by the rains, more than a million Wildebeest, 200,000 Zebra and 300,000 Thomson Gazelle gather to undertake the long trek to new grazing lands. Tanzania first and most famous park, the Serengeti, is renowned for its wealth of Leopard and Lion.

The vast reaches of the park help the Black Rhino to fight extinction and provide a protected breeding ground for the vulnerable Cheetah. Witness predator versus prey and the fundamental interdependence of the Serengeti abundant species, from more than 500 varieties of bird to 100 types of dung beetle. The Serengeti is a sense of seeing to the ends of the earth, the sun burnt savannah shimmering to the horizon. Yet, after the rains this golden horizon is magically transformed into an endless green carpet flecked with wildflowers.

But there are also wooded hills towering termite mounds and rocky kopjes, rivers lined with elegant stand of Fig trees, Ebony and Acacia, stained orange by dust. It is so vast you may be the only human audience when a pride of Lions masterminds a siege, focused unswervingly on their next meal.

Arusha National Park

This small but spectacular national park is located very close to Moshi and Arusha regions, and features some of Tanzania ‘s most varied and beautiful scenarios. Highlights include Mt. Meru, Ngurdoto crater and the Momela lakes. See Mountain Trekking for information about trekking on Mt. Meru.

The park ranges in altitude from 1500 m to 4566 m (the summit of Mt. Meru), resulting in several different vegetation zones from open grasslands to high altitude forests.

Wildlife highlights include 400 species of resident and migratory birds, including huge flocks of large and lesser flamingos in the alkaline waters of the awesome Momela lakes.

Resident mammals include Hyena, Buffalo, Klipspringer, Gerenuk, Black and white Colobus and Blue Monkeys. Varieties of tropical Snakes, Chameleons, Alligators, Tortoise and Turtles display at close range at the Reptile and snake farm.

Walking safaris are available but should be accompanied by an armed ranger. The park is most ideal for a day’s trip from Moshi / Arusha.

Tarangire National Park

To the south of the large open grass plains of southern Maasai land, Tarangire National Park covers 2600 sq km of grassland and floodplains, and a large proportion of tall acacia woodland. It is beautifully unspoilt, and wide views to distant variously purpled formations of volcanic mountain ranges along the drive are superb. Tarangire also has regions of quite dense bush, but with high grasses and huge old baobab trees instead of the green forests of Manyara.

The land is hilly and dominated by the impressive valley of the Tarangire River, which attracts good numbers of migrant animals during the dry months, especially between July and September. During these months the concentration of animals around the Tarangire river is almost as diverse and reliable as in the Ngorongoro crater, but again ecosystem here is balanced by a localized migration pattern that is followed by most the animals other than lion, who dont tend to abandon their territory.

The animals mostly disperse during April and May, when there is widespread greenery, vegetation and standing water to encourage all the grazers further afield. In June the eland and oryxes begin to return, followed by elephant towards the end of the month. Tarangire has quite a reputation for elephant ow-wows when different herds somehow agree to congregate in one area around the end of the rainy season, and the dominant males take advantage of the situation to sow seeds for future generations. The following 22 month gestation period should then be well timed to coincide with the rainy season two years later. Zebra and wildebeest return together through July, and by mid-August all animals are congregating around their last reliable water source, the Tarangire River.

The calving season falls in the early months of the year, through January, February and March, and so makes the most of the fresh grass during the rainy season.

But there are always a fantastic number of colorful birds swooping and strutting along the rough paths in front of your vehicle in Tarangire, with likely spots including the Paradise Whyder and endearing Yellow-collared lovebirds. There are a few resident lion, which are easier to find when the migration arrives to excite their taste buds. In other months they look quite mean and lean and slip easily between the grasses.

It is worth remembering that the park has become a wildlife concern because of its resident tsetse fly population – domestic animals do not build the same resistance to typanosoiasis – sleeping sickness – as wild animals, who have become immune. They are a pest, with an irritating stinging bite, but tend to hang out in swarms and a well-planned endows up approach seems to be the way to survive. They do not seem prevalent around any of the lodges. Recently the woodland habitat of fever trees, umbrella acacias along the Tarangire River has been made more open, primarily a result of fire and heavy utilization by elephant.

Lake Manyara National Park

Location: In northern Tanzania. The entrance gate lies 1.5 hours(126km/80miles) west of Arusha along a newlysurfaced road, close to the ethnically diverse market town of Mto wa Mbu.

Getting there
By road, charter or scheduled flight from Arusha, en Route to Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater.

To do
Game drives, canoeing when the water levels is sufficiently high. Cultural tours, mountain bike tours, abseiling and forest walks on the escarpment outside the park.

Best time
Dry season (July-October) for large mammals; wet season (November- June) for bird watching, the waterfalls and canoeing.

Accommodation
One luxury treehouse- style camp, public bandas And campsites inside the park. One luxury tented Camp and two lodges perches on the Rift wall Overlooking the lake; several guesthouse and Campsites in nearby Mto wa Mbu.

The compact game-viewing circuit through Manyara offers a Virtual microcosm of the Tanzania safari experience. From the entrance gate, the road winds through an expanse of lush jungle like groundwater forest where hundred-strong baboon troops lounge nonchalantly along the roadside, blue monkeys scamper nimbly between the ancient mahogany trees, dainty bushbuck tread warily through the shadows, and outsized forest hornbills honk cacophonously in the canopy.

Contrasting with the intimacy of the forest is the grassy floodplain and its expansive views eastward, across the alkaline lake, to the jagged blue volcanic peaks that rise from the endless Maasai steppes. Large buffalo, wildebeest and zebra herds congregate on these grassy plains, as do giraffes- some so dark in coloration that they appear to be black from a distance.

Inland of the floodplain, a narrow belt of acacia woodland is the favored haunt of Manyara’s legendary tree-climbing lions and impressively tusked elephants. Squadrons of banded mongoose dart between the acacias, while the diminutive kirk’s dik-dik forages in their shade. Pairs of klipspringer are often seen silhouetted on the rocks above a field of searing hot springs that steams and bubbles adjacent to the lakeshore in the far south of the park.

Manyara provides the perfect introduction to Tanzania’s birdlife. More than 400 species have been recorded, and even a first-time visitor to Africa might reasonably expect to pink-hued flamingos on their perpetual migration, as well as other large waterbirds such as pelicans, cormorants and storks.

Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro has over 20,000 large animals including some of Tanzania’s last remaining black rhino, protected within its rim. This crater is also known as ‘the eight wonders of the world’, this heritage center harbors the most gorgeous wildlife Shangri-La on earth. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) covers some 8,300 square kilometres.

Nearly three million years ago Ngorongoro space needled parallel to Mount Kilimanjaro as one of the highest peaks in Africa. Later it tramped down during the turbulent birth of the Rift Valley, its volcanic top erupted at the time that ancient man first walked the plains.

Rifts and volcanoes shape the landscape of Ngorongoro and also cause lava or melted rock to penetrate to the surface where it hardens. If lava emerges from the same penetration for a long period, it builds up into a volcano.

In the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the main rifts are north of Lake Eyasi and east of Lakes Manyara and Lake Natron, where the nine volcanoes of Ngorongoro highlands were formed during the past four million years. Of these, only volcano Oldonyo Lengai is still active. The ash and dust from the eruptions was carried by the wind to form the fertile soils of the Serengeti plains.

Ngorongoro is also a pioneering experiment in multiple land use because it boasts the finest blend of landscapes, wildlife, people and archaeological sites in Africa. The concept of multiple land use in conservation perspective is a deviation from a traditional approach of regarding conservation as complete absenteeism of human interference.

The park’s Wildlife
Today, Ngorongoro’s caldera harbors the most ravishing wildlife haven on earth. They are not confined by the Crater walls, and can leave freely; they stay because conditions are favorable. Since most of the Crater floor is grassland, grazing animals predominate: gnu, zebra, gazelles, buffalo, eland and kongoni (Coke’s hartebeest) and warthogs. The rich pasture and permanent water of the Crater floor supports a resident population of some 20,000 to 25,000 large mammals. The swamp and forest provide additional resources for hippos, some of Tanzania’s last remaining black rhinos, waterbucks, giant-tusked elephants, reedbucks and baboons, bushbucks, and vervets. The steep inner slopes provide a habitat for dikdiks and the rare mountain reedbuck. Towering euphorbias adhere to the crater walls and on the floor. Fever tree and Fig tree forests give shade to an awe-inspiring array of creatures. All these animals in turn support large predators such as Lion and Leopard, and scavengers such as Hyena and Jackals.

For the best viewing and photography, approach the animals slowly and quietly and stay on the official tracks.

Birdlife
Bird life safaris at Ngorongoro depends intensely on the season of the year, because there are inhabitant birds and migrant birds. You are certain to see many residents, like ostriches, bustards and plovers all year round. In wet season they share the Crater with European migrants such as White Storks, swallows, Yellow Wagtails, etc. The migrants pass through from November through May, coinciding with the rains in Africa and the winter in Eurasia. There are also local migrants such as flamingos, storks and ducks which come and go depending on the state of the lake and ponds. Other birds you can see are Stonechat, Schalow’s Wheatear, Anteater Chat, Fiscal Shrike. Augur Buzzards, Verreaux’s Eagle and other raptors live in the Crater.

Ngorongoro safari lodges are established on the rim of the crater, which is 2,235 metres (7,264 feet) above sea level. It can get quite fresh up here, and gets very cold at night in the winter months of June to August, but is opposingly hot down in the crater during the day.

Rainy Season
It rains anytime from November to May, with the longer rains in April to May. The amount and pattern of rainfall varies and a dry period in January and February may split the rainy season into short and long rains. The forested eastern slopes get much more rain due to their elevation than the arid country to the west. The rain arrives in stormy showers usually during afternoons and nights, which cleanses the air to reveal clear views. The weather is usually dry from June to November. July is the coldest month and highland temperatures may fall below freezing.

The Ngorongoro Crater Floor
Interpretive game drives through the emerald plains and forests of the crater floor engender guests with a respect for the people and wildlife of this world wonder. The dominant feature of the crater floor is Lake Magadi, a shallow soda lake that supports large flocks of flamingo. Much of the crater floor is open grassland, making animal spotting relatively easy: black rhino, lion, wildebeest hyena, gazelle, and zebra are all commonly seen. Lodges and hotels around the Ngorongoro Crater .A sheer dirt road descends from Malanja Depression on the crater rim to the crater floor. At the top of the road, Masai women and children allow you to photograph them for a small fee. The hippo pool near Mandusi Swamp is a popular picnic spot. The Malanja depression is grassy open and is a good place to spot typical highland antelope such as mountain reedbuck and Kirks, dik-dik, and birds such as the striking auger buzzard and Schalows.

Serengeti National Park

A million wildebeest each driven by the same ancient rhythm, fulfilling their instinctive role in the inescapable cycle of life: a frenzied 3 week bout of territorial conquests and mating; survival of the fittest as 40 kilometre long columns plunge through crocodile infested waters on the annual exodus north; replenishing the species in a brief population explosion that produces more than 8000 calves a day before the 1000 kilometre pilgrimage beings again.

More than 6 million hooves pound the legendary plains of the Serengeti. Every year, triggered by the rains, more than a million Wildebeest, 200,000 Zebra and 300,000 Thomson Gazelle gather to undertake the long trek to new grazing lands. Tanzania first and most famous park, the Serengeti, is renowned for its wealth of Leopard and Lion.

The vast reaches of the park help the Black Rhino to fight extinction and provide a protected breeding ground for the vulnerable Cheetah. Witness predator versus prey and the fundamental interdependence of the Serengeti abundant species, from more than 500 varieties of bird to 100 types of dung beetle. The Serengeti is a sense of seeing to the ends of the earth, the sun burnt savannah shimmering to the horizon. Yet, after the rains this golden horizon is magically transformed into an endless green carpet flecked with wildflowers.

But there are also wooded hills towering termite mounds and rocky kopjes, rivers lined with elegant stand of Fig trees, Ebony and Acacia, stained orange by dust. It is so vast you may be the only human audience when a pride of Lions masterminds a siege, focused unswervingly on their next meal.

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