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Lion in a tree by Lake Masek in Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
  More about parks
Park authority in Tanzania
There are 13 national parks in Tanzania (and a number of game reserves, game controlled areas and forest reserves – more than ten percent of Tanzania are environmentally protected areas). They are managed by the park authority Tanzania National Parks, or Tanapa, and protected by a corps of park rangers. The rangers man the park entry gates, patrol the parks, do anti-poaching operations, assist tourists in need of help etc. Tanapa also operates campsites and bandas in many parks.
Wildlife in the parks
Which animals you may see during a safari depends on which parks you visit, as all species are not present everywhere. For example, you won't see rhinoceros if you go to Lake Manyara, because no rhinos live there. Ngorongoro is a good place for rhinoceros, Serengeti for the big cats, and Tarangire for elephants.
Park rules
The parks are protected areas, where special rules apply to visitors. The rules may vary somewhat between parks, but some typical rules for national parks, which have the strictest rules, are:
· The speed limit is 50 km/31 mi per hour. Driving off-road or at night is not allowed.
· Keep a distance to the animals. Don't disturb or follow them. Don't feed any animals.
· Don't go outside the vehicle, apart from in dedicated areas, such as picnic sites and observation points.
· Don't bring animals or plants into the park. Don't take animals, plants or any other natural objects out of the park.
· Don't litter. Make fires only in dedicated places
  More web sites
Tanapa –Tanzania National Parks
Safari glossary
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Parks in Tanzania
The nature and wildlife in Kenya and Tanzania are protected by national parks, national reserves, game reserves, forest reserves and other types of nature protected areas.

On this web site, we refer to all such protected areas as 'parks'. For simplicity, we also include some areas that are not protected, but still have a rich nature, such as bird lakes.

Map of Africa Namibia Botswana South Africa Zambia Mozambique Malawi Rwanda Tanzania Kenya Uganda
Safari regions
Tanzania has three main safari regions:

Northern Tanzania, where the wildlife is more abundant, southern Tanzania, where visitors are fewer, and western Tanzania, where some interesting parks are situated, home to for example wild chimpanzees.

These three safari regions are sometimes referred to as the northern, southern and western circuits.

The Ngorongoro Crater in northern Tanzania.

Getting to the western parks is time consuming, though, and safaris there cost a lot more. Few if any packaged safari tours include this area.

Your first safari
We recommend northern Tanzania to anyone going for a first safari in Africa. The wildlife is very rich, and the setting is the typical African bush.

Map of parks in Tanzania
Tanzania has a dozen national parks and a number of game reserves, forest reserves and other protected areas. The following map shows the most important parks.

Map of Tanzania Lake EyasiMkomazi NPBujumbura (Burundi)Kigali (Rwanda)BukobaTaboraSingidaTangaMorogoroIringaMbeyaLindiSongeaKigali International Airport (KGL/HRYR)Bujumbura International  (BJM/HBBA)Kigoma Airport (TKQ/HTKA)Zanzibar International/Kisauni (ZNZ/HTZA)Dar es Salaam International (DAR/HTDA)Mwanza Airport (MWZ/HTMW)Moi International (MNA/HKMO)Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO/HKJK)Arusha Airport (ARK/HTAR)Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO/HTKJ)Mombasa (Kenya)Nairobi (Kenya)MwanzaDodomaNamangaDar es SalaamArushaPanganiUmba GRUsambara MountainsMaswa GRGrumeti GRIkorongo GRLake NatronIbanda GRRumanyika Orugundu GRKitulo NPBiharamulo GRRubondo Island NPLake VictoriaLake TanganyikaUluguru MountainsUdzungwa NP Kitulo NPSerengeti NPNgorongoro CALake Manyara NPTarangire NPArusha NPKilimanjaro NPMkomazi NPSaadani NPZanzibarPembaMafiaMikumi NPSelous GRUdzungwa NPRuaha NPKizigo GRRungwa GRUwanda GRKatavi NPMahale Mountains NPUgalla GRGombe Stream NPMoyowosi GRKigosi GRBurigi GRBiharamulo GRRubondo Island GRRumanyika Orugundu GRMasai Mara NR (Kenya)Tsavo West NP (Kenya)Tsavo East NP (Kenya)South Kitui NR (Kenya)Chyulu Hills NP (Kenya)Ngai Ndethya NR (Kenya)Amboseli NR (Kenya)Shimba Hills NR (Kenya)KenyaUgandaTanzaniaZambia

2 Ngorongoro
3 Lake Manyara
4 Tarangire
5 Lake Natron
6 Arusha
7 Kilimanjaro
8 Mkomazi
9 Usambara Mountains
10 Umba
11 Saadani
12 Uluguru Mountains
13 Mikumi
14 Selous
15 Udzungwa
16 Kizigo
17 Rungwa
18 Ruaha
19 Kitulo
20 Uwanda
21 Katavi
22 Ugalla
23 Mahale Mountains
24 Lake Tanganyika
25 Gombe
26 Moyowosi
27 Kigosi
28 Ibanda
29 Rumanyika Orugundu
30 Burigi
31 Biharamulo
32 Rubondo Island
33 Lake Victoria
34 Ikorongo
35 Grumeti
36 Maswa
37 Lake Eyasi

Northern Tanzania
Most visitors come to see the parks in northern Tanzania. These parks are situated in the main safari region of East Africa: the savanna and rift valley region on the border between Tanzania and Kenya.

Main parks:
Serengeti NP Cats, migrating herds, many species
Ngorongoro CA Crater with high mammal concentrations, rhinos
Lake Manyara NP Elephants, forested park
Tarangire NP Elephants, many species, birds
Arusha NP Close to Arusha, some wildlife, birds
Kilimanjaro NP Mountain climbing, mountain forests

Map of northern Tanzania.Arusha Airport (ARK/HTAR)Kilimanjaro National Park Arusha  National Park Lake Manyara National Park Serengeti National Park Ngorongoro Conservation Area Tarangire National Park Ngorongoro Conservation AreaSerengeti National ParkMasai Mara National Reserve (Kenya)Lake Manyara  National ParkTarangire National ParkArusha  National ParkKilimanjaro National ParkNairobi  National Park (Kenya)Amboseli National Reserve (Kenya)Lake EyasiLake NatronLake VictoriaKilimanjaro International Airport (JRO/HTKJ)Lake Magadi (Kenya)
Click the map for more information about parks in northern Tanzania.

Serengeti and Ngorongoro
Serengeti and Ngorongoro are the best parks in northern Tanzania. If you combine these, you have good chances seeing the three big cats (lion, leopard and cheetah), the Big Five (elephant, African buffalo, rhinoceros, lion and leopard), and many other animals. Serengeti is the larger park, and is the main destination on many safaris. The migration spends December to June in Serengeti, adding some 1.5 million wildebeest and zebras to the resident animals.

Lake Manyara and Tarangire
Lake Manyara and Tarangire are located en route to Serengeti/Ngorongoro, so all these parks are easy to combine. Both Tarangire and Lake Manyara are good parks for elephants. A lot of animals of different species congregate in Tarangire during August to October.

Arusha NP and Kilimanjaro
Arusha National Park is just outside the city of Arusha, from where most safaris in northern Tanzania start. The park has some wildlife, but its main feature is the bird life. Some visitors also come to climb Mount Meru (4,566 m/14,980 ft), situated in the park. Nearby Kilimanjaro National Park is mainly visited by mountain climbers, attempting to climb the highest peak in Africa (5,895 m/19,340 ft), and isn't known for its wildlife, although a good bird life and some animals are found in the mountain forests below 3,000 m/10,000 ft.

Safaris start in Arusha
Most safaris in northern Tanzania start from Arusha, situated a 45 minute drive from Kilimanjaro International Airport, where KLM flies daily directly from Europe (Amsterdam), and where you can also get from, for example, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Nairobi in Kenya or Addis Abeba in Ethiopia. Mount Kilimanjaro is 1.5 hours by road east of Arusha, and a climb can easily be combined with a safari in northern Tanzania. Zanzibar Island, known for its white beaches, spice farms and former slave trade, is a one-hour flight away from Kilimanjaro International Airport or Arusha Airport.

Good seasons
You can go for a safari in northern Tanzania all year round, except for during the rainy season in April and May, when road accessibility etc may be poor. Two very good seasons for seeing wildlife are September to October and December to February.

More about safari seasons

More parks in northern Tanzania
In addition to the main parks, which offer the best wildlife, other areas offer scenery, some wildlife and fewer tourists.

Lake Eyasi Birds, Hadza tribe
Lake Natron Flamingos, scenery, Oldoinyo Lengai volcano
Lake Victoria Scenery, fishing
Mkomazi NP Some wildlife, rhino and wild dog sanctuaries
Rubondo Island NP Some wildlife, birds, fishing

Giraffes in Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania.

Southern Tanzania
The parks in southern Tanzania are situated in a transition zone between a northern and a southern vegetation zone, which gives them a partly different fauna and flora compared to the parks in northern Tanzania. The wildlife is rich, although not as abundant as in the north, but visitors are considerably fewer. Many visitors travel to the parks by air, as road distances are long.

Main parks:
Mikumi NP Closest park to Dar es Salaam
Ruaha NP Elephants, antelopes, few visitors
Selous GR Very large park, wild dogs, many species
Saadani NP Coastal park
Udzungwa Mountains NP Many montane biotopes

Map of southern Tanzania.Zanzibar International Airport (ZNZ/HTZA) Udzungwa National Park Mikumi National Park Selous Game Reserve Ruaha National Park Mikumi National ParkSelous Game ReserveSaadani National ParkRuaha National ParkRungwa & Kizigo Game ReservesZanzibarJulius Nyerere International Airport (DAR/HTDA)
Click the map for more information about parks in southern Tanzania.

Mikumi and Selous
Mikumi has the best road connection with Dar es Salaam; a four-hour drive on tarmac. Getting to neighbouring Selous is less convenient, and includes much driving on poor bush roads and river crossings. The most convenient option is flying there from Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar. There is also a train from Dar es Salaam stopping in the northern part of the park. As Selous is not a national park but a game reserve, where activities are less restricted, the park offers not only game driving, but also game viewing in boats on the Rufiji River, walks, bush camping and fishing. Both parks have a varied wildlife, with many species to see. A rare mammal seen regularly is the African wild dog.

Ruaha offers good opportunities for game viewing, but fairly few visitors go there. The park is situated even further inland, and the best way getting there is by air. There are scheduled flights from Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar to Ruaha, stopping over in Selous, so these two parks can easily be combined.

Saadani is Tanzania's only coastal park, where you may see both large mammals and coral reefs, fish and dolphins. It is situated some 4 hours on poor roads north of Dar es Salaam.

Udzungwa Mountains
The Udzungwa Mountains are west of Mikumi and northern Selous, set on a mountainside between 300 m/1,000 ft and 2,800 m/9,200 ft above sea level. The variety of different biotopes is home to wildlife and many birds. Some endemic animal species are found in the mountains, including birds and monkeys.

Good seasons
The season from July or August to October is generally the best time to visit these parks. It is the driest season of the year, and animals are concentrated to areas where permanent water is found. January and February may also be fine.

Sausage tree.

Western Tanzania
The western region of Tanzania receives few visitors, as distances to the major entry points to the country are long, and as these parts are less known than for example Serengeti and Ngorongoro in the north. There are domestic flight connections to Kigoma on the shore of Lake Tanganyika, but travelling to western Tanzania still means higher costs and more time getting there.

Main parks:
Gombe Stream NP Chimpanzees, monkeys
Mahale Mountains NP Chimpanzees, monkeys
Katavi NP Mixed wildlife, big herds, birds
More parks in western Tanzania

Map of western Tanzania Ruaha National ParkRungwa & Kizigo Game ReserveKigoma Airport (TKQ/HTKA)ZambiaMahale Mountains National ParkGombe Stream National ParkLake TanganyikaKatavi National ParkUwanda Game ReserveUgalla Game ReserveKigosi & Moyowosi Game Reserve
Click the map for more information about parks in western Tanzania.

Gombe, Mahale and Katavi
Gombe and Mahale both face Lake Tanganyika and feature wild chimpanzees, as well as other primates. (Jane Goodall made her research on chimpanzees in Gombe.) These parks are usually approached by boat from Kigoma town, where you can fly from Arusha or Dar es Salaam. Inland Katavi offers good game viewing, but accommodation in the few tented camps within the park is pricey.

Safari jeep and a herd of elephants in Serengeti, Tanzania.

More about parks
Park sizes
The parks vary in size, ranging from huge Selous in Tanzania (55,000 km2/21,200 sq mi, which is the same size as New York State, or quite a bit bigger than the Netherlands) down to little Saiwa Swamp in Kenya (3 km2/1.2 sq mi protecting the small local population of sitatunga antelopes). The Tanzanian parks are generally larger than the Kenyan, while there are more parks in Kenya.

Park fees
All park visitors pay an entrance fee. You usually don't have to worry about this, though, as the park fees should be included in your tour price and handled by your driver guide or tour leader.

Park fees range from USD 10 to 100 (depending on which park you visit). There are lower fees for children and for local residents. There is also a separate fee for the vehicle. For the main parks in northern Tanzania, a special electronic card is used for paying the fees.

The fees usually last for 24 hours from the time of entry. Fees for consecutive days can be paid all at once.

Facilities in parks
Some East African parks are major tourist attractions, but not very much has been done to adapt them to tourism. This makes sense, as the fundamental idea of the parks is to conserve nature. There are bush roads criss-crossing the parks, lodges or tented camps for the tourist to stay and the odd picnic site with basic toilet facilities.

Some parks have camping sites where you may pitch a tent, and some have bandas, which are basic cottages or huts you may rent.

A handful of parks, for example Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya, are fenced. Fencing is usually a precaution to keep poachers out or to prevent the animals from approaching densely populated areas.

Park protection
Most parks are protected by rangers, but the level of protection varies a lot. Major national parks, where a lot of visitors come, are usually quite well funded and have resources to patrol the park and protect both wildlife and visitors. In less visited parks in remote areas, there may be little funding, and park protection may be poor. The same goes for developing and maintaining park infrastructure, such as roads; parks in remote areas may have less funding and fewer resources.

Different kinds of parks
National parks
National parks are usually well protected, and have the strictest park rules. Most of them may only be visited in vehicles during daytime, i.e. walking safaris and night safaris are not allowed. The most well known national park in East Africa is Serengeti in northern Tanzania. Some safari tours to Serengeti do include bush walks, but these are not done inside the park, but outside the park border.

Walking is allowed in some less visited national parks, for example Udzungwa in southern Tanzania. There are also walking opportunities in Tarangire in northern Tanzania.

The only humans allowed into the parks are tourists, researchers and park staff. Farming, grazing cattle, logging or collecting wood etc is not allowed.

National parks are governed by the state through national authorities.

Game reserves
Game reserves are governed by local authorities, and may have less strict park rules than national parks and national reserves. In Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania, for example, activities such as walking, boating and fishing are allowed. In much of Selous, controlled hunting is also allowed.

Private reserves and sanctuaries
Some privately owned farms have been transformed into reserves, in some cases called sanctuaries. These reserves may be fenced, and may have a healthy wildlife following decades of conservation work by keen owners. They are more common in Kenya.

Conservation Area
Ngorongoro Conservation Area in northern Tanzania has a unique form of protection. In most parts of the park, rules comparable to those of game reserves apply, with one major exception: the Maasai are allowed to live there in traditional ways, i.e. herding their cattle. The Ngorongoro Crater, which occupies a small part of the park, has stricter rules, on the level of national parks.

Other parks
There are also other types of parks, such as forest reserves, conservancies etc. They have less strict park rules, and usually don't have wildlife rich enough to be of interest for general safari tours.

Dry season view of Tarangire National Park in Tanzania.

Animals in the parks
The animals in the parks are wild. They live their lives without human interference, such as farming, pasturing and deforestation. They are not fed, even when starving, and sick or injured animals receive no help from veterinaries.

There are a few exceptions, where park authorities do interfere with the wildlife. Elephants have been relocated from some parks to other areas when the local elephant population has grown too large. If there are too many elephants in an area, nature can't keep up with the elephant's feeding habits, and may be impoverished or even destroyed.

Another exception is re-introduction of endangered species, such as rhinoceros or African wild dogs.

Used to vehicles, not humans
In the parks that receive most visitors, the animals may be used to safari vehicles, and mainly ignore them. The animals are not accustomed to humans, though. Should you walk out of the vehicle, most animals would shy away.

Some parks are not open even to tourism, and some only allow a small number of visitors every day.

Which animals live in the parks?
Most classic safari animals can be seen in both Kenya and Tanzania, for example lions, elephants, hippos and giraffes. All may not be found in every park, though.

Some major parks, for example Serengeti, have a wide range of species, and large numbers of individuals within these species. Such parks are of course popular with safari-goers. Other parks may be more or less specialized in protecting certain species.

You should be aware that it isn't possible to predict exactly where to find the animals within a park, as they move to find food and water. Sometimes they even move out of the park. The huge herds of wildebeest and zebras known as the migration move between two parks, and spend part of the year in Serengeti, part in Masai Mara.

More about safari mammals

Combining parks
You will probably get the best safari if you go to a few different parks, as this allows for seeing a wider range of animal species.

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Page updated 27 April 2013