Tanzania National Parks (A Comprehensive Guide) - Tanzania Safari Tips

Tanzania National Parks (A Comprehensive Guide)

A comprehensive guide to Tanzania National Parks. It includes information such as park fees and regulations, the best time to visit, what to see and what makes each park unique.

Northern Zone

Arusha National Park

Arusha National Park

Offering a wide range of diverse sights and treks, the often overlooked Arusha National Park is a heaven for stunning views and unique treks.

  • Fees and Regulations

Hikers should take note of certain regulations such as mountain climbing permits and different entry fees.  For a complete list of tariffs and fees on parks in Tanzania, visit this link.

  • Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Arusha National Park is when the sky is clear and the weather pristine for hiking and viewing.  Go from June to December to experience the best weather in Northern Tanzania.

  • What to See

A more underrated park as it compares to the nearby Serengeti, this park sees less visitors than others.  Take advantage of this by booking a lower cost safari that won’t be as crowded.  With the diverse terrain near the mountain, you will get the opportunity to see diverse vegetation, waterbuck, leopards, and hyenas.

The Arusha National Park is a perfect spot for hikers that are interested in day trips for picnics and shorter walking tours.

  • What Makes this Park Unique

Mount Meru, the active volcano, allows visitors a chance to hike along the foothills surrounding the mountain.  One activity in this park that you’ll be hard pressed to find elsewhere is the canoeing tours.  Float along the Momela Lakes and catch the water birds in action.

Mkomazi National Park

Mkomazi National Park

A park that delights with a large, dry savannah abundant with unique and varied species you can’t see elsewhere.

  • Fees and Regulations

There are not as many fees associated with this northern park in comparison to others in the area, making for a budget-friendly and less-crowded safari option.  For a complete list of tariffs and fees on parks in Tanzania, visit this link.

  • Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Mkomazi National for the animals is from June to September.  The loveliest month of the year is June, and it’s also when the park is busiest.

  • What to See

Mkomazi National Park is a haven for bird watchers.  With over 450 species of bird here, you can see vulturine guinea fowl, ostrich, secretary bird, and hornbill along with species that migrate here each year.  As the area is quite dry, there are certain species that thrive here such as the lesser kudu, eared oryx, and the gerenuk gazelle.

The large park is also the home of giraffe, buffalo, elephant, zebra and hartebeest.

  • What Makes this Park Unique

This park is home to two endangered species—the black rhino and the wild dog.  The dogs can be seen roaming freely, and the rhino are in a protected sanctuary for viewing.  This is a great enrichment opportunity to see a very rare animal in this park and learn about their conservation efforts at the sanctuary.

Mount Kilimanjaro National Park

Kilimanjaro national park

The highest peak in all of Africa, this varied landscape and terrain is perfect for trekking and is filled with an abundance of amazing species.

  • Fees and Regulations

This park has one of the higher conservation fees due to its size and popularity.  There are also fees such as camping, porters and guides, and motor vehicle entry fees.  For a complete list of tariffs and fees on parks in Tanzania, visit this link.

  • Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Mount Kilimanjaro National Park depends on your purpose for visiting.  The clear and warm weather happens in the months from December to May.  The colder, dry months are from July to September.

  • What to See

Mount Kilimanjaro National Park has more to see when it comes to nature over animals.  Those that visit will be able to hike to the Chala crater, the plateau, or take a mountaineering trip up to the summit.

However, in the warmer months you can still see a great variety of flora along with antelopes, small primates, and buffalo.  The unique landscape can take you from moss-covered forests to rocky, sparse wintry terrain.

  • What Makes this Park Unique

The most stunning feature in all of Africa, and the most sensational is the sky-high summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.  Because of its accessibility, it is one of the most popular spots for those looking to trek to its peak.  Your average person can reach the crater, put those that wish to get to the top do require some background and preparation.

Lake Manyara National Park

lake manyara national park

An all-in-one safari adventure that gets you the best of the big game, African safari experience that many desire.
Fees and Regulations

When visiting, you will need to consider the conservation fee, guide fee for a day or nighttime, and camping fee.  For a complete list of tariffs and fees on parks in Tanzania, visit this link.

  • Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Lake Manyara National Park for the game viewing is in the dry season from July to October.  For water activities such as canoeing and bird watching, the best time to go is during the wet season from November to June.

  • What to See

The varied landscape, from dense, lush forests to wide open floodplain, means you can see everything from hundreds of species of birds to giraffes, elephants, buffalo, and zebra.  You can also see warthogs, leopards along with lions leaping from tree to tree.

The park is the perfect starting point for beginner bird watchers as it offers both day and night game drives, biking tours and forest walks.

  • What Makes this Park Unique

Its close proximity to Ngorongoro makes a small section of this park very busy year-round.  However, if you choose to take a safari longer than a half-day tour, you can see the less explored sides of Lake Manyara, such as the cultural walking tours, canoeing along the lake, and the migrating birds.

Choosing to camp within the park is truly magical, to sleep among the serenity of your surroundings and experiencing the interior of the park before anyone else.

Serengeti National Park

serengeti national park

Known round the world, Serengeti National Park is one of the great natural wonders of the world—millions of roaming herds and migration patterns make this park and its safari experience truly memorable.

  • Fees and Regulations

As this park is so popular, fees can change from season to season.  For a complete list of tariffs and fees on parks in Tanzania, visit this link.

  • Best Time to Visit

The best and also most popular time to visit Serengeti is during the famous migrations.  With beautiful weather from June to October, the clear skies make it easy to snap a photo of the animals.  The wet season is not a good time to visit—low visibility and torrential downpours mean animals are a scarce sight.

The wildebeest migration is usually from June to October and the calving from January to March, but it is best to speak with the guides beforehand as this is dependent on seasonal changes.

  • What to See

Serengeti National Park gives you the chance to cross the Big Five off your list—lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo, and rhinos.  But, be prepared for large crowds when you go during high season, as everyone else is raring to catch a glimpse of the same creatures you are.

  • What Makes this Park Unique

As one of the most popular parks in all of Tanzania, the Serengeti National Park is famous for the absolutely enormous herds and large numbers of animals that pass through the area.  Imagine seeing two million wildebeests stampede along the plains, or a crocodile, hyena or lion hunting for prey in its natural habitat.

Serengeti is hugely popular and it’s for a good reason—there is no place like it on earth where you can see raw wildlife this up close and personal.

Tarangire National Park

Tarangire national park

The famous Tarangire River and dried swamps make for a unique landscape with hidden treasures if you choose to venture beyond the well-traveled borders.

  • Fees and Regulations

Since we would recommend spending more than one day here, check online for camping fees as well as entry and conservation fees for the park.  For a complete list of tariffs and fees on parks in Tanzania, visit this link.

  • Best Time to Visit

You can visit the Tarangire National Park year-round.  But, the best season to go when there are large hers of animals is from June to September.

  • What to See

As part of northern Tanzania, Tarangire National Park can see changes in the wildlife due to migrations with the seasons.  During the dry season, much of the game returns to the park and you can see elephant herds, impala, zebra, giraffe, gazelle, and buffalo.  The most common creature here is the elephant, which can always be seen in large herds.

  • What Makes this Park Unique

Other than guided walking safaris, Tarangire is also known by visitors who wish to see the cultural side of Tanzania along with the wild side.  Visiting communities on day trips to Maasai or Barabaig villages is a popular trek for many.

One very unique feature of this park are the hundreds of ancient rock paintings you can see along the Dodoma Road near Kolo.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Ngorongoro conservation area

Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the crater and the conservation area make its mark on visitors with the stunning landscape along the highland, and it amazes visitors as what is thought to be the beginning of all mankind.

  • Fees and Regulations

This conservation area has the usual entry and camping fees, but pay attention to the permits and be sure to check with your guide how long your entry into the park lasts.  You can see a full list of fees for Ngorongoro Conservation Area here.

  •  Best Time to Visit

As the conservation area holds intrigue for visitors beyond animals, it is a lovely place to visit year-round.

  • What to See

You can take a walking safari or view birds such as flamingos in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.  A popular activity is to visit all three craters—Ngorongoro, Olmoti, and Empakai.  The main crater itself, had it ever erupted, could have been a mountain as high as Kilimanjaro.

The Olmoti crater has beautiful waterfalls, and the Empakai a pristine lake surrounded by stunning forests.  This park truly holds natural wonders where Tanzania shows off its true beauty.

  • What Makes this Park Unique

The crater that provides the park with its namesake is the largest unbroken caldera in the world.  This massive, deep crater is a true sight to behold and a must-see on your visit.

If you are interested in human history, it is worth noting that some of the oldest human remains ever recorded were found right here in the Oldupai Gorge.  You can also learn more about the history of the Maasai people at one of two cultural bomas in the area.

Southern Zone

Kitulo National Park

Kitulo Plateau National Park

Located in the southern highlands, locals lovingly refer to the area as the Garden of God.

Fees and Regulations

There are no accommodations within the park, so it’s best to call ahead and see where campsites are allowed and the costs associated.  For a complete list of tariffs and fees on parks in Tanzania, visit this link.

Best Time to Visit

The diversity of the rare plant life here is best seen during the rainy season.  Go from December to April to experience this amazing grassland ecosystem.

What to See

This is not a park where you can expect the popular game animals.  This park attracts a different kind of wilderness lover—ones that go for the hiking and the rare and uncommon.  In the wetter months, flowers such as daisies, geraniums, lobelias, orchids, and aloes are in full bloom and create a stunning landscape.

The rare bird—the Denhamès bustard—calls Kitulo home, as does the blue swallow, marsh widow, and seedeater.  Small animals and insects such as butterflies, lizards, frogs and chameleons give the Garden of God an interesting presence in this diverse landscape.

What Makes this Park Unique

This park protects the Kitulo plateau and the flowers and grasslands that cover it.  This park is home to over 350 species of vascular plants.  Botanists and hiking enthusiasts see Kitulo as a dream destination that transports you to another world.

Mikumi National Park

Mikumi National Park

Access a small portion of the vast world owned by the king of the jungle and partake in game tours unlike any other.

Fees and Regulations

Easy to access by road with a few camps within, this relatively quiet park is easy to visit.  Beyond an entry and guide fee, your guide can tell you all about any regulations you may need to know about here.  For a complete list of tariffs and fees on parks in Tanzania, visit this link.

Best Time to Visit

As the popular activity here is big game, the best time to visit is during the dry season.  This season goes from June to October.

What to See

Commonly compared to the popular Serengeti, the Mkata Floodplain is the best place to see big game.  Large antelopes, lions, hippos, water birds, zebra, elephants, impala, and wildebeest roam these plains. If you’re lucky, you may even see a leopard roaming around.

What Makes this Park Unique

At Mikumi National Park, visitors can partake in a group walking tours or game drives.  This is the best way to see the birds, the plains, and the kingdom of the lions.  This is a great place for a weekend or day trip to get a taste of a safari experience.

Ruaha National Park

Ruaha National Park

A massive park with a lesser-known appeal.  Enjoy fewer crowds and an excellent game safari along its wild and untamed landscapes.

Fees and Regulations

Other than an entry and a guide fee, this park is very easy for a first-time safari goer to access.  The best recommendation is to speak with a guide and get their help for lodging within the park, too.  For a complete list of tariffs and fees on parks in Tanzania, visit this link.

Best Time to Visit

It is often hot and dry here, and the drier times are the best to visit.  From June to October, expect to see animals gathered near the dominating Ruaha River, the only source of life in the park.

What to See

Varied landscape and vast plains make the Ruaha National Park a mix of species for viewing.   The most common animals to see are buffalo, zebra, waterbuck, giraffes, impala, greater kudu, hartebeests and antelope.

Then, there are also gazelle, hyenas, wild dogs, and lesser kudu, where the two kudus are not typically seen in the same areas in other parts of Tanzania.

Large prides of lion can be seen hunting and roaming together, and Ruaha National Park is one of the best places to see cheetah and leopards!  If that wasn’t enough, expect to see a great many elephants, as Ruaha is home to one of the largest migrating elephant populations as well.

What Makes this Park Unique

The landscape constantly keeps you guessing, or thinking you’ve crossed over into another area of Tanzania.  The rolling hills, vast plains, sparse vegetation, and the great Ruaha River.  The river, not only where the park gets its name, but also where you can view the best game.

Udzungwa Mountains National Park

Udzungwa Mountains National Park

Named for the Udzungwa Mountains, this mountain range is the longest in Tanzania. Travel into the depths of the high treetops that scientists are still learning from each day.

Fees and Regulations

For a complete list of tariffs and fees on parks in Tanzania, visit this link.

Best Time to Visit

Though the Udzungwa National Park can be visited year round, the bets time to go is during the dry season from June to October.  The trails are not as slippery and wildlife is more active and visible at this time.

What to See

The park is home to many endangered species of primates.  They are also the main attraction for visitors.  When visiting the park, you get a chance to see colobus monkeys, galago, and mangabey along your walking treks.  Hikers will love the deep trails and challenging treks.

What Makes this Park Unique

This park is a perfect day trip from Mikumi National Park.  As they are so close to each other, many begin in one park and take Udzungwa National Park as the second.

Since they are both so different, this mountain range gives you the unique chance to explore an untouched wilderness with very rare species of primates and birds that you can’t get a chance to see elsewhere.

Eastern Zone

The Eastern Zone of Tanzania has one park—Saadani National Park—that offers visitors a unique experience in safari and African adventure travel.

Saadani National Park

Saadani National Park

Right in the centre of Bagamoyo, Pangani, and Zanzibar, Saadani National Park is the only national park in all of Tanzania that borders the ocean.  Saadani National Park allows visitors a chance to see a very wide range of animals—this area has a rich biodiversity that brings bird lovers, marine enthusiasts, and safari-goers to the area.

Saadani National Park can sometimes fly under the radar for those searching for their next safari adventure as the common animals that everyone wants to see—lions and elephants, are not as prevalent in this area.

Although it is not as highly explored as some of the other large and popular parks within Tanzania, it is a very unique option for those that may have been on a big safari before and wish to see a different side of Tanzania.

With an area of 1100 square kilometres off the ocean, you can expect a hot and humid environment perfect for spotting both marine and land animals.

Fees and Regulations

To enter the park, the entry fee for an adult is $20 USD.  There are also other applied fees for camping, bringing a vehicle into the park, and hiring a guide.

There are also certain regulations you must obey, such as no driving at night, keeping within the speed limit, authorized fires and campsites, and of course maintaining the integrity of the wildlife and all its natural surroundings.

The most up-to-date information is on Saadani National Park’s official website.  Go there and click the Tarriffs page for the best information before you travel.  We recommend checking the site out first either way, as it can give you recent information on any activity or closures.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Saadani National Park is in the dry summer months.  July to October are the best months to visit.  This is when the animals are the most active and you have the best chance of spotting the Big Five and more.  The rainy season from November to May can be harsh, and roads get bogged down with mud and the never-ending storms.  Some safari guides recommend not even visiting during certain months, but there are still some times when prices are lower due to the weather, if you are willing to brave it.

What to See

Saadani National Park is filled with hundreds of exotic species.  The great biodiversity of the region and its proximity to the Indian Ocean make this park an amazing place to see a wide variety of animals.

The endangered green turtles make these lands their home for breeding, a unique and inspiring site should you get the chance to view the breeding grounds.

In the Saadani National Park, expect to see giraffe, warthogs, baboons, wildebeests, zebras, lions, and elephants.  There are over two hundred species of migratory birds here each year, too, so bird watchers will love visiting this national park.

What Makes this Park Unique

The best part about this national park is its immediate proximity to the ocean.  Wildlife behaves differently near the open sea, and you may have a chance to see some very interesting interactions among species.  Plus, Saadani is the best place to see dolphins, humpback whales, turtles, and many varieties of reptiles and fish.

There are options to head out to sea with a guide or boat tour, where a chance to see frolicking dolphins or even catch a glimpse of a humpback whale breaching the surface is very good during the months they are there.

The Indian Ocean and the beach along it is one of the best in Africa—pristine waters, soft sand and warm weather make for the perfect combination for relaxing.  Beautiful mangroves and palm trees line the shore—there is certainly some interesting vegetation along the coast as well as down the Wami River.

There are also many water activities you can take part in such as a boat safari, snorkeling, and visiting the offshore sand banks. The Zaraninge Forest will amaze you with the diversity of the plant life as well.

If you are staying within the park for a few days, there are a lot of unique accommodation options as well.  You can stay in hotels designed as tents, small houses along the beach, open air living retreats, and many eco-friendly accommodations.  However you choose to visit Saadani National Park, whether it be for a day or a week, the area will be sure to intrigue you and leave you wanting more from Tanzania and its rugged beauty.

Western Zone

Gombe National Park

Gombe national park

The smallest of all parks in Tanzania, Gombe National Park is home to the delicate ecosystem and habitat of chimpanzees.

Fees and Regulations

There are very strict rules in place that allow both you and the chimpanzees to stay safe, so ensure you listen to your guide about these rules.  For a complete list of tariffs and fees on parks in Tanzania, visit this link.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Gombe National Park is during the dry season from July to October.  The chimps stay put, and it is much easier to snap a photo when there isn’t a downpour.

What to See

Chimpanzees are the highlight of this region of Tanzania.  As this is their home and not a wildlife preserve, give yourself a few days here to get an opportunity to see them.  You will likely not see them each day as they roam and may be inaccessible at times.   There are also many species of bird here along with baboons and colobus monkeys.

What Makes this Park Unique

This park is where Jane Goodall conducted her research and called Gombe home for many years.  One of the things you can do here is visit the Gombe Stream Research Centre and take part in learning about the interesting behaviours that chimpanzees exhibit.

This park can create a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those interested in anthropology.

Katavi National Park

Katavi national park

An isolated, quiet park that is perfect for wilderness lovers and adventure seekers.

Fees and Regulations

This remote area can be tricky for most people to visit.  As the park is so vast, there are only a few safari tours that operate here.  This remoteness can mean higher costs—you usually need a small plane to access, a fee for a guide along with an entry fee.  For a complete list of tariffs and fees for the parks in Tanzania, visit this link.

Best Time to Visit

The dry season is the best time to visit Katavi National Park.  This is when the Katuma River becomes a source of life for all living creatures—buffalo, elephants, giraffe, impala, and zebra roam the plains and appear near the waters in large numbers.

What to See

The best place to glimpse wildlife is along the Katuma River.  In the wet season when the floodplains rise and the lakes return, bird watchers will love the variety of water birds in this park.  The dry season brings all the creatures to the waters of the river.

This is also the home to many of the crocodiles and hippos in Tanzania that live together in close quarters.  The receding water also means you get the unique opportunity to see hundreds of hippos gathered together in the shallows, sometimes resulting in ferocious confrontations.

What Makes this Park Unique

The third largest park in Tanzania, the Katavi National Park is a vast wilderness that holds many secrets.  And while the most well-known park in Tanzania—the Serengeti—can see over one hundred thousand visitors each year, the Katavi National Park may only see hundreds!

If you want to get off the beaten path and spend some time in remote wilderness, this is the perfect park to choose.

Mahale National Park

Mahale Mountain National Park

Named for the mountain range within the park, Mahale National Park holds certain treasures for those willing to go the distance in this remote area.

Fees and Regulations

The biggest regulation you need to know when visiting the Mahale National Park is to be respectful of your surroundings.  The ecosystem is very delicate here, and there are many regulations in place to keep the chimps safe and undisturbed.  It is best to speak with your guide about the specifics.

For a complete list of tariffs and fees on parks in Tanzania, visit this link.

Best Time to Visit

The Mahale Mountains are beautiful year round.  However, the dry season is the best time to visit Mahale National Park.  The chimpanzees can be tracked in large groups, and the lake is a stunning, pristine blue.

What to See

Similar to Gombe National Park, Mahale is one of the last places on earth to see chimpanzees in their natural habitat.  Bordering the deep Lake Tanganyika, there are over 1,000 species of fish right on the border of this park.

What Makes this Park Unique

An opportunity to catch a glimpse of chimpanzees is what draws most visitors to this park.  Though it can take sometimes two days to see a group, the experience in the forest and finally catching sight of these magnificent animals is well worth it.

The Mahale mountain range is great for those who enjoy hiking as well.  At the lake, you can fish for sport and go snorkelling.

Rubondo National Park

Rubondo National Park

A completely unique getaway—sail over to Rubondo National Park for an untouched ecosystem and a serene, beautiful side to the wildlife of Tanzania.
Fees and Regulations

The Rubondo Island Camp is your best resource for getting into and staying within the park—contact them for information on any regulations you may need to know before you go.  For a complete list of tariffs and fees for the parks in Tanzania, visit this link.

Best Time to Visit

The only accommodations in the park are closed from April to May, so visiting then is not an option.  The migrating season is from December to February, and the best weather is from July to November.  The time you go varies more by how wet the rainy season was rather than the specific month as it affects migration patterns.

It is best to plan ahead when visiting Rubondo, but to expect or prepare for changes in your trip.  The only accommodations in the park are closed from April to May, so visiting then is not an option.

What to See

Migratory animals make Rubondo National Park their home, so the time of year you visit can make an impact on what you’ll see here.  Expect many water birds, parrots, ibis, hornbill and eagles.  In the forests you can see elephants, giraffes, antelope, and even chimpanzees as they get accustomed to a new habitat.

The massive Lake Victoria holds many species of fish, crocodiles, and hippos.

What Makes this Park Unique

One of the only parks on Lake Victoria in Tanzania, Rubondo National Park is loved by fishermen and bird enthusiasts.  The main activities here are birdwatching and sport fishing.  Since the land has been mostly untouched by humans for many decades, it maintains a rugged, otherworldly feel to its sands and interiors.

This isolated ecosystem holds many secrets in its flowers, its forests, and its waters that can’t be found elsewhere in the world.

 Saanane National Park

Saanane National Park

A national park since 2013, this little island makes the perfect day trip getaway.

Fees and Regulations

When visiting, you must stay on designated trails.  To view the aquatic parts of the park, you can also arrange boat excursions, though there are fees to get to and from the island as well.  For a complete list of tariffs and fees on parks in Tanzania, visit this link.

Best Time to Visit

For a casual visit, the best time to go is from June to August in the dry season.  For the best bird and wildlife viewing and the greenest of surroundings, you can visit from November to March.

What to See

Back in the 1960’s many species were brought to the island in an effort to promote education and conservation.  Today, you can see many migratory birds along with animals such as hyrax, monkeys, impala, crocodiles, lizards, pythons, and tortoises.

What Makes this Park Unique

Only a fifteen-minute boat trip from Mwanza City, the park is easily accessible, considering its isolation.  Picnics along the beautiful shores of Lake Victoria, hiking along the rocks, and bird watching are the best activities at Saanane National Park.  It is also a unique destination for a wedding venue!