Traveling to Africa is the trip of a lifetime, that should be repeated. The word “vacation” is too shallow to do it justice. It’s a cultural exploration, a deepening of roots, a stimulation of sensations, an enchantment with the people and animals, a mystical awakening that gets inside you, if you let it. The more time you spend there, the better.
Safaris are an animal and nature lovers utopia. Tourism protects the national parks from poachers and land destruction and you get to see hundreds of animals living freely.
We sell trips to Tanzania, one of the safest countries in Africa and the country with more national parks and protected land than any other African country.
Most people traveling to Tanzania for the first time stick to the Northern Circuit. Here is a description of the national parks you can visit in the Northern Circuit.
Lake Manyara National Park
This small but striking park is on the way to the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti. Often overlooked by tourists eager to reach the Serengeti, the alkaline lake covers 89 square miles of the 127 square miles that make up the national park. While the lake sits on the east end of the park, the Gregory Rift wall sits to the west and is characterized by volcanic activity.
Lake Manyara is known largely for its baboon and pink flamingo populations but also has a number of other wild animals, such as elephants, hippos, giraffes, tree-climbing lions, and birds. Colors of teal, yellow and red mesmerize bird-watchers as they come across the headed kingfisher, yellow-billed stork and others. Lake Manyara is a hidden treasure of breathtaking landscape and abundant wildlife.
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Tarangire National Park
This park is named after the Tarangire River, which flows through the park and is the only source of water for the animals. Large communities of elephants and African pythons inhabit the park as well as many other animals. The park is infamous for its unique Acacias and baobab trees. Similar to Lake Manyara National Park, Tarangire is sometimes overlooked on the tourist circuit but it’s a beautiful park full of animals and it’s the best place to see elephants.
Arusha National Park
Arusha National Park is a small, 52.9-mile park with three different topographical features: Mt. Meru, Ngurdoto Crater and Momela Lakes. The vegetation and landscape of each area varies greatly. Ngurdoto Crater’s floor is swampy but the crater is surrounded by forest. Around the peaceful Momela Lakes are grassy hills and an alkaline lake, attracting flamingos to its more shallow parts. Mt. Meru is an active yet dormant volcano with rocky terrain.
Arusha is the only area in the Northern Circuit where the black-and-white colobus monkey is easily seen. Giraffes and zebra can be found grazing in the grasslands of the park while hyenas and leopards peruse the land. The region is another bird-watchers delight with over 400 species of birds living in and around the park. Walking safaris are available in Arusha National Park.
Serengeti National Park
The Serengeti National Park is 5,700 square miles. The annual Great Migration starts in the Serengeti Plains where the wildebeest gather from December to March for calving season. Wildebeest and zebra inhabit the region during this time but you’ll also see lions, cheetahs, elephants, giraffes and countless bird species all year long.
The Serengeti National Park is split into three parts: the Seronera Valley, the Western Corridor and the Lobo. When you first arrive at the park, you enter through the Seronera Valley, the southern/central region. This is the area known for its vast grasslands and beautiful acacias, unique trees that resemble umbrellas. The Western Corridor is the section where you can find the Grumeti River. When the wildebeest and zebra herds encounter the river on their migration, it’s quite an obstacle because of its deep waters and infestation of Nile Crocodiles, a vicious predator. Lobo, the Northern part of the Serengeti National Park, is untouched mainly because it’s not easily penetrated due to its terrain. The best way to see this area is by air, in a hot air balloon!
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is an extraordinary place to visit. West of Arusha is a range of volcanic mountains with the Ngorongoro Crater as the highlight of the region. The crater, formed about three million years ago from a volcanic explosion, is the world’s largest caldera.
This area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means the land is protected for its cultural significance. The Maasai people still practice traditional customs in the area where their culture is preserved. When you visit Ngorongoro, you’ll often see herdsmen in their native garb watching cattle. The region also plays a crucial in role in understanding human evolution. Based on evidence found in the Ngorongoro Conversation Area, the hominid species inhabited the area for over three million years.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the best place to see all of the “Big Five” in one safari drive. This is one of the only areas where the endangered black rhinoceros are easily seen and it has one of the most densely populated regions of lions. You’ll also find rhinos, gazelles, hyenas and cheetahs.
Mt. Kilimanjaro is a giant stratovolcano that began forming a million years ago when lava spilled from the Rift Valley zone. It is the highest mountain in Africa and fourth highest of the Seven Summits. It’s the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. Kilimanjaro is composed of three distinct volcanic cones: Kibo – 5,895 meters (19,341 feet), Mawenzi – 5,149 meters (16,893 feet), and Shira – 3,962 meters (13,000 feet). Uhuru Peak is the highest summit, it lies on Kibo’s crater rim and rises to an altitude of 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) above sea level. Two of Kilimanjaro’s three peaks, Mawenzi and Shira, are extinct while Kibo (the highest peak) is dormant. The last major eruption has been dated to 360,000 years ago, while the most recent activity was recorded 200 years ago.
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