Mkomazi National Park
With an area of 3,245 sq km (1,240 sq miles), Mkomazi is located in Northern Tanzania split between Kilimanjaro and Tanga administrative regions. The park also borders Tsavo west National Park in Kenya. The Zange entrance gate lies 112 km (69 miles) from Moshi, 550 km (341 miles) from Mwalimu J. K. Nyerere International Airport – Dar es Salaam, 142 km (88.7 miles) from Kilimanjaro International Airport, 120 km (75 miles) from Kilimanjaro National Park – the roof of Africa and 6 km (3.7 miles) from the town of Same.
Mkomazi is vital refuge for two highly endangered species, the charismatic black rhino and sociable African wild dog, both of which were successfully reintroduced in the 1990s. Nomadic by nature, wild dog might be seen almost anywhere in the park, but black rhino are restricted to a fenced sanctuary, ensuring their safe keeping for future generations enjoyment and prosperity.
Arusha National Park
With an area of 137 sq. km, Arusha National Park is one of the smaller and most beautiful National Parks in Tanzania. Situated only 37 km from Arusha town, the park is very popular for day trips. The Ngurdoto Crater, Momela Lakes, the highland montane forest, and the rugged Mount Meru (4575 m above sea level) are the four distinctive features of the park. Mt. Kilimanjaro, towering at 5895 m to the east, can be visible on clear days from many locations in the park. One of the unique attractions of the park is the opportunity to combine game drives and a nature walk in the many places where visitors can leave their safari vehicles and walk in the fresh air. The most common animals found in this park are the Abyssinian black and white colobus monkeys, the Vervet monkeys, the red forest duikers, hippos, elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, bushbucks and sometimes the leopard. More than 400 species of birds have been recorded in the park including Eurasian migrants, which can be seen between October and April. Mount Meru 4575 m can be scaled in three to four days, with overnight accommodation in alpine huts on your way up and down.
Tarangire National Park
Tarangire National Park lies 120 km south of Arusha, along The Great North Road highway, and is very popular for day trips from the town. Tarangire offers a wide variety of wildlife in its area of 2,600 sq. km. As in all ecosystems, the vegetation and the types of animals you find are closely correlated. The principal features of the park are the flood plains and the grassland, mainly comprising of various types of acacia trees, and a few scattered baobabs, tamarind and the sausage trees. The Tarangire River, after which the park is named, provides the only permanent water for wildlife in the area. When the Maasai Steppes dry up with the end of the long rains in June, migratory animals return to the Tarangire River, making Tarangire National Park second only to Ngorongoro in the concentration of wildlife. This period stretches between June and November and it is the best season for game viewing in Tarangire. The most common animals found in the park include zebras, wildebeest, lions, leopards, waterbucks, giraffe, elephants, gazelles, impala, gerenuk, lesser kudu and the beautiful fringe-eared oryx. You may be lucky to spot the tree-climbing python for which the park is famous, or the kudu and the roan antelope which are rare species in Northern Tanzania. Over 300 species of birds have been recorded in the Park.
Lake Manyara National Park
Located 125 km west of Arusha town, under the wall of the Great Rift Valley, Lake Manyara National Park is one of the oldest and most popular sanctuaries in East Africa. The park has a large variety of habitats, making it possible to support a wealth of wildlife in its small area. The main habitats include the shallow soda lake itself which occupies 70% of the National Park total area of 320 sq. km, the ground water forest, open grassland, acacia woodland and the rift wall. The most famous spectacle in the park is the tree-climbing lions, which are occasionally seen along branches of acacia trees. Other animals found in the park include buffalo, elephants, leopards, baboons, impala, giraffes, zebra, wildebeest, ostrich and hippos. Popularly referred to as an ornithologist’s paradise, Lake Manyara National Park contains over 400 bird species found in most savanna and river habitats in East Africa. Common water birds to be seen here are pelicans, spoonbills, Egyptian geese, hammerkops and the migratory flamingoes, which arrive in hundreds of thousands creating one of Africa’s great natural sights over the soda lake.
Ngorongoro National Park
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is situated some 190 km. west of Arusha, between Lake Manyara and Serengeti National Parks. Covering approximately 8,288 square km, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area consists of the Ngorongoro Crater itself, the Olduvai Gorge and Ndutu, the Empakai crater and the Oldonyo Lengai Mountain. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a pioneering experiment in multi-purpose land use where people (the Maasai), their livestock and wildlife coexist and share the same protected habitat.
Wild animals are protected as in the National Parks. The craters of Ngorongoro and Empakai are reserved exclusively for wildlife, while the rest of the Conservation Area is shared by wildlife, people and livestock. The Maasai, the main residents of Ngorongoro, are pastoralists who move widely with their herds of cattle, sheep, goat and donkeys in search of pasture and water. In recent years the Maasai have been encouraged to work on the land and supplement their traditional diet of milk, blood and meat. The Ngorongoro Crater, which is the central attraction in the area, is the largest Caldera in the world that has its walls intact. The Ngorongoro Crater floor, a sheer drop of 610 metres below the crater rim, has an area of 265 sq. km, with a diameter of 19 km. The sight of the Ngorongoro Crater is simply stunning.
“There is nothing with which to compare. It is one of the wonders of the world….” once wrote Professor Bernard Grzimek. The crater floor is covered with plains animals, including wildebeest, zebra, gazelles, elands, rhino, and a large predator population of lions, hyena and jackal which can all be viewed at close quarters. Cheetah and leopard can also be seen here. The rainy season is between November and May. The altitude at the crater rim is about 2286 metres above sea level, and temperatures can get quite chilly in the evening.
Serengeti National Park
Covering an area of 14,763 sq. km, Serengeti National Park is the largest National Park in Tanzania. The park is located some 320 km to the northwest of Arusha, lying in a high plateau between the Ngorongoro highlands and the Kenya/ Tanzania border, and extending almost to Lake Victoria to the west. Aptly named “endless plains” by the Maasai people, you immediately experience this vastness as you enter the southeastern plains of the park from Ngorongoro. Declared a protected area in 1921 and gazetted as a National park in 1951, Serengeti is the oldest National Park in Tanzania and undoubtedly one of the most famous wildlife sanctuaries in the world. The principal features of the Serengeti are the short and long grass plains in the south and east, the acacia Savannah in the central areas, the hilly and densely wooded areas in the north and the extensive woodland in the west. There is a variety of scenery, which include the plains, lakes, hills and the rock outcrops called kopjes. The main game drive areas in the Serengeti are the Seronera Valley, the Western Corridor, and Lobo or northern Serengeti. The Seronera valley in central Serengeti endowed with permanent surface water attract a large concentration of wildlife throughout the year. Common animals that can be seen here are lions, buffaloes, impalas, hippos, waterbucks, elephants, cheetahs and the leopard. From December, when the long rains start, to May, eastern Serengeti plains provide the best opportunities for game viewing as hundreds of thousands of the migratory animals are concentrated in this part attracted by the short palatable grass.