Tanzania’s Best National Parks and Safari Experiences

Towering mountains, tangled acacia thickets teeming with game, and red-robed Maasai striding across the sweeping savanna: Tanzania is a country of contrasts. Thanks to a growing range of sustainable travel options, this classic safari country is more accessible than ever.


Photo © iStock.com/shalamov

Tarangire National Park

Hop into a four-wheel drive and get lost among the colossal baobabs of Tarangire National Park. This reserve in northern Tanzania is the sixth-largest national park in the country and is one of the best places to see migrating elephants, especially during the dry season (from July through October), when up to 10,000 of the massive mammals are drawn to the Tarangire River.

You’ll also spot plenty of buffalo and giraffe at this time of year, as well as the predators that follow.

A herd of giraffes in Tarangire National Park. Photo credit: iStock.com/vlapaev

Even the wet season (March to May) is striking in Tarangire. The lush emerald grass and ominous thunderclouds make for a fantastic setting, and you’ll have the reserve pretty much to yourself, as this season isn’t as popular with the masses.

Wildlife is a bit more scattered, so you may have to go searching, but that makes good sightings even more special. If you're lucky, you might spot a fringe-eared oryx or gerenuk, which you won’t find anywhere else in Tanzania.

Serengeti National Park

As the crown jewel of Tanzania’s national parks, the Serengeti is home to the world-famous wildebeest migration. Witness Africa’s greatest spectacle when more than one million of these ungainly ungulates gather in search of fresh grazing.

The air is filled with their snorting exhalations and the clouds of dust kicked up by their hooves. Pay attention to individual wildebeest; you’ll be astonished to see how calves can distinguish their mothers from the herd.

Wildebeest river crossing. Photo credit: iStock.com/WL Davies

The migration is fairly predictable, and the herds can be found in different parts of the Serengeti throughout the year. As the rain dries up, the wildebeest will start moving to cross the crocodile-infested Mara River in large numbers (between July and August).

For other iconic species, visit the park’s Seronera and Ndutu regions. These areas offer the best chance of spotting cheetahs, which subsist largely on Thomson’s gazelles and frequently hunt during the day.

The park’s cheetahs are habituated to the presence of tourists and may even nap in the shade of your car. However, remember your safari etiquette and don’t attempt to interact with the animals.

Arusha National Park

Not all of Tanzania’s best wildlife destinations require you to head deep into the bush. Arusha National Park is about an hour’s drive from Kilimanjaro International Airport. Like neighboring Kenya’s Nairobi National Park, this reserve is home to a surprising variety of fauna.

While you can opt for a traditional 4x4 safari here, another great option is to take a guided walk. You can spot elegant, black-and-white colobus monkeys in the Ngurdoto Forest and flamingos at the Momella Lakes.

If you have a few days to spare, you can even conquer the grueling trek to the summit of Mount Meru, which sits above 14,763ft (4,500m) and provides stunning views all the way to Kilimanjaro.

Sustainable Safaris

While the migration is an incredible sight, it also attracts plenty of travelers during the peak season of June through October.

If you want to avoid the crowds, consider a camping safari away from the chaos. Camping represents a more sustainable safari, eschewing heavily-built lodges and their larger ecological footprints.

Campground in Tanzania. Photo credit: iStock.com/Delbars

Your accommodation will be more basic, but you’ll be even closer to nature. Nothing beats the sound of a hyena cackling or a lion roaring just outside the canvas wall of your tent.

Want to find out more about Tanzania? Listen to the World Nomads podcast. Hear about the wildebeest migration, rated as one of the world's most spectacular natural events, what it means to smell popcorn on safari, and traveling with a disability.

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