Northern Tanzania Game Parks

Serengeti National Park

Serengeti National park is undoubtedly the best- known wildlife sanctuary in the world, unequalled for its natural beauty and scientific value. Within its boundaries are more than 3 million large mammals living in total freedom on the "endless" plains (as Serengeti means in Maasai language) dotted with rock outcrops, patches of Acacia bush forest and seasonal small rivers.

About 35 species of plains animals can be observed here including the "big five" elephant, rhino, lion (more than 2000 of them), leopard and buffalo and huge herds of wildebeest, gazelle and zebra which in late May or early June, depending on the weather, being their spectacular migration from the central Serengeti plains to the permanent water sources in the west and north of the park. Lines and columns of wildebeest up to 40 kms long have been observed.

The main attraction of the Serengeti is the annual wildebeest migration. During the wet season between March and May, the wildebeest are scattered over the southern plains, but when the rains end, the animals form massive herds and move north by the thousands in search of fresh grass. At the end of August, they cross the Mara River into the Masaai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.

The river crossing is a mad rush, during which hundreds of animals are drowned, trampled or eaten by Crocodiles who calmly wait for there pray to arrive, perfectly timing for a whole season harvest. This is the wildest dramatic scenarios to be witnessed in 'Siringet' as it's known to the Masaai. In November, they move to the south again in time to give birth at the start of the rainy season in the Siringet.

At the tail end of the procession, come the crippled and those too old to keep up. Lions, cheetah, hyenas and hunting dogs follow the migration, making sure that only the fittest survive, while vultures, circling overhead, wait patiently to scavenge.

Other common species found in the Serengeti include hippo, giraffe, eland impala, waterbuck, klipsringer, grant's and Thomson's gazelles, baboon, velvet and patas monkeys, warthog, topi, hyraxes, hartebeest, jackals and foxes and a rich selection of bird life. Nearly 500 species of birds have been recorded in the park, some of which are Eurasian migrants which are present in the park from October to April. Crocodiles can be observed in the rivers traversing the park.

Ngorongoro Crater

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area encompasses the volcanic area around the Ngorongoro Crater, including the still active volcano of Ol'doinyo Lenkai (Lengai) and the famous Oldupai Gorge. The Ngorongoro has an area of 8300 square km. Its centerpiece, the Ngorongoro crater, is the largest intact, unfolded caldera in the world and is considered the as one of the eight wonders of the world. A 610 meters (2,001 feet) descent brings you to the 12 mile-wide (260 square km) floor of the Crater, home of the largest permanent concentration of wildlife in Africa. It sustain over 300 birds up to 25,000 large mammals including lion and elephant. It is of the areas on the continent for viewing the endangered black rhino.

OTHER SITES TO EXPLORE WITHIN NCA

OLMOTI AND EMBAKAAI CRATERS: The rim of Olmoti Crater is at 3700 meters but the crater itself is rather shallow. Olmoti Crater is home to bushbuck, eland and occasional buffalo, Maasai and their livestock.

Water flows across the crater to the south part into a relatively small but splendid waterfall known as Munge. Both craters are reachable on foot, but visitors must be accompanied by armed guides.

SHIFTING SAND: This extraordinary black dune which is composed of volcanic ash from Ol'doinyo Lenkai is blown slowly westwards across the plains at the rate of approximately 100 meters in six years.

LAKE NATRON: Lake Natron is located out side NCA to the north-east, and is the biggest breeding ground in East Africa for flamingos. The lake is typically alkaline and it is a main source of food for flamingos.

Lake Manyara National Park
Lake Manyara often receives the hard sell - with promises of trees stuffed full of lions or elephants that are personal friends, but, while both of these are possible, it's actually somewhere that benefits much more from a quiet contemplative approach for which time, and a visit to the far south of the park is necessary. Lake Manyara National Park is scenically stunning, dramatically located under the sheer wall of the Rift Valley escarpment, with good populations of game including lots of elephant, lion and buffalo to mention just some. Lying about 60 miles west of Arusha, just south of the Ngorongoro Highlands this is a thin strip of land sandwiched between the Rift wall and the lake itself.

Wonderfully diverse with evergreen forest, escarpment, acacia woodland and lake shore, the location of Lake Manyara, in particular the northern section, means it is perfectly placed for a short visit en route to or from the Ngorongoro Crater and Highlands or the Serengeti National Park. As somewhere you can see a large variety of mammal and bird species quickly and closely, its a good starting point for any northern safari - particularly for children, the very impatient or the short sighted. It's also one of the few parks where it's possible to make night game drives and spot a variety of nocturnal species that otherwise remain unseen.

Manyara Escarpment
50 miles or so west of Arusha, at the northern end of Lake Manyara, you reach the edge of the Great Rift Valley that runs the length of the continent. This is a geological feature on a major scale; a virtual cliff that rises up some 1000ft out of the floor of the rift valley. A number of the lodges close to Lake Manyara are located close to edge of the Escarpment and consequently have truly spectacular views, either of Lake Manyara itself or of Lossimigor Volcano (dormant) and the surrounding landscape. This is one of the few places you are likely to see eagles and vultures soaring below you which makes a change.

Tarangire National Park
The park is a three-hour drive from Arusha and is the fourth-largest national park in Tanzania. The park is named after the River Tarangire. It covers an area of 2,600 square kilometers . Tarangire has open acacia woodland, open bush, swamps, rivers and plains with scattered baobab trees. The baobabs grow in arid, semi-arid and sub-humid tropical climates and hold up to 300 litre of water. Tarangire has a large population of elephants and is also famous for its tree-climbing pythons. Other animals that live the park include spotted hyena, cheetah, lion, leopard, Maasai giraffe, impala, Grant's gazelle, lesser kudu, African buffalo, eland, bushbuck among others.

Arusha National Park
Arusha Park is just a few kilometres north east of Arusha and has a rich variety of wildlife, despite the small size of the park. Having climbed through bustling villages and even a massive new Tanzanian university, you hardly have to get beyond the Parks bright new entrance gate before you're overlooking 'Little Serengeti' which is well worth a scan. With a high chance of seeing herds of buffalo, zebra, the odd giraffe and great bird life, it's an inspiring start to any safari.

You soon move into Montana forest inhabited by inquisitive blue monkeys and the only place on the northern safari circuit where the acrobatic black-and-white colobus monkey is easily seen. In fact having been made into stars by a classic Hugo van Lawick film, they are almost falling over themselves to get in front of your camera.

In the midst of the forest stands the spectacular Ngurdoto Crater, whose steep, rocky cliffs enclose a wide marshy floor dotted with herds of buffalo and warthog. Further north, you can see rolling grassy hills which encompass the stunning Momela Lakes, each one a different hue of green or blue. Here you are likely to see thousands of flamingos, as well as a selection of resident and migrant waterfowl. There is also the chance to canoe these lakes, if organised in advance and devoting enough time to avoid rushing things. This grassy area provides good grazing for herds of Zebra and you often encounter amazingly relaxed Giraffes nibbling at the odd thorn bush. Although elephants are uncommon in Arusha National Park, and lions absent altogether, leopards and spotted hyenas can often be seen in the early morning or early evenings.

This small park is dominated by Mount Meru and even if you aren't climbing it yourself, its well worth taking some time to explore its lower slopes by vehicle, foot or a combination of both. Covered in an almost mystical cloud forest, with huge Juniper & Nuxia, Olive & Fig trees galore, its open veils and cascading streams offer chance encounters with forest game including Bushbuck, Red Duiker and Warthog as well as more Colobus Monkey if you are lucky. If you have time, which normally means staying in or very near the Park, you can walk within the Crater itself, close to the central ash cone, dominated by the sheer 2000ft cliff rising up to the summit.

Mkomazi National Park
Set below the verdant slopes of the spectacular Usambara and Pare Eastern Arc Mountain ranges and overseen by iconic snow – capped peak of Kilimanjaro, Mkomazi a virgin breathtaking beauty exhibiting unique natural treasures and immense sense of space - adds to the fulfillment of high visitor enjoyment expectations – a much needed bridge between northern circuit and coastal attractions.

Everyday, thousands of people pass within a few kilometers of Mkomazi on one of Tanzania’s busiest highways. These and northern circuit safari – goers are now most welcome to discover the treasures of this wedge of hilly semi – arid savannah – home of large herds of giraffe, eland, hartebeest, zebra, buffalo and elephant.

Mkomazi is vital refuge for two highly endangered species, the charismatic black rhino and sociable African wild dog, both of which were successfully reintroduced in the 1990s. Nomadic by nature, wild dog might be seen almost anywhere in the park, but black rhino are restricted to a fenced sanctuary, ensuring their safe keeping for future generations enjoyment and prosperity.

Mkomazi supports several dry – country specialists species that are rare elsewhere in Tanzania; these include the spectacular fringe – eared oryx, with its long back – sweeping horns, and the handsome spiral – horned lesser kudu. Oddest of all is the gerenuk, a gazelle distinguished by its slender neck, bizarre alien – like head, and habit of standing tall on its hind legs stretch for acacia leaves that other browsers cannot reach.

A game reserve since 1951, this new National Park takes its name from Pare tribe’s word for “scoop of water”, referring to little water. It is a fantastic destination for birdwatchers, with more than 450 avian species recorded, among them dry – country endemics such as the cobalt – chested vulturine guineafowl, other large ground birds such as ostrich, kori bustard, secretary bird, ground hornbill and some migratory species including Eurasian roller.