For those who grew up watching National Geographic, Animal Planet or Discovery channel, vast plains of Africa must have seemed like a dream. It was always something that stayed close to my heart; the love and admiration didn't change even after watching hundreds of episodes. So when Air Tanzania announced its direct flights from Mumbai to Dar es Salaam, it was just a matter of time before the curiosity to know more about the country's rich wildlife hit home. There are 16 national parks in Tanzania along with game reserves which means only one thing: Tanzania has a rich biodiversity and is home to many species of amphibians, reptiles, mammals and both resident as well as migratory birds. Tanzania's sixteen national parks are as follows: Arusha National Park, Gombe Stream National Park, Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park, Katavi National Park, Kilimanjaro National Park, Kitulo National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, Mahale Mountains National Park, Mikumi National Park, Tarangire National Park, Mkomazi National Park, Ruaha National Park, Rubondo Island National Park, Saadani National Park, Serengeti National Park and Udzungwa Mountains National Park. While it would be great to get to know all sixteen, here are six best national parks and why you should visit them.
Arusha National Park
Mount Meru, the second highest peak in the country after Mount Kilimanjaro constitutes Arusha National Park. Mount Meru, also a volcano gives the park its unique landscape--Jekukumia River in the west, grassland in the Ngurdoto Crater and Momella lake in the north-east. Needless to say, Arusha National Park is a paradise for birds. Birds like Narina trogon and bar-tailed trogon won't disappoint the birder in you. Momella lake is famous for flamingo; with more than 400 species of birds calling the park home, it doesn't matter that the experience may not be all all the Big Five. The park is none too big but is a perfect home to giraffe, cape buffalo, zebra, blue monkey, elephant, leopard and lion. Come here for birds of all kinds like sacred ibis, Maccoa duck, Egyptian goose, turaco and many more.
Serengeti National Park
This is the place where the annual great migration of white-bearded wildebeest and zebra happens. Serengeti is Tanzania's oldest national park and the reason why this seemingly endless stretch of land is so popular is because of the animals that call it home. From the majestic lions to the feisty honey badgers and the fearsome hippopotamus, the park is a perfect place to see them all. It is probably one of the best places to see the Big Five. And it's not just this; Serengeti National Park is a perfect place to see more than 500 species of resident as well as migratory birds. The Serengeti is one of the best-known names in the wildlife circuit and is probably on every wildlife enthusiasts' bucketlist. And we understand why.
Gombe Stream National Park
This national park is one of the smallest national parks in Tanzania. Established in 1968, Gombe is a known name because of the conservation and the research work on chimpanzees done by Jane Goodall. Apart from the chimpanzees, the park is also a perfect place for other primates like beachcomber olive baboons, red-tailed monkey, blue monkey, vervet monkey and red colobus.
Tarangire National Park
Come to this park for elephants. Apart from elephants, the park is also famous for zebra, wildebeest, cape buffalo, giraffe, the big cats, African wild dog and many others. With more than 550 bird species, Tarangire National Park is also a birding paradise. While visiting the park one can see termite mounds, also one of the park's popular attractions.
Ruaha National Park
The largest national park in Tanzania, Ruaha National Park is home to more than 571 species of resident as well as migratory birds, a haven for birding enthusiasts. The park was declared a Lion Conservation Unit in 2005. One can also find other animals like the East African cheetah, African leopard, wild dog, spotted hyena, giraffe, hippopotamus, African buffalo, sable antelope, to name a few.
Lake Manyara National Park
Monsoon is the best time to visit this national park as it is during the wet season that the lake comes to life with thousands of flamingos. Speaking of birds, the park is a great host to more than 400 species of birds. Any day of the year the park coughs up a healthy number of birds making the park one of the most favoured birding destinations. Apart from the great spectacle of birds all-round the year, one can also regularly see mammals like leopard, lion, cheetah, giraffe, gazelle.