Tanzania is an East African country known for its vast wilderness areas. They include the plains of Serengeti National Park, a safari mecca populated by the “big five” game (elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino), and Kilimanjaro National Park, home to Africa’s highest mountain. Offshore lie the tropical islands of Zanzibar, with Arabic influences, and Mafia, with a marine park home to whale sharks and coral reefs.
Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest peak (5,895 m) and Tanzania’s most iconic image. Mount Kilimanjaro National Park, unlike other parks in northern Tanzania, is not visited for the wildlife but for the chance to stand in awe of this beautiful snow-capped mountain and, for many, to climb to the summit. Mount Kilimanjaro can be climbed at any time, although the best period is from late June to October, during the dry season.
Serengeti National Park is a vast treeless plain with millions of animals living here or passing through in search of fresh grasslands. It’s most famous for the annual wildebeest migration but you can also see the Big Five here, and nearly 500 species of birds have been recorded on the Serengeti.
The island of Zanzibar, also called Unguja, is a major holiday destination in Tanzania and known for its beautiful beaches. Part of the Zanzibar archipelago, which consists of the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, this island has some of the best beaches in the world. The surf varies depending on what side of the island you are on, but visitors will find soft white sand and clear shallow water, along with traditional boats lining the shore.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area is home to the famous volcanic Ngorongoro Crater and is one of Tanzania’s most popular wildlife viewing areas. This huge volcanic crater has a permanent supply of water, which draws thousands of animals who stay in this area rather than migrating.
Lake Manyara National Park is comprised of forest, woodland, grasslands, and swamps. Two-thirds of the park is covered by water and Lake Manyara is host to thousands of flamingoes, at certain times of year, as well as other diverse bird life.
The highlight of Lake Manyara Park is the large population of elephants, tree-climbing lions, and hippos, which can be observed at a much closer range than in other parks. This Park is also home to the largest concentration of baboons in the world.
Mafia Island Marine Park has coral gardens, an abundant variety of fish, and a relaxed diving atmosphere. Countless birds and over 400 species of fish can be seen in the area. Mafia Island is also a traditional breeding site for the green turtle, which are unfortunately endangered. The best months for diving are October to March but the best weather on Mafia Island is May to October. March and April are months of heavy rain.
Tarangire National Park is a fantastic area for wildlife viewing. It is best visited in the dry season from July to September when the animals gather along the river.
During the dry season, Tarangire National Park has one of the highest concentrations of migratory wildlife. Wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, impala, gazelle, hartebeest and eland crowd the lagoons. The Park is also known for its large population of elephants, and the baobab trees that dot the grassy landscape.
The Park is excellent for bird watching, with more than 300 species recorded in Tarangire. These species include buzzards, vultures, herons, storks, kites, falcons and eagles.
Pemba Island is the northernmost island in the Zanzibar archipelago. Around Pemba are many desert islands and some of the best scuba diving in the Indian Ocean, with visibility that is unparalleled. Coral gardens, colorful sponges and sea fans are all found in the underwater haven. The city of Chake Chake, the main population center on Pemba, is a popular base for scuba divers.
Stone Town is the cultural heart of Zanzibar and little has changed in the last 200 years. The grand old Arabian homes lining the narrow streets and winding alleys give the city its own unique charm. The majority of homes in Stone Town were built in the 19th C when Zanzibar was one of the most important Swahili trading towns in the Indian Ocean. Visitors will notice the bras-studded, intricately carved wooden doors on many of the houses.
Selous is the largest game reserve in Africa. Established in 1922, it covers 5% of Tanzania’s total area. The southern area is a forbidden zone that is undeveloped, heavily forested, and contains a series of steep cliffs. Travelers are limited to the area north of the Rufiji River. This area of the Selous Game Reserve has large open grassland, woodlands, rivers, hills and plains.
Arusha National Park, although smaller than most in Tanzania, has a range of habitats that consist of the forest of Mount Meru, Ngurdoto Crater in the southeast section of the park, and Momella Lakes, a series of seven crater lakes.
Black and white Colobus monkeys are easily spotted in the forested area while the marshy floor of the crater is dotted with herds of buffalo, zebra and warthog. Momella Lakes is home to a large selection of resident and migrant water birds. People come here to see wildlife and also to climb Mount Meru.
Ruaha National Park is Tanzania’s largest park. It is home to large herds of buffalo and gazelle, and has one of the largest concentration of elephants in Tanzania. The Great Ruaha River is the main feature of Ruaha National Park, providing magnificent wildlife viewing on the banks. The river also provides much of the electricity to Tanzania through a hydroelectric dam at Kidatu.
Gombe Stream National Park, also sometimes called Gombe Stream National Park, is primarily for those who want to get a little off the beaten track and see chimpanzees. This is one of the smallest national parks in Tanzania.