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    The ultimate guide to National Parks in Tanzania

    11 minutes read
    11 minutes read
    guide to national park in tanzania

    Tanzania is a safari destination that requires zero introduction. Its name is synonymous with iconic red African sunsets, enchanting natural landmarks, and the greatest wildlife show on earth – The Great Migration.

    And while going on safari in Tanzania holds a firm spot on most people’s bucket lists, there is one small problem…

    You’re spoiled for choice in Tanzania. With 19 national parks and each one offering a unique and spectacular safari experience, it begs the question, how do you choose?

    Keep reading for a full breakdown of the best national parks in Tanzania and what you can expect from each one.

    Tanzania Northern Circuit National Parks

    National parks

    The Tanzania Northern Circuit National Parks are some of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa. The Serengeti is world-famous for its annual migration of millions of animals, while Ngorongoro Crater is home to a large number of rare and endangered species. Lake Manyara National Park is known for its lush vegetation and stunning views.

    If you’re looking to experience some of the best wildlife viewing Africa has to offer, be sure to visit the Tanzania Northern Circuit National Parks!

    Serengeti National Park

    Tanzania - serengeti national park 2 - the ultimate guide to national parks in tanzania

    Serengeti National Park is the type of place where you’d expect to find truckloads of Lion King enthusiasts.

    Just one look at the savannah, and you can almost hear the opening lines of Circle of Life “Nants ingonyama bagithi baba!” in the distance.

    Home of the Great Wildebeest Migration, it’s the stage of the greatest wildlife show on earth and one of Tanzania’s top attractions.

    1. Serengeti National Park highlights

    • Great Wildebeest Migration
    • Incredible Big Cat and predator action
    • One of the cheapest national parks in Tanzania

    2. Serengeti National Park facts

    • Entrance Fee: $70 USD for non-East African citizens
    • Best Time to Visit: June to October and January to February for the migration.
    • Common Wildlife Sightings: Lion, cheetah, leopard, wildebeest, elephant, zebra, eland, giraffe.
    • Nearby Attractions: Ngorongoro Conservation Center, Maasai Tribes, Tarangire National Park

    Ngorongoro Conservation Area

    Tanzania - ngorongoro national park - the ultimate guide to national parks in tanzania

    Want to see the Big 5 in one day? Head to the Ngorongoro Crater along the Eastern Great Rift Valley.

    Formed millions of years ago, the extinct volcanic caldera is one of Tanzania’s best safari destinations. The crater walls are 400 to 600 meters high and have created a unique environment for flora and fauna to thrive with little human intervention.

    Here you’ll find the endangered black rhino, predators, and almost every other animal you would want to see on a game drive.

    1. Ngorongoro Crater highlights

    • Big 5
    • Black rhino sightings
    • Maasai villages

    2. Ngorongoro Crater facts

    • Entrance Fee: $60 USD for non-East African citizens
    • Best Time to Visit: June to October for wildlife sights and November to May for birding.
    • Common Wildlife Sightings: Black rhino, wildebeest, elephant, cheetah, lion, hyena, leopard, zebra, bat-eared fox
    • Nearby Attractions: Serengeti National Park, Mount Kilimanjaro

    Kilimanjaro National Park

    Tanzania - kilimanjaro national park - the ultimate guide to national parks in tanzania

    West Kilimanjaro is famous for its luxuriant coffee plantations that produce some of the finest Arabica coffee in the world. Take a tour of these plantations and delve into the process of coffee cultivation, from bean to cup.

    With a gentle climb to the summit, it’s the easiest of the Seven Summits to summit. The biggest challenge for hikers? The high altitude. 

    If you want to go only some of the way to the top, you can go on day or multi-day hikes on the slopes or visit the magnificent Chala crater lake.

    1. Mount Kilimanjaro National Park highlights

    • Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro
    • Trout fishing
    • Day and overnight hikes on the Shiru plateau
    • Chala crater lake

    2. Mount Kilimanjaro National Park facts

    • Entrance Fee: $70 USD for non-East African citizens
    • Best Time to Visit: December to mid-March and mid-June to the end of October.
    • Common Wildlife Sightings: Elephant, leopard, buffalo, Abbot’s duiker, and other small antelope and primates.
    • Nearby Attractions: Mount Kilimanjaro, Arusha National Park

    Lake Manyara National Park

    Tanzania - lake manyara national park - the ultimate guide to national parks in tanzania

    Lake Manyara National Park is the perfect place to start your Tanzania safari experience. Located en route from Arusha to Ngorongoro, it’s less densely populated than the Serengeti but sets the scene for some of Tanzania’s unique wildlife experiences.

    Come here for a game drive, and you might catch a glimpse of the park’s famous tree-climbing lions or experience a close encounter with the vast herds of elephants that roam the plains.

    At the shores of its Rift Valley soda lake, you’ll find flocks of pink flamingos, more than 400 species of birds, and large herds of buffalo, Masai giraffe, and impala.

    1. Lake Manyara National Park highlights

    • Tree-climbing lions
    • Large herds of elephants
    • Maji Moto hot springs
    • Night safaris and trekking
    • 400 species of birds
    • 45-minutes from Ngororongo

    2. Lake Manyara National Park facts

    • Entrance Fee: $50 USD for non-East African citizens
    • Best Time to Visit: June to October or for a more affordable safari November to May
    • Common Wildlife Sightings: Elephant, lion, baboons, zebra, klipspringer, flamingo, wildebeest, giraffe, blue monkey
    • Nearby Attractions: Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Centre

    Arusha National Park

    Tanzania - arusha national park - the ultimate guide to national parks in tanzania

    Arusha National Park is a fantastic safari destination for climbers heading to Mount Kilimanjaro. It’s an easy 40-minute drive from Arusha and only 30 minutes from Kilimanjaro International Airport.

    Due to its small size, you can see the three main areas with a half-day trip, making it ideal for travelers who want to combine trekking with a game drive.

    Some of the park’s most impressive sights include Tanzania’s second-highest mountain, Mount Meru, the 3km Ngurdoto Crater, and the seven alkaline lakes.

    1. Arusha National Park highlights

    • A 40-minute drive from Arusha
    • Mount Meru
    • Ngurdoto Crater
    • Momela Lakes
    • Walking and canoeing safaris

    2. Arusha National Park facts

    • Entrance Fee: $50 USD for non-East African citizens
    • Best Time to Visit: June to October for game viewing and November to March for impressive scenery and birds.
    • Common Wildlife Sightings: colobus monkey, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, dik-dik, blue monkey, duiker, flamingo
    • Nearby Attractions: Mount Kilimanjaro, Arusha

    Tarangire National Park

    Tanzania - tarangire national park - the ultimate guide to national parks in tanzania

    For an off-the-beaten-track adventure, add Tarangire National Park to your Tanzania itinerary. This lesser-known game reserve can give the Serengeti a run for its money.

    Its borders are home to a great density of wildlife, and it’s a must-visit for travelers who want to encounter more animals with fewer tourists. Besides the incredible diversity, Tarangire is a landscape photographer’s dream. 

    With many baobab trees and seemingly never-ending marshlands, you may need help leaving.

    1. Tarangire National Park highlights

    • Elephant and bird sightings
    • Night and walking safaris
    • Concentrated wildlife sightings in the dry season
    • Safari hot air balloon rides

    2. Tarangire National Park facts

    • Entrance Fee: $50 USD for non-East African citizens
    • Best Time to Visit: June to October
    • Common Wildlife Sightings: Lions, elephant, leopard, impala, gazelle, cheetah, wildebeest, giraffe, buffalo
    • Nearby Attractions: Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Centre, Arusha, Lake Manyara

    Tanzania Southern Circuit National Parks

    Tanzania - tanzania southern circuit national parks - the ultimate guide to national parks in tanzania

    Tanzania has some of the finest national parks in Africa. If planning a safari to Tanzania, you’ll want to include at least one or two of these world-famous parks.

    The Southern Circuit of Tanzania’s national parks includes some of the world’s most iconic and popular safari destinations.

    Nyerere National Park (Selous Game Reserve)

    Tanzania - nyerere national park formerly known as selous game reserve in june - the ultimate guide to national parks in tanzania

    Nyerere National Park (formerly Selous Game Reserve) is a secluded gem worth visiting. This undisturbed wilderness is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and holds the title of Africa’s largest national park.

    If that’s not enough to pique your interest, the park’s annual elephant migration will seal the deal. Hop into a boat, and you can watch thousands of elephants make their way across the river.

    1. Nyerere National Park highlights

    • Walking safaris and trekking
    • Wild dog sightings
    • Elephant migration boat safaris

    2. Nyerere National Park facts

    • Entrance Fee: $70 USD for non-East African citizens
    • Best Time to Visit: June to October for game sightings and November to March for birds.
    • Common Wildlife Sightings: Elephant, wild dog, sable, kudu, waterbuck, hippo, crocodile
    • Nearby Attractions: Zanzibar, Dar Es Salam

    Ruaha National Park

    Tanzania - ruaha nationa park - the ultimate guide to national parks in tanzania

    At 12,226 square kilometers, Ruaha National Park is the second-largest park in Tanzania. Its pristine natural beauty offers travelers glimpses of ancient baobab trees, dramatic landscapes, and the Great Ruaha River.

    Despite boasting over 10,000 elephants, the world’s third-largest wild dog population, and numerous lions and leopards, it’s Tanzania’s best-kept safari secret. You won’t find huge crowds at Ruaha, even during the high season, and it’s cheaper than more popular parks like Serengeti.

    1. National Park highlights

    • Wild dog, leopard, and hyena sightings
    • 570 bird species
    • One of the largest elephant populations in Tanzania
    • Walking safaris
    • Nyanywa rock paintings

    2. Ruaha National Park facts

    • Entrance Fee: $30 USD for non-East African citizens
    • Best Time to Visit: June to October for game sightings. November to December and March to May for birding.
    • Common Wildlife Sightings: Jackals, cheetahs, hyenas, elephant, lions, waterbuck, sable, kudu, giraffe, zebra, leopard, wild dogs
    • Nearby Attractions: Zanzibar, Dar Es Salam

    Mikumi National Park

    Tanzania - mikumi national park - the ultimate guide to national parks in tanzania

    Do you need more time in Tanzania but still want an exceptional safari experience? Head to Mikumi National Park. It’s the most accessible game reserve from Dar Es Salaam and is Tanzania’s fourth-largest park.

    With the Rubeho Mountains to the northwest and the Lumango Mountains to the southeast, you can find a plethora of wildlife like lions, zebras, leopards, wild dogs, and buffaloes. And with such a high-density gathering around the Mkata Floodplain, you’re likely to tick off each species with only a short time in the park.

    1. Mikumi National Park highlights

    • Walking safaris
    • En-route to Nyerere National Park
    • Mkata Floodplain
    • Only a 6-hour drive from Dar Es Salaam

    2. Mikumi National Park facts

    • Entrance Fee: $30 USD for non-East African citizens.
    • Best Time to Visit: All year-round with the best game viewing between June and October.
    • Common Wildlife Sightings: Hippo, zebra, giraffe, elephant, impala, wildebeest, hyena, buffalo, lion.
    • Nearby Attractions: Zanzibar, Nyerere National Park, Dar Es Salaam.

    Western & Central Tanzania National Parks

    Tanzania - central tanzania nationa parks - the ultimate guide to national parks in tanzania

    Tanzania is a land of outstanding natural beauty and diversity. The country’s vastness is home to an incredible array of wildlife, from the majestic lions and elephants to the tiny dik-dik antelope.

    Tanzania’s national parks offer some of Africa’s best game viewing opportunities. The Western and Central National Parks include Gombe, Mahale, and Katavi, to name a few.

    Each park has its unique charm and is home to various wildlife.

    Mahale Mountains National Park

    Tanzania - mahale mountains national park - the ultimate guide to national parks in tanzania

    Mahale Mountains National Park is an excellent destination in Tanzania for chimpanzee safaris. Set amongst the slopes of the Mahale Mountains, it’s famous for its sunsets over Lake Tanganyika (the second oldest freshwater lake in the world) and its diverse habitats of rainforest, grasslands, alpine bamboo, and woodlands.

    Due to its remote setting, the best way to visit the park is to fly in and combine your visit with Katavi National Park.

    1. Mahale Mountains National Park highlights

    • Chimpanzee safaris
    • Kayaking
    • Lake Tanganyika’s untouched beaches
    • Tanzania’s densest population of primates

    2. Mahale Mountains National Park facts

    • Entrance Fee: $80 USD for non-East African citizens.
    • Best Time to Visit: June to October
    • Common Wildlife Sightings: Chimpanzee, red colobus monkey, red-tailed monkey, blue monkey, warthog, hippo, crocodile.
    • Nearby Attractions: Katavi National Park

    Gombe Stream National Park

    Tanzania - gombe stream national park - the ultimate guide to national parks in tanzania

    On the shores of Lake Tanganyika, you’ll find Tanzania’s smallest national park, Gombe Stream. Sitting on the remote western safari circuit, Gombe is seldom visited due to its access by flight or boat only.

    For those who make an effort, it’s one of three places in Tanzania where you can see chimpanzees. But its biggest claim to fame is Jane Goodall. The park is where she completed her groundbreaking chimpanzee research, which is still going on today.

    1. Gombe Stream National Park highlights

    • Jane Goodall’s research
    • Chimpanzees
    • Hiking
    • Rare forest flora

    2. Gombe Stream National Park facts

    • Entrance Fee: $100 USD for non-East African citizens
    • Best Time to Visit: June to September
    • Common Wildlife Sightings: Chimpanzee, baboon, red colobus monkey, leopard, bushbuck, verve monkey
    • Nearby Attractions: Mahale Mountains National Park

    Katavi National Park

    Tanzania - katavi national park - the ultimate guide to national parks in tanzania

    Katavi National Park is a remote, untouched paradise in Western Tanzania. Getting here is a mission, but for those who make it to the home of the largest herds of buffalo in the world, you’ll have a secluded safari experience where you’re more likely to see a predator than another human.

    One of the unique things to do in Katavi is visiting the legendary tamarind tree. Local legend says it houses the spirit of Katabi, a great huntsman.

    1. Katavi National Park highlights

    • Tamarind tree
    • Game drives and walking safaris
    • Fly camping
    • Hardly any other travelers

    2. Katavi National Park facts

    • Entrance Fee: $30 USD for non-East African citizens
    • Best Time to Visit: June to October
    • Common Wildlife Sightings: Eland, sable, roan antelope, hippo, buffalo, giraffe, impala, zebra, elephant, lion, leopard.
    • Nearby Attractions: Ruaha National Park, Mahale Mountains National Park

    Ready to book your Tanzania safari?

    Now that you know some of the best Tanzania national parks offer, booking your safari holiday is the next step. Please speak to our Tanzania safari experts and curate your dream Tanzania itinerary.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1.What is the best time of year to visit Tanzania's national parks?

    The best moment to visit Tanzania’s national parks widely depends on your interests and the specific parks you plan to visit. Generally, the dry season from June to October is ideal for wildlife viewing as animals are easier to spot near watering holes. 

    However, for birding enthusiasts, the wet season from November to June offers a chance to see migratory bird species. For those hoping to catch the Great Wildebeest Migration, visiting the Serengeti between January and February or from June to July is best.

    2. Which Tanzanian National Park is the best for wildlife spotting?

    While Tanzania’s national parks offer enriching wildlife experiences, the Serengeti National Park is often ranked the best for wildlife spotting. It is renowned for its unmatchable ecological value and is home to the legendary Great Wildebeest Migration. 

    Additionally, it hosts a stunning array of wildlife, including lions, elephants, giraffes, and zebras. However, each park hosts unique ecosystems and species, making exploring every park worthwhile.

    3. Are there any safety guidelines for visiting the national parks?

    All visitors to Tanzania’s national parks must follow specific safety guidelines. These primarily include maintaining a safe distance from wildlife, not venturing out after dark without a guide, not feeding animals, and ensuring not to leave any trash behind. 

    It is crucial to remember that these parks are natural habitats for various species. Also, we must respect the wildlife and the park rules to ensure a pleasant and safe visit.

    4. Are there any safety guidelines for visiting the national parks?

    Tanzania’s national parks offer many activities, such as game drives, bird watching, hiking, hot air ballooning, and cultural tours. Unique experiences like chimpanzee trekking can also be found in parks like Gombe Stream National Park. 

    Various parks offer walking and night safaris, allowing tourists to see nocturnal creatures and enjoy the sounds of wildlife under the guidance of professional rangers.

    5. Do I need to pay any fees to visit these parks?

    Visitors have an entrance fee, contributing to these parks’ management and conservation efforts. Fees vary depending on the park and whether you’re a domestic or foreign visitor. 

    Discounts are often available for children. Conducting specific activities such as safaris or hikes may incur additional charges.

    6. Are the national parks in Tanzania accessible year-round?

    While most Tanzanian national parks are open throughout the year, accessibility and wildlife sightings can vary depending on the season and local weather conditions. Some roads might be impassable during the rainy season, and certain parks may close temporarily. It is always better to check seasonal changes and park accessibility while planning your trip.

    7. Is camping allowed in Tanzania's national parks?

    While most Tanzanian national parks are open throughout the year, accessibility and wildlife sightings can vary depending on the season and local weather conditions. Some roads might be impassable during the rainy season, and certain parks may close temporarily. It is always better to check seasonal changes and park accessibility while planning your trip.

    Many of Tanzania’s national parks offer dedicated camping sites to immerse yourself in the wilderness under the stars. These range from basic campgrounds to luxury “glamping” tents outfitted with modern amenities. Camping in the heart of these fantastic parks gives a remarkable chance to connect with nature uniquely and intimately.

    Musaddiq Gulamhussein - Owner - Easy Travel Tanzania

    About the author: Musaddiq

    Meet Musaddiq Gulamhussein, owner of Easy Travel Tanzania, a tour company creating life-changing safari experiences for over 35 years. Musaddiq has explored Tanzania, developing a deep understanding of the local cultures and traditions. Follow his journey and gain insights into the African Safari experience through Easy Travel's social media and blog.

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