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SAFARIS IN TANZANIA MAINLAND

ARUSHA NATIONAL PARK

The closest national park to Arusha town – northern Tanzania’s safari capital – Arusha National Park is a multi-faceted jewel, often overlooked by safari goers, despite offering the opportunity to explore a beguiling diversity of habitats within a few hours.

The entrance gate leads into shadowy montane forest inhabited by inquisitive blue monkeys and colourful turacos and trogons – the only place on the northern safari circuit where the acrobatic black-and-white colobus monkey is easily seen. In the midst of the forest stands the spectacular Ngurdoto Crater, whose steep, rocky cliffs enclose a wide marshy floor dotted with herds of buffalo and warthog. Further north, rolling grassy hills enclose the tranquil beauty of the Momela Lakes, each one a different hue of green or blue.Their shallows sometimes tinged pink with thousands of flamingos, the lakes support a rich selection of resident and migrant waterfowl, and shaggy waterbucks display their large lyre-shaped horns on the watery fringes. Giraffes glide across the grassy hills, between grazing zebra herds, while pairs of wide-eyed dik-dik dart into scrubby bush like overgrown hares on spindly legs. Although elephants are uncommon in Arusha National Park, and lions absent altogether, leopards and spotted hyenas may be seen slinking around in the early morning and late afternoon. It is also at dusk and dawn that the veil of cloud on the eastern horizon is most likely to clear, revealing the majestic snow-capped peaks of Kilimanjaro, only 50km (30 miles) distant.

But it is Kilimanjaro’s unassuming cousin, Mount Meru - the fifth highest in Africa at 4,566 metres (14,990 feet) – that dominates the park’s horizon. Its peaks and eastern footslopes protected within the national park, Meru offers unparalleled views of its famous neighbour, while also forming a rewarding hiking destination in its own right. Passing first through wooded savannah where buffalos and giraffes are frequently encountered, the ascent of Meru leads into forests aflame with red-hot pokers and dripping with Spanish moss, before reaching high open heath spiked with giant lobelias. Everlasting flowers cling to the alpine desert, as delicately-hoofed klipspringers mark the hike’s progress. Astride the craggy summit, Kilimanjaro stands unveiled, blushing in the sunrise.

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LAKE MANYARA NATIONAL PARK

Stretching for 50km along the base of the rusty-gold 600-metre high Rift Valley escarpment, Lake Manyara is a scenic gem, with a setting extolled by Ernest Hemingway as “the loveliest I had seen in Africa”. The compact game-viewing circuit through Manyara offers a virtual microcosm of the Tanzanian safari experience.

From the entrance gate, the road winds through an expanse of lush jungle-like groundwater forest where hundred-strong baboon troops lounge nonchalantly along the roadside, blue monkeys scamper nimbly between the ancient mahogany trees, dainty bushbuck tread warily through the shadows, and outsized forest hornbills honk cacophonously in the high canopy. Contrasting with the intimacy of the forest is the grassy floodplain and its expansive views eastward, across the alkaline lake, to the jagged blue volcanic peaks that rise from the endless Maasai Steppes. Large buffalo, wildebeest and zebra herds congregate on these grassy plains, as do giraffes – some so dark in coloration that they appear to be black from a distance. Inland of the floodplain, a narrow belt of acacia woodland is the favoured haunt of Manyara’s legendary tree-climbing lions and impressively tusked elephants. Squadrons of banded mongoose dart between the acacias, while the diminutive Kirk’s dik-dik forages in their shade. Pairs of klipspringer are often seen silhouetted on the rocks above a field of searing hot springs that steams and bubbles adjacent to the lakeshore in the far south of the park.

Manyara provides the perfect introduction to Tanzania’s birdlife. More than 400 species have been recorded, and even a first-time visitor to Africa might reasonably expect to observe 100 of these in one day. Highlights include thousands of pink-hued flamingos on their perpetual migration, as well as other large waterbirds such as pelicans, cormorants and storks.

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NGORONGORO CRATER

Known as "Africa's Eden," the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is home to the greatest density of wildlife found on any Tanzanian safari, It features the world's largest unbroken caldera -- a crater formed by the collapse of an ancient volcano. The Ngorongoro Crater spans 102 square miles encompassing grasslands, swamps, forests and lakes, and contains approximately 25,000 large animals.

Safari participants descend nearly 2,000 feet into the crater to observe large herds of zebra, wildebeest, gazelle and their predators. You may even see rare black rhinos grazing by the lakes. The area also contains the Olduvai Gorge, where famed archaeologists and anthropologists Mary and Louis Leakey discovered nearly two-million-year-old bones and tools from what some believe were the earliest humans.

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TARANGIRE CONSERVATION AREA

Tarangire National Park lies 120 km south of Arusha, along The Great North Road highway, and is very popular for day trips from the town. Tarangire offers a wide variety of wildlife in its area of 2,600 sq. km. As in all ecosystems, the vegetation and the types of animals you find are closely correlated. The principal features of the park are the flood plains and the grassland, mainly comprising of various types of acacia trees, and a few scattered baobabs, tamarind and the sausage trees. The Tarangire River, after which the park is named, provides the only permanent water for wildlife in the area. When the Maasai Steppes dry up with the end of the long rains in June, migratory animals return to the Tarangire River, making Tarangire National Park second only to Ngorongoro in the concentration of wildlife. This period stretches between June and November and it is the best season for game viewing in Tarangire. 

The most common animals found in the park include zebras, wildebeest, lions, leopards, waterbucks, giraffe, elephants, gazelles, impala, gerenuk, lesser kudu and the beautiful fringe-eared oryx. You may be lucky to spot the tree-climbing python for which the park is famous, or the kudu and the roan antelope which are rare species in Northern Tanzania. Over 300 species of birds have been recorded in the Park.

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SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK

An essential destination on Tanzania safaris is Serengeti National Park, the country’s largest and most famous reserve. With 5,700 square miles of plains stretching as far as the eye can see, the Serengeti is home to one of the most diverse wild animal populations on Earth.

The park is also one of the best places on the continent to view lion prides. Safari guests traverse the Serengeti in four-wheel-drive vehicles to spot buffaloes, cheetahs, leopards, rhinos and more. For breathtaking sights of the game as they stir at dawn, an early morning hot-air balloon ride over the plains.

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MIKUMI NATIONAL PARK

Swirls of opaque mist hide the advancing dawn. The first shafts of sun colour the fluffy grass heads rippling across the plain in a russet halo. A herd of zebras, confident in their camouflage at this predatory hour, pose like ballerinas, heads aligned and stripes merging in flowing motion. Mikumi National Park abuts the northern border of Africa's biggest game reserve - the Selous – and is transected by the surfaced road between Dar es Salaam and Iringa. It is thus the most accessible part of a 75,000 square kilometre (47,000 square mile) tract of wilderness that stretches east almost as far as the Indian Ocean.

The open horizons and abundant wildlife of the Mkata Floodplain, the popular centerpiece of Mikumi, draw frequent comparisons to the more famous Serengeti Plains. Lions survey their grassy kingdom – and the zebra, wildebeest, impala and buffalo herds that migrate across it – from the flattened tops of termite mounds, or sometimes, during the rains, from perches high in the trees. Giraffes forage in the isolated acacia stands that fringe the Mkata River, islets of shade favoured also by Mikumi's elephants.

Criss-crossed by a good circuit of game-viewing roads, the Mkata Floodplain is perhaps the most reliable place in Tanzania for sightings of the powerful eland, the world’s largest antelope. The equally impressive greater kudu and sable antelope haunt the miombo-covered foothills of the mountains that rise from the park’s borders. More than 400 bird species have been recorded, with such colourful common residents as the lilac-breasted roller, yellow-throated longclaw and bateleur eagle joined by a host of European migrants during the rainy season. Hippos are the star attraction of the pair of pools situated 5km north of the main entrance gate, supported by an ever-changing cast of waterbirds.

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RUAHA NATIONAL PARK

The game viewing starts the moment the plane touches down. A giraffe races beside the airstrip, all legs and neck, yet oddly elegant in its awkwardness. A line of zebras parades across the runway in the giraffe's wake. In the distance, beneath a bulbous baobab tree, a few representatives of Ruaha's 10,000 elephants - the largest population of any East African national park, form a protective huddle around their young.

Second only to Katavi in its aura of untrammelled wilderness, but far more accessible, Ruaha protects a vast tract of the rugged, semi-arid bush country that characterises central Tanzania. Its lifeblood is the Great Ruaha River, which courses along the eastern boundary in a flooded torrent during the height of the rains, but dwindling thereafter to a scattering of precious pools surrounded by a blinding sweep of sand and rock.

A fine network of game-viewing roads follows the Great Ruaha and its seasonal tributaries, where , during the dry season, impala, waterbuck and other antelopes risk their life for a sip of life-sustaining water. And the risk is considerable: not only from the prides of 20-plus lion that lord over the savannah, but also from the cheetahs that stalk the open grassland and the leopards that lurk in tangled riverine thickets. This impressive array of large predators is boosted by both striped and spotted hyena, as well as several conspicuous packs of the highly endangered African wild dog.

Ruaha's unusually high diversity of antelope is a function of its location, which is transitional to the acacia savannah of East Africa and the miombo woodland belt of Southern Africa. Grant's gazelle and lesser kudu occur here at the very south of their range, alongside the miombo-associated sable and roan antelope, and one of East AfricaÆs largest populations of greater kudu, the park emblem, distinguished by the male's magnificent corkscrew horns.

A similar duality is noted in the checklist of 450 birds: the likes of crested barbet, an attractive yellow-and-black bird whose persistent trilling is a characteristic sound of the southern bush, occur in Ruaha alongside central Tanzanian endemics such as the yellow-collared lovebird and ashy starling.

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SELOUS GAME RESERVE

The game reserve gets its name from the hunter-explorer Frederick Courtney Selous, whose books about his exploits were best sellers in Victorian England. Selous was killed by an Elephant in early 1900's during the First World War.

The Selous Game Reserve is the largest protected wildlife area in Africa. Only in the Serengeti will visitors see a greater concentration of wildlife. Yet Selous boasts Tanzania's largest population of elephant as well as large numbers of buffalo, hippo and wild dog. The remaining African Black Rhinos are also dominating the reserve. Other species commonly seen are sable antelope, bushbuck, impala, giraffe, lion, eland, baboon, zebra, crocodiles, leopard and greater kudu. The topography of Selous varies from rolling savannah woodland, grassland plains and rocky outcrops cut by the Rufiji River and its tributaries, the Kilombero and Luwegu, which together cover the greatest catchments area in East Africa.

The Rufiji, which flows from north to south, provides the life-blood of the Selous and sailing or rafting down the river is a wonderful method of seeing game, especially during the dry season between June and October. The Rufiji River outside the reserve has a delta which accommodates numerous birdlife species appropriate for the bird watchers to visit. Walking safaris can be arranged after along time of drive with 4x4 vehicles. Appreciate will be made for the advance booking of walking safaris.

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SAADANI NATIONAL PARK

Saadani National Park is a new wildlife on Tanzania's Indian Ocean coast, bringing terrestrial and water animals together, making it the only tourist park in East Africa where the bush meets the beach and where the visitor enjoys both photographic safari and water sports. Covering an area of 1,137 kilometres, Saadani National Park is located 160 kilometres north-west of Dar es Salaam on Chalinze/Segera highway.

With barely 2 hours drive from Dar es Salaam, Saadani is a good choice for a day trip or weekend retreat. It a a relaxing place for visitors wishing to escape the busy city of Dar es Salaam without the need to visit other far away parks. The Wami rivers passes through the park empties into the Indian Ocean, hosts a large population of hippos, crocodiles, flamingoes and many large bird species. Bottlenose dolphins are common off the southern coast of the park. Lucky visitors can watch whales passing through the nearby Zanzibar channel between October and Novermber, while the luckiest as well, can observe the green turtle breed at Madete Beach. Equally exciting, is the elephant population frolics in the sands. These jumbos sometimes venture into the crushing surf, which alone makes Saadani one of the unique and exciting parks in Tanzania. Ideal for nature lovers, the park offers picturesque views of palm-fringed tress and mangroves on the reserved coastal rain forest inhibited with all African big mammals including elephants, lions, buffaloes and leopards.

Canoeing through Wami could be an exciting adventure, where one shares water with crocodiles and hippos, which dominate the river. Sailing through the river, you can enjoy watching golden feathers of some endemics births of the area like the African cornorants, kingfishers and songbirds, all flying the river bank trees.

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GOMBE STREAM NATIONAL PARK

Gombe Stream is the smallest of Tanzania's National Parks, comprising a thin strip of ancient forest set among mountains and steep valleys on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Chimpanzees are the reason to visit Gombe Stream - they are the stars of the world's most famous chimpanzee community, made famous by the pioneering British researcher Jane Goodall, whose years of constant observation since 1960 have brought to light startling new facts about mankind's closest COUSInS.Chimps are as individually unique as humans and no scientific expertise is needed to distinguish the different characters in the cast. The majority of the park mammals are primates, most of them forest species. In addition to the famous chimpanzees visitors could be lucky enough to see blue or red-tail monkeys. Carnivores are rare in the forest, making Gombe the ideal place for a walking safari, or a swim in one of the streams.The best time to find chimpanzees at Gombe is during the wet season from February-June and November-December. The dry months of JulyOctober and December-January are, however, better for photo-opportunities.

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KATAVI NATIONAL PARK

Katavi National Park in Western Tanzania is remote and wild, a destination for the true safari aficionado. The name of the park immortalises a legendary hunter, Katabi, whose spirit is believed to possess a tamarind tree ringed with offerings from locals begging his blessings.Despite being Tanzania's third-largest park, Katavi sees relatively few visitors, meaning that those guests who arrive here can look forward to having this huge un touched wilderness to themselves. The park's main features are the watery grass plains to the north, the palm-fringed lake Chada in the south-east, and the Katuma river. Katavi boasts Tanzania's greatestpopulations of both crocodile and hippopotamus.Lion and leopard find prey among the huge populations of herbivores at Katavi - impala, eland, topi, zebra and herds of up to 1600 buffalo wander the short grass plains. The rare, honeycoloured puku antelope is one of the park's richest wildlife viewing rewards. A kaleidoscope of birds flit across the riverbanks, swamps and palm groves while flotillas of pelican cruise the lakes. Elephant graze waist-deep in the marshlands.Katavi is best visited in the dry season between May and October, December and February.

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MAHALE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK

Like its northerly neighbour Gombe, Mahale Mountains National Park is home to some of the last remaining wild chimpazees in Africa. Around 1,000 of these fascinating animals roam the isolated rainforest of Mahale, a chain of dramatic peaks draped in lush vegetation falling to Lake Tanganyika's beaches far below. Visitors are led on guided walks in search of the chimpanzees, following clues such as the previous night's nests - shadowy clumps high in the trees - or scraps of half-eaten fruit and fresh dung. Once found, the chimpanzees preen each other's glossy coasts in concentrated huddles, squabble noisily or bound effortlessly into the trees, swinging nonchalantlythrough the vines.In addition to a hike on the trail of the chimpanzees, visitors can trace the Tongwe people's ancient pilgrimage to the mountain spirits, trekking through enclaves of rainforest to grassy ridges chequered with alpine bamboo. After a hot walk in the forest, the clear waters of the lake, home to 250 species of fish, beckon for a refreshing swim.The best time for forest walks in Mahale is during the dry season (May to October). The light rains of October/November also present no real obstacle to visitors.

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RUBONDO ISLAND NATIONAL PARK

Rubondo Island is tucked into the corner of Lake Victoria, the world's second largest lake, an inland sea sprawling between three countries. With 9 smaller islands under her wing, Rubondo protects precious fish breeding grounds. Tilapia and the rapacious Nile perch, some weighing more than 100kgs, tempt recreational fishers with challenging sport fishing and world record catches. But Rubondo is more than a water wonderland. Deserted sandy beaches nestle against a cloak of virgin forest. Papyrus swamps host the secretive sitatunga, a shaggy aquatic antelope, and the dappled bushbuck.Rubondo is a birder's paradise, with the malachite kingfisher's azure brilliance competing with the paradise flycatcher's glamorous flowing tail. Rubondo is home to fish eagles and a global stopover for hundreds of migratory birds, as well as a sanctuary for sweet smelling wild jasmine and 40 different species of orchid.Ninety percent of the island is covered with humid forest, the remainder ranges from coastal grassland to lakeside papyrus beds. A number of indigenous mammal species - hippo, bushbuck, genet, and mongoose - share their protected habitat with introduced species such as chimpanzee, elephant, and giraffe.Rubondo's wild flowers are at their best from November to March. For migratory birds, visit December to February. The island's climate is at its most pleasant from June to August.

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