Northern Tanzania is home to some of East Africa’s most famous parks.The main parks in the north are the Serengeti Game Reserve, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Lake Manyara National Park and Tarangire National Park.
Serengeti Game Reserve
The Serengeti is notable for its million strong migratory herds of zebra and wildebeest. Ngorongoro has Africa’s densest lion and spotted hyena population as well as the rare, big tusked black rhino. Lake Manyara has flocks of flamingos in the shallows and tree climbing lion in the surrounding vegetation whilst Tarangire is known for having dense elephant populations in the dry season. These parks are very easy to combine and can be accessed either by light aircraft, or more commonly by driving on a guided safari.
Trips tend to start in Arusha where international flights land and then head west taking in Tarangire, Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater before ending in the Serengeti. However, the north is not just home to the most famous parks, it also has a number of lesser known areas that are no less spectacular. Lake Natron, far from the beaten track is a breeding ground for lesser flamingos and has spectacular scenery with the wall of the Great Rift Valley running alongside it.
West Kilimanjaro is an area of unparalleled beauty with vast plains home to both antelope and cattle. It is a Maasai stronghold and visiting here gives you an insight into traditional Maasai culture. Finally, it is possible to walk around the rim of the crater, stay on a coffee farm in the Ngorongoro highlands, take in the scenery at the foothills of Kilimanjaro or even climb to the top.
Tanzania National Parks locations
Places to visit in Northern Tanzania
Featuring heavily on our experiences of visiting Northern Tanzania, these selected places are destinations that also prove consistently popular with our travellers. Our specialists can help you choose how to include them in your wider trip, based on your preferences.
Serengeti National Park
One of the world’s most iconic wildlife conservation areas, Serengeti National Park, a World Heritage Site, is a “must see” on your Tanzanian safari. Totaling 14,763 sq km in area, the park is appropriately named after the Maasai word for “endless plains”. Here you are certain to get up close and personal with the “Big Five” (Lions, Elephants, Rhinos, Leopards, and Cape Buffalo) and hosts of other iconic and lesser known species. Given the vast terrain, weather patterns, and migratory patterns of the innumerable species, many animals of the Serengeti are constantly on the move. This makes for an adventurous game drive!
The terrain of the park varies from long and short grasslands, open plains in the south, acacia savanna in the central area, hilly, more densely wooded landscapes in the northern section, and extensive woodland and black clay plains, dominated by the central ranges of mountains in the western corridor. The plains are dotted with rocky outcrops known as “kopjes”, and there are several rivers running through the park, notably the Seronera river in the central area, the Grumeti river in the Western corridor, and the Mara river in the north. The variety of landscapes keep you constantly in awe.
The birds of the Serengeti are just as spectacular and varied as are the larger animals—there are several types of eagles and vultures, ostrich, secretary birds, kori bustards, hornbills, guinea fowl, as well as a host of smaller birds. There have been almost 500 species of birds recorded in the park, including several that migrate from Europe and Asia in the winter months—Truly a great park for birding.
Ngorongoro Concervation Area
Ngorongoro Crater is a rare protected area where people (the Maasai) and wild animals co-exist in harmony. A large permanent concentration of wild animals can be found in the huge and perfect crater. Ngorongoro is technically a “caldera”, the largest sunken ancient caldera in the world. Estimated three million years old, the once-volcanic Ngorongoro is now considered one of “Africa’s eighty wonders”. We think it is truly one of the world’s greatest treasures.
Also known as the “Garden of Eden”, the Crater floor is a natural safe haven for thousands of animals such as wildebeest, more than two hundred lion prides, zebra, elephants, hippos, hyenas, Thomson gazelles, African buffalo, crocodiles, ostriches, and many species of birds, not to mention that this is one of the best places to spot an endangered Rhino. A visit to Ngorongoro is a must, and a great place to add on a cultural tour to a Maasai village.
Lake Manyara National Park
Lake Manyara National Park is an attractive and amazingly diverse park for its size of 325 square kilometers (125 square miles). The park is well known for the drama of its terrain, quickly changing from a shallow soda lake covered in flamingos to acacia woodland housing large concentrations of baboons troops, giraffe and elephant herds, and a birding paradise for than 400 bird species to the Great Rift Valley escarpment with its famous tree-climbing lions. The park also boasts an underground water forest.
Lake Manyara is a great stop on the way to the Serengeti, or a wonderful short safari of its own for those on shorter holidays.
Tarangire National Park
Tarangire National Park, a stunningly photogenic park, is home to an astonishing diversity of species, and is remarkable for its concentration of Elephants. Tarangire derives its name from the Tarangire River that flows through the center of the Park from the southern side towards the northwest outlet in lake Burungi. Tarangire National Park is part of the larger Tarangire-Manyara Ecosystem covering a total area of about 35,000 km2. From the magnificent savannah landscapes (for which the park is justly famous) to the vast number of Baobabs that form the habitat for diverse species of birds and bats, this is a park offers a truly sublime experience.
Tarangire is located in an arid geographical belt that supports growth of a wooded savannah that is dominated by Acacia, Terminalia, Combretum and commiphora species. The most remarkable vegetation types in the area include: riverine woodlands, Acacia tortilis park land, wetlands and seasonal flood plains, acacia-commiphora woodlands, riverine grasslands, combretum-dalbergia woodlands, acacia drepanolobium woodlands, rocky hilltop (kopjes) vegetation, deep gully vegetation and grasslands with scattered Baobab trees.The Park serves as a dry season refuge for a majority of diverse migratory wildlife in the Tarangire-Maasai Steppe ecosystem. The park has about more than 550 Bird species. Particularly rich bird life occurs in the open Acacia woodlands, in and along the wetland (Silale Swamp), and in the flood plains of the Tarangire River.
Arusha National Park
Arusha National Park is among of the smallest parks in Tanzania, covering only 137 square kilometers. It is situated a short distance from the city of Arusha, making it easy to visit on a day or half day adventure. The park has several completely different micro-habitats within its confines, from a soda lake which outfit a large number of flamingo to dense forest habitat for black and white colobus monkeys, a plain (or small Serengeti), a crater, and the hikable Mount Meru.