Tanzania – National Parks

Tanzania - National Parks


Usambara Berge

Usambara Mountains

Already among the German colonial masters the Usambara Mountains enjoyed great popularity because of the pleasantly fresh mountain climate, the fertile soils and the beautiful landscape. Even today, one can still find their traces through numerous buildings and relics, often quite unexpectedly. At that time Lushoto, the capital of the mountain region was still known as “Wilhelmsthal”. This natural paradise for hikers and mountain bikers is largely undeveloped for tourism and very little visited. Interesting cultural tourism programs to idyllic small villages provide authentic insights into the everyday life of the locals. Guided pleasure hikes through the magnificent mountains reward with magnificent viewpoints with views over the endless expanse of the Maasai steppe. Tours through rainforest areas with its black and white colobus monkeys or waterfalls inspire the active traveller. This hilly, scenically very interesting terrain is also an Eldorado for mountain bikers with different demands. Tours with rented mountain bikes can be organized from Germany.

Kilimandscharo Nationalpark

Kilimanjaro National Park

With its two peaks, Mount Kibo (Uhuru Peak 5,896 m) and Mawenzi (5,149 m), the highest freestanding mountain in the world is also the highest mountain in Africa. Located in the north of Tanzania, it was declared a national park in 1977. Within each climate zone it has a very diverse flora and fauna. In the west the Kilimanjaro National Park borders on the Arusha National Park with Mount Meru, in the south on the city of Moshi and the Massai Steppe, in the north on the Kenyan Amboseli National Park and in the east on the Kenyan Tsavo West National Park as well as the Pare Mountains with the Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania.

Several routes lead to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro (Kibo). During the ascent, one crosses different vegetation zones, starting with rainforest in the lowlands, followed by bushy moor heathland, giant lobelia, stone desert and the icy summit region. At the crater rim there are several peaks, such as Gillman`s and Stella Point and the highest point at Uhuru Peak with 5.895 m. On the Marangu Route the mountaineer will find simple huts for overnight stays. On all other routes, overnight stays are in simple tents. Great mountaineering skills are not required for the ascent of this fascinating mountain, however, one should not underestimate the necessity of a very good physical condition or acclimatization and adequate equipment as a prerequisite for a successful summit ascent.

In order to be optimally prepared for the ascent, the scenically impressive and conditionally not to be underestimated Mount Meru can be a worthwhile consideration. For the ascent of Mount Meru you should plan about 3-4 days. For the ascent of Kilimanjaro, 3-5 days should be planned as well as 2 more days for the descent. There are several routes to choose from, which can also be combined.

Marangu Route (standard route) – 5 days
This technically easy and scenically very rewarding route starts at Marangu Gate. Overnight stays are in simple mountain huts.

Machame Route (standard route) – 6 to 7 days
This route is considered the most scenic route and is technically not very difficult. The start of the route is at the village of Machame. This route has one of the highest success rates to reach the summit. Overnight stay in tents.

Rongai Route – 6 days
This route begins near the Kenyan border in the village of Rongai. The scenery is not as beautiful as the Machame Route, but it is a medium-dense route. Overnight stay in tents.

Mweka Route – 4 days
This strenuous, steep route starts in the village of Mweka and is considered a challenge and requires very good physical condition. Due to the steepness of the route, it is usually used only for the descent. Overnight stay in tents.

Shira Plateau Route – 4 days
The start of the route does not begin until 3500 m at the Londorrosi Gate. Due to the very high altitude right at the start, the danger of getting altitude sickness is not insignificant. This route should only be done by experienced and skilled mountaineers. A very good acclimatization with possible ascent of Mount Meru in advance is recommended. Overnight stay in tents.

Umwe Route – 5 days
The tour starts near the village of Umwe. This route is considered very strenuous, as it is very steep on the first two parts of the day. Mountaineering skills are sometimes required here. Overnight stay in tents.

Arusha Nationalpark

Arusha National Park

Not far from the safari capital lies this small natural paradise of Africa in the north-east of the country. Due to its location and small size it offers the advantage that it can be explored before or after a safari in a relatively short time. This jewel offers an uncanny scenic variety of habitats and is embedded between Mount Meru (4.562m) and Mount Kilimanjaro (5.895m). The park includes the small Mount Meru (3.801m) as well as the Ngurdoto Crater with its humid, partly swampy bottom and the small Serengeti. Zebras, many antelope species, warthogs, waterbucks, buffalos, giraffes, reedbucks and much more can be found on its grazing grounds. In the northern part of the park, the Momella Lakes are situated between rolling grass hills and are of different colours. It is home to hippos and a huge variety of water birds. Flamingo colonies of gigantic proportions visit the soda lakes at certain times of the year. In the lush rainforests the acrobatic black and white Colobus monkeys are easy to observe. The shady forests are also the preferred habitat of leopards and elephants.

As a contrast and complement to the large national parks, the active visitor here has the opportunity to explore the national park on foot or by boat accompanied by a ranger. Very popular with mountaineers, a 3 to 4 day trekking tour on the scenic Mount Meru offers an excellent opportunity for acclimatization and preparation for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. The very rewarding ascent to the summit leads through forests full of flowering plants and heathlands.

Tarangire Nationalpark

Tarangire National Park

This extremely charming national park captivates by its incredibly beautiful landscape and diversity. Founded in 1970 and covering an area of approx. 2,850 km², it is located near Lake Manyara at an altitude of 1,000 to 1,500 m above sea level. The northeast of the park up to Lake Manyara forms a natural corridor for many of the wild animals, in which they move freely and commute back and forth. The Tarangire River, which rises in the highlands and meanders through the park, is the lifeline for many of the animals, as it carries water all year round. Thus it becomes the lifesaver of many animals, even if sometimes only a small brook or trickle remains. Here, one can observe numerous animals drinking and bathing at all times. A very interesting spectacle with fantastic photo opportunities.

The national park is home to the largest wild population outside the Serengeti ecosystem. You can find here, among other things, large prides of lions, cheetahs, leopards, wildebeests, antelopes, zebras, gazelles, warthogs, giraffes, hippos, crocodiles, hyenas, mongooses, dik diks, baboons and many other animal species. In the dry season the park is home to huge herds of elephant and buffalo. The animals are offered various landscapes, such as extensive open tree savannah, grassland, hills, watercourses and extensive swamp areas. Leopards are also relatively often seen here. During the annual rainy season, the herds migrate far beyond the borders of the national park in order to empty the lush green plains.

Despite the generally drier climate in Tarangire National Park, such as Lake Manyara National Park, more than 550 different bird species can be found in the marshlands.

Another special feature of the park are the gigantic, ancient baobab trees, also called baobab trees. Together with the shady acacia trees they form the perfect African picture book landscape and offer many possibilities for beautiful photo shoots. Experience the expanse and the landscape from a bird’s eye view during a balloon flight. This, as well as walking and night safaris can be organised on request. 

The Tarangire National Park (approx. 2.850km²), founded in 1970, stretches southwest of the city of Arusha and is situated near Lake Manyara at an altitude of 1.000 to 1.500m. The north-east of the park up to Lake Manyara forms a natural corridor for many of the wildlife in which they move freely and commute back and forth.

The lifeline is the river of the same name, which has its source in the highlands and meanders through the national park. The river, which carries water all year round, becomes the lifesaver of many animals, especially in the dry months, even if sometimes only a small stream remains. One can permanently observe numerous animals drinking and bathing here. A very interesting spectacle.

The park is home to the largest population of wildlife outside the Serengeti ecosystem, including large prides of lions, cheetahs, leopards, warthogs, giraffes, hippos, crocodiles, hyenas, mongooses, dik diks, baboons and many more. Huge herds of elephants, buffaloes, antelopes, zebras, gazelles and blue wildebeests live in various landscapes, such as extensive open tree savannah, grassland, hills, watercourses and extensive swamp areas. Leopards are also relatively often seen here. During the annual rainy season, the herds migrate far beyond the borders of the national park until the lush green plains are eaten away.

The climate in Tarangire National Park is much drier than in other regions of Tanzania. Rainfall during the rainy season is lower than in neighbouring Lake Manyara National Park. Nevertheless, the year-round green marshlands are home to more than 550 different bird species.

Another special feature are the gigantic, ancient baobab trees, also known as baobab trees. Together with the shady acacia trees they form the perfect African picture book landscape and offer many possibilities for beautiful photo shoots. Experience the expanse and the landscape from a bird’s eye view during a balloon flight. These, as well as walking and night safaris can be organised for you on request.

Lake Manyara Nationalpark

Lake Manyara National Park

The relatively small Lake Manyara National Park with its approx. 220 km² is situated on the cliffs of the Rift Valley, the African Rift Valley and Lake Manyara. With habitats such as swamp, forest, open grassland, hot springs and the shallow soda lake itself, it is probably one of the most scenically diverse national parks.

The park is part of the extensive Maasai ecosystem and forms a natural corridor for the annual migration of wildebeest, zebra and antelope. The special feature of this park is its enormous bird diversity. Bird lovers will find a true Eldorado here. More than 400 bird species, such as the impressive hornbill, the palm vulture as well as countless pink flamingos, pelicans, cormorants and storks, regularly stay here on their migration. The national park is also famous for its tree-climbing lions, which are found in the adjacent acacia forests. Leopards also feel very comfortable in this part of the landscape. On the grassy plains you can meet elephants, herds of buffalo, wildebeest and zebra, giraffes, warthogs and dik diks.

As a contrast to this landscape form, the lush forest on the steep slopes of the Rift Valley contains ancient mahogany trees and is fed by small streams and waterfalls. Here hundreds of baboons, which can often be easily seen along the way, provide amusing entertainment.

Mkomazi Nationalpark

Mkomazi National Park

This small national park is little known and visited, as it lies to the east, away from the Northern Circuit. It shares a large border section with the Tsavo National Park in Kenya. Due to the low number of visitors, the animals are not very used to cars and therefore shy. Due to its dryness, this park does not host the large number of mammals that the more well-known parks do. For the true nature lover, however, a visit to Mkomazi National Park is still worthwhile. With a little patience you can see elephants, zebras, giraffes, cowantilpes, buffalos, oryx, small kudu and eland antelopes. 

There are two promising conservation projects to preserve the black rhino and the African wild dog. 

Ngorongoro Naturschutzgebiet

Ngorongoro Nature Reserve

The Ngorongoro Nature Reserve encompasses very large parts of the so-called Crater Highlands, including the Makerut and Oldeani Mountains at 3,130 and 3,188 meters. It borders the Serengeti to the west and Oldoinyo Lengai, the sacred god mountain of the Masai, to the north. Made famous by an ecological study of the German zoologist Bernhard Grzimek with his documentary film “The Serengeti must not die”, this unique landscape was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

In addition to the famous Ngorongoro Crater, this area has other smaller craters and extinct volcanoes such as the Olmoti and Empakaai Crater. In the nature reserve you will find changing landscapes such as open savannahs, dense mountain forest, scrubland and heathlands. In this scenic and picturesque region with its rolling hills, hikes off the beaten tourist track with guides and armed rangers are permitted for several days. The wild animal population in these regions is not very high and a good physical condition is required due to the differences in altitude.

The crater highlands are home to wild animals as well as the Maasai, who settled here a long time ago. In general they are allowed to move freely in the whole area and drive their cattle to the water and grass areas. There is only one condition: they must not settle down. The preservation of the ancient balance between man and nature is the main focus of the nature reserve.

Between the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti is the Olduvai Gorge, the “cradle of mankind”, about 50 km long and 100 m deep, where the earliest prehistoric findings were made. Copies of these can be viewed by interested people in a small museum nearby.

Ngorongoro Krater

Ngorongoro Crater

It is often called the pearl of Tanzania, the famous Ngorongoro Crater. Its scenic beauty and rich diversity as well as its enormous number of wildlife, about 25,000 animals all year round, make the Ngorongoro Crater a very special natural monument. In the heart of the crater lies Lake Magadi, which is sometimes visited by large flocks of flamingos and pelicans because of its alkaline water.

The crater with its fertile plains is home to almost all East African big game animals in unbelievable density. It is probably the game reserve with the highest animal population on earth and is rightly called an animal paradise. In the Masai language Ngorongoro means “The Big Hole” and this name is significant. Two million years ago, the cone of a massive volcano collapsed and created the 20 km wide basin surrounded by steeply sloping walls about 600 to 700 meters high. Its crater rim rises up to 2,440 m above sea level and surrounds volcanic, water-rich soils.

It is still very likely that the black rhinoceros, which is very much threatened by extinction and closely protected by the authorities, can still be seen here. There is a particularly large number of zebras, buffaloes, wildebeests, eland antelopes and Grant and Thomson gazelles. They are hunted by numerous lions, spotted hyenas and leopards. In the crater itself there are rarely more than a few dozen elephants. They are more likely to be found on the outer slopes of the crater and in the highlands, especially in the mountain forest.

Due to the different altitudes and the dynamics of the air masses, this area is subject to strong temperature fluctuations. The altitudes are mostly humid and misty. The crater edges are covered with bush and heathland, long grass savannah and remnants of evergreen mountain forests. The crater floor is covered by short grass savannah, various waterholes and acacia forests.

Michael Grzimek († 1959) and his father Bernhard Grzimek († 1987) were buried at the edge of the crater. In the early 1960s, Bernhard Grzimek used funds from the Frankfurt Zoological Society to establish the Serengeti Research Institute, which was to research the migration and migration routes and the behaviour of wild animals and thus contribute to their long-term protection.

Serengeti Nationalpark

Serengeti National Park

The word Serengeti means “endless plain” in the Masai language. The Serengeti is a gigantic savannah and natural wonder with a unique ecosystem that extends over 30,000 km² in northern Tanzania, east of Lake Victoria to southern Kenya. It is home to probably the largest variety of wildlife in Africa such as huge herds of buffalo, elephants, giraffes, numerous antelopes and gazelles, lions, leopards, cheetahs, spotted hyenas, black rhinos, Serval cats of prey, jackals, warthogs, ostriches, crocodiles, hippos, baboons, vultures, eagles, secretaries and many more and is an absolute must for every Tanzania traveler. The Serengeti has always stood for pure safari adventure and offers excellent, exciting game viewing.

Tanzania’s oldest and most famous national park is famous for the annually recurring natural spectacle, the Great Migration. Driven by primal instincts, about 2 million wildebeests and 300,000 zebras, gazelles and antelopes move clockwise at the same time every year in search of nutritious, mineral-rich grasses and grazing grounds. Depending on the rainfall and the food supply, the gigantic herds leave the Masai Mara in Kenya around November and move south across the border of Tanzania to the Southern Serengeti, where they give birth to calves on the food-giving grasslands in January and February. During this time the activity of the big cats is particularly high and there is a merciless fight between life and death.

The first rains of the great rainy season now begin in mid-March, with a peak in April and May. At this time the migration is already in the Seronera region (Central Serengeti) where it gradually rolls north like a big wave along the West Corridor. The Central Serengeti is also home to many resident animals and therefore offers exciting wildlife viewing opportunities throughout the year. Scattered granite rock formations, called “Kopjes”, characterize the slightly hilly landscape and offer excellent views for predators to spot prey.

Around June the animals of the migration reach the Grumeti region in the Western Serengeti, where they are already expected by hungry crocodiles in the Grumeti River. Here the herds now divide and migrate via the Lobo region in the east and the Ikorongo Game Reserve in the west to the lush grazing grounds in the north with their final destination Masai Mara in Kenya. During this trip they commute and cross the Mara River several times. Courageously they plunge down very steep slopes, where numerous animals fall victim to their injuries and the voracious crocodiles. Now the never-ending cycle in search of food begins anew.


Selous Game Reserve

Selous Game Reserve

With over 50,000 km², the Selous Game Reserve forms the largest controlled game reserve in Africa. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982. Together with Mikumi National Park and the Udzungwa Mountains, Selous forms an important ecosystem. Due to its enormous size, organized poaching is a major problem in Selous. Despite heavy decimation over the last decades, the reserve is home to a very large elephant population and numerous other mammal species. Unlike in the national parks, commercial, controlled big game hunting is allowed in the southern regions and is an important source of income. The hunting-free northern areas are accessible to safari tourists.

The largest part of the reserve is covered by Miombo dry forest, which sheds its colourful leaves in the dry season. Large antelope species such as kudu, eland, big reedbuck, sable antelope but also wild boar feel very comfortable in the thicket of the forest. Where there is prey the hunters are not far away. Thus the reserve is home to lions, leopards, spotted hyenas as well as the rare African wild dogs which are threatened with extinction. Here you still have a good chance to meet them. The Rufiji River meanders through the lush river landscape and is a refuge for huge crocodiles, hippos and hundreds of bird species, but also buffalos, elephants, giraffes and many other animal species love to stay on the banks and sandbanks.

A boat safari on the Rufiji River is very rewarding and recommended. A walking safari is also a special experience. Accompanied by an armed ranger and a guide you can explore the last great wilderness of Africa on foot.

Ruaha Nationalpark

Ruaha National Park

The national parks in the south are still little traveled. Among them is the largest national park in Tanzania, the Ruaha National Park, with an area of about 20,226 km². Lifeline is the Ruaha River, which meanders through the park and its seasonal tributaries. The park is located in the southwest of Tanzania, about 130 km west of Iringa and is surrounded by further protected areas. The fault line of the great African Rift Valley runs through a part of the park. Lovely landscapes with gigantic baobab trees, ana trees and acacias make this park a special beauty and are home to over 1,400 plant species. 

Ruaha is known for its high numbers of larger kudus and its large elephant population. Ruaha is also one of the only two parks that is home to both sable and equine antelopes. They like to spend time on the riverbed together with many other animals such as hippos, crocodiles, buffalos and antelopes. Ornithologists will find a true paradise for birds here. Hornbills, kingfishers, nectar birds, white storks and many more are at home here. In addition to numerous lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, large and small kudus, zebras and the rare African wild dog live here. 

Mikumi Nationalpark

Mikumi National Park

Northwest of the Selous Game Reserve is the still little known and visited Mikumi National Park with about 3200 km² the fourth largest national park in Tanzania. The park is embedded between the Uluguru Mountains in the north and the Udzungwa Mountains in the south. In the south it borders directly on the Selous Game Reserve. Due to this connection the animals commute along this natural corridor. The national park is home to a great variety of animals such as large herds of elephants, numerous lions, leopards, spotted hyenas, buffaloes, giraffes, zebras, many large antelope species such as kudu and sable antelope as well as the largest, the eland, crocodiles, hippos and last but not least the rare African wild dogs. 

Udzwunga Mountains

Udzwunga Mountains

Udzungwa offers a spectacular backdrop with its wooded slopes and waterfalls. This 1.900m² large old mountain massif is the youngest national park (opened in 2006) and partly consists of very old rainforest. Due to its millennia of isolation in the middle of the steppes it has a very high biodiversity with many endemic plants and animals. Therefore this lonely mountain range is rightly called the African Galapagos. It is home to many animals, such as the Udzungwa stump monkey and the Sanja-Mangabe, another monkey species, but also lions, bushbucks, bush pigs, small antelope species, klipspringers, chameleons and many bird species. Depending on the altitude, there is tropical rainforest with trees up to 50m high, steppes, grassland, miombo and mountain forests. Udzungwa is a paradise for hikers.  Various guided tours on narrow paths lead through the rainforest with viewpoints e.g. to the breathtaking Sanje waterfalls or tours lasting several days e.g. to the highest peak, the Luhombero (2.579m).

Uluguru Mountains

Uluguru Mountains

Uluguru means “land of Luguru” in Swahili. It is a mountain range about 50km long, which runs between Morogoro and the Selous Game Reserve in the south. Up to 2,000mm of rainfall per year falls on the rainy eastern slopes. The upper regions consist of dense tropical mountain forest which is home to many endemic animals and plants.


Katavi Nationalpark

Katavi National Park

Katavi is one of the few parks with the highest biodiversity in Africa. The view changes from the seasonally flooded grass plains to the steep cliffs of the Rukwa Rift Valley. Nevertheless, the park is strongly dominated by the Miombo savannah. Large herds of antelope feel particularly at home here, even the hard to see species. Katavi is one of the only two parks that is home to both sable and horse antelopes. The sheer number of animals to be seen is staggering. Buffalo, elephants, giraffes and zebras can be seen in great numbers. They are hunted by lions, spotted hyenas, cheetahs, leopards and wild dogs. The ultimate place to see a high number of animals is directly at the river Katuma and its floodplains as well as the seasonal lakes Katavi and Chada. Birds live in abundance at the lakes. The many puddles of Katavi have the highest concentration of hippos and crocodiles in Tanzania.

Mahale Nationalpark

Mahale National Park

Mysterious and deep in the green heart of Africa, on the deep blue Tanganyika Lake, lies Mahale National Park. The main attraction in the jungles of the park are its chimpanzees, about 600 animals in 15 groups. The exciting highlight of the visit is undoubtedly following the tracks of the chimpanzees. They are completely accustomed to humans and can be observed very well. However, there are also other species of monkeys, warthogs, giraffes, antelopes and other animals in the park. A stay at the crystal clear Tanganyika Lake completes the visit of the park. Due to its distance and remoteness the park can only be reached by plane or boat.  

Gombe Stream Nationalpark

Gombe Stream National Park

Situated on Lake Tanganyika, Gombe is one of the smallest national parks in Tanzania and home to chimpanzees. The fully habituated chimpanzees were given celebrity status by the world-renowned conservationist Jane Goodall. Her behavioral research program is the oldest of its kind in the world and continues to this day. The park with its dense forestation is a paradise for hikers. Here you can meet chimpanzees as well as many other species of monkeys such as red monkeys, diadem monkeys, red stump monkeys, green baboons, bushbabies and many other animals. Due to its remoteness the park can only be reached by boat.