When visiting Tanzania to trek Kilimanjaro, it would be a shame to miss out on the amazing opportunity to join a wildlife safari. The safari experience is like no other and you'll be able to see some of the world's most famous creatures in their natural habitat, not to mention some incredible scenery!
To give you an idea as to some of the safari parks that Northern Tanzania has to offer we have listed the parks below and discuss each park in a little detail to help you decide on which one sounds best for you.
Arusha National Park (552 sq km, 212 sq miles)
The closest safari park to Kilimanjaro is Arusha National Park. Often overlooked by safari goers because of the lack of lions, this park is actually a hive of wildlife and changing scenery. The entrance gate leads its visitors into deep jungle that is home to blue monkeys, colourful turacos, trogons and white colobus monkeys. This is the only place on the northern safari circuit where these colobus are easily spotted. In the centre of the forest sits the impressive Ngurdoto Crater which is home to buffalo and groups of warthogs.
As you venture further north the scenery changes dramatically and you are faced with rolling hills and the tranquil Momela lakes. The lakes support a wide host of wildlife, including thousands of bright pink flamingos, herds of zebra and families of giraffe. Although elephants are uncommon in the park and lions altogether absent, leopards and hyenas are often spotted hunting in the dawn and dusk periods. The park is a photographers dream. The imposing peak of Kilimanjaro adds a special something to many of the wildlife shots and the wide array of scenery means that every shot is varied.
Serengeti National Park (14,763 sq km, 5,700 sq miles)
Tanzania's oldest and most popular National park, Serengeti is home to one of the most famous migrations on the planet. Every year for a three week period, thousands of wildebeest engage in territorial battles and mating. Columns of wildebeest over 20 km long plunge through the crocodile infested rivers in the hope of reaching secure breeding grounds. The breeding season is short and sharp and over a 1,000 calves are born every day before the 1,000 km return journey begins
Wildebeest are not the only animal to migrate through the Serengeti. Over 200,000 zebra and 300,000 gazelle also make the journey, leading the park to recently be proclaimed as a new Natural Seven World Wonder. Even during the non-migration period, the Serengeti is one of the most spectacular safaris on earth. Lions roam the plains in a constant search of prey. If you want to see a lion kill then the Serengeti is one of the best places by far. The Serengeti is also a great place to see groups of giraffe and elephant along with thousands of topi, eland, kongoni and impala.
Tarangire National Park (2,850 sq km, 1,096 sq miles)
Outside of the Serengeti, Tarangire hosts the greatest concentration of wildlife in northern Tanzania. Its lagoons and rivers are a haven for wildlife and up to 300 elephants have been seen in the area at one time! On top of this are thousands of migratory wildebeest, buffalo, zebra, impala and gazelle. Like the Serengeti, lions roam the plains in a constant search for food.
Although incredibly dry and hot in the warmer months, the Tarangire lagoons still hold water. Animals come from hundreds of miles around because of this fact. Tarangire is certainly an awesome safari option if you plan on visiting during the drier months. For bird lovers Tarangire is also a great option as the swamp lands draw over 550 different species of bird! The land is home to the world's largest flying bird - the Kori Bustard - and also to the world's largest bird, the ostrich. Leopards and pythons are not an uncommon site in trees and dwarf mongoose are often seen ferreting among the termite mounds.
Lake Manyara National Park (330 sq km, 127 sq miles)
By far the smallest park in Northern Tanzania, Lake Manyara National Park is mainly made up of water with only around 120 sq km being land based! However, size is not everything and the park is a little gem. Ernest Hemingway famously described the area as "the loveliest I had seen in Africa". We certainly wouldn't disagree.
The small game viewing circuit is a literal microcosm of wildlife. The entrance to the park leads into thick jungle where you can see lounging baboons, blue monkeys jumping through the trees and hornbills honking high in the jungle canopy. In stark contrast to the jungle are the grassy plains that surround the area. These plains are home to herds of zebra, large buffalo, wildebeest and, occasionally, giraffes. Further inland of the plains is a narrow belt of acacia woodland where you are likely to see the famous 'tree-climbing lions' and large tusked elephants. Even within such a small area over 400 species of bird have been recorded, making it an ideal location for bird lovers. Manyara is undeniably one of the most unique safaris in the country and well worth the trip.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area (8,288 sq km, 5,149 sq miles)
Without doubt one of the most awesome destinations in Africa is the Ngorongoro Crater located in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The crater was deemed a world UNESCO heritage site in 1978 and it's easy to see why. The crater was formed by a volcanic explosion and the resulting crater, which stretches 16-19 km in width is actually the largest intact volcanic caldera in the world. It is certainly near the top of the list of natural world wonders.
Other than being a superb natural wonder, it's also home to some of the densest mammal populations on earth. The enclosed nature of the crater makes the space a living and breathing mini ecosystem. Parts of the crater are covered in dense forest whilst most of the northern end is grassy plains. It is in the grassy plains where the animals converge in great numbers. Whilst the crater is home to herds of zebra, wildebeest and many varieties of gazelle, the main attraction are the fearless lions. The lions that inhabit the crater are famous for having a complete lack of regard for vehicles - they will literally come right up beside the vehicles and often doze up against them! The resident population of hyenas often compete with the lions and it's an unforgettable sight seeing these two creatures engage with each other. Combining the Ngorongoro area with a Serengeti safari is one of the most popular options for Kilimanjaro trekkers.