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OVERVIEW

Tanzania has three safari circuits, and each one of them, in its own right, would make Tanzania a top wildlife destination. The popular Northern Circuit with the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater offers one of the best classical safaris in Africa, especially if timed with the annual wildebeest migration.

NATIONAL PARKS & RESERVES IN TANZANIA

Some of the reserves and parks are;

  • Gombe National Park
  • Arusha National Park
  • Lake Manyara NP
  • Ngorongoro CA
  • Mkomazi National Park
  • Ruaha National Park
  • Mikumi National Park
  • Katavi National Park

 

WILDLIFE & ANIMALS

Tanzania offers excellent wildlife viewing. There are three different safari circuits, and each one of them alone would make Tanzania a great wildlife destination. The Big Five and most other high profile animals are easily seen. The black rhino is very rare throughout, with the exception of the Ngorongoro Crater where a small resident population is often spotted.

 

  • Wildebeest Migration

The wildebeest migration is one of Africa’s greatest wildlife spectacles. At least two million ungulates – mainly wildebeest, but also zebra and gazelle – move around the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. The wildebeest calving season is also a very special time to visit. The large concentrations of wildebeest and their calves attract many opportunistic predators, and this is a good time to see some action.

 

  • Wildlife Highlights

The Serengeti is famous for its abundance of big cats and the highly endangered African Wild Dog is relatively easy to find in Selous and Ruaha where their numbers are quite healthy. Gombe Stream and Mahale are Africa’s best chimpanzee reserves.

 

  • Best Time for Wildlife Viewing

Tanzania offers good wildlife viewing throughout the year. The best chance for seeing the wildebeest migration is during June and July and the time to see the wildebeest calving in the Serengeti is late January to February. The Dry season (late June to October) is generally the best time for wildlife viewing throughout. At this time, the bush is less dense, and animals tend to congregate around waterholes. The Wet season (November-May) is often more beautiful when the parks are green, and tourist numbers are lower. The parks in the Southern and Western circuit are less accessible in the long rains (March to May) and some lodges close in that period.

 

BIRD-LIFE

Tanzania is one of Africa’s best birding destinations. It has one of the largest species lists of any African country: over 1,100, of which over 800 species are resident, and nearly 200 are regular migrants. There are 22 species endemic to Tanzania, and a further 43 near-endemic. Migrants are present from November to April.

 

  • Best Time for Bird Watching

The bird-life in Tanzania is good year-round, but at its best from November to April when the migratory birds from Europe and northern Africa are present. At this time, many resident bird species are nesting and are in breeding plumage. The wettest months are March and April, when parts of the country may experience storms on a daily basis. The Wet season is also the hottest time of the year. This may make it uncomfortably hot on the coast. For wildlife viewing, the dry season is better.

 

  • Best Parks for Birding

All the well-known safari parks offer good birding opportunities, and specials can be found pretty much everywhere you go. The often-overlooked Arusha National Park has an amazing diversity of habitats that host an incredible list of 400 species in a small area. Lake Manyara offers a good variety of waterbirds.

 

BEST TIME TO VISIT TANZANIA

The best wildlife viewing months in Tanzania are during the Dry season from late June to October. The best chance of seeing the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti is during June and July and the time to see the wildebeest calving is late January to February. The southern and western circuit parks are best visited during the Dry season (June to October), unlike the more popular northern circuit parks that can be visited year-round. Tarangire is the only exception since its wildlife viewing is considerably better in the Dry season as well.

 

WEATHER AND CLIMATE OF TANZANIA

Tanzania has a pleasant, tropical climate but has large regional climatic variations influenced by several factors, including altitude. Temperatures drop by about 6.5°C for every 1,000m you climb (or 3.5°F per 1,000ft). The hottest and most humid part of the country is on the coast. Other low-lying areas, such as the western and southern parks, are also hot but much less humid. The rest of the interior is much milder and cools down significantly at night. Tanzania is too close to the equator to experience a real winter and summer. There is, however, a Dry and Wet season.

 

POPULAR ROUTES

Northern Circuit (1.5 to 2 weeks) – Serengeti NP, Ngorongoro CA, Lake Manyara NP, Tarangire NP, Arusha NP

The northern circuit is the most popular safari circuit of Tanzania. In most cases, you will fly to Kilimanjaro Int. Airport or Arusha airport and travel onward to Arusha, the town from where the northern circuit is explored. Upon an early arrival, you could start with a visit to Arusha National Park the same day. If the safari includes a flight back to Arusha from the SerengetiTarangire and/or Lake Manyara will most likely be the first you’ll visit (depending on the season, since Tarangire is only seasonally good). Next is Ngorongoro Crater, one of the largest intact volcanic calderas in the world and full of wildlife. Last but not least, Serengeti National Park, one of the best parks of Africa. If you drive back instead of flying, you will most likely skip either the Ngorongoro Crater or Tarangire/Lake Manyara on the way to the Serengeti, and visit them on the way back.

Popular add-ons:

  • Zanzibar Island for some relaxing on gorgeous beaches or scuba-diving. Less popular, but good, alternatives are Mafia Island, Pemba Island or Pangani.
  • Gombe NP or Mahale Mountains NP to go chimpanzee tracking. You will most likely get there by small aircraft from Arusha Airport.
  • Mt. Kilimanjaro NP to climb the mountain. Some do it as a 5-day hike, but it is recommended to take at least 6 or 7 days since it is a tough hike with great altitude challenges.

Southern Circuit (1 to 2 weeks) – Selous GR, Ruaha NP, Mikumi NP

In wildlife densities and ease of viewing, the southern safari circuit isn’t quite on a par with the Northern circuit. However, its ‘off-the-beaten-track’ character makes for a more holistic wilderness experience. Tourist densities are lower, and camps tend to be more exclusive, catering to a more upmarket clientele. The southern circuit is often the choice for a second safari on which marking off the Big Five is less of a concern. The circuit is also popular as an add-on to a beach holiday in Zanzibar or around Dar-es-Salaam. In most cases, you will fly into Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar-es-Salaam and fly on by small airplane to Ruaha or Selous. The immense Selous Game Reserve is most popular because of its proximity to Dar-es-Salaam. You can easily drive here from the city and take in the less impressive Mikumi National Park on the way. Selous lies on the Rufiji River and aside from the usual game drives, boat trips and walking safaris are offered. The very remote and wild Ruaha National Park is one of Africa’s best-kept secrets with excellent wildlife viewing, including many animals that aren’t easily seen in the north, such as wild dog and several unusual antelope species.

Popular add-ons:

  • Zanzibar Island for some relaxing on gorgeous beaches or scuba-diving. Less popular but good alternatives are Mafia Island, Pemba Island or Pangani.

 

Western Circuit (1 week) – Katavi NP, Gombe NP, Mahale Mountains NP

Most people visit the western circuit to track chimpanzee in Gombe or Mahale Mountains National Park. These two chimp reserves on the shore of Lake Tanganyika offer the best chimp tracking in Africa. However, getting here is expensive and time-consuming and is mostly done by small aircraft from Arusha. Mahale is usually combined with a safari in Katavi, which is the savannah reserve in the western circuit and one of Tanzania’s least visited parks—not for lack of wildlife, though. This park offers excellent wildlife viewing in the Dry season with superb wilderness appeal.

Popular add-ons:

  • Zanzibar Island for some relaxing on gorgeous beaches or scuba-diving. Less popular but good alternatives are Mafia Island, Pemba Island or Pangani.

 

GETTING THERE 

There are direct and one-stop flights from overseas to Dar-es-Salaam, Kilimanjaro (near Arusha) and Zanzibar Island. Arusha town is the starting point for Tanzania’s most popular Northern Safari Circiut. Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) is situated 46km/29mi east of Arusha. Tanzania’s main airport is Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) located 13km/8mi southwest of Dar-es-Salaam. The latter is the entry-point for visitors to the southern parks.Moving on from Arusha or Dar-es-Salaam you can fly or drive between reserves, or you can opt to do a bit of both. Some domestic flights out of Arusha will leave from Kilimanjaro International Airport, but most flights to reserves leave from the much smaller Arusha Airport (ARK) located 8km/5mi west of town. However you choose to travel, in most cases, your local tour operator will pick you up from the airport and arrange all further transportation as part of your safari package.

 

PASSPORT, VISA & OTHER ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

Entry requirements can change, so please contact your local Tanzania embassy to verify the information below is current.

  • A passport is required for all foreign visitors and has to be valid for at least six months.
  • Passports must have a clean and a full visa page for endorsement.
  • When arriving from a yellow-fever-infected country in Africa or the Americas a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required.
  • Citizens of most countries require a visa, which can be obtained at arrival. A list of countries and specific visa eligibility is available from the Tanzanian Ministry of Home Affairs.

 

MALARIA & VACCINATION

The information on this page is just a general guide and should not be used instead of a consultation with your travel doctor. The government organizations and travel clinics below are trusted resources for complete and up-to-date info about travelers’ health in Tanzania.

 

  • Vaccination

Recommended!

 

  • Malaria Risk

High risk throughout the country except in high altitude mountains over 2000m including the Ngorongoro Crater rim, Mt. Kilimanjaro and parts of the Eastern Arc Mountains. Most safari parks are high-risk zones. The highest risk of transition is in the rainy season from November to May. See websites below for more detailed advice.

 

SAFETY & SECURITY

Tanzania is, overall, a safe country to visit. This is even more so if your visit is primarily an organized safari. Almost a million tourists visit Tanzania every year, and most visits are trouble-free. There have been several terrorist attacks in the past, but the last one – where a hotel was bombed – was in 2002. Unfortunately, terrorism has become part of life, and it is very difficult if not impossible, to safeguard against it. Fortunately, incidents are very rare, and the chance of being a random victim is almost negligent. As with many third-world countries, theft and muggings are relatively common, but most incidents are in cities such as Dar-es-Salaam and Arusha. Walking alone around the city is not recommended. An overnight stay at a reputable hotel or an organized visit to one of the many attractions in or around the city is fine.

 

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