The closest national park to Arusha town, Arusha National Park is a multi-faced jewel, often overlooked by safarigoers, despite offering the opportunity to explore a beguiling diversity of habitats within a few hours. Size: 137sq km. Location: Northern Tanzania, northeast of Arusha town. Getting there: An easy 40minute drive from Arusha. Approximately 60km from Kilimanjaro International Airport. The lakes, forest and Ngurudoto Crater can all be visited in the course of a half-day outing at the beginning or end of an extended northern safari.
Isolated, untrammeled and seldom visited, Katavi is a true wilderness, providing the few intrepid souls who make it there with a thrilling taste of Africa as it must have been a century ago. Tanzania’s third largest national park, it lies in the remote southwest of the country, within a truncated arm of the Rift Valley that terminated in the shallow, brooding expanse of Lake Rukwa. Size: 4,471 sq km Location: Southwest Tanzania , east of Lake Tanganyika. The headquarters of Sitalike lie 40 km south of Mpanda town. Getting there: Charter flights from Dar or Arusha. A tough but spectacular day’s drive from Mbeya(550km),or in the dry season only from Kigoma(390km). it is possible to reach Mpanda by rail from Dar via Tabora, then to catch public transport to Sitalike, where game drives can be arranged. If traveling overland, allow plenty of time to get there and back.
An excited whoop erupts from deep in the forest, boosted immediately by a dozen other voices, rising in volume and tempo and pitch to a frenzied shrieking crescendo. It is the famous ‘pant-hoot’ call; a bonding ritual that allows the participants to identify each other through their individual vocal stylizations. To the human listener, walking through the ancient forests of Gombe Stream, this spin-chilling outburst is also an indicator of imminent visual contact with the man’s closest genetic relative: the chimpanzee. Size: 52 sq km. Location: 16 km north Kigoma on the shore of Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania. Getting there: Kigoma is connected to Dar and Arusha by scheduled flights, to Dar and Mwanza by slow rail service, Dar and Mbeya by rough dirt roads, and to Mpulungu in Zambia by a weekly ferry. From Kigoma, local lake-taxis take up to three hours to reach Gombe, or motorboats can be chartered, taking less than one hour. Accommodation: 1 new luxury tented lodge, as well a self-catering hostel, guest house and campsites on the lakeshore.
Kilimanjaro. The name itself is a mystery wreathed in clouds. It might mean Mountain of Light, Mountain of Greatness or Mountain of Caravans. Or it might not. The local people, the Wachagga, don’t even have a name for the whole massif, only Kippo ( now known as Kibo) for the familiar snowy peak that stands imperious, overseer the continent, the summit of Africa. Size: 755 sq km. Location: Northern Tanzania, near the town of Moshi. ]etting there: 128 km from Arusha. About one hour’s drive from Kilimanjaro airport.
Swirls of opaque mist hide advancing down. The first shafts of sun colour the fluffy grass heads rippling across the plain in a russet halo. A heard of zebras, confident in their camouflage at this predatory hour, pose like ballerinas, heads aligned and stripes merging in flowing motion. Size: 3,230 sq km Location: 238 km west of Dar es Salaam, north of Selous, an en route to Ruaha, Udzungwa and (for the intrepid) Katavi. Getting there: a good surfaced road connects Mikumi to Dar es Salaam via Morogoro, a roughly 4 hours drive. Also road connections to Udzungwa, Ruaha and (dry season only) Selous. Charter flight from Dar es Salaam, Arusha or Selous. Local buses run from Dar to park HQ where game drives can be arranged.
Set deep in the heart of the African interior by road and 100 km south of where Stanley uttered that immortal greeting “Doctor Livingstone”, I presume”, is a scene reminiscent of an Indian Ocean island beach idyll. Size: 1,613 sq km Location: Western Tanzania, bordering Lake Tanganyika. Getting there: Chimp tracking ( allow two days); camping safaris; snorkeling; fish for your dinner.
Stretching for 50 km along the base of the rusty-gold 600meter high Rift Valley escarpment, Lake Manyara is a scenic gem, with a setting extolled by Earnest Hemingway as “the loveliest I had seen in Africa”. The compact game-viewing circuit through Manyara offers a virtual microcosm of the Tanzanian safari experience. Size: 330 sq km, of which up to 200 sq km is the lake when water levels are high. Location: in northern Tanzania. The entrance gate lies 1.5 hours (126km) west of Arusha along or newly surfaced road, close to the ethnically diverse market town of Mto wa Mbu. Getting there: By road, charter or scheduled fight from Arusha, en route to Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.
Locals refer to the Kitulo Plateau as Bustani ya Mungu – The Garden of God – botanists have dubbed in the Serengeti of Flowers, host to ‘one of the great floral spectacles of the world’. And Kitulo is indeed a rare botanical marvel, home to a full 350 species of vascular plants, including 45 varieties of terrestrial orchid, which erupt into a riotous wildflower display of breathtaking scale and diversity during the main rainy season of late November to April. Size: 412,9 sq km. Location: Southern Tanzania. The temporary park headquarters at Matamba are situated approximately 100 km from Mbeya town. Getting there: 4x4 only. From Chimala, 78km east of Mbeya along the surfaced main road to Dar es Salaam, head south along the rough but spectacular dirt road – called Hamisini na Saba (57) after the number of hairpin bends along its length – to the temporary park headquarters at Matamba, from where it’s another hour’s drive to the plateau. Basic and erratic public transport is available.
The Ngorongoro Crater is often called ‘Africa’s Eden’ and the ‘8th National Wonder of the World’, a visit to the crater is a main drawcard for tourists coming to Tanzania and a definite world-class attraction. Within the crater rim, large herds of zebra and wildebeest graze nearby while sleeping lions laze in the sun. Size: 8,300 sq km. Location: Within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area at the eastern edge of the Serengeti. Getting there: Drive from Arusha, Lake Manyara, Tarangire.
The game viewing starts the moment the plane touches down. A giraffe races beside the airstrip, all legs and neck, yet oddly elegant in its awkwardness. A line of zebras parades across the runway in the giraffe’s wake. In the distance, beneath a bulbous baobab tree, a few representatives of Ruaha’s 10,000 elephants – the largest population of any East African national park, form a protective huddle around their young. Size: 10,300 sq km. Location: Central Tanzania, 128 km west of Iringa. Getting there: Scheduled and/or charter fights from Dar es Salaam, Selous, Serengeti, Arusha, Iringa and Mbeya. Year-round road access through Iringa from Dar es Salaam (about 10 hours) via Mikumi or from Arusha via Dodoma.
A pair of fish guards the gentle boy, their distinctive black, white and chestnut pattern gleaming boldly in the morning sun. Suddenly, the birds toss back their heads in a piercing, evocative duet. On the sandbank below, a well-fed monster of a crocodile snaps to life, startled from its nap. It stampedes through the crunchy undergrowth, crashing into the water in front of the boat, invisible except for a pair of sentry-post eyes that peek menacingly above the surface to monitor our movements. Size: 240 sq km. Location: Northwest Tanzania, 150 km west of Mwanza. Getting there: Scheduled flights from Arusha, Lake Manyara, Serengeti and Mwanza in the peak season, charter flights only in low season. By road from Mwanza and then boat transfer. Contact the Park for transport details.
Palm trees sway in a cooling oceanic breeze. White sand and blue water sparkle alluringly beneath the tropical sun. Traditional dhows soil slowly past, propelled by billowing white sails, while Swahili fishermen cast their nets below a brilliant red sunrise. Size:1,100 sq km Location: On the north coast, roughly 100 km northwest of Dar es Salaam as the crow flies, and similar distance southwest of the port of Tanga. Getting there: Charter flights from Zanzibar or Dar es Salaam with possibility of scheduled flights in the future. Thrice-weekly road shuttle from Dar es Salaam, taking four hours in either direction. No road access from Dar es Salaam along the cost – followed the surface Moshi road for 160 km, then 60 km on dirt. Road access from Tange and Pangani except after heavy rains. 4x4 required.
A million wildebeest… each one driven by the same ancient rhythm, fulfilling its instinctive role in the inescapable cycle of life: a frenzied three-week bout of territorial conquests and mating; survival of the fittest as 40 km long columns plunge through crocodile-infested waters on the annual exodus north. This trek replenishes the species in a brief population explosion that produces more than 8,000 calves daily before the 1,000 km pilgrimage begins again. Size: 14,763 sq km Location: 335 km from Arusha, stretching north to Kenya and bordering Lake Victoria to the west. Getting there: Scheduled and charter flights from Arusha, Lake Manyara and Mwanza. Drive from Arusha, Lake Manyara, Tarangire or Ngorongoro Crater.
Tarangire National Park Day after day of cloudless skies. The fierce sun sucks the moisture from the landscape, baking the earth a dusty red, the withered grass as brittle as straw. The Tarangire River has shriveled to a shadow of its wet season self. But It is choked with wildlife. Thirsty nomads have wandered hundreds of parched kilometres knowing that here, always, there is water. Size: 2,600 sq km. Location: 118 km southwest of Arusha. Getting there: Easy drive from Arusha or Lake Manyara following a surfaced road to within 7 km of the main entrance gate; can continue on the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti. Charter flights from Arusha and the Serengeti.
Brooding and primeval, the forests of Udzungwa seam positively enchanted: a verdant refuge of sunshine-dappled glades enclosed by 30-metre high trees, their buttresses layered with fungi, lichens, mosses and ferns. Size: 1,990 sq km. Location: Five hours (350km) from Dar es Salaam; 65 km southwest of Mikumi. Getting there: Drive from Dar es Salaam or Mikumi National Park.