Outdoors Information

Tanzania Safari Top Five National Parks and Game Reserves

Ask about perfect wildlife destinations and a Tanzania safari will be at or near the top of the list every time.

But what about the national parks and game reserves within the country itself? Which are the best to visit because they can't all be equally good.

Well, the top five list below provides the answers to that. It's been set up by using objective travel diaries at the African Safari Journals website, my twenty years of safari experience, forums, travel magazines and general consensus within the safari industry...

1. Serengeti NP

One of the best safari parks in Africa bar none. The wildlife viewing on a Tanzania safari here often borders on the spectacular aided by the fact that the vegetation is predominantly grassland which makes spotting animals from a distance considerably easier.

The grassland is also able to sustain a multitude of herbivores like wildebeest, zebra and gazelle which in turn sustains a large population of predators to feed on them so it's no surprise that the Serengeti is often referred to as "big cat central". In the Masaai language Serengeti means "endless plain" which is very close to the truth.

Two extraordinary events occur here that make it an even more remarkable place to take a tanzania safari. The annual wildebeest migration and the birth of hundreds of thousands of wildebeest foals.

The migration occurs as the massive herds of up to a million individuals begin their search for better grazing by moving north. The exact timing is dependant on the seasonal rains but they travel across the Serengeti en masse roughly between April and August.

In February - March, months before they begin their epic journey, the wildebeest give birth within a six week period to hundreds of thousands of calves, taking advantage of the sweet grazing available in the Serengeti at that time.

They all foal at the same time to cause a glut of prey opportunities for the predators who make full use of the bonanza while they can.

2. Ngorongoro Conservation Area

To call the Ngorongoro Crater amazing would be an understatement as it ranks as one of the wonders of the natural world because it is so unique.

Formerly a mountain which stood as tall as Kilimanjaro it blew up in a volcanic upheaval causing the crater floor to sink and form the largest intact caldera in the world with walls 2200 metres high.

Once it had cooled the rich pasture and permanent water on the crater floor began to attract wildlife and today around 30 000 individuals populate this garden of Eden forming the most densely crowded game area in the world.

Here you will find a population of Tanzania's few remaining black rhinos and a healthy collection of predators like lion, cheetah and the odd leopard and of course the ubiquitous wildebeest, zebra and Thompson's gazelle.

What you won't find are herds of elephant because they tend to prefer the forested highlands but the bulls do sometimes venture to the crater floor. Also absent are giraffe who like the acacia trees found higher up and impala, orynx and topi that favour the grassland plains of the Serengeti.

Lake Magadi is an irresistible attraction to water birds like flamingos, avocets, stilts and plovers which throng the shallows of this soda lake. an excellent destination for any Tanzania safari.

3. Tarangire NP

This park is all about solitude, peace, quiet and elephants. There are vast herds of the pachyderms here sometimes numbering up to six hundred and also some really big buffalo herds.

There are less tourists on a Tanzania safari here because many of them stick to the Serengeti, Ngorongoro circuit to the north which is their loss because the Tarangire National Park is a gem if you visit at the right time.

The dry season from June to September is the best for wildlife viewing because that is when thousands of animals congregate to drink the waters of the Tarangire river while they tend to disperse during the wet season because there is water elsewhere.

The birdlife here is also exceptional with over 550 species recorded. Your chances of spotting python seem to more than even for some or other reason maybe because they have taken to climbing the trees in the area.

Panoramic views of savannah grassland punctuated by acacia and baobab trees make this an extremely picturesque park. Avoid it during the months of April and May which is when the heavy rains fall.

4. Lake Manyara NP

Ask anyone who has been on a Tanzania safari to Lake Manyara and they will probably tell you about the amazing tree climbing lions who choose to sleep off the heat of the day on a branch rather then on the ground like other lions.

Also the amazing birdlife that can be found around this lake like cormorants, pelicans, storks, egyptian geese, flamingos and huge flocks of quelea.

The well known environmental writer Duncan Butchart recommends that "if a first-time bird watcher to Africa visit only a single reserve in Tanzania, then this surely must be it".

You will also find some rarer species here like the Olive baboon and Sykes monkey troops that lord it over the forest and also all the usual suspect like elephant, crocodile, hippo, buffalo, antelope and leopard.

5. Ruaha NP

This park is one of Tanzania's best kept secrets and if the old tanzania safari hands could have their own way that's the way it would stay so that they could keep its seclusion and isolation all to themselves.

But the secret is out and more and more people are visiting the countries second largest national park to immerse themselves in the varied landscape of wild fig and baobab trees and the excellent wildlife spotting opportunities most notably of packs of wild dog.

Ruaha also has a number of fearsome lion prides capable of reducing a large male buffalo to a skeleton in a few hours and an impressive tally of antelope species: Grants gazelle and Lesser Kudu at the south of their ranges and sable, roan and greater kudu to name a few.

Your chances of seeing elephant on a Tanzania safari here are excellent as there are more than 12 000 of them resident here and for the birders there are a high number of resident and migratory species available to see.

The Top Three Tanzania safari companies list was compiled using trip reports and ranks the best operators available for a wildlife trip to Tanzania.

You can pick up safari Tanzania tips, advice and recommendations in these trip reports written by people who have been on safari in Tanzania before.

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