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Information about National Parks
we did visit in
Tanzania



Serengeti NP

Covering an area of 14,763 square kilometres, equal in size to Northern Ireland, the world famous Serengeti National Park is Tanzania's oldest park, and one of the world's last great wildlife refuges. It is contiguous with Kenya's Masai Mara Game Reserve and stretches as far as Lake Victoria to the West. Its name comes from the Maasai word Siringet, meaning 'endless plains'.
The park's vegetation ranges from the short and long grass plains in the south, to the acacia savannah in the centre and wooded grasslands concentrated around the tributaries of the Grumenti and the Mara rivers in the park. The western corridor is a region of wooded highland and extensive plains reaching the edge of Lake Victoria. In the early morning and evening light, the Serengeti landscape is stunningly beautiful.
The Serengeti ecosystem supports the greatest remaining concentration of plains game in Africa, including more than three million large mammals. It is the sanctuary of an estimated four million different animals and birds. The animals roam the park freely and in the spectacular migrations, huge herds of wild animals move to other areas of the park in search of greener grazing grounds (requiring over 4,000 tons of grass each day) and water. The annual migration into Kenya (in a continuous search of water and pasture) of more than 1.5 million wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebra and gazelle is triggered by the rains and usually starts in May, at the end of the wet season. Called the Great Migration, this constitutes the most breathtaking event in the animal kingdom ever known to humans. As the dry season intensifies, the herds drift out towards the west, one group to the north (to Lake Victoria, where there is permanent water), the other northeast heading for the permanent waters of the northern rivers and the Mara. The immigration instinct is so strong that animals die in the rivers as they dive from the banks into the raging waters to be dispatched by crocodiles. The survivors concentrate in Kenya's Maasai Mara National Reserve until the grazing there is exhausted, when they turn south along the eastern and final stage of the migration route.
Before the main exodus, the herds are a spectacular sight, massed in huge numbers with the week and crippled at the tail end of the procession, followed by the patient vigilant predators, including lions (the adult males of Serengeti have characteristic black manes), cheetahs, hunting dogs and spotted hyena.
The migration coincides with the breeding season, which causes fights among the males.
The best months for visiting are December to February, and May to July.
Accommodation is available in luxury lodges and tented camps. Budget accommodation is at designated camp sites.

Ngorongoro Crater

This vast protected area stretches from Lake Natron (the breeding ground for East Africa's flamingos) in the northeast, to Lake Enyasi in the south, and Lake Manyara to the east. The area includes the still active Ol-Ndoinyo Lengai (meaning "Mountain of God" in Maa, the language of the Masaai) volcano (which last erupted in 1983), Olduvai Gorge and the Ngorongoro Crater, the largest unbroken caldera in the world. It has been described as one of the great natural wonders of the world. Eight million years ago, the Ngorongoro Crater was an active volcano but its cone collapsed, forming the crater that is 610 meters deep, 20 kilometres in diameter, and covers an area of 311 sq. km. Spectacular as it is, the crater accounts for just a tenth of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
The crater is home to many species of wild game and birds. With the exception of impala and topi (due to fierce competition with the wildebeest) and the giraffe (because there is not much to eat at tree level), almost every species of African plains mammal lives in the crater, including the endangered black rhino, and the densest population of predators in Africa. A strange thing is that the crater elephants are mainly bulls. The birdlife, which includes the flamingo, is mainly seasonal, and is also affected by the ratio of soda to fresh water in Lake Magadi on the crater floor.
In the northern, remote area of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are the Olmoti and Empaakai craters, Lake Natron and Oldoinyo Lengai.
The mysterious Engakura Ruins, the remains of a terraced city and a complex irrigation system, lie on the Eastern side of Empakaai Crater. Their origins are a mystery as there is no tradition of stone building in this part of Africa.
Views from the rim of the crater are sensational. On the crater floor, grassland blends into swamps, lakes, rivers, woodland and mountains. You can descend to the floor of the crater in a four-wheel drive vehicle. Only 4WD vehicles are allowed into the crater and game rangers are compulsory for all.
The Maasai are permitted to water their cattle at the permanent lake and can be seen leading their animals in and out of the crater.
Accomodation is at luxury lodges and campsites.

Tarangiri NP

Located approximately 110 kms southwest of Arusha, covering an area of approximately 2,600 sq kms. During the dry season from June to October, this park has a particularly high concentration of wildlife, mainly congregating along the Tarangire River.
The park is also an ornithologists paradise with more than 300 species of birds, including the largest bird in the world, the ostrich and the heaviest bird that can fly, the Kori Bustard.
The best game viewing months are between September and December but for bird viewing is is best to come between the months of October and May.
Accommodation is available in a luxury tented lodge and at camp sites. Outside the park is Oliver's camp.

Ruaha NP

Ruaha, the second largest (after the Serengeti) of Tanzania's varied National parks, with its dramatic geography is truly a vast unspoilt wilderness of some 13,000 sq km. It is part of an enormous expanse of protected land-the 30,000 sq km Rungwa-Kisigo-Ruaha ecosystem, most of which made up the Saba Game Reserve in former German Colonial times. Ruaha is also interesting as it represents a transition zone where eastern and southern African species of fauna and flora overlap.
The shining river after which the park is named, winds through the eastern section, fringed by tall trees: Acacia albida, Tamarind and Wild figs, as well as the majestic Baobab, almost a signature of Ruaha. The valley of the Great Ruaha River is thought to be an extension of the Great Rift Valley and the Ruaha flows along the Park's entire eastern boundary through rugged gorges and open plains.
A rich diversity of animal and plant life is sheltered by the Park: Ruaha is a hauntingly beautiful and wild landscape of miombo forest, rolling woodlands, hills, rivers and plains and possesses a great variety of wildlife, including lion, leopard, cheetah, hunting dog, warthog, giraffe, zebra, huge herds of buffalo and large concentrations of elephant. It is the only East Africa Park where it is possible to see the greater and lesser kudu, as well as sable and roan antelopes. Whilst rhinos are rarely seen today, the elephant population has more than doubled in the last dozen years, not least due to steady eradication of poaching, but involving the village communities around the park in a largely successful joint effort that has become an example.
The diversity of bird life in Ruaha, more than any other East African park, is extraordinary; its geographical location meaning that it is visited by both northern and southern migrants. These include the Red-billed Wood Hoopoe, Violet-crested Turaco, Racquet-tailed Roller, Red-billed Firefinch, Dickinson's Kestrel and Pel's Fishing Owl. Some 480 species of bird have been sighted within the Park and the first third of the year, during the wet months, is appreciated as the most interesting for birders.
Ruaha is interesting all year round and there are climatic variations, not least owing to global warning and the El Nino phenomenon. However June to October is the 'Yellow season'; when game is most visible because the grass is shorter and the animals come to the Great Ruaha River to drink. November and December are hot, and the short rains make the climate more humid, though these certainly do not preclude a visit. January and February are predominantly hot and dry but again a good time to visit. March and April are wet and movement around the park can be a little more difficult and May is usually very wet and is the time when most camps will be closed.
Coastal Aviation have a thrice weekly scheduled air service departing Arusha Tues, Fri and Sun at 08.00 arriving at 11.40. There are three flights per week departing Dar es Salaam to Ruaha via Selous on Mon, Thurs and Sat departing 08.00 arriving 11.30. Both flights cost $300p.p.
The flight from Dar-Selous-Ruaha connects two of Africa's last true wilderness preserves giving the opportunity to combine the best wildlife destinations in southern Tanzania.
Driving time from Dar es Salaam is roughly 9 hours depending on weather conditions. Private car services can be arranged from Dar and there is also a private road service connecting lodges in Mikumi with Ruaha.
Iringa is the gateway to Ruaha, and Scandinavia coach services offer a cheaper alternative to private car hire from Dar-Iringa.
Makambako is on the TAZARA railway line and it is possible to get a bus from here to Iringa then on to Ruaha.
However Ruaha is remote and independent travellers using train or coach to Iringa will still need to contact one of the few lodges in Ruaha for transfers.
There are currently 4 quality lodges in Ruaha offering all inclusive packages ranging from around $200-$300 p.p./night. Ruaha River lodge and Mwagusi Safari Camp are the longest established camps in Ruaha.
A cheaper alternative is the government bandas near the ranger post which are more suitable for those on a budget and with own transport.

Mikumi NP

Mikumi National Park was gazetted as a National Park in August 1964 and is the 3rd largest park in Tanzania covering 3230 square kilometers.
The park is named after the village just beyond its western border on the Dar es Salaam - Iringa Highway which bisects the park for 50 km. Mikumi shares its boundary in the extreme south, with the Selous Game Reserve, which is the largest Reserve in Africa, and the two make one ecosystem with some animals (Elephant, Buffaloes and Zebras) migrating to and from the northern part of the reserve into Mikumi National Park.
The park lies in a horseshoe of towering mountains and forested foothills which almost enclose the flood plain of the Mkata river. To the east rises the 2743 metre massif of the Uluguru ranges while to the south west is seen the craggy-peaks of the Lumango mountains.
The hog backed ridges of the Mbesera, Madzini and Mazunyungu hills sweep round northward and westward.
To the far south is the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, gazetted in 1992, which is part of the Eastern Arc Mountains which include the Usambaras. It is possible to visit the Udzungwas as a day trip from Mikumi.
The best time to visit the park is during the dry season which is June through February.
During the rainy season (March through - May) some of the park roads are impassable.
The park gate is 96 km from Morogoro along the Tanzania - Zambia Highway, 288 km from Dar es Salaam, 216 km from Iringa and 80 km to Udzungwa National Park.
Driving time from Dar es Salaam is roughly 4 hours depending on the season. There are scheduled private road transfer services offered from Dar es Salaam.
A cheaper option is to take a Scandinavia coach from Dar-Mikumi village, cost roughly $10.
In 2003 Foxtreks intend to introduce a private train connecting Dar-Selous-Mikumi.
Onward private road transfers are available from Mikumi-Ruaha or alternatively a cheaper option is to catch a southbound coach to Iringa.
There are currently 3 safari lodges in Mikumi NP from around $100p.p./night.
Alternatively there are 2 cheaper hotels in Mikumi village where it is possible to negotiate car hire for safaris.

Selous GR

As the largest reserve in Africa at 55,000 sqkm, Selous can justifiably claim to offer unparalleled wilderness. Located in southern Tanzania, it is home to the largest populations of some of Africa's most sought after game including elephant, lion, wild dog, leopard, buffalo, hippo, crocodile and herds of plains game, yet it remains one of the least visited of the great game sanctuaries on the continent.
Full day game drives inside the reserve in open sided 4x4 vehicles in the North-West sector of the reserve often do not pass a single other vehicle, since this is far away from the busier routes in the East.
For anyone who has struggled to photograph wildlife through a throng of other vehicles or followed a convoy of minibuses through other national parks, the personal experience of the little visited Selous is particularly refreshing.
What makes Selous stand out from many of the other wonderful reserves and parks with which Africa is blessed is the opportunity to take boat safaris and walking safaris. Both options bring you far closer to the natural environment than regular 4x4 game drives and are not generally available in other reserves. Sable Mountain Lodge also offers night drives.
In addition to this the sheer dramatic scale of Selous makes it an outstanding example of untouched African wilderness, and as one of the last refuges of healthy populations of the endangered wild dogs the reserve truly can claim to offer a unique African safari experience.
The best time to visit the reserve is from June-October and December-March. Short rains are expected in November and the long rains usually last from early April-late May. Scheduled flights to Selous are usually suspended from end March to early June.
Due to a vastly improved road infrastructure around the Matambwe HQ the main track connecting Matambwe-Mtemere gates is anticipated to be passable year round from 2004.
Air services are available from Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar into Matambwe airstrip. Free car transfer from the airstrip takes 30 minutes to the lodge. Scheduled flights cost from/to Dar $120 or Zanzibar $130p.p.
Both Coastal Aviation and Zanair have daily scheduled flights to Matambwe. Coastal depart Zanzibar at 14.00 and Dar 14.30, arrive Selous 15.15 daily. Flights depart Selous 15.30 and arrive Dar 16.15 and Zanzibar 17.05.
A good cost and time saving possibility is to take the train down to Selous from Dar es Salaam then fly directly out to Zanzibar, thus avoiding returning to Dar to catch a ferry or another flight.
There are also onward connections from Selous-Ruaha. The 2003-04 schedule is depart Selous Mon, Thurs and Sat at 09.30 arrive Ruaha 11.30. Flights cost from $270p.p.
There are now daily flight connections between Mafia Island and Selous with Coastal Aviation from $120p.p.
For just $10 p.p. in a private first class compartment, this is a very affordable way to reach Selous.
The current 2003 schedule departing from TAZARA station Dar es Salaam is Mon 10.00, Tues 15.50 and Fri 15.50.
Kisaki railway station is a mere 20 minute drive from Sable Mountain Lodge which offers free pick ups and transfers.
The five and a half hour journey shows an interesting view of rural Tanzanian life as well as two hours of free game viewing as the train passes through Selous Game Reserve.
The best option is in by train and fly out, due to the unpredictable schedule of the northbound train.
The southbound train offers cost saving possibilities if intending to explore southern Tanzania. Mangula is a further 2 hours south from Kisaki and is the gateway to Udzungwa Mountains and Mikumi. Makambako is the gateway to the Iringa region and Ruaha whilst Mbeya offers a host of options in the southern highlands.
Train tickets to all these regions from Dar es Salaam can be booked through A Tent with a View Safaris - email tentview@intafrica.com.
For those travelling northwards to Dar es Salaam from Zambia and Malawi, the train departs Kipiri Moshi in Zambia as well as Mbeya and Makambako in southern Tanzania, thus making Selous accessable from the southern regions at an affordable rate as well.
Chartered mini trains make a most alluring way to reach Selous, taking 5 hours from Dar, almost half of which is through the reserve. The price is extremely favourable for groups of 6 or more.
Special champagne charters can be arranged for corporate hospitality or for groups celebrating that special occasion. Maximum group size 15.
In 2003 Foxtreks intend to launch their own private train service connecting Dar es Salaam-Selous-Mikumi.
Journey time from Dar es Salaam is about eight hours. From Morogoro the massively improved road through Matombo to Selous passes through spectacular scenery, thick forest and vibrant villages and takes about four hours. The last 50km requires use of a 4x4 car.
If intending to travel by car one possibility is to combine a visit to Mikumi National Park before travelling down to Selous. A new road connecting Mikumi and Selous was opened in 2002 but is only accessable in the dry season.
The Kibiti road from Dar es Salaam to Mtemere gate in eastern Selous takes roughly 8 hours.
Park fees: $25p.p.
                                                       copyright: Paul Janssen