National Parks, Reserves and Conservation Areas
The best wildlife viewing months in Tanzania are during the dry season from late June to October. The best chance of seeing the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti is during June and July and the time to see the wildebeest calving is late January to February. The southern and western circuit parks are best visited during the dry-season (June to October), unlike the more popular northern circuit parks that can be visited year-round. Tarangire is the only exception, since its wildlife viewing is considerably better in the dry-season as well.
Tarangire National Park
Tarangire National Park is located in the Manyara region of Northern Tanzania, just a few hours drive from Arusha. It is the ninth largest wildlife Park in Tanzania covering 2600 sq km. During the dry season (August – October) Tarangire has one of the highest concentrations of wildlife, all seeking the waters flowing through Tarangires river, which is one of the only permanent water sources available at this time of year. In addition to the largest concentration of elephants in Africa, Tarangire has spectacular landscapes of rolling hills, ravines, and forests of the ancient African Baobab trees, and arcadia woodlands. In addition to the larger animals, it is also home to three rare bird species – the fringed -eared Oryx, the Greater Kudu and the Ashy Starling.
June to March are the dryer months with June to October the prime time to visit.
The Park is home to a wide variety of animals’ year – round, including African elephants, lions, cheetahs, buffaloes, leopards, giraffes, zebras, hyenas, a wide range of antelopes and warthogs.
The first migrating animals start to arrive in the park during early June, and will remain in the park until November – just before the start of the short rainy season – when the migration moves north again. This annual wildlife Tarangire migration makes for fantastic safari game viewing in the dry season.
Don’t fret if you cannot coincide your trip with the annual migration period – many animals including African elephants, lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, buffaloes, giraffes, zebras, a wide range of antelopes and warthogs – stay in the park all year – round. Although the park offers many animals to be seen during the rainy season – you will however have to contend with lush vegetation, rain and the plentiful insect population.
Serengeti National Park
Serengeti National Park is a World Heritage site, and considered Africa’s most popular safari destination, famous for the annual wildebeest migration and excellent wildlife viewing throughout the year. It is located 335km (208 miles) from Arusha, stretching north to Kenya and bordering Lake Victoria to the west. It covers 14,763 sq km (5,700 sq miles) with a variety of scenery from spectacular grassland plains in the southeast, the valleys and rivers in the west and the hilly and rocky scenery in the northern region. Wherever one visits in the Serengeti the scenery is stunning.
Serengeti’s scenery is renowned for its grassland plains in the southeast. The northern part is more hilly and rocky. To the west, valleys, rivers and forest can be found. The scenery is stunning and feels like untamed wilderness.
To follow the wildebeest migration, December-July. To see predators, June-October.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a protected area and a World Heritage Site located 180 km west of Arusha in the Crater Highlands area of Tanzania. The area is named after Ngorongoro Crater, a large volcanic caldera within the area. The Ngorongoro Crater and surrounding highlands together form one of Africa’s most beautiful regions. Volcanic craters form stunning backdrops to some of the most fertile and richest grazing grounds in Africa. It is home to the highest density of big game in Africa, including all the big five and plenty of predators. Ngorogoro is justifiably one of the continents most famous safari destinations. It is the best place in Africa to see the black rhino along with some of the largest tusker elephants left in Africa. While there are a few limited areas in the park where it is possible to get out of the vehicle to picnic, just outside the park, where there is a wide range of activities on offer, including walking, trekking, excursions to Olduvai Gorge and visiting the Maasai and other tribes. Visitors should include a visit to the Hadzabe Bushmen, the Backsmith Tribes, Maasai.
Since the wildlife mainly stays in the crater all year – round, there is really no good or bad time to visit. However, given that the crater floor does get busy with vehicles, it can be more pleasant to visit during low season. Higher water levels in Lake Magadi (in the centre of the Crater) also result in higher concentrations of flamingos. Whenever you visit to Ngorongoro, you are guaranteed excellent safari action.
Lake Manyara is a lovely scenic park on the road from Arusha to the Ngorongoro Crater, famous for its tree climbing lions, good elephants and baboons. The lake itself takes up much of the park, and is home to huge flocks of flamingos. While very beautiful it serves best as a break in the drive on route to one of the more famous parks, such as Ngorongoro and Serengeti.
According to the regional migration pattern, Manyara’s official peak season is from July to October. However, for such a small park this should not be a deciding factor; if you are in the area and have time, Lake Manyara is consistently good as a soft game viewing park at any time of the year.
Arusha National Park
Arusha National Park is a small park measuring only 53 square miles (137 square km), but it has a remarkable range of habitats. 16 miles northeast of Arusha, this national park is one of the most easily accessible. Located between Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru, this park features a miniature volcanic crater (Ngurduto Crater), a river (Jekukumia River), a highland rain forest, acacia woodlands and a string of crater lakes (Momella Lakes). Wildlife found in the park includes Colobus monkeys, velvet monkeys, buffalo, hippos, elephants, and giraffe. Waterfowl is abundant here as well. Arusha National Park offers many beautiful panoramic views, including spectacular views of both Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru.
At 4566m, Mount Meru is the fifth highest mountain on the African continent and the second highest in Tanzania. About 250 000 years ago, a massive volcanic blast blew away the entire eastern flank of the mountain and left it with the characteristic and distinctive appearance it has today. Last eruption: 1910
At 4566m, Mount Meru is the fifth highest mountain on the African continent and the second highest in Tanzania. About 250 000 years ago, a massive volcanic blast blew away the entire eastern flank of the mountain and left it with the characteristic and distinctive appearance it has today. The Mt Meru ascent passes through many different vegetation zones. The dry forest of the lower region gives way to a dense mountain rainforest, which then turns into a scrubland. Towards the top of the mountain, the vegetation consists of heath and moorland and is then finally replaced by the stunning baron alpine deserts. As the flora changes the wildlife does so too, which is diverse and equally impressive. During the ascent, you will regularly come across large game such as elephants and buffalos but you may also come across leopards. Due to this, it is obligatory to be accompanied by an armed park ranger on any tour.
Kilimanjaro National Park
Kilimanjaro National Park covering an area of some 75,575 ha protects the largest free standing volcanic mass in the world and the highest mountain in Africa, rising 4877m above surrounding plains to 5895m at its peak. With its snow-capped peak, the Kilimanjaro is a superlative natural phenomenon, standing in isolation above the surrounding plains overlooking the savannah.
Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the largest volcanoes in the world. It has three main volcanic peaks, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. With its snow-capped peak and glaciers, it is the highest mountain in Africa. The mountain has five main vegetation zones from the lowest to the highest point: Lower slopes, montane forest, heath and moorland, alpine desert and summit. The whole mountain including the montane forest belt is very rich in species, in particular mammals, many of them endangered species. For this combination of features but mostly its height, its physical form and snow cap and its isolation above the surrounding plains, Mount Kilimanjaro is considered an outstanding example of a superlative natural phenomenon. (https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/403)
The tabs connect you with information about some of the other areas we explore, and options you can ask about.
Located just seventy miles northwest of Arusha is the alkaline Lake Natron bordering Kenya. A small part of the lake is also accessible from the Shompole wilderness in southern Kenya. As you plan your Natron lake tour of northern Tanzania, you may discover the great myth surrounding the lake — that it has the ability to turn animals into stone. Although the water of the lake does contain soda, magnesite and salt, the myth is untrue. Lake Natron is primarily fed by the southern Ewaso Nyiro River, as well as hot mineral springs. As the fresh water vaporizes, what remains is water with high concentrations of salt minerals. Special bacteria and blue-green algae thrive in the environment, producing an ideal breeding ground for avian life. The lake is, in fact, the primary breeding ground for lesser flamingo in East Africa, with more than two million individual birds flocking to the area every year with egg laying and hatching occurring between September and April, with an additional tens of thousands other waterfowl found near the lake, making Lake Natron a prime destination for bird lovers on an avian holiday in Africa. You may also spot the white-lipped tilapia that is endemic to the Great Rift lakes, as these fish are quite abundant, and the occasional giraffe or zebra. Since the lake is alkaline, the animals do not drink of it. Lake Natron also gives you a superb supplementary point for other destinations, such as the Ngorongoro Crater Highlands to the south and the Serengeti Plains to the west of the Natron. Ol Doinyo Lengai is a volcanic attraction here at Natron.
The scenery around Lake Natron is what attracts visitors to the region during their active-adventure travels in East Africa. The dramatic landscape is dotted with many of Tanzania’s most recognizable landmarks, such as Ol Doinyo Lengai and Gelai volcano, a 9652-foot peak located at the southeast edge of the lake. To the west is the site where a perfectly preserved hominid jaw and teeth, known as the “Peninj mandible” was found. Touring Lake Natron in expedition mode with AfricanMecca encompasses a variety of activities, such as walking safaris, flamingo walks, volcano climbing and cultural tours. At Moivaro Lake Natron Tented Camp, walking safaris allow you to follow in the footsteps of the Maasai people, following paths to some of the most interesting localities, such as hot springs, waterfalls and much more. The camp also offers visits to a local Maasai village. In addition to these activities, the second camp — Ngare Sero Lake Natron Camp, also offers flamingo walks on the shores of the lake. You watch the splendor as these avi-fauna hunt for food and fill the skies with a spectacular display of pink and subtle black. While staying at this camp, you may also trek to the southern shores of the lake to see human footprints that date back 120,000 years, and the camp also offers trekking by camel, a very exciting adventure for your wilderness trip to Lake Natron.
Ol Doinyo Lengai, the “Mountain of God,” is a sacred site for the Maasai people who believe that the god Eng’ai dwells within the majestic landmark, triggering eruptions and drought when she is dissatisfied. The Maasai honor their God with a long pilgrimage to the mountain to celebrate her blessings of rain, cattle and children, and women who are unable to have children are taken to the mountain by elders to receive the Eng’ai’s blessing of motherhood. The power of Ol Doinyo Lengai captures every safari visitor on a Great Rift Valley safari in Lake Natron. Since it was first described by German explorers at the end of the 19th century, the mountain has drawn thousands of climbers, geologists and photographers during their safari expeditions in Africa. Your trekking tour of Ol Doinyo Lengai with AfricanMecca takes you to the base of the 7650-foot summit that rises above the arid Rift Valley and dominates its landscape with eerie formations created by the unique natrocarbonatite flow in the previous eruptions. Every rugged trip to Ol Doinyo Lengai offers a once-in-a-lifetime geological journey through nature’s own volcanic sculptures. When you include the Mountain of God in your adventure holidays to Tanzania, you should bring some essential items for your comfort and safety. The climb is quite challenging, though not compared to Mount Kilimanjaro and Meru, with the ascent on some parts crawling on hands and feet taking at least six hours and the descent taking at least four hours. Climbs up the mountain begin at night, so you should have a headlamp and wear layered clothing as the temperature rises during the day. Take the time during your climb to gaze at the stunning star-filled sky! Other items that you should bring for your climbing vacation to Tanzania are energy bars, climbing stick, gloves and hiking shoes that have a good grip.
s you plan your dream safari in northern Tanzania, you should consider the weather and outdoor temperature so that you prepare properly, and also have the opportunity to relax and enjoy your activities. The weather at Lake Natron is primarily hot and mostly dry, and the coolest months are June through August, but some guests find these temperatures tropically warm as well since Tanzania is located just south of the equator. It also does get very windy at Natron. You may choose to schedule your tour of East Africa during the rainy or dry season at Lake Natron. Since this area is not a wildlife destination, the dry season does not see any concentration of wildlife – simply because the lake is highly alkaline, and terrestrial and mammalian life do not drink its waters. You only want to visit during the dry season because it is an excellent time for walking tours around the lake, and also for trekking up Ol Doinyo Lengai. The short and long wet spring season from November to May with hot humid spells in January and February, though, brings new life to the area around Lake Natron, and you may prefer a more lush landscape for your African active-adventure safari. The flamingos of Natron lay their eggs normally during the end of the dry season in September and October but the hatching starts in the early parts of the wet season, and climaxing by December. The rainy and dry seasons may also affect the price of Natron accommodations, although the costs associated with travel and safari activities do not change. Your lake lodgings may cost less during the rainy season, which is typically the low tourism season. If you plan to visit during the wet season, though, you may also consider that roads and trails to and around Lake Natron may be more difficult to traverse, and this could affect the convenience and full availability of activities.
Arusha to the Lake Manyara area (or Mto Wa Mbu) is about 2.5 hours on good roads. If you leave Lake Manyara area at 9 AM, you would likely reach Lake Natron by 1:30 PM. It’s an extremely hard drive, but enjoyable if you like such areas. Very desolate, little or no mobile signals, no radio, bumpy roads, rocky, fine volcanic dust everywhere, not much of the usual wildlife. Flamingo on the lake, and a few other bird species like Ibis. Wildebeest graze around the grassy areas around the lake, as well.
A fee of USD 20 per person has to be paid at the local office which covers several activities. The office is a couple of wood and tin rooms, with the grey Ol Doinyo Lengai mountain in the background. Seems to be within touching distance.
A common activity is the hike to the Waterfall with a Maasai guide. The hike takes about 3 hours up and down. That’s day 1. On day 2, sunrise hike around the lake is an amazing, surreal experience, after which you can take a look at the early man hominid footprints nearby. Soon it will be time to leave, the drive to Arusha being about 5 hours.
Two entrance gates coming from Arusha heading to Natron. There is a $15 per person (one off not per day) fee paid at Engaruka, then another nearer Natron of again $15 per person. This is Monduli and then Ngorongoro Districts. There are 3 gates where you must pay, $15 pp
Then for activities it is $20 per person, plus guide of $20 per group. This is waterfalls and lake walk.
Climbing Lengai is $100 plus guide $30.
Then if going on towards Loliondo or Serengeti via Wasso another fee of $10 per person to the Wildlife Department which is checked here and must be paid in Arusha before departure.
The road is drivable and not too bad, you exit Serengeti via Lobo – Kleins gate, through Wasso and the Songo plains and down the 17 corners escarpment, to Natron, and then via Engaruka to the tarmac at Mt Wa Mbu.
If coming from Serengeti then you have the $10 Wildlife Department fee, again paid beforehand in Arusha, then the two district fees of $15 when leaving Natron heading to Arusha/Mto Wa Mbu
“Oldoinyo Lengai” means “The Mountain of God” in the Maasai language. The summit of this strato-volcano is 2962 metres above sea level, and affords direct views into the caldera of Tanzania’s only officially-certified active volcano, and the world’s only carbonatite volcano; records of eruptions have been maintained since 1883, the largest of which deposited ash 100 kilometres away in Loliondo on the Kenyan border to the north west.
It is located in northern Tanzania lying just south of Lake Natron in the Rift Valley, in the heart of Maasai country, and locally regarded as a sacred mountain. Looking north from it’s summit crater, the hot barren salt flats of Lake Natron stretch into the distance. To the south stretch the crater Highlands and the Ngorongoro Game Reserve. The eastern horizons dominated by Kilimanjaro and to the west the forested escarpments and hills comprising the western slopes of the Rift Valley. Every seven years Lengai erupts and plumes of smoke billow out of the crater.
It is possible to walk across the crater floor. The ascent of Oldoinyo Lengai is demanding on account of the day time heat, lack of water, steep and unsuitable slopes of ash and crumbly rocks and considerable height gain. Normally you can start ascending to summit early in the morning and reach to summit at sunrise. Short and a warm jacket are suitable for ascent, also long trousers are good as the summit before dawn can be cold. Access route from the North West allows an early descent to be made from the summit in the morning shadow.
Standing at 2,878 meters above the Soda Ash Lake Natron, Mountain of GOD as famous to the Maasai community that inhabit the area, Mountain Ol’doinyo Lengai is situated in the Ngorongoro highlands and the African Rift valley about 120 kilometers Northwest of Arusha, Tanzania.
Since the past ancestors the Holly Lengai has been used by Maasai for their prayer to their GOD known as NGAI. Ol’doinyo Lengai is the only active volcano in the world that erupt natrocarbonatite lava which is cooler than other lavas about (510 degrees C) compare to the temperatures of basaltic lavas (1,100 degrees C) with less silicon.
The Mountain frequently does minor eruptions and form cone like structures to its crater base.
While on the summit of Mountain Ol’doinyo Lengai one can sight clearly the Soda Lake Natron which accommodates and consist of good nesting sites for different bird species especially the Flamingos, pelicans and geese more than 350 different types are recorded to date.
Unlike others two highest Mountains, Lengai takes about six to seven hours to the summit crater. Also the Mountain is an ideal place for a working safari escort by the Maasai guides with weapons tourist can sight wild animals like olive baboon, velvet, monitor lizard, hyenas, lion, leopard, jackal, Grant’s gazelle, impala and zebra.
The nearby are the Maasai BOMAS that gives you a chance to interact with the indigenous learn their cultures, taboos and traditional.
Lake Eyasi is a seasonal shallow lake on the floor of the Great Rift Valley at the base of the Serengeti Plateau, just south of the Serengeti National Park and immediately southwest of the Ngorongoro Crater in the Crater Highlands of Tanzania. Seasonal water level fluctuations in the lake are dramatic, though the northwestern shore is constrained by the cliffs of the Serengeti Plateau. During the dry season the lake may dry up almost entirely, especially in drier years, so that Datoga herders and Hadza foragers will cross the lake on foot, but in El Niño years it may flood its banks and attract hippopotamus from the Serengeti. It is a seasonal stop for migrating flamingos. The lake supports minor local fishing in wet years, but more often catfish and lungfish are taken from the streams and springs that feed the lake. Even during wet periods, lake depths typically remain less than one metre.
The Hadzabe are the indigenous inhabitants of the lake. They are found along most of the perimeter, though camps are few along most of the Serengeti, which is Maasai territory. The Datoga inhabit the Yaeda Valley to the southeast, the Isanzu the south, and the Sukuma across the Sibiti River in the southwest. The Lake Eyasi region is unique for the stone age, iron age and modern human cultures coexisting within the same space. It is an often overlooked cultural jewel of East Africa.
Olduvai Gorge & Laetoli
Over the last thirty years or so, it has become increasingly apparent that Africa is probably the “Cradle of Mankind”. From Africa they spread out to populate the rest of Earth. Remains of the earliest humans were found in Oldupai Gorge.
Olduvai Gorge is a site in Tanzania that holds the earliest evidence of the existence of human ancestors. Paleoanthropologists have found hundreds of fossilized bones and stone tools in the area dating back millions of years, leading them to conclude that humans evolved in Africa.
Olduvai is a misspelling of Oldupai, a Maasai word for a wild sisal plant that grows in the area. The gorge is located in the Great Rift Valley, between the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park. It is 30 miles from Laetoli, another fossil-rich area. Olduvai Gorge was formed about 30,000 years ago, the result of aggressive geological activity and streams.
The steep ravine is about 30 miles (48.2 km) long and 295 feet (89.9 meters) deep, not quite large enough to be classified as a canyon. A river cuts through several layers to form four individual beds, with the oldest estimated at about 2 million years old.
At Laetoli, west of Ngorongoro Crater, hominid footprints are preserved in volcanic rock 3.6 millions years old and represent some of the earliest signs of mankind in the world. Three separate tracks of a small-brained upright walking early hominid. Australopithecus afarensis, a creature about 1.2 to 1.4 meters high, were found. Imprints of these are displayed in the Oldupai museum.
More advanced descendants of Laetoli’s hominids were found further north, buried in the layers of the 100 meters deep Oldupai Gorge. Excavations, mainly by the archaeologist Louis and Mary Leakey, yielded four different kinds of hominid, showing a gradual increases in brain size and in the complexity of their stone tools. The first skull of Zinjanthropus, commonly known as ‘Nutcracker Man’ who lived about 1.75 millions years ago, was found here. The most important find include Home habilis, Zinjathropus and the Laetoli footprints.
I was impressed by Aristarick, one of our guides. He was very helpful, motivating and knows a lot. Thanks to him we made it to the top.
It was clear from the start of the expedition that Ari was very professional indeed. Above all though was his passion for Tanzania. If you are planning a trip to Tanzania for a trek up Kilimanjaro or a Safari, then I highly recommend this guy. He will look after you very well indeed.
Ari of Kilimanjaro Bliss was an amazing host. We had signed up to do our climb to the top of Kilimanjaro with Kilimanjaro Bliss and got so much more than we expected. Ari and his crew took great care of us on the seven days that we took to get to the top and back down again. The food was incredibly delicious and the crew were awesome. It was an amazing adventure and we made it back a day early, so we decided to do a safari to Tarangire National Park.
We were blown away with the great lengths the team went through to, not only make us comfortable, but make us feel like royalty. Meals were better than I have had in 5-star restaurants. Although summit day was tough, the journey getting there will be what I remember best. I miss the team already!