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Tanzania Parks & Reserves
With a staggering 25% of its land mass devoted to national parks, reserves and private conservancies, Tanzania walks the walk when it comes to wildlife conservation. And so large and diverse are these parks that it is estimated that they contain not only around 20% of Africa’s large mammal population but well over 1 000 species of bird, making the country a naturalist’s delight.
Some of Africa’s most iconic parks and reserves are found in Tanzania - the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater - find out more with our travel guide to Tanzania’s parks and start planning your Tanzania overland adventure.
Put simply, the Serengeti National Park supports the greatest concentration of plains game in Africa. Frequently dubbed the eighth wonder of the world, it’s also a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve and the jewel in the crown of Tanzania’s formidable treasure chest of wildlife destinations.
Deriving its name from the Masaai word Siringitu - ‘the place where the land moves on forever’ - the park covers a whopping 14 763 sq km of classic rolling grasslands, patches of woodland and rocky outcrops, all of which is bisected by crocodile-infested rivers. Contiguous with the Masai Mara, game viewing in the Serengeti is good all year round but of course it’s the phenomenal migration that has the cameras clicking between October and July when hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, zebra and gazelles move in a clockwise circuit, giving birth, mating, grazing ... and ending up as prey for the Serengeti’s multitude of predators.
The migration is a fluid affair and numbers and timing varies from year to year; don’t despair if your Overland adventure is at the ‘wrong’ time of year: huge numbers of animals don’t migrate and the Serengeti has healthy populations of giraffe, buffalo, many antelope species and all the big predators, especially lion, cheetah and spotted hyena.
Forged in fire, the Ngorongoro Crater is a natural amphitheatre that was created when a once huge volcano collapsed into itself forming a 260 sq km caldera. Happily, the days of molten lava are long over and the grassy crater floor is a permanent home to an astonishing concentration of African wildlife that includes the continent’s densest population of lion, Tanzania’s few remaining black rhino and a host of other familiar names such as big-tusked elephant, buffalo, zebra, wildebeest and hyena.
Alternating between dry and rainy seasons, Ngorongoro’s main water source is Lake Migadi, a soda lake that attracts flocks of pink-winged flamingos and plenty of contented hippos while the pockets of woodland are prime real estate for leopard.
Needless to say, the views from the crater’s rim are sensational, and you can pick out the wildlife as dots on the crater floor. There is no accommodation on the crater floor however so just after dawn game viewing vehicles descend the steep road into the crater. It can get pretty busy during peak season so prepare for clusters of vehicles around good sightings but while there are wilder game viewing experiences in Tanzania, the Ngorongoro Crater offers an excellent opportunity to see a lot of animals at close quarters in a limited timeframe.
Africa’s iconic mountain is the continent’s highest and provides visitors with classic images of its snow-capped peak towering above rolling grasslands. “Kili” is a popular 4 or 5-day climb - and no technical experience is necessary to get to the top - but its powerful allure can be experienced from the surrounding national park.
Sandwiched between the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater is one of the planet’s most important archeological sites - Olduvai Gorge. Known as “the Cradle of Mankind”, Olduvai is a fascinating insight into our prehistory and provides a welcome break from all that game viewing!
Don’t overlook this small but diverse park on your way to more famous destinations: Lake Manyara National Park boasts good game viewing, amazing bird watching and is home to tree-climbing lions and plenty of elephants.
Close to Dar es Salaam, Mikumi National Park is an ideal stopover on the way to the more famous northern parks. Adjoining the vast Selous Game Reserve, Mikumi’s grasslands and floodplains are home to an array of classic African wildlife and there are plenty of bird species too.