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When one thinks of an African safari, there’s a good chance that images of Tanzania with its great plains, acacia trees, animals and Mount Kilimanjaro will most likely come to mind. Not only is Tanzania home to the Serengeti, considered by many to be Africa's finest safari park, but it's renowned the world over for the 'Great Migration' of 2.5 million wildebeest and zebra. Tanzania's most well known wildlife areas are located in what is called the northern safari circuit, which is made up of the Serengeti, Lake Manyara & Tarangire National Parks and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Approximately 38 percent of Tanzania's land area is set aside in protected areas for conservation, which is one of the world's highest percentage. Tanzania is home to Mt. Kilimanjaro, which is the highest point in Africa and one of only two mountains on the continent that has glaciers (the other is Mount Kenya); bordered by three of the largest lakes on the continent: Lake Victoria (the world's second-largest freshwater lake) in the north, Lake Tanganyika (the world's second deepest) in the west, and Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi) in the southwest. Tanzania is very diverse with over 120 ethnic groups present, the largest being the Sukuma representing around 16% of the population. Most Tanzanians can speak both Swahili and a local language; and also English if educated.

Location: Eastern Africa, bordering the Indian Ocean, between Kenya and Mozambique

Border countries (8): North (Kenya and Uganda), South (Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique) and West (Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo)

Area: 947,300 km sq (365754 sq mi) includes the islands of Mafia, Pemba, and Zanzibar

Comparative: Slightly larger than twice the size of California


Tanzania Wildlife

Mammal Species: 375 (3rd in Africa)

The Big Nine (9 of 9): Includes the 'Big Five' (Elephant, Buffalo, Rhino, Lion, Leopard) plus Cheetah, Giraffe, Hippo and Zebra (Burchell's). The 'Big Nine' refers to the nine most sought after animals to see while on safari. The 'Big Five' refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot.

Carnivores: Aardwolf, Bat-eared fox, Caracal, Civet (African and African palm), Genet (Angolan, Common, Panther and Servaline), Honey badger, Hyena (Spotted and Striped), Jackal (Asiatic, Black-backed and Side-striped), Mongoose (Banded, Bushy-tailed, Common dwarf, Egyptian, Jackson's, Long-nosed, Marsh, Meller's and Slender), Otter (Clawless and Speckle-throated), Serval, Striped polecat, Striped weasel, Wild cat, Wild Dog

Other Animals: Aardvark, Antelope (Roan and Sable), Blue & white-bearded wildebeest, Bush hyrax, Bushbuck, Bushpig, Cape hare, Dik-dik (Kirk's), Duiker (Abbott's, Ader's, Blue, Grey, Harvey's, Natal, Peter's and Weyn's), Dudong, Dassie (Eastern tree and Rock), Gazelle (Grant's and Thomson's), Gemsbok, Gerenuk, Giant's forest hog, Grant's gazelle, Greater kudu, Hartebeest, Impala, Klipspringer, Kob, Kudu (Greater and Lesser), Marshbuck, Oribi, Pangolin (Common and Three-cusped), Porcupine, Puku, Reedbuck (Bohar, Mountain and Southern), Sharpe's grysbok, Smith's red rockhare, Steenbok, Suni, Tsessebe, Warthog, Waterbuck

Bird Species: 1,056 (3rd in Africa). Bird lovers will enjoy Tanzania with a recorded 960 bird species calling this east African country home.

Wildlife Areas of Tanzania

 Excellent   Good   Fair   Poor   None 

Serengeti National Park

Serengeti National ParkThe Serengeti is not only the top safari destination in Tanzania, but it’s considered by many to be the premier safari park in all of Africa. It's known around the world due to the 'Great Migration', where an estimated 2.5 million grazing animals — made up primarily of wildebeest and zebra, move in a clockwise rotation around the vast 30,000 sq km (12,000 sq mi) Serengeti ecosystem in search of water and food. The precise timing of the migration is entirely dependent upon the rainfall patterns each year. These grazing animals are also joined by the large resident populations of herbivores made up of impala, cape buffalo, giraffe, warthog, elephant and upwards of 500 species of birds. Adding drama to the already extraordinary spectacle — the predators of the Serengeti, most notably lions, hyenas, cheetahs, leopards and also numerous scavengers, are all along their clockwise migratory route. The word Serengeti comes from the Maasai word 'Siringlit', meaning 'the place where land runs on forever' and refers to the grassy plains which make up about a third of the park. It is these grasslands and savannahs that ensure that the area is jam-packed full of game at anytime of the year.

Best time to visit:  Jan   Feb   Mar ²   Apr ²   May   Jun   Jul ¹   Aug ¹   Sep ′   Oct   Nov   Dec ′ 
Chance of spotting the Big Nine:  Zebra   Elephant   Buffalo   Giraffe   Hippo   Cheetah   Lion   Leopard   Rhino 

¹ Can be very crowded during these months due to school breaks in Europe, US and Australia

² These months make up the wet rainy season with heavy afternoon downpours


Ngorongoro Crater & Conservation Area

Ngorongoro Conservation Area and CraterThe Ngorongoro Conservation Area is approximately 8,288 sq km (3,200 sq mi) and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The centerpiece of the conservation area is the famous Ngorongoro Crater, the largest unflooded and intact volcanic caldera in the world, which was formed by the same immense geological upheavals as the Great Rift Valley, and once was a mountain as high as Kilimanjaro. Over 3 million years ago, the Crater exploded covering the Serengeti in ash and its crater floor sank leaving the rim to form a natural enclosure 2,000 feet high. The rich pasture and permanent water source in the crater is a natural sanctuary for over 25,000 animals, including the endangered black rhino, the Ngorongoro Lion (known for its jagged looking mane and larger size due to the bounty of game in the area), wildebeest, zebra, eland and so many other animals and a myriad of bird life, estimated at around 285 species strong. The Ngorongoro Crater received the designation of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, and has been described as the best self-contained safari destination in the world and a microcosm of East Africa, enclosing in one place - grasslands, forests, wetlands and slopes.

Best time to visit:  Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr ² 
 May   Jun   Jul ¹   Aug ¹   Sep ¹   Oct   Nov   Dec¹ 
Chance of spotting the Big Nine:  Elephant   Zebra   Buffalo   Rhino   Hippo   Cheetah   Lion   Giraffe ³

¹ Can be very crowded during these months due to school breaks in Europe, US and Australia

² These months make up the wet rainy season with heavy afternoon downpour

³ Giraffes are not found inside the crater


 Lake Manyara National Park

Lake Manyara National Park

Lake Manyara National Park is one of Tanzania's smaller parks and offers a microcosm of the safari experience to be found in Tanzania. The diverse landscape includes lush ground water forest hosting baboons, monkeys and canopy dwelling birdlife. The grassy floodplains play home to large elephant and buffalo populations, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, birds of prey, flamingo, hippo and tree climbing lions that inhabit the woodland that nestles between the lake and the Rift Valley. In addition to the wildlife, upwards of 270 species of birds have been recorded within the park.



Best time to visit:  Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr ² 
 May   Jun   Jul ¹   Aug ¹   Sep ′   Oct   Nov   Dec ′ 
Chance of spotting the Big Nine:  Elephant   Zebra   Buffalo   Giraffe   Hippo   Lion   Leopard   Cheetah   Rhino 

¹ Northern section of the park can get crowded during these months due to school breaks in Europe, US and Australia

² These months make up the wet rainy season with heavy afternoon downpours 



Tarangire National Park

Tarangire National ParkNamed after the Tarangire River that intersects it, Tarangire National Park is the 6th largest park in Tanzania at 2,850 sq km (1,100 sq mi) and renowned for its large herds of elephants, enormous termite hills and majestic baobab trees that dot the gentle rolling countryside. These mystic and spectacular trees of every shape and colour, seemingly dwarf the animals that feed beneath them. Considered one of the best kept secrets of Tanzania's northern safari circuit (Serengeti & Lake Manyara National Parks and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area), Tarangire is said to have the second largest concentration of game after the Ngorongoro Crater. Animals one may see include large migratory herds of wildebeest, zebras and cape buffalo during the dry season (June to November), as well as other common animals such as waterbuck, giraffe, impala and over 490 species of birds . Tarangire predators include lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena and African wild dogs — though rare.


Best time to visit:  Jan   Feb   Mar ² 
 Apr ² 
 May   Jun   Jul ¹   Aug ¹   Sep ¹   Oct   Nov   Dec ¹ 
Chance of spotting the Big Nine:  Elephant   Zebra   Buffalo   Giraffe   Hippo   Lion   Leopard   Cheetah   Rhino 

¹ Northern section of the park can get crowded during these months due to school breaks in Europe, US and Australia

² These months make up the wet rainy season with heavy afternoon downpours

Tanzania Travel Options

Tanzania Destination | Tanzania Safari Tours | Women Only Tanzania Safari Tours | Couples Only Tanzania Safari Tours | Custom Tanzania Safari Tanzania Rail Journeys | Cruising


Sources: CIA 2017, UNESCO 2017, World Conservation Monitoring Centre of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP-WCMC), 2004. Species Data (unpublished, September 2004)