A trip to Africa has been on my wishlist ever since I saw the Lion King when I was 8 years old. Seeing animals in the zoo is one thing, but seeing them wild in their natural habitat is something truly special. I finally got to experience the top 4 must-visit National Parks in Tanzania in July and my trip was simply perfect! The hospitality was wonderful. The safaris were so well-organized with expert guides. The food was delicious (with a lot of vegetarian options for me!) and the hotels were so chic. But of course, the best part of it all was seeing the Big 5 wild animals.
Most of the popular national parks are located towards the north of Tanzania. I’ve listed below the parks I visited in the order I visited them as it does make for a convenient itinerary – starting and ending at Arusha town.
Top 4 Must-Visit National Parks In Tanzania
1. Tarangire National Park
The landscapes of each of the parks we visited were quite different. The landscape at Tarangire was green with grass and trees and the Tarangire river runs through the park. It was very picturesque. Being the first stop of our one week safari, I was super excited and quite surprised at the arrangements that were made for us. The safari jeeps were very comfortable with the roof top that could be pushed up –allowing you to stand up and have a better look at the animals while still giving you protection from the harsh African sun.
This was my first time seeing real zebras and I got to see them to my hearts content. There were so many wildebeests and zebras running around everywhere!!! A specialty of Tarangire National Park is the Baobab tree, also known as the tree of life.
While on our way to Serengeti park, we also stopped at a Masai village and saw the Masai’s homes, lifestyle and a traditional tribal dance!
Read more: The Masai tribe in the modern world
2. Serengeti National Park
This is probably the most famous national park in the world! Serengeti was the inspiration behind ‘pride rock’ from Disney’s Lion King. The landscape here is barren and rocky during the dry months but there are some areas here that are still quite lush.
We spent two days in Serengeti because this national park is really large. It also extends all the way into Kenya – and the park on the Kenyan side is called Masai mara. We got to see a lot of animals and a lot of lion families… some from quite close-up. We were fortunate to even see a lioness sleeping on a tree!
The specialty of the Serengeti National Park is the wildebeest migration which usually takes place between June and August. You will get to see thousands of wildebeests along with zebras migrating north towards Kenya. When I went in July, the migration had already moved up north and we just didn’t have the time to drive 4 hours north just to see it. It is a spectacle I missed out on and I do feel bad about it! So my advice is to spend one extra day at Serengeti so that you can drive wherever you have to… do whatever it takes to catch up with the migration.
A very special thing that we did get to experience at Serengeti, was a hot air balloon ride! We drove out at 4am when it was still pitch dark (and it was like an exciting night safari) and got into a huge hot air balloon, rode over the jungle, saw a magical sunrise and then saw a bunch of animals scatter and run under us as we moved swiftly. The landing was a bit bumpy, but adds to the adventure!
3. Ngorongoro Crater
The specialty of Ngorongoro is that it is a crater and the animals that already live in the crater can’t get out of it. So you are definitely going to bump into them at some point. The landscape is green with a fresh water lake and if you are lucky you can even see flamingos near the lake.
The lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and African buffalo are referred to as the Big 5. So of course we did not want to leave Africa without seeing all of them! We saw plenty of lions, elephants, buffalos and even leopards, though they were difficult to spot. What we were missing out on was the rhino. There are 4 to 5 rhinos in Ngorongoro Crater and this would be the only chance we would have to see them. We drove for hours… with no luck! Until at last, just before getting out of the crater, we managed to spot two rhinos through our binoculars – which would have been almost impossible to spot with the naked eye. Not the best way to see them, but at least we got a glimpse!
4. Lake Manyara National Park
Lake Manyara is the best park to visit if you are into birds! The lake where the park gets its name from, is home to many types of birds and thousands of them! The landscape also has a whole lot of up and down, with dense forest parts and is unlike any of the other parks.
Apart from the birds, another specialty of this park are the unique blue monkeys. Another thing I loved about all the safaris was that they had a designated site within the park with benches where you could have a picnic. Our guide had loaded up on lunch boxes, wine and additional goodies and we enjoyed our meal while watching colourful birds come looking for tidbits. It is the same practice with most of the safari tours here and it’s such a lovely way of enjoying a nice meal together whilst ensuring the cleanliness of the park.
Some of the animals I ended up seeing on my trip to the national parks in Tanzania are Lions, Hyenas, Leopards, Cheetahs, Hippos, Rhinos, Buffalos, Giraffes, Elephants, Deers, Monkeys, Water Hogs (Pumba!), Crocodiles, Zebras, Wildebeests and so many different types of birds! Such wonderful memories – Thank you Tanzania!
Here are a few tips if you want to visit the national parks in Tanzania;
- Plan a minimum of 7 days for your safaris.
- Travel during the dry season for the best chance to see wildlife.
- Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate! Also… plenty of sunscreen! The African sun is crazy.
- Be open to trying out the local cuisine, you will love it.
- Say ‘jambo’ every time you meet someone. This is the African way of saying hello and it’s just so much fun to say!
All the hotels we stayed at while on the safari were also quite special; Manyara Country Lodge near Tarangire National Park. Serengeti Acacia Tented Camp within Serengeti National Park (we could hear hyenas close by at night!). Ngorongoro Farm House near Ngorongoro Crater.
We booked our safari through Gosheni Safaris (based in Arusha, Tanzania) and I would highly recommend them. They know how to keep their customers happy!
Popular tours of National Parks in Tanzania…
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