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The Lesser Known National Parks Of Tanzania

There is more to Tanzania National Parks than Kilimanjaro, Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti. Tanzania is blessed with many National Parks that are remote, have a high density of animals and offer a taste of Africa that is rarely offered by most other safari destinations. These National Parks offer exceptional safaris and they are not just off the beaten track but well and truly in the wilds of Africa. These parks are home huge herds of animals; predators; innumerable birds and best of all few tourists. Some parks boasting one million hectares with one lodge and a handful of guests.

First of all I must mention two parks very briefly; these parks are well known but underrated and largely ignored. They deserve better and therefore are worthy of a mention here. The first is Arusha National Park; a small park about 53 square kilometers. It is very accessible situated on the slopes of Mount Meru on the outskirts of Arusha town. It is a beautiful park, and offers canoeing and walking safaris; it is well worth a visit. The other park is Tarangire National Park, most northern safaris will use this park as a jumping off point en-route to the Serengeti. If it is the dry season, this park should be visited for two days at least, and choose a lodge deep in the park such as the elegant Swala Camp. Many animals come to Tarangire in the dry season as this park has a year round water supply. Tarangire may be Tanzania's most underrated park.

Mafia Island Marine Park – this is the lesser known sister island to Pemba and Zanzibar. This island is surrounded by a barrier reef and is only reached by flight from Dar es Salaam or the nearby Selous Game Reserve. The sea around Mafia is a tropical Marine Park ranging from coral reefs, sea-grass beds, mangroves and inter-tidal flats. Most of the marine park is less than twenty meters bellow the mean tide levels.

Saadani National Park is 100 km north of Dar es Salaam. Saadani is where the bush meets the sea. This colorful clash of ecosystems is found nowhere else along the coast of East Africa. Imagine - this is the place where the hippopotamus compete with coral reefs, lions roar at the surf and baboons race along the beach. Elephants have even been spotted enjoying the surf. Game viewing is in open 4x4 vehicles, however, walking safaris are allowed in the Forrest and on returning to your hotel - take off your boots – and enjoy a refreshing walk in the surf. There are only a very few locations where walking safaris are allowed in Tanzania and this is one of them and this park also boasts a unique night walk trail. A highlight here is the green turtle nesting sites along this beach.

Katavi National Park. A year or two ago the Serengeti had 100,000 visitors; in contrast the Katavi National Park in the remote and inaccessible west of Tanzania had only 83 guests. It is rumored that when a guest arrives at the park gates the wardens there are shocked and bewildered, so rare are tourists to this park. Here, in this park the only other people you will meet are other guests and the staff at the one [tented] lodge in the entire park. Here you have one million hectares to yourself and the largest herds of buffalo in Africa; and where there are buffalo the lions are not far behind.

There is a high plateau in Southern Tanzania called the Kitulo Plateau National Park and here high above the madding crowd is a secret sea of orchids. This National Park of wild flowers in all its glorious color is a delight to anyone who appreciates and loves the orchid in its natural setting. The Kitulo Plateau became Tanzania's fourteenth National Park, however, unlike the Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater, this park was not created for the protection of fauna but for the protection of the flora and in particular the orchid.

Udzungwa National Park is a park without roads. After arrival the visitors must get out of the safari vehicles and walk. This is a National Park with a difference and is best visited in the dry season; as the paths and trails in the mountains tropical rain forests become quite slippery in the wet season and crossing the swollen mountain rivers can become dangerous.

These few parks only scratch the surface of the many National Parks of Tanzania. Tanzania has so much to offer take your time when planning a visit to make sure you make the most of this wonderful country. It is not difficult to get away from the madding crowd; there are many destinations that offer the safari of a lifetime.

by Ian Williamson

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