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Below are our recommended places to visit. Contact us today or call 303-778-1089 to learn more about how we can customize the perfect luxury Tanzania safari just for you!
Arusha National Park
Mt. Meru, the fifth highest mountain in Africa, dominates this small, lush park which can be reached in a short, 45-minute drive from Arusha. A three-night, four-day climb of the peak is both challenging and rewarding but requires no technical skills. Down lower, the park features a series of lakes and a wide variety of habitats including an extinct volcano crater. Mammal and bird life abound – look for species like the black and white colobus monkey, Cape buffalo, Hartlaub’s turaco, cinnamon-chested bee-eaters and greater and lesser flamingos. Views of Mt. Kilimanjaro in the distance can be spectacular. In addition to game drives, visitors can enjoy canoe safaris.
Lake Manyara National Park
Another small gem, this park takes its name from its shallow, alkaline lake nestled at the foot of the Great Rift Valley wall. Lake Manyara National Park is home to a variety of habitats that host large concentrations of mammals, including elephants, hippos, baboons, giraffes, leopards and lions. Flamingos, pelicans and many other bird species abound – upwards of nearly 400 species are found in the park. For novice and committed birders alike, it’s a great destination as visitors could easily see 100 species in a day. Try a canoeing trip for a change of scenery, a tree canopy walkway for a unique view or mountain biking down the Rift Valley escarpment for a bit of adrenaline.
Early morning game drives in the park give guests the best chance to see one of the park’s many elusive leopards, and while tree-climbing lions can be seen in many parts of Tanzania and elsewhere in Africa, Lake Manyara National Park is well-known for its aerially-inclined big cats.
At 19,340 feet, Kilimanjaro (aka ‘Kili’) is the highest mountain in Africa. Those who climb Kili will explore lush forests, giant heath and moorland, alpine deserts reminiscent of the moon and glaciers. No specialized equipment or mountaineering experience is required to climb Africa’s highest peak, though a good level of fitness is a prerequisite. Reaching the summit, Uhuru Peak, climbers look down on the world to see why it is called the roof of Africa. We offer the safest Kili climbs with excellent summit success records. We will recommend your routing based on a number of factors, using our expertise to help you have the best chance to see its summit. Explore our Kilimanjaro safaris. Explore our Kilimanjaro safaris.
Mto Wa Mbu
The village of Mto Wa Mbu is near Lake Manyara National Park, en route to the Ngorongoro Highlands and is a worthy stop for travelers. One hundred and twenty Tanzanian tribes are represented in its population, and visitors have the chance to get a glimpse into daily village life. A walking (or cycling, should you choose) tour might stop at a lovely waterfall and lake, or up a nearby hill with beautiful views. There is also the chance to visit local farms or a Maasai boma. The local curio market is worth a stop for shoppers.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) is home to the famous Ngorongoro Crater. Nearly 100 square miles in diameter, the Crater is breathtaking both from above and within. Here, you’ll find a large population of resident and migratory wildlife including lions, hyenas, jackals, elephants, buffalo, eland and myriad other plains game. Importantly, this is probably the only place you’ll be able to see the rare black rhinoceros in Tanzania. Birding in the Crater is also fantastic – many species can be spotted, from rosy-throated longclaws to kori bustards. Game drives are how the Crater is explored, and we recommend getting the earliest start possible to enjoy the morning light and for a more exclusive experience.
Outside the crater, the NCA offers lush forests, vast plains, cultural interactions with the Maasai, other volcanic craters of special interest to hikers, walking safaris and visits to Olduvai Gorge – one of the world’s most important anthropological sites.
Located between Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park is Olduvai Gorge, the site of many famous discoveries into the origins of humankind. Louis and Mary Leakey spent much of their lifetimes digging here and made many finds including the fossilized bones of Australopithecus boisei, dated to 1.75 million years ago. Olduvai is an incredibly landmark in the history of paleontology. Visitors can see ancient hominid footprints, diggings and interesting geology, along with replica hominid fossils as well as ancient animal fossils in the museum. During the seasonal rains, great herds of wildebeest come to calve nearby, and birds are a constant presence outside the museum.
Serengeti National Park
The flagship of the Tanzania National Parks system and famous throughout the world, this huge park offers breathtaking vistas, beautiful hilly areas, bush, woodland and the famous Serengeti Plains. Millions of animals, including 1.5 million wildebeest and 500,000 gazelles and zebra, along with countless predators, birds and reptiles inhabit the ecosystem. The Park has little permanent water, which is the genesis for the ‘Great Migration’ – the perpetual movement of millions of animals following the cycle of rain and its resulting abundance across the plains. To be sure you’re in tune with the Migration’s constant cycle, work with an expert to plan your safari so that you can be sure to have the best opportunity for a chance to see it. Activities on offer include game drives, hot air balloon safaris and community visits. Additional activities may be on offer in private reserves (recommended seasonally), and include walking safaris, night drives, anti-poaching unit educational activities and more.
While the Migration is a huge attraction for visitors, there is ‘resident’ game found in the park year-round. Even when not in the midst of the migration, travelers can see large numbers of plains game, predators and bird life. Game viewing is excellent all year, though we suggest travelers avoid the rainy months of April and May. Work with a Journey Specialist to choose the best time of year for you.
Tarangire National Park
This beautiful park and its namesake river provide a crucial lifeline for a variety of animals in the dry season. It shines brightest from roughly July through November when it is alive with thousands of elephant, wildebeest, zebra and buffalo trekking back and forth through immense baobab trees to the Tarangire River for precious water. Tarangire also is home to kudu, reedbuck, gerenuk and other less common antelope as well as their predators, along with around 500 species of birds. There are lodges both within and bordering the park. Choosing to stay in the latter allows for night drives and game walks.
Gombe Stream National Park
Made famous by Jane Goodall, the small and remote Gombe Stream National Park is an excellent place to see chimpanzees. Little visited and even lesser developed, Gombe offers guided hikes through the park’s steep mountains in search of the chimp families made famous by Goodall. We rate Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains two of the best places on the continent to see chimpanzees. The long-term presence of researchers has made the primates well-habituated to human presence, meaning you can spend time among them without disturbing them or changing their behavior. Here, you can also see colobus monkeys, baboons and hundreds of species of cichlids in the waters of Lake Tanganyika, which along with Tanzania’s other lakes, may harbor the greatest freshwater fish diversity on earth.
Mahale Mountains National Park
Breathtaking, forested mountains meet the crystal-clear waters of Lake Tanganyika in Mahale. Less famous, much larger and even less visited than Gombe, Mahale is paradise for those interested in chimpanzees, forest hogs, birds and unspoiled beauty. It is one of the most scenic parks in Africa with steep mountains tumbling into the depths of a Rift Valley lake. Chimpanzees here are also very habituated to human presence and travelers have the chance to see them in their natural environment without disrupting their daily activities. Guests can revel in the excitement of early morning chimp trekking through a wild and pristine forest, then enjoy toes-in-the-sand time by the water with a cool drink or a dhow ride and a swim in the lake in the afternoons. A visit combines well with nearby Katavi National Park.
Katavi National Park
Tanzania’s third-largest national park is extremely remote, totally pristine and truly off-the-beaten-path. It is one of Africa’s most wild places and offers an ultra-exclusive experience because of its very low numbers of visitors. You might not encounter another vehicle on your game drives. While we don’t advise travel during the wet season, the dry season (May – Oct) holds the promise of epic game viewing. Thousands of elephant and massive buffalo herds thrill the park’s few guests, as do abundant lion sightings. There is no shortage of plains game including hartebeest, topi, zebra and reedbuck. In the dry season, the concentrations of hundreds of hippo and crocodiles fighting for space in water holes make for incredible and intense game viewing. Game drives, bush walks and fly camping are all options in the park, and you might find that game viewing from your tent is almost as good as going on a drive!
Ruaha National Park
Ruaha is Tanzania’s largest national park and East Africa’s largest protected area. It provides visitors with a wild and remote bush experience as visitor numbers are low and accommodations are limited. The Ruaha River attracts giant crocodiles, hippos, elephants, greater and lesser kudu, the elusive roan and sable antelope and many other species. Lions and leopards are reliably seen by visitors. Ruaha is at its best from June to November when conditions are hot and dry. Game drives, bush walks and fly camping are all options in the park.
Nyerere National Park
At nearly 12,000 square miles, Nyerere National Park (formerly part of the Selous Game Reserve) is the largest national park in Tanzania and one of the largest wildlife sanctuaries in the world. Nyerere is home to vast numbers of animals and birds including more than 15,000 elephants, plus endangered African wild dogs, crocodiles, hippos, buffalo and antelope. With very few visitors, Nyerere is another of Tanzania’s off-the-beaten-track destinations that offers wonderful exclusivity to travelers. Nyerere is a great place for boating safaris with great game viewing and spectacular sunsets, exciting bush walks and rewarding game drives. Fly camping is also an option in Nyerere National Park. There’s nothing more exciting than sleeping under a net in the wilds of the African bush!
Tanzania Beach Destinations
With a history full of conquerors, slavers and spice traders, Zanzibar is a place to get a taste of the exotic. Stone Town’s narrow, winding streets and elaborately carved, century-old doors are sure to hold your interest, as are its old houses, palaces, mosques and bazaars. On a spice tour, you’ll see how cloves and other delicious spices are grown. And the island’s white sand beaches and crystal-clear ocean provide the perfect opportunity to swim, scuba dive, fish, snorkel and relax. Those seeking more excitement will find entertainment, nightlife and good shopping among Stone Town’s streets, while those willing to venture further afar can take in more of the island’s historic sights. Lovely beaches abound around its shores – talk with one of our Journey Specialist about your ideal beach retreat and we’ll find just the right spot for you. Zanzibar is the perfect place to wind down after an East African safari.
Lesser known than its sister island, Pemba has the incredible beaches and water of Zanzibar without the development and with far fewer visitors. Come here to relax, snorkel, dive and enjoy the unique local culture. The inhabitants of Pemba have worked hard to restore and preserve areas of their coral reefs making for excellent diving, and interesting terrestrial species can occasionally be spotted, including endemic flying foxes. Take a ride on a traditional dhow, using the wind’s power to whiz you over the Indian Ocean waves, stroll the miles of uncrowded beaches and indulge in freshly caught seafood. Pemba is not for those looking for a high level of infrastructure, development or services. It is a true ‘get away from it all’ destination.
When to Visit
Tanzania is an incredible destination any time of year. There is resident (non-migratory) wildlife in all of its parks and reserves, so visitors can expect consistency throughout the year. The country’s dry season is from July to October and provides some of the best game viewing as the vegetation is sparse. It is also high season, so accommodations book up more quickly and are at peak rates. The parks are more crowded during these months as well, though private conservancies offer more exclusivity for travelers.
The dry season brings more pleasant temperatures to coastal and island destinations. Dry season is also the best time to plan a Kilimanjaro or Meru climb, as well as any other serious hiking excursions.
For those who are interested in seeing the wildebeest migration, safaris during most months from November through June offer the best chance to encounter the large herds. Space is at a premium during these months and should be booked at least a year in advance, if not two.
The November and December months welcome the ‘short rains’ to Tanzania, though showers are sporadic and usually take place in the afternoons. January and February bring lush grasses in the Southern Serengeti and is the time of year the wildebeest ‘drop’ their babies – upwards of 8,000 can be born every day. Traveling during the ‘green season,’ as it is known, has myriad benefits. Flights are less expensive, and parks are less crowded. It is also a wonderful time of year for photography. The vegetation is lush, newborn animals and migratory birds can be seen and crisp air and changing skies provide for fantastic landscape and animal shots.
The ’long rains’ (rainy season) typically take place in April and May. We do not advise visitors to choose Tanzania for their safari at this time of year.