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Country Info > Tanzania > Visa Info > Tourism > Govt & Economy >Human & Natural Resources > National Parks >History, People & Culture

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Tanzania National Parks

1. Arusha National Park

reticulated giraffesArusha National Park is considered to be a little gem in Tanzania's 'Northern Safari Circuit', just 40 minutes drive from the safari gateway town of Arusha. Many visitors head straight for other nearby safari destinations including Mt Kilimanjaro, Lake Manyara, Tarangire, Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti, without leaving time to visit this scenic park.

The park is made up of three particular features; lush swamps of the Ngurdodo Crater, changing colours of Momela Lakes and rugged alpine peaks of Mt Meru. Habitat ranges from highland montane forest to lowland swamp. The major peaks of Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Meru surround the park, with Kili (as this grand mountain is often called), ruling the distant horizon, and Mt Meru dominating the immediate vicinity. Mt Meru is a dormant volcano 14,990 feet (4,566m) high which last erupted 100 years ago.

It can be climbed in a couple of days and although you don't have to be a mountaineer, you should be a keen hiker. The climb takes you through startling patches of red hot pokers, zones of dripping moss with soft clover underfoot, rising to open heath spiked with giant lobelias several metres high. From Mt. Meru's craggy summit, you look towards Mt Kilimanjaro looming tall and impressive with its glacial sides and snowy peak glinting in the sun.

Arusha National Park contains all the wildlife you have come to expect, (except for rhino and lions). The beautiful black and white colobus monkey is the park's mascot and these graceful canopy dwellers swan-dive from branch to branch with their long tails billowing. The park also contains blue monkeys and lots of olive baboons. Other species in evidence are elephants, giraffe, hipppo, leopard, hyena, zebra and a wide range antelopes.
The park is famous for its 400 species of birds, both migrant and resident


This is the smallest of Tanzania's National Parks and was formed in 1968 to give protection to its resident chimpanzees, made famous by Dr Jane Goodall. It is a narrow strip of land along the shores of Lake Tanzania, which rises into mountainous folds and valleys full of towering oil nut palms and tall indigenous trees dangling with intertwining vines.

There are no roads, no phones and no electricity. This is real jungle and in it the creatures of Africa rule. It is a real life Tarzan movie set.

Chimps are king of the treetops, but the canopy also harbours red colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, red-tailed monkeys and olive baboons. Many of the chimpanzees are habituated to humans as a result of ongoing research since the 1960's. Respect and understanding are key to rewarding chimp encounters.

On the lakeshore pied wagtails and sandpipers dash in and out of the lapping waves and butterflies rise in confetti-like clouds. Palm nut vultures glide over the lakeshore. Young baboons play in the water, sometimes even submerging themselves, which is rarely seen outside this park. Elephants, buffaloes and leopards also inhabit this park.

Dry Season: May to October is dry and the best time for forest walks, although the light rains of October and November are also fine. Mid-December to February are dry and hot.
Rainy Season: the long rains are from March to May when insects come to life and the forest becomes very slippery.

Gombe Stream Specialties

  • Close encounters with chimpanzees
  • Foot safaris into real African jungle
  • Lake Tanganyika - an inland sea

Gombe is Tanzania's smallest National Park having gained its status in 1968.
It is situated at the country's western border with Zambia, which cuts through the middle of Lake Tanganyika. This is a malarial area.


Mahale is a very special place where man can meet his close cousin who shares 98% of the same DNA. This remote and beautiful national park contains at least a thousand chimpanzees, some of whom are so habituated that you can sit amongst them and watch the daily life of a chimp unfold. Unfortunately, when they decide to feed on fruits high in the trees or move off through the branches at high speed, all man's intelligence and inventions cannot help him follow.

This park is a destination for the traveler with a sense of adventure as there are no roads and the only way to arrive is by air or boat (on Lake Tanganyika) and you must then explore the national park on foot. The Mahale Mountains run from north to west across the middle of the park with the highest peak towering 8,000 feet (approx. 2,462 metres) above sea level.

Mountainous tropical forests hang with vines and tall trees grow on the banks of rivers which tumble into numerous waterfalls. A thousand butterflies rise from the warm wet earth and make Mahale a truly magical place. Together with this there is 39 miles (62km) of pristine lakeshore on a peninsular cutting into Lake Tanganyika - the world's longest lake and second deepest full of unique chichlid fish.

Seeing chimpanzees in the wild is a great thrill and worth the effort of getting here. Other primates include colobus monkeys, blue monkeys and baboons. Larger mammals found here are buffaloes, elephants, roan and sable antelopes, leopards, lions and warthogs. Birdlife is prolific both in the park and along the lakeshore. Lake Tanganyika contains over 200 types of small shining chichlid fish, many of which are endemic and some of which are allowed to be collected by divers for export to tropical aquariums.

Dry Season: May to October is dry and the best time for forest walks, although the light rains of October and November are also fine. Mid-December to February are also dry.
Rainy Season: the long rains are from March to May.

Mahale Mountain Specialities

  • Spending time with wild chimpanzees
  • Colobus and blue monkeys
  • Fishing and boating in a traditional Arab dhow on Lake Tanganyika
  • Exotic castaway-style Greystoke lodge on the shores of Lake Tanganyika

Mahale Mountains National Park is situated in the west of Tanzania on the shores of Lake Tanganyika - Tanzania's western border with Zambia. The park is about 1,000 miles² (1,613 km²). It was gazetted in 1980. A charter flight from Arusha, Dar es Salaam or Kigoma is the best way to reach the park.


This unusual park lies in the shadow of the Great Rift Valley whose reddish brown escarpment wall looms 1,950 feet high (600 metres) on the eastern horizon. Waterfalls spill over the cliff and hot springs bubble to the surface in the south. Much of the park often appears to be in a heat haze created by the soda lake - Lake Manyara.

The lake attracts considerable birdlife, and its surrounding terrain contains such a rich mosaic of different habitats that it supports a large number of animals. The park is accessed by road via the village of Mto wa Mbu, an eclectic market town where several tribes have converged to form a linguistic mix like nowhere else in Africa.

Such diverse surroundings attract equally diverse species such as monkeys, antelopes, zebras, hippos and crocodiles, buffalo, giraffe and a high density of elephants. The park is particularly known for its tree-climbing lions, who may be seen sleeping off the heat of the day on a branch instead of a shady spot on the ground like most other lions.

Fish-eating birds inhabiting the lake include pelicans, storks, cormorants and Egyptian geese. Flamingoes colour the lake pink as they arrive to feed at the lake during their migration. One unforgettable sight is a giant flock of red billed quelea who gather in their thousands and waft over the water like a giant swarm of insects.

Rainy Season: Short rains are November and December when it gets hot and humid, and the long rains are from March to June. These are the best times for bird watching, waterfalls and canoeing.
Dry Season: typically it is dry in the cooler winter months of July to October, which is the best time to view game.

Lake Manyara Specialities

  • Diverse scenery and animals
  • Tree-climbing lions
  • An abundance of elephants
  • Water birds in abundance

The park is 78 miles (125 km) west of Arusha town, from where it is a half an hour flight or a two-hour drive. It attained National Park status in 1960. The park is 127 miles² (330 km²) of which 89 miles² (230 km²) is Lake Manyara.

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