The most famous parks are situated in the north of Tanzania. These parks offer the best chance of witnessing wild animals in their natural habitat. The parks are famous for ‘The Big Five’ and the ‘Great Migration’. All of these parks have their own unique characteristics and attractions. The main attractions are listed below:
Serengeti National Park
Serengeti National Park derives its name from the Masai word Siringitu meaning endless plain. The Serengeti is located along the rift valley and abounds with geological formations. One of Serengeti’s defining features are its Kopjes pronounced copy, a feature of continual weathering. These islands in the sea of grass are formed as the top soil comprising of rock and ash is eroded exposing the covered layer of metamorphic rock. These “kopjes” are round as a result of spherical wind weathering. The national park covers an area of 14800 square Kilometres most of which is grassy plains. These rich grass plains are a result of ash deposited by volcanic eruptions are home to 3 million animals. Within these grass plains the scattered kopjes act as a haven for animals from grass fires, predators and the heat. Due to its location north west of the Ngorongoro conservation Area the Serengeti lie’s in the mountains’ rain shadow and thus receive less rainfall.
Serengeti National Park is famous for its abundance of leopards, cheetahs, lions and other large cats, but Serengeti’s reputation, first of all, is based on its famous migration. Approximately 1.5 million gnus, 200.000 zebras and 350.000 gazelles cover huge distances of up to 1900 kilometres twice a year to find enough water and fresh green grass to survive. But also when the animals are not migrating, Serengeti is worth a visit. We highly recommend this park.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area geologically lies in an area that is in constant change, this is a result of the eastern side of Africa starting to breach, causing the land between the rifts to wane. This resulted in the formation of lines of weakness in the earth’s crust which acted like vents for molten material, hence the creation of the rift valley, Ngorongoro and other craters and volcanoes in this area. Ngorongoro is a unique crater known as a caldera. A caldera is the aftereffect of a volcanic collapse, an implosion rather than explosion, Ngorongoro was formed some two million years ago. Ecologically it covers an area of 8300 square Kilometres with varied terrain and altitudes. These variations result in diverse and distinct habitats from grassy plains to mountain forest. The Crater itself measures an average of 18 Kilometres in diameter and has an approximately 700 metre vertical drop. Apart from being home to 25000 large animals it forms part of what is known as the Serengeti-Ngorongoro-Masai Mara ecosystem. This ecosystem allows for the free movement of 1.5 million animals in their continuous search for green pastures known as the migration.
Nearly all the big wild animals can be seen in the crater. Apart from
large herds of zebra and gnus the Ngorongoro is the scene for elephants, lions, hippopotamuses and in particular the black rhinoceros. The giraffe is strikingly absent: their long necks and legs prevent these animals from making the steep descent into the crater.
This site, which is also known as the “cradle of mankind”, is named after the Masai word for the wild sisal plant, commonly called Oldupaai. The site was actually first discovered by a German entomologist Professor Kattwinkel who was more interested in the butterflies found in the area and fortuitously found fossil remains. This lead to the later excavation work there that was pioneered by Louis and Mary Leakey in the 1950s, and the later discovery of Australopithecus boisei, also known as “nutcracker man”. He is believed to be 1.7 million years old.
Tarangire national park boasts one of the largest concentrations per unit area of elephants and this is often evident when you follow the game drive circuits along the river. One will often encounter herds of elephant either going or coming from the river. This offers great viewing of the herds as they socialize and interact with each other. There are also buffalos, cheetahs, hyenas and lions to be seen. In the dry season the animals assemble at the marshes for fresh drinking-water. We can assure you that this is a grandiose spectacle.
Lake Manyara National Park
Lake Manyara is one of those national parks that offer rich and diverse game viewing within a reasonably small area. From its thick ground water forest at the park entrance to its more arid acacia woodland in the south. It’s one of the best areas for elephant viewing and close encounters are very common, the bird life here is also exceptional. Because of its thick bush and forested areas viewing of cats is not so common.
Arusha National Park
Arusha national park offers great scenic beauty with thick forests, undulating hills, lakes and craters. This park allows for great chances of viewing colobus monkeys, which are some of the most interesting primates with long white tails and vestigial thumbs. The name Colobus is derived from the Latin language meaning mutilated one, as they do not possess a thumb.