The country’s 16 national parks, which protect more than 25% of its land, are home to 20% of the African continent’s larger mammals so it is little wonder game viewing experiences are one of the best in Africa. It is the place seemingly to see endless herds of wildebeest and zebra trekking across the plains on their annual migration – followed by lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena. It is elephant country, boasting some of the largest populations in the world. Gombe and Mahale National Parks are home to groups of chimpanzees rarely seen in the wild.
A wildlife safari can be enhanced by a wide choice of beach holidays or other various activities. Another option is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, otherwise known as the ‘Roof of Africa’, which is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. Tanzania’s Swahili, Zanzibar and Pemba coastlines share beautiful beaches - hundreds of miles of palm-fringed sands overlooking the Indian Ocean.
The Ngorongoro Conservation
Featuring volcanoes, grasslands, waterfalls and forests, it is home to the nomadic Masai . The centrepiece, and major landmark, of the Conservation Area is the breathtaking Ngorongoro Crater, a natural amphitheatre surrounded by steep walls rising over 600 metres from the crater floor. It is one of the world’s greatest natural spectacles whose magical setting and plentiful wildlife never fail to thrill. The crater is a natural sanctuary for some 30000 animals including the ‘big five’ of buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino. It is also home to cheetah, hartebeest, hippo, hyena, jackal, reedbuck, serval, warthog, waterbuck, wildebeest, zebra and a great many bird and insect species. In addition to the Masai and their livestock, buffalo, eland and reedbuck may be seen. The Munge River crosses the crater before falling hundreds of metres in a spectacular waterfall. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority was established in 1959, to pioneer this multiple land use in which conservation, tourism and pastoral activities co-exist in carefully managed harmony.
Arusha National Park.
Consisting of three spectacular features - the Momela Lakes, Mount Meru and the Ngurdoto Crater. On clear days magnificent views of Mount Kilimanjaro can be seen from almost any part of the park. The vegetation and wildlife varies with the topography, which ranges from forest to swamp. The park is famous for its 575 species of birdlife, both migrant and resident, and black and white colobus monkeys. Elephant is rare, and lion absent all together, but other animals frequently seen in the park are baboon, buffalo, giraffe, hippo, hyena, warthog, zebra and a wide range of antelope species including dik dik and waterbuck. Leopard is ever-present but, as always, difficult to find. Tourist attractions include canoe safaris on the Momela lakes, riding safaris on specialised car-free routes, and walks around the rim of the Ngurudoto Crater, and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro over three or four days.
This park is famous for its tree climbing lions, which spend most of the day on the branches of Acacia trees six to seven metres above the ground. Nestling at the base of the Great Rift Valley escarpment, the park is noted for its incredible beauty. Further along, the forest opens up into woodlands, grassland, swamps, and beyond the soda lake , covering 200 km2, which is sanctuary to over 400 species of birds including flamingos, pelicans, storks, sacred ibises, cormorants and Egyptian geese. The park is particularly noted for its huge herds of buffalo and elephant. Also giraffe, hippo, reedbuck, warthog, wildebeest, zebra, a great variety of smaller animals and, more recently, a family of endangered wild dog.
The Serengeti National Park is arguably the best known wildlife sanctuary in the world. “Serengeti” means “endless plains” in the Masai language, and within its boundaries are more than three million large mammals. Some 35 species of plains animals may be seen here including the so-called “big seven” – buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, cheetah and African hunting dog. In May or early June, huge herds of wildebeest and zebra begin their spectacular 600-mile pilgrimage across the plains. In their wake, follow the predators – lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena and jackal – while vultures circle overhead, and some of Africa’s biggest crocodile lie in wait. Other animals frequently seen in the Serengeti include aardvark, baboon
s, caracal, civet, bat-eared fox, genet, giraffe, hippo, honey badger, hyrax, mongoose, ostrich, pangolin, serval, both Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelle, vervet monkey, warthog and some 20 types of antelope including eland, hartebeest or kongoni, impala, kudu, reedbuck, roan, topi, waterbuck and the much smaller dik dik, duiker, klipspringer and oribi. There is, of course, also a great profusion of birdlife. Over 500 species have been recorded including bee-eaters, bustards, cranes, eagles, flamingos, herons, hornbills, guinea fowls, hoopoes, kingfishers, ostriches, parrots, storks, vultures, weavers, and the bizarre, long-legged secretary birds.
Close to Arusha, 118 km away, Tarangire National Park gets its name from the river that threads its way through the reserve. It is famous for its dense wildlife population which is most spectacular between June and September, which is the dry season. During this time thousands of animals – elephant, buffalo, giraffe, eland, hartebeest, kudu, wildebeest and the rarely seen oryx and gerenuk – migrate from the dry Masai steppe to the Tarangire River looking for water. Lion, leopard and other predators follow the herds. Tarangire has the largest population of elephant of any park in the northern circuit and is also home to 550 varieties of bird including the Kori bustard – the heaviest flying bird.
Rising abruptly from the open plains, capped by snow and frequently fringed by clouds, it is one of Africa’s classic images. At 19,344 feet above sea level, it is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest walkable summit in the world. The diameter of its base is an incredible 40 miles. Kilimanjaro is a dormant, but not extinct volcano. Ominous rumbles can sometimes be heard – and gases emerge from the fumeholes in the crater. Although just three degrees south of the Equator, the peaks of both Kibo and Mawenzi have permanent caps of snow and ice. During their time on the mountain, climbers pass from a tropical to arctic environment in just a few days. The various trails first pass through lush rainforests before reaching heather and open moorland where giant lobelia and huge, cactus-like groundsel grow. Above this moorland is the almost lunar landscape of an alpine desert which stretches between the two peaks of Kibo, the flat-topped dome at the centre, and Mawenzi , a group of jagged points and pinnacles on the eastern side. Inhospitable as this ‘moonscape’ may seem, animals such as herds of eland thrive there. The highest point on Kibo, and indeed the whole of Kilimanjaro, is Uhuru Peak, with its spectacular hanging glaciers and stupendous views of the African plains some 20,000 feet below. Also on Kibo is the slightly lower peak of Gillman’s Point.
Best time to visit:
For game viewing in the Serengeti and Tanzania's other parks, it’s best to go during the dry season which is from late June to October. Mount Kilimanjaro is best climbed either between July and October or January to March, while the best time to visit Tanzania's coast, its islands and Zanzibar is between August and October.
Almost everyone needs a visa, which costs US$50 for most nationalities (US$100 for citizens of the USA) for a single-entry visa valid for up to three months. Officially, visas must be obtained in advance by all travellers who come from a country with Tanzania diplomatic representation. One-month single-entry visas (but not multiple-entry visas) are also currently issued on arrival (no matter your provenance) at both Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro International Airports.
Tanzania’s currency is the Tanzanian shilling (Tsh). A Visa or MasterCard is essential for accessing money from ATMs and for paying entry fees at most national parks. Credit cards are not widely accepted for hotel payment. Where they are accepted, it’s often only with commissions. As a result, you will need to rely heavily on cash and ATMs. US dollar bills dated prior to 2006 are not accepted anywhere.
Get a check-up from your dentist and your doctor if you have any regular medication or chronic illness, such as high blood pressure or asthma. Organise spare contact lenses and glasses. Carry medications in their original (labelled) containers. If carrying syringes or needles, have a physician’s letter documenting their medical necessity. Yellow fever vaccination is required if you are arriving from an endemic area (which includes many of Tanzania’s neighbours).
Check in advance if your insurance plan will make payments directly to providers or reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures. Most doctors in Tanzania expect payment in cash. Ensure that your travel insurance will cover any emergency transport required to get you at least as far as Nairobi (Kenya), or (preferably) all the way home, by air and with a medical attendant if necessary.