12 Best National Parks in Tanzania
Top 12 Best National Parks in Tanzania | Serengeti National Park | Ngorongoro Crater | Kilimanjaro National Park | Ruaha National Park | Selous Game Reserve | Lake Manyara National Park | Tarangire National Park | Mahale Mountains National Park | Gombe Stream National Park | Katavi National Park | Mikumi National Park | Tanzania Travel Guide
Stalk the stalker, watch it pounce upon its prey, see millions of animals crossing a river, track gorillas, live in the wild and discover unusual species while you’re at it. A wildlife safari is one of the biggest charms of any African adventure and Tanzania is perhaps the best country for a journey into the wild. Tanzania’s national parks are designed to suit all kinds of interests, preferences and comfort levels, and you can be rest assured that there is a safari which is perfect for you.
But before you embark on your safari adventure, you need to make one of the biggest decisions – which park to visit and which park to leave out. Serengeti or Ngorongoro feel like the most obvious places to be, but it is equally possible that you have a much better time in one of the lesser-known parks.
Tanzania offers excellent wildlife viewing. There are three different safari circuits, and each one of them alone would make Tanzania a great wildlife destination. The Big Five and most other sought-after safari animals are easily seen. The black rhino is very rare throughout, with the exception of the Ngorongoro Crater.
Tanzania is one of Africa’s best birding destinations. It has one of the largest species lists of any African country: over 1,100, of which over 800 species are resident, and nearly 200 are regular migrants. There are 22 species endemic and thus unique to Tanzania, and a further 43 near-endemic, restricted to Tanzania and neighboring countries only. Migrants are present from November to April.
The best time to visit Tanzania is during the Dry season, from late June to October, when wildlife viewing is generally at its best. The wildebeest migration in the Serengeti is usually during June and July and the time to see the wildebeest calving is late January to February. The southern and western circuit parks are best visited during the Dry season (June to October).
Tanzania National Parks and Game Reserves
Tanzania has a pleasant, tropical climate but has large regional climatic variations influenced by several factors, including altitude. The hottest and most humid part of the country is the coast. Other low-lying areas, such as the western and southern parks, are also hot but less humid. The rest of the interior is much milder and cools down significantly at night. Tanzania has a distinct Dry and Wet season.
Arusha’s climate compared to Tanzania’s parks
Arusha is the town closest to the most popular northern parks and has a comparably mild climate. The peak amount of rainfall in April is considerably less in most parks than in Arusha. The Ngorongoro Crater rim receives quite a lot of rain and is very cold during evenings and mornings due to its high altitude (about 2,300m/7,545ft). Lower lying parks, such as Manyara, Nyerere, Mikumi, Ruaha, Gombe, Mahale Mountains and Katavi, are slightly warmer than Arusha.
National Parks in Tanzania
Dry season June to October
There is very little rainfall during this period and humidity is very low. It cools off at night; be sure to pack warm clothing because morning game drives in open vehicles will be cold, especially in the northern parks. June, July, August, September & October – Afternoon temperatures are usually between 20°C/68°F and 30°C/86°F and vary greatly according to altitude and location. Most days have a fine, clear sky and sunny weather.
Wet seasonNovember to May
During most of the Wet season, afternoon temperatures are consistently hot (a bit above or below 30°C/86°F) but it is colder above 1,300m/4,265ft. Mornings are cold in most northern parks due to the high altitude.
The northern circuit is the most popular circuit in Tanzania. In most cases, you will fly to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) or Arusha Airport (ARK) near Arusha, the gateway of the northern circuit.
The ‘off-the-beaten-track’ character of the southern circuit makes for a holistic wilderness experience. It’s an excellent choice for a second safari on which marking off the Big Five is less of a concern. In most cases, you will fly into Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) in Dar es Salaam and fly on by small airplane to Ruaha or Nyerere National Park.
Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) is situated 50km/31mi east of Arusha, the gateway of Tanzania’s popular Northern safari circuit. The drive from the airport to Arusha takes about 1½ hours*.
Tanzania’s main airport is Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR), located 13km/8mi southwest of Dar es Salaam. This is the entry point for visitors to the southern parks.
From Arusha or Dar es Salaam, you can fly or drive between reserves. Some domestic flights out of Arusha will leave from Kilimanjaro International Airport, while others leave from the much smaller Arusha Airport (ARK) located 8km/5mi west of town. However you choose to travel, in most cases, your local tour operator will pick you up from the airport and arrange all further transportation as part of your safari package.
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