Tanzania National Parks
Exciting new adventure opportunities are now available in our National Parks. Games drives through our National Parks remain the most popular activity for visitors to the National Parks. Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) has come with new activities for adventure lovers planning to visit our national parks.
The following activities are now allowed in our parks
Mawenzi peak technical climbing -Kilimanjaro
Mawenzi is the second highest peak on Kilimanjaro. The rugged peak of Mawenzi (5,149 m) lies to the east of Kilimanjaro. The top of its western face is fairly steep with many crags, pinnacles and dyke swarms. Its eastern side falls in cliffs over 1,000 m high in a complex of gullies and rock faces, rising above two deep gorges. Mawezi peaks have seven peaks.
The terrain of Mawenzi makes most of its peaks unreachable but by technical roped ascents. There will be three routes for the climbers to Mawenzi peak these include: Rongai route down Marangu gate, Marangu route via Zebra rock down Marangu gate and Machame, Lemosho and Londorosi routes via Northern circuit down Mweka gate.
Paragliding off Mt. Kilimanjaro
Paragliding is appropriate recreational activity in the Mountainous areas under specific conditions. Experienced paragliding pilots can now fly off this highest point on the African continent for their records.
Canopy walkway in Lake Manyara national park
This will take place in the Ground Water Forest in the North part of Lake Manyara National Park. The Canopy Walkway is in a series of boardwalks and suspension bridges. The total length is about 500m with the height ranges from 4m to 18m.
Mountain cycling on Mt. Kilimanjaro
TANAPA has introduced this activity in Arusha and Kilimanjaro National Parks. This activity provides physical exercise and recreational use of the natural environment with minimum impact while enhancing visitors’ experience. Summit bound visitors will use Kilema route ( 19km) and cyclists will meet their porters at Horombo and continue to the summit. For non summit bound visitors, cycling starts from Londorosi gate or from Morum Picnic site then back to Morum (a 44km ride)
Crater camping Mt. Kilimanjaro.
This has been introduced to give our visitors a different experience of the Mountain. The crater is rich with ice and remains of volcanic eruptions. Spending an overnight in this area is a life time experience that you should not miss.
Chimps habituation experience in Rubondo Island National Park
Chimpanzees are man’s closest living relative, sharing about 98% of genes. Chimpanzee habituation experience offers visitors a chance to participate in the process of getting these primates used to the presence of humans. Visitors have a chance of staying with the chimps the whole day together with park rangers.
Cycling in Arusha National park
Cycling in Arusha National park is conducted in the rich montane forest areas endowed with varieties of wild life which necessitates presence or escort of an armed ranger during cycling. Cyclists have the opportunity to see buffaloes, zebras, warthog, baboon, giraffe, elephant and other species. Enjoy the forest canopy with different birds species such as Horn bill, Turacco & reptiles such as python. Spotting black and white Colubus Monkeys.
Special rhino watching in the Serengeti
Tourists will have a rare opportunity of leaving their vehicles and travel in the rangers’ vehicle who will take them for a rhino game drive in designated areas.
Except for canopy walkways in Lake Manyara the rest of the activities require advance booking. We encourage you to contact the park well in advance if you wish to conduct these activities.
The best developed of Tanzania’s tourism routes is known as the Northern Circuit. Here there’s the chance to see the ‘big five’ – elephant, leopard, lion, rhino and buffalo – and huge herds of wildebeest and zebra on their annual migration. The circuit includes many of the country’s most famous national parks, Arusha, Lake Manyara, Tarangire and the Serengeti as well as famous landmarks such as the Ngorongoro Crater, the Olduvai Gorge and Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro.
Just 32 km away from the town of Arusha is the Arusha National Park, it consists of three spectacular features, the Momela Lakes, Mount Meru and the Ngurdoto Crater. On clear days’ magnificent views of Mount Kilimanjaro can be seen from almost any part of the park. The vegetation and wildlife varies with the topography, which ranges from forest to swamp. The park is famous for its 575 species of birdlife, both migrant and resident, and black and white colobus monkey – the only place they may be seen on the Northern Circuit. Elephant are rare, and lion absent all together, but other animals frequently seen in the park are baboon, buffalo, giraffe, hippo, hyena, warthog, zebra and a wide range of antelope species including dik dik and waterbuck.
Leopard are ever-present but, as always, difficult to find. An area of adjoining land was recently incorporated into the park increasing its size to 550 sq km. Tourist attractions include canoe safaris on the Momela lakes, riding safaris on specialised car-free routes, and walks around the rim of the Ngurudoto Crater, and three or four day climbs of Mount Meru – good acclimatisation for Kilimanjaro.
Getting there: A short drive from Arusha or Kilimanjaro Airport.
At 5,895m, Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, so it can truly be regarded as the roof of Africa. “As wide as all the world, great, high and unbelievably white,” was Ernest Hemingway’s description. Now a World Heritage site, its outstanding features are its three major volcanic centres, Shira in the west, Mawenzi in the East and the snow-capped Kibo in the centre. The forests of the surrounding national park are inhabited by elusive elephant, leopard, buffalo, bushbuck, the endangered Abbott’s duiker, and numerous other small antelope, primates and rodents. They are however difficult to see due to the dense vegetation.
Getting there: A two hour drive from
Arusha or one hour from Kilimanjaro International Airport.
This park is famous for its tree climbing lions, which spend most of the day spread out along the branches of Acacia trees six to seven metres above the ground. Nestling at the base of the Great Rift Valley escarpment the park is noted for its incredible beauty. As visitors enter the gate they pass through a lush forest, home to troops of baboons and both blue and vervet monkeys. Further along the forest opens up into woodlands, grassland, swamps and beyond these the soda lake itself, covering 200 sq km and sanctuary to over 400 species of bird including flamingo, pelican, storks, sacred ibis, cormorants and Egyptian geese. The park is particularly noted for its huge herds of buffalo and elephant. Also giraffe, hippo, reedbuck, warthog, wildebeest, zebra, a great variety of smaller animals and, more recently, a family of endangered wild dog.
Getting there: A half hour flight from Arusha or a 90-minute drive en route to the nearby Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai and the Serengeti.
This former game reserve contains 90% of all botanic species found in Tanzania with one third classified as unique in the world. It is also home to the Mkomazi Rhino Project. This involves the re-introduction of a number of black rhino from South Africa and the UK which, it is hoped, will breed before being relocated to traditional natural habitats within Tanzania. The Captive Breeding Programme for the African wild dog is another project for the preservation of endangered species that is based in Mkomazi.
Getting there: By road from Arusha, Moshi or Tanga.
The Ngorongoro Crater, at 2,286 m. above sea level, is the largest unbroken caldera in the world. Surrounded by very steep walls rising 610 metres from the crater floor, this natural amphitheatre measures 19.2 km in diameter and 304 sq km in area. It is home to up to 30,000 animals, almost half being wildebeest and zebra.
Buffalo, elephant, hippo, hyena, jackal, lion, ostrich, serval, warthog, bushbuck, eland, hartebeest, reedbuck, waterbuck and huge herds of both Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelle are easily seen on the crater floor. Thanks to anti-poaching patrols, the crater is now one of the few places in East Africa where visitors can be certain of seeing black rhino, with the number now approaching 25.
Leopard may occasionally be seen in the trees of the forest surrounding the crater while cheetah are also present but rarely seen. Large herds of giraffe live on the rim of the crater and will be seen on the drive to the nearby Olduvai Gorge and the Serengeti. Countless flamingo form a vast pink blanket over the soda lakes while more than 100 species of birds not found in the Serengeti have been spotted here. The crater, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, lies within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which covers more than 8,300 sq km. It is bounded by Lake Eysai in the southwest and the Gol Mountains in the north. Roughly in the centre is the Olbalal Swamp and the arid Olduvai Gorge.
Getting there: A three-hour drive, or one-hour flight, from Arusha. A two- hour drive from Tarangire or some 90 minutes from Manyara.
Located within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a short drive off the main road between Ngorongoro and the Serengeti, the name Olduvai derives from Oldupai, which is the Masai word for the type of wild sisal that grows in the gorge. It was here that, in 1959, Dr Louis Leakey and his wife Mary discovered the skull of first Zinjanthropus Boisei, or “nutcracker man”, and then, a year later, the remains of Homo Hablis or “handy man” at that time regarded as mankind’s first step on the ladder of human evolution. Many more fossils have since been discovered including those of prehistoric elephants, giant horned sheep and enormous ostriches. There is a small museum to view and an observation platform, where visitors can listen to an informative talk.
Getting there: A four-hour drive, or one-hour flight, from Arusha. A two- hour drive from Lake Manyara or Tarangire National Park.
The Serengeti National Park is arguably the best known wildlife sanctuary in the world. “Serengeti” means “endless plains” in the Masai language, and within its boundaries are more than three million large mammals. Some 35 species of plains animals may be seen here including the so-called “big seven” – buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, cheetah and African hunting dog. Unfortunately, very few of the latter remain in the Serengeti. Originally exterminated as a threat to domestic stock they have recently become victims of distemper.
However, after being decimated by poaching, the black rhino population of the Serengeti has developed well in recent years thanks to constant surveillance and the shielding of the animals from mass tourism. There are now around 30 black rhinos in the Moru Kopjes area but they may be difficult to see as visitors are only allowed to drive through the area on certain roads.
White rhinoceros are not found in the Serengeti. In May or early June, huge herds of wildebeest and zebra begin their spectacular 600-mile pilgrimage. In their wake follow the predators – lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena and jackal – while vultures circle overhead and some of Africa’s biggest crocodile lie in wait. Other animals frequently seen in the Serengeti include aardvark, baboons, caracal, civet, bat-eared fox, genet, giraffe, hippo, honey badger, hyrax, mongoose, ostrich, pangolin, serval, both Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelle, vervet monkey, warthog and some 20 types of antelope including eland, hartebeest or kongoni, impala, kudu, reedbuck, roan, topi, waterbuck and the much smaller dik dik, duiker, klipspringer and oribi. There is, of course, also a great profusion of birdlife. Over 500 species have been recorded including bee-eaters, bustards, cranes, eagles, flamingo, herons, hornbills, guinea fowl, hoopoe, kingfishers, ostrich, parrots, storks, vultures, weavers, and the bizarre, long-legged secretary birds.
Getting there: A six-hour drive, or one hour flight, from Arusha, or a two and a half hour drive from Mwanza.
Close to Arusha, 118 km away, Tarangire National Park gets its name from the river that threads its way through the reserve. It is famous for its dense wildlife population which is most spectacular between June and September, the dry period. During this time thousands of animals – elephant, buffalo, giraffe, eland, hartebeest, kudu, wildebeest and the rarely seen oryx and gerenuk – migrate from the dry Masai steppe to the Tarangire River looking for water. Lion, leopard and other predators follow the herds.
Tarangire has the largest population of elephant of any park in the northern circuit and is also home to 550 varieties of bird including the Kori bustard – the heaviest flying bird. Getting there: A 90 minute drive, or 30 minute flight, from Arusha.
The Serengeti is famed for its annual migration when more than 1,500,000 wildebeest and 500,000 Thomson Gazelle follow some 200,000 zebra in a 2,000 km round pilgrimage in search of fresh grazing and water. It is “the greatest wildlife show on earth” and “a once in a lifetime experience”!
Wildebeest feed only on new shoots and very short grass but do, of course, eat the longer grass once it has been ‘trimmed’ by zebra or buffalo. It is for this reason they follow the zebra. Eland and Thomson’s gazelle also migrate but instead of following the main migration they just alternate between the plains and the woodlands. Grant’s gazelle do not migrate as they are not so dependant on water. They move only locally and, in many cases, in the opposite direction to the migratory species.
Predator versus prey dominates the migration. Lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena and a host of other, smaller predators, watched by the ever- present vultures, gorge on their annual feast while, in the rivers, giant crocodile wait their turn. The best time to see the migration is between June and August when the wildebeest congregate and prepare to cross the Grumeti River. However, both the route and timing of the migration are unpredictable so visitors must plan carefully to be assured of seeing the spectacle.
During December to May the animals are found on the short grass plains around Lake Ndutu, the Gol Mountains and the Moru Kopjes in the south of the park. December is a peak month for zebra foaling and February the main month for wildebeest calving. Then the migrations start as vast herds, in columns over 40 km long, head north towards Kirawira and Mbalageti, in the Western Corridor, before crossing the crocodile infested Grumeti River into the Grumeti Game Reserve and the Ikorongo Wildlife Management Area. Meanwhile some smaller herds move directly north through the Seronera area, while others travel up the eastern boundary of the park through the Loliondo and Lobo areas.
All routes eventually crossing the Mara River, where the animals face another life threatening experience, into Kenya’s Masai Mara. Finally, in November, the herds start their trek back through the Serengeti arriving at the short grass plains ready to give birth again. And so the cycle continues! As it has for over a million years!
Less frequented than the national parks in the north, the southern parks provide a sense of African adventure unsurpassed anywhere else on the continent. The principal areas are the Selous Game Reserve and the Mikumi, Ruaha and Udzungwa Mountains National Parks.
Located north of the Selous Reserve, less than 300 km. from Dar es Salaam, is the Mikumi National Park. Because of its accessibility it is one of the most popular parks in Tanzania and is an important centre for education where students go to study ecology and conservation. The Mikumi flood plain, with its open grasslands, dominates the park together with the mountain ranges that border the park on two sides. A wide range of wildlife inhabits its 3,230 sq km area. Lion is commonly seen as are packs of wild dog, rare elsewhere in Africa. Elephant may be encountered and other animals frequently observed are buffalo, civet, eland, giraffe, impala, kudu, reedbuck, warthog, waterbuck, wildebeest, zebra and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest. Near the southern boundary of the park it is possible to see groups of female and young bachelor sable with their one dominant male. Crocodiles, monitor lizard and giant python are among the park’s many other residents.
At the southern end of the flood plain, in the Kikoboga area, families of yellow baboon live while wallowing hippos are frequently joined in their pools by flocks open-billed storks, hunting for tasty molluscs. Over 400 species of birds have been observed in the park, many of which are Eurasian migrants who stay between October and April.
Getting there: A four-hour drive, or a one-hour flight, from Dar es Salaam.
Recently expanded to become the largest national park in East Africa and, after Kafue National Park in Zambia, the second largest in Africa, Ruaha is home to more than 10,000 elephant. Its name derives from the Great Ruaha River which flows along its eastern border, creating spectacular gorges. Flowing into the Rufiji River, the Great Ruaha is home to hippo and crocodile. Various antelope species, such as eland, grant’s gazelle, impala, greater and lesser kudu, reedbuck, waterbuck and the rare sable and roan antelope thrive in the grasslands bordering the river alongside buffalo, giraffe and zebra. Predators include lion, leopard, cheetah, both striped and spotted hyena, and wild dog – or African hunting dog as they should correctly be called.
Birdlife is prolific, over 370 species have been recorded, some of which are not found in northern Tanzania. Eurasian migrants flock to Ruaha twice a year – March to April and October to November – joining the resident kingfishers, hornbills, sunbirds, egrets and plovers.
Best months for game viewing are during the dry season from July to November, when the animals are concentrated around the shrinking water-courses. The park has an airstrip for light aircraft on the western bank of the river.
Getting there: Up to a ten-hour drive, or a one-and-a-half-hour flight, from Dar es Salaam.
The Selous Game Reserve is the largest wildlife area in Africa. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this pristine, uninhabited area is larger than Switzerland. Selous boasts Tanzania’s largest population of elephant as well as large numbers of lion, leopard, African hunting dog, buffalo and hippo. Only in the Serengeti will visitors see a greater concentration of wildlife. Once home to over 3,000 black rhinos there are sadly now only a few hundred left. They tend to hide in the dense thickets but sightings are possible. Species commonly seen are bushbuck, red and blue duikers, eland, hartebeest, hyena, klipspringer, impala, giraffe, oryx, reedbuck, waterbuck and zebra.
Yellow baboon and vervet and blue monkey are a common sight while families of black and white colobus may sometimes be seen moving from tree to tree. Endangered red colobus inhabit the west of the reserve but visits to observe this rare breed can be arranged. The bird-life in the Selous is prolific and the 400 species recorded include the globally threatened wattled crane and the corncrake.
The topography of the park varies from rolling savannah woodland, grassland plains and rocky outcrops cut by the Rufiji River and its tributaries, the Kilombero and Luwegu, which together cover the greatest catchment area in East Africa. The Rufiji, which flows from north to south, provides the lifeblood of the Selous and sailing or rafting down the river is a superb method of seeing game, especially during the dry season between June and October. Crocodiles, hippo and a vast array of antelope will be seen. Linked to the Rufiji is Lake Tagalala, where elephant, giraffe, waterbuck, reedbuck and bushbuck gather at the water’s edge. In the long grassland, safari enthusiasts may get a chance to see rare sable antelope, greater kudu – or lion.
The park gets its name from the hunter-explorer Frederick Courtney Selous, whose books were best sellers in Victorian England. Walking safaris, game drives and boat trips may be organised. The best time to visit is during the dry season, when game is forced from hiding places to the river to drink. The waters of the Kilombero Game Controlled Area are home to the ferocious tiger fish and vandu catfish, the latter equipped with a primitive set of lungs which allows it to migrate from one landlocked pool to another.
Getting there: Between a seven and nine-hour drive, but only in the dry season, or a one-and-a-half-hour flight from Dar es Salaam.
Udzungwa Mountains National Park is a conservation area of about 2,000 sq km. It lies in the Iringa and Morogoro regions of south-central Tanzania where it is bordered by the Great Ruaha River to the north and by the road between Mikumu and Ifakara to the east.
The major attraction of the park is its bio-diversity and unique rainforest where many rare plants, not found elsewhere in the world, have been identified. These range from a tiny African violet to 30-metre-high trees. For this reason, Udzungwa is being proposed as Tanzania’s eighth World Heritage Site.
The park is home to eleven types of primate. Five of these are unique to Udzungwa, including the endangered Iringa red colobus monkey and the Sanje crested mangabey. The plateau also supports populations of elephant, buffalo, lion and leopard. Visitors should not expect to necessarily see these larger species however as they tend to be found in the less accessible area of the park. Bush baby or galago, bush pig, civet, duiker, honey badger and three types of mongoose are more likely to be seen. The park is also home to a number of rare forest birds many only found in this area of Tanzania.
Getting there: A five-hour drive from Dar es Salaam.
In addition to the nine parks of the northern and southern circuits Tanzania has seven other national parks to explore.
A mountainous strip bordering the shores of Lake Tanganyika, 16km north of Kigoma. Gombe is currently Tanzania’s smallest park. It covers just 56sq km and is only reachable by boat from Kigoma. Gombe offers visitors the rare chance to observe the chimpanzee communities made famous by British explorer Jane Goodall. A number of monkey species can also be seen including red colobus, red-tail and blue monkeys.
The area is heavily forested making it unsuitable for carnivores and safe for walking. Birdwatchers will be richly rewarded.
Getting there: By air from Arusha or Dar es Salaam. Or by road or train to Kigoma and then a one-hour boat trip.
Recently extended southward to cover some 4500 sq km the main features of Tanzania’s third largest park, located about 40 km southeast of the town of Mpanda, are Lake Katavi, with its vast floodplains, the palm-fringed Lake Chala and the Katuma River. The park is noted for its Miombo woodland and is home to buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and zebra. Antelope species include eland, impala, topi, roan, and sable.
Water fowl are abundant with Lake Chala particularly rich in bird-life with 400 species recorded. Katavi also boasts the greatest concentration of hippo and crocodile.
Getting there: By charter flight from Arusha or Dar es Salaam. Or a day’s drive from Mbeya or, in the dry season, Kigoma.
One of the two more recently gazetted national parks, Kitulo is the first park in tropical Africa to be recognised largely for its floristic significance. Known locally as ‘God’s Garden’ or the ‘Serengeti of Flowers’, Kitulo plateau has had over 350 species of plants documented to date. These include 45 species of orchids, many of which are not found anywhere else in the world. Also only found in Kitulo, and the Nundulu Mountain Reserve adjacent to
Udzungwa Mountains National Park, the Kipunji – or Highlands Mangabey – is the rarest monkey in Africa. First discovered in 2003 it was the first new monkey genus established since 1923. The plateau is also home to some important bird species, again many endemic to Tanzania, including the endangered blue swallow, Denham’s bustard, mountain marsh widow, Njombe cisticola, and Kipengere seedeater. Some of the world’s rarest butterflies inhabit the area.
Getting there: By road from Dar es Salaam to Chimala, via Mbeya, and then only by a 4×4 vehicle.
The other sanctuary of the chimpanzee, Mahale Mountains National Park, is only reached by charter flight or by boat from Kigoma. Covering an area of approximately 1,600 sq km, the park’s western boundary is the shore of Lake Tanganyika. The chimpanzee population is estimated at around 1,000 and may be observed in their natural habitat in groups of up to 30. Yellow baboons, red colobus, red- tailed and vervet monkeys also live in the park and are commonly seen as are bush-babies, bush-pigs, bushbuck, blue duiker, civet, hyrax and white- tailed mongoose. Buffalo, elephant, giraffe, leopard, lion, porcupine and other various types of antelope are also present but will prove more difficult to find. Lake Tanganyika is also home to more than 250 species of fish.
Getting there: Between a four and a nine-hour boat trip, depending on the boat, from Kigoma. Or a two-hour flight from Arusha or Dar es Salaam.
A water wonderland comprising Rubondo Island and nine smaller islands tucked into a corner of Lake Victoria north-west of Mwanza. The park provides a variety of habitats ranging from savannah to open woodland, dense forest, papyrus swamps and sandy beaches. There is also a wide variety of animals including bushbuck, crocodile, elephant, genet, giraffe, hippo, mongoose, vervet monkey and the reclusive sitatunga – a shaggy coated aquatic antelope.
The birdlife is unique with bee- eaters, fish eagle, grey parrot, heron, ibis, malachite kingfishers, paradise flycatchers, spoon-billed and saddle- billed stork flocking to ‘Bird Island’ to breed.
Getting there: By air from Arusha or Mwanza. Or by road from Mwanza and then a boat transfer.
Tanzania’s first coastal wildlife sanctuary is located on the Indian Ocean coast some 45 km north of Bagamoyo and directly west of Zanzibar. The park contains many indigenous species including Liechtenstein’s hartebeest and the rare Roosevelt sable. A good population of elephant live in Saadani as do several herds of buffalo while numerous large groups of hippo and crocodile inhabit the nearby Wami River. Lion, leopard, spotted hyena, and black-backed jackal are present as are eland, giraffe, greater kudu, red duiker, reedbuck, warthog, waterbuck, wildebeest, zebra, yellow baboon and vervet monkey. The bird life is extensive and includes fish eagle, flamingo and the mangrove kingfisher. Dolphin are common off the coast; whales pass through the Zanzibar channel, and green turtle breed on the beach. Saadani village, one of the oldest communities on the East African coast, the Kaole ruins and historic Bagamoyo are nearby.
Getting there: About a four-hour drive from Dar es Salaam or by charter flight from Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar.
Saanane Island, in Lake Victoria, was recently elevated to national park status increasing the number of Tanzania National Parks to 16. It is the smallest national park in East Africa covering an area of only 2.18 sq km. Saanane is currently home to agama lizards, clawless otter, crocodile, impala, monitor lizard, python, rock hyrax, tortoise, vervet and de brazza monkey, and wild cat but there are plans to introduce new species such as dik-dik, grant’s gazelle, klipspringer and zebra. Over 40 type of resident and migratory birds may be seen.
Getting there: By air to Mwanza and then by boat.