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National Parks and Reserves


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Welcome to National Parks and Reserves

National Parks and Reserves

Tanzania boasts some of the world's most famous natural attractions, three of which are national parks in a country that offers outstanding opportunities for viewing wildlife in their natural habitat. Almost a quarter of the country is protected within a park or reserve, and of these most tourists visit the 'big three' in the north: the plains of the Serengeti, famous for the annual migration of about two million wildebeest; the adjacent Ngorongoro Conservation Area with the magnificent Ngorongoro Crater; and Mt Kilimanjaro National Park, which encompasses Africa's highest mountain. Other attractions, including the massive Selous Game Reserve in the south, can be difficult or expensive to get to, and are less visited as a result.

The word 'safari' had its origins in Tanzania, a Kiswahili word meaning 'journey', and there are unlimited safari options that can be tailor-made by any tour operator, with accommodation ranging from luxury lodges to camping. A journey by vehicle, foot, horseback or hot air balloon into prime game-viewing country is an experience not to be missed. The attractive town of Arusha is the main gateway to the parks and reserves in the north and is the best place from which to arrange a safari.

Information & Facts

Swahili and English are the official languages. Several indigenous languages are also spoken.

The official unit of currency is the Tanzanian shilling (TZS), divided into 100 cents. The tourism industry prices everything in US Dollars and they are the preferred unit of currency. Major currencies can be exchanged in the larger towns. Foreign exchange bureaux in the main towns usually offer a better rate on travellers cheques than do the banks. ATMs are available in major cities only. Major lodges, some hotels and travel agents in urban areas accept credit cards, but these should not be relied on and can incur a 10% surcharge.

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Rising 19,341ft (5,895m) above the African plains, the magnificent solitary peak of Mt Kilimanjaro is the dominant feature of this national park, surrounded by a vast protected area. The lush rainforest on its lower slopes is home to a number of animals including elephant, buffalo, rhino, monkey and leopard. The dormant volcano is remarkable in many ways, not only for its snow-covered peaks and glaciers rising out of a humid equatorial jungle, but it is the highest freestanding mountain in the world, a huge cone unattached to a mountain range, and Africa's highest peak. The magnetism of its twin summits and slopes has attracted researchers, mountaineers, naturalists and adventurous travellers for years. It is the only mountain of its size that can be scaled by inexperienced hikers, although altitude sickness is common and can be fatal. There are six different routes up Mt Kilimanjaro with varying degrees of difficulty, and a wide range of organised treks and experienced guides available, but the easiest and most popular way to reach the summit is on the Marangu trail, which takes about five days staying in huts along the way. Views from the top are breathtaking, especially at dawn, and the sense of achievement experienced is incomparable. The best time to climb the mountain is between August and November.

Rising above the plains of the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a vast protected area that includes the important archaeological site of Olduvai Gorge, and its main attraction Ngorongoro Crater. Once the site of an active volcano, the crater was formed about two million years ago when its cone collapsed on itself and today the crater floor, supplied with permanent water and grazing and ringed with towering forested sides, serves as a natural cradle for an astounding abundance of wildlife. With an incredible width of 12 miles (20km) and a depth of 2,001ft (610m), the crater is the largest caldera in the world and is home to about 30,000 animals, including black rhino, buffalo, and large herds of zebra and wildebeest. There are also dense concentrations of predators attracted by the large variety of grazers, and prides of lion with magnificent black-maned males are one of the highlights. The lakes attract a rich variety of birdlife, including flamingos, and wallowing hippos, while some animals can be found surrounding the crater rim or on the forested slopes, such as giraffe and elephant. The views from the crater rim are spectacular and all the lodges are situated along its edge affording superb vistas over and into the crater. Access onto the crater floor is by four-wheel drive only and a game ranger must accompany all vehicles.

Meaning 'endless plains' in the Masai language, the Serengeti is Tanzania's oldest park and one of the world's best wildlife refuges, continuous with Kenya's Masai Mara Game Reserve to the north. The open plains are home to an estimated three million large mammals involved in seasonal migration, and together with the birds and smaller animals it has the largest concentration of wildlife in the world. The Serengeti is famous for the Great Migration, the most astounding occurrence in the animal kingdom that is known to humankind. During this time millions of hoofed animals, predominantly wildebeest, form one massive herd and leave the dry plains of Tanzania in search of greener grazing and water to the north. Bringing up the rear of the procession are the weak, the young and the crippled, followed closely by large numbers of vigilant predators, including lions, cheetahs, hyenas and wild dogs. The season varies according to the rains, but the best time to witness the northward migration is usually from the beginning of June and again on their return in mid-November.

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