Tanzania has no shortage of game reserves and beautiful National Parks, however of all of them, the two which you should definitely not miss during your stay on the African continent are the Serengeti National Park and the Tarangire National Park. Both offer a unique and thrilling way to experience the true heart of Africa, allowing travellers to get up close to the diverse array of wildlife and to see stunning landscapes in intimate detail.
1. The Serengeti National Park
Established almost a century ago, the Serengeti National Park began life as a game reserve and was not made into a National Park until the early 1950s. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the world’s last areas of wilderness to remain untouched. This vast area takes in the lakes, grasslands and woodlands of Ndutu and the verdant expanses of the northern river until it reaches the borders of the Kenyan Masai Mara reserve. Stretching over 15,000 square kilometres, the Serengeti is home to all kinds of ecological protected treasures and is the ideal spot to discover a fascinating ecosystem.
The Great Migration
The Serengeti is home to the natural phenomenon known as the Greatest Show of the Natural World – the Great Migration which takes place every year and which sees the blue wildebeest population trekking in enormous numbers down to the south-west of Kenya before returning to find new pastures. During their journey, jackals, lions, cheetahs, leopards and hyenas follow them to prey on the herd while vultures circle overhead ready to feed on the remains. It is only in the Serengeti National Park that you can experience this amazing miracle of death and life in its natural environment.
The Southern Serengeti
The woodlands of the Southern Serengeti complete with granite outcrops known as kopjes is home to a number of permanent wildlife residents. The best known of these is the Maasai giraffe which feasts on the foliage and acacia trees which grow here and which are resistant to the annual droughts. This wooded area is also home to the savanna baboon which roams by day and roosts in the trees at night. Another of the Big Five, the Serengeti elephant, lives in this region and is a popular attraction on safari.
The Ngorongoro Crater
This volcanic caldera encompasses an enormous 100 square miles of fertile and rich land to the south-east of Tanzania. Here, you’ll find vegetation and forests and all the animal species which feast on them including huge game beasts like rhinos and hippopotamuses as well as spectacular birdlife like the lesser flamingo.
The Ngorongoro Crater is also home to the black rhino, an endangered species, which finds protection here from the poachers who hunt it for its horn. Lions too roam the plains here and are one of the sights that those visiting this region long to see. The plains of south-east Tanzania have also earned the name of the Cradle of Mankind since human fossils have been found here dating back over 3 million years.
The Serengeti National Park is one of the best-known safari destinations in the world and is a popular choice for anyone who is looking for an iconic safari experience in Tanzania.
2. Tarangire National Park
While the Tarangire National Park to the north of Tanzania may not be such a well-known destination for a safari vacation as the Serengeti, it is a fascinating place to explore thanks to the swamps and tributaries of the Tarangire River which offer a permanent source of water even when the shallow lakes in the surrounding area have dried up and which attract as many as 250,000 animals between June and October when the dry season hits.
Discovering the elephant population
One of the main reasons to visit the Tarangire National Park has to be to see the elephants which can often move in herds of up to 10,000 animals. Gathering in the park’s marshes and central riverbeds and around the enormous baobab trees which date back for thousands of years, thousands of elephants have colonised its northern circuit. However, these gentle giants aren’t the only impressive creatures to roam this area. The kongoni, the hump-backed wildebeest, the buffalo and zebra, ostriches, oryxes and gazelles all call this area their home at different times.
Home to a diverse ecosystem
The ecosystem of the Tarangire National Park is huge and is primarily owned by the people of the Maasai tribe. Development has been encouraged, however, eco-tourism has blended well with strong wildlife protection and the indigenous people’s cultural identity has been well maintained, ensuring an immersive and unique experience for travellers to this lesser-known part of Tanzania. Vast numbers of lesser kudu, giraffe, warthogs, waterbucks, dik dik and impala stay in the park throughout the year, and if you look up into the branches of the trees you’ll see predators like pythons, cheetahs and even climbing lions lying in wait for prey.
Other hunters here include the white-tailed African wild dog which was once thought to be extinct in the area. More unusual wildlife to be spotted include the aardvark which comes out at night to the red earth termite mountains, and the pangolin with its armoured plates together with the hyrax, the mongoose and lizards of many colours.
For lovers of birdlife, there are as many as 550 different species to see here, making the Tarangire National Park a perfect paradise for bird watchers. Even the insect life is fascinating here, and at night they throng around the lanterns creating a spectacular display. Beetles, moths and butterflies with amazing markings and shapes can be spotted here, including silk moths with their ghost-like wings and oleander hawk moths.
These are just two of the beautiful national parks and game reserves to discover in Tanzania, and whatever type of wildlife or scenery you long to discover, you are sure to find it aplenty in this stunning land of contrasts.
About the author:
Marian is a travel blogger from Minnesota. She has travelled to almost 50 countries. Also, she has an experience of two years living and working in Europe and has volunteered in Tanzania for a few months. Marian is currently working on a book about tips for backpacker travellers around the world.
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