NORTHERN CIRCUIT PARKS AND CONSERVATION AREA
ARUSHA NATIONAL PARK
Arusha National Park is a located just a short drive outside of Arusha city. Often overlooked in favour of other parks in the northern circuit, its close proximity to Moshi and Arusha make it easily accessible for day trips. It is the best place in the northern circuit to see black and white colobus monkeys easily. On a clear day, Arusha NP offers spectacular views of both Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru, the latter being located inside the park. Animals like leopards and hyenas are rare to see but the best chance to see them is in the early morning or late afternoon. Other animals such as zebras, giraffe, buffalo and hippos can be found within this park in the waters of the lake and the surrounding fertile forest and grassland. Guided hikes and canoe trips are extra activities that guests can do on top of a game drive.
TARANGIRE NATIONAL PARK
Tarangire National Park is the sixth largest national park in Tanzania. Located close to Lake Manyara, this park is also about a 4 hour drive from Moshi. Tarangire also has the largest concentration of animals outside of the Serengeti. During the dry season, many animals flock to Tarangire National Park as there is always water for thirsty travelers at the Tarangire River. The landscape inside the park is very diverse, changing drastically from dry to wet season and is very different from other parks in the Northern Circuit. The park is famous for its Baobab trees. You can often see them torn apart by some of the many elephants that live in the park, which is well known for its large elephant populations. Tarangire is really a sight to behold and is not a park to miss! The dry season is considered to be from June-September. Activities available at this park are game drives and guided walking tours. Animals often seen are elephants, zebra, wildebeest, lions, giraffe, impala, baboons and dozens of species of birds.
Lake Manyara, located approximately four hours drive away from Moshi, is a 50km stretch of land and water along the base of the famous Rift Valley Escarpment. The shallow waters of the lake cover about 70% of the park, providing a home for thousands of flamingoes. The amount and level of water fluctuates with the wet/rainy and dry season. The rest of the park is compromised of open grasslands, woodlands and the escarpment wall. Activities available at this park include game drives, night drives, canoeing when the water level is high and walks on the escarpment outside the park. Visitors to the park should make sure to look closely at the acacia trees as tree-climbing lions often can be seen resting on the branches of the trees. The dry season (July-October) is the best time to visit the park if you want to see the larger mammals. If clients are more interested in seeing some of the 400 plus species of birds inhabiting the park, it is best to go in the wet season (November-June). Other animals found in this park include elephants, zebra, blue monkeys, dik-dik, impala and giraffes.
Serengeti National Park, derived from the local Maasai language and meaning “endless plains”, is the largest park in Tanzania and also the first and therefore oldest national park in the world. It is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site but also has recently been named one of the 7 natural world wonders. Each year, millions of wildebeest, along with other animals like zebra, make there way from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and cross the Serengeti during the annual migration. The path takes them through dangerous, crocodile infested waters where only the fittest survive! The Serengeti is a sight to behold even when the migration is not happening, when one can see prides of lions feasting on the many grazers found in the plains. Other predatory cats found here include leopards in the trees around the Seronera River and the many Cheetahs in the plains of the southeast. Unlike the other parks, the Serengeti is so vast that you will often feel alone in the park with a front row view of all of the action. Though the dates of the annual migration depend on many factors it is best seen from December to July. If you are more interested in seeing the predators you should visit from June to October, though you will see them during the times of the migration also.
NGORONGORO CONSERVATION AREA/CRATER
Initially part of the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is now recognized on its own as not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site but also a Biosphere Reserve where animals and humans, the semi-nomadic Maasai, coexist in harmony. The Conservation Area, located about 5 hours west of Moshi, encompasses three different volcanic craters with the most well known being the Ngorongoro Crater.
The Ngorongoro Crater, formed when a massive volcano exploded and collapsed in on itself, is the world’s largest unbroken crater and is also unflooded. There are look out points on the rim of crater, providing spectacular views of the crater interior. Safari vehicles descend 610m down the crater wall where leopards can be found lurking in the rainforests. On the floor of the crater lies the world’s largest population of black rhinoceros, numbering only 26 (at last count). It is also home to the densest population of lions. Other animals that can be found in the crater are zebra, wildebeest, gazelle, warthog, hippos and many different species of birds. It is a great place to spot the Big 5!
The other two craters are the Olmoti Crater, famous for its beautiful waterfalls and Empakai Crater, known for its deep lake and green walls. Visitors can enjoy hiking around these craters.
The Olduvai Gorge, famous worldwide, is also located in the NCA. Often referred to as the cradle of mankind, the remains of many of our early ancestors have been found here.
LAKE NATRON & OL DONYO LENGAI
Located in the northern part of the NCA, close to the border with Kenya, lies Lake Natron. Fed by mineral-rich hot springs, this salt lake is the major breeding ground for flamingoes in Tanzania.
Rising into the sky beside the lake is Ol Donyo Lengai. This active volcano, erupting last in 2007, is a revered site for the local Maasai population and is known as the Mountain of God. Visitors to this area can organize a climb to the peak of the volcano, which offers spectacular views of the sunrise.