Tanzania, an East African country known for its vast wilderness areas. Tanzania Safari Destinations include the plains of Serengeti National Park, a safari mecca populated by the “big five” game (elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino), and Kilimanjaro National Park, home to Africa’s highest mountain. Offshore lie the tropical islands of Zanzibar and Mafia Marine Park, where whale sharks swim through reefs.
Approximately 38% of Tanzania’s land area is set aside in protected areas for conservation. Tanzania Safari Destinations comprise of 16 safari parks, plus a variety of game and forest reserves, including the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. In western Tanzania, Gombe Stream National Park is the site of Jane Goodall’s ongoing study of chimpanzee behaviour, which started in 1960.
Tanzania safari destinations are highly biodiverse and contains a wide variety of animal habitats. On Tanzania’s Serengeti plain, white-bearded wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus mearnsi) and other bovids participate in a large-scale annual migration. Tanzania is also home to about 130 amphibian and over 275 reptile species, many of them strictly endemic and included in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red Lists of different countries. Tanzania has developed a Biodiversity Action Plan to address species conservation.
Top Destinations in Tanzania
For a relatively small country, there’s a lot that’s big about the place. It’s home to the tallest mountain range in Africa (Rwenzori Mountains), the source that feeds the world’s longest river and the continent’s largest lake. And with half the planet’s remaining mountain gorillas residing here, as well as the Big Five to be ticked off, wildlife watching is huge.
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Why Tanzania Safari Destinations?
As the home of the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater and a string of other world-famous wildlife sanctuaries, Tanzania is well-established as one of Africa’s premier safari destinations. But the country is more than a series of wildlife trails. Hike through flower-clad valleys in remote Kitulo National Park; explore the magnificent ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani; snorkel in the fish-filled waters of the Mafia Archipelago; spot water birds in lovely Rubondo Island National Park; and discover Swahili culture in the old trading outpost of Pangani. Tanzania’s off the beaten track sights are every bit as alluring as the country’s famous safari circuits.
Tanzania’s numerous stunning wild spaces and tourist attractions have certainly lost none of their shine, and most are currently uncharacteristically free of the droves of tourists that have descended on them in past years.
So while tourists can be a very fickle bunch, Tanzania safari destinations stay stoic and steadfast at the top of the Africa safari table. Here’s a few reasons why:
The Northern Circuit
This celebrated safari circuit centers on the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. If you close your eyes and imagine “safari”, the Serengeti is what you’ll see: seemingly-endless grass plains, great herds of wildebeest, flat-topped acacias punctuating the horizon, stellar sunsets and so many big cats you might think you’re hallucinating. Driving around this enormous safari park you’re likely to find yourself singing the theme song to the Lion King. Unsurprisingly, the Serengeti came out comfortably top of the pile in SafariBookings’ recent list of the 50 best national parks in Africa.
On the fringes of the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area has just as much allure and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here you can witness the Maasai people continuing to practice their traditional way of life whilst co-existing with an unprecedented population of African fauna. The Ngorongoro Crater, the largest caldera on earth, is home to the majority of the big game and provides a truly unique backdrop to the game viewing experience.
The Northern Circuit also has a number of lesser-known gems. The relatively small, peaceful and very pretty Tarangire National Park has one of Africa’s highest densities of elephants, while the coruscating and almost other-worldly expanse of Lake Natron boasts a staggering flamingo population and is presided over by an active volcano known to the Maasai as The Mountain of God.
The best way to enjoy this feted safari circuit in all its unadulterated glory, like you’re Ernest Hemingway himself, is on a luxury private camping safari, such as Tanzania-Experience’s Mobile Explorer Safari option.
The Southern Circuit
The Southern Circuit is often neglected by tourists in favor of the more famous Northern Circuit, but this is a large part of its appeal. Ask your Tanzanian safari guides what their favorite park is and many will single out one of the Southern Circuit behemoths, either Ruaha or Selous.
At a staggering 45,000km2, Selous Game Reserve is Africa’s biggest game reserve and one of the biggest protected areas in the world. To put that into perspective, the reserve is bigger than Switzerland, but with lots more game and a lot less Swiss people — or any other kind of people for that matter. This vast and remote wilderness area is a great place for river safaris on the Rufiji , Tanzania’s largest river, as well as the ubiquitous game drives.
In the Eastern Rift Valley, Ruaha National Park is characterized by enormous old baobabs and, alongside Tarangire on the Northern Circuit, it is home to one of the largest elephant populations in Africa. The plains are great for predator sightings, while the swamps house healthy hippo and croc populations. The park is one of the best places in Tanzania to see the critically-endangered African wild dog; it’s also one of only a small number of national parks in Tanzania that allow walking safaris.
Other highlights of this circuit include the Udzungwa Mountains and Mikumi National Park.
Another thing that puts Tanzania ahead of the pack is the ease with which you can combine your safari with a relaxing tropical beach break or an adventurous mountaineering expedition.
All along the east coast of Tanzania you’ll find no less than 804km (503 miles) of sublime Indian Ocean coastline and pearly-white palm-fringed beaches with some magnificent islands offshore. The most well-known of these tropical island idylls is Zanzibar, but there are a handful of other hidden gems that serve up a similarly sumptuous platter of sun, seafood and seclusion, with a healthy dash of history and culture thrown in for good measure. The Indian Ocean coastline is also a spectacular area for snorkeling or scuba diving, with the marine life as abundant as the wildlife inland.
Mountains are also found in abundance across Tanzania. The big star here is undoubtedly the incongruously and iconically snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, a dormant volcano that finds itself in elite company as one of the world’s Great Seven Summits. Kili is Africa’s tallest mountain at 5,895m, and also the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, but it is the most accessible of the Great Seven Summits and can be climbed via a number of different routes.
Mount Meru is only slightly Kilimanjaro’s junior and is a shorter if equally trying climb. Ol Doinyo Lengai is arguably the toughest climb in Tanzania. An arduous one day hike takes you inside the crater rim of this active volcano.
There are more than 120 ethnic groups in Tanzania, each of whom have their own distinctive histories and cultural traits, but all of whom are equally interesting and, for the most part, welcoming.
The iconic semi-nomadic Maasai, with their distinctive attire and jewelry, have become particularly synonymous with safaris in East Africa. Less exposed to tourists are the Hadzabe, hunter gatherers indigenous to north-central Tanzania, who number less than 1,000 and have no known relation to any other ethnic group. They are among the last hunter gatherers left in the world.
The so-called Swahili Coast was a favored stop on ancient trading routes between the Indian sub-continent and the Middle East. Spices, jewels and slaves once passed through here, bringing with them a mélange of cultural riches that remain today.
Tanzania has seen little of the ethnic or religious-based violence that has afflicted certain other nations in the region. In fact the country is an inherently peaceful place and embraces its multicultural heritage, which adds to its broad appeal.