Tanzania is most well-known for the vast, magnificent Serengeti. Being one of the best wildlife parks in the world, it has an incredible variety and abundance of animals, including elephants, lions, giraffe, hippo, leopard, cheetah, rhino, monkeys, buffalo, hyena, jackal, hundreds of bird species, and more. It is also home to the Great Migration, the annual mass migration of millions of wildebeest and zebra. In pursuit of nutritious grasses, they circle from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara, and back again, making dangerous river crossings along the way.
Other parks include the Ngorongoro Crater, an ancient caldera full of animals, Tarangire, well known for its large elephant population and magnificent baobab trees, Nyerere (Selous), and Ruaha for truly wild experiences, and Mahale, for encounters with habituated chimpanzees. Visitors coming to Tanzania for their dream safari are never disappointed.
But Tanzania is not just a wildlife destination. There is also Mt. Kilimanjaro – Africa’s highest mountain, and the beautiful, exotic island of Zanzibar, with its turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean as well as Stone Town’s fascinating culture and history.
Some would say Tanzania really does have it all.
Regions of Tanzania
Serengeti National Park
Serengeti National Park is one of the most iconic safari destinations and unquestionably one of the greatest wildlife parks in Africa. This enormous wilderness area is home to an extraordinary variety of wildlife, offering exceptional game viewing year-round, as well as the thrilling annual spectacle of the Great Migration, the largest mass movement of land mammals on the planet – more than a million animals following the rains in search of food. The Serengeti is a “must-see” for any visitor to Tanzania.
The Ngorongoro Crater, located in northern Tanzania, is the world’s largest inactive and empty volcanic caldera, formed 2 to 3 million years ago. It is home to an abundance of wildlife, including over 25,000 large animals, who live on the mineral-rich floor, along with migratory birds that visit its lakes seasonally, surrounded 360 degrees by the spectacular scenery of the lush, forested walls. Visitors descend 1800 feet into the Crater for a unique safari experience.
Tarangire National Park
Tarangire is a beautiful and incredibly diverse park, famous for its magnificent giant baobab trees and large herds of elephant, as well as breathtaking views and a wild, rugged landscape. During the dry season, the Tarangire River is a magnet for thirsty wildlife, attracting the highest concentration of mammals of any of the country’s parks, including large herds of buffalo, big cats, and arguably the biggest diversity of birds in Africa, with more than 550 species. This park is often overlooked, but those who do venture here are treated to some of Tanzania’s best wildlife viewing and scenery.
Ruaha National Park
Ruaha National Park is the largest National Park in Tanzania and has a wide range of habitats including river systems, natural springs, wetlands, hot water springs, and kopjes in addition to beautiful rolling hills and mountains. The Great Ruaha River flows along the south-eastern margin, and there are two distinct regions, which means you can have two different safaris within the same park. Ruaha National Park is known for its large elephant and Cape buffalo herds, greater and lesser kudu, sable, and roan antelope. There are high numbers of predators including lion, leopard, cheetah, and the increasingly rare African wild dog. It is a birders paradise with over 570 bird species. The park can be combined easily with other parks, especially those in the southern and eastern parts of Tanzania, and even Zanzibar.
The Selous & Nyerere National Park
Roughly 45 minutes by scheduled flight from Dar es Salaam, the Selous – now called Nyerere National Park – is an ideal location to include in a safari and beach itinerary. Africa’s oldest game reserve, the Selous is the size of Switzerland and 4 times the size of Serengeti. The park is rich in wildlife and has the largest population of wild dogs in Africa. In addition to the usual game drives, boating, walking, and fly camping are highlights of a visit here.
Mahale Mountains National Park
Located in western Tanzania on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and named after the Mahale Mountain range within its borders, the park was originally created to protect thousands of chimpanzees who live here. It can be quite a journey to reach, however, the main lodges and camps in this area offer regular flight schedules which are easy to book, or visitors can take private charter flights. The park has a variety of habitats including rainforest, grasslands, alpine bamboo, and woodlands, not to mention the lake which the park borders. In this wildlife-rich area, there are over 50 species of animals to be found, including Angola colobus, red colobus, red-tailed and blue monkeys. Chimp trekking is the highlight, in addition to water-based activities on Lake Tanganyika – the world’s longest and second deepest freshwater lake with over 1000 fish species, 90 of which are endemic.
Katavi National Park
Easily considered the most off-the-beaten-track park in the country, Katavi is Tanzania’s third largest National Park – is very quiet and very wild. Located in the remote south-west of Tanzania, it combines well with Mahale, Ruaha, and Selous. It has a variety of habitats including flood plains of thick reeds, dense waterways, woodlands, forest canopies, and seasonal lakes. Here you can find Tanzania’s densest population of hippos and crocodiles. Huge herds of buffalos and elephants can come into conflict with the numerous prides of lions and hyenas making it an action-packed spot, particularly in the dry season when water sources are scarce. Walking and fly-camping are activity highlights.
Located off the coast of mainland Tanzania, Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous part of the country and is composed of many small islands and two main ones, namely Unguja and Pemba. Unguja is informally referred to as Zanzibar. Although the capital is Zanzibar City, the historic center is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Stone Town. The town has a very Arabian feel and there are many attractions including the Sultan’s palace and gardens as well as the Old Fort. Zanzibar is known as the ‘Spice Island’ and spice tours can be included in itineraries. Zanzibar is often included as the beach portion following East African safaris and has some truly excellent diving locations. Access to neighboring islands is easy using scheduled light aircraft flights.
Straddling the Kenya/Tanzania border, Mount Kilimanjaro’s snow-capped peak emerges from the sprawling plains of Tanzania, reaching into the clouds. It is one of the most awe-inspiring sights in Africa. With a summit at 19,000 feet, it is the highest free-standing mountain on earth, attracting trekkers and mountaineers from around the globe. Hikers who take on the colossal challenge of climbing this majestic mountain experience the thrill of the climb, a magical landscape of glacial ice fields, moorlands, mystical moonscapes, and dense tropical rainforests, and one of the most memorable views of their lives.