Top 10 Best National Parks in Tanzania – Overview

Lion lying on rocks and roars on savanna at sunset

Stalk the stalker, watch it pounce upon its prey, see millions of animals crossing a river, track gorillas, live in the wild and discover unusual species while you’re at it. A wildlife safari is one of the biggest charms of any African adventure and Tanzania is perhaps the best country for a journey into the wild. Tanzania’s national parks are designed to suit all kinds of interests, preferences and comfort levels, and you can be rest assured that there is a safari which is perfect for you.

But before you embark on your safari adventure, you need to make one of the biggest decisions – which park to visit and which park to leave out. Serengeti or Ngorongoro feel like the most obvious places to be, but it is equally possible that you have a much better time in one of the lesser-known parks.

Bookmundi recommends you to ask yourself the following questions as they should help you zero in on the best national park in Tanzania.

  • When do you plan to visit Tanzania?
  • Which animals attract you the most?
  • Do you prefer crowds or wish to explore the park without having to come across other tour groups?
  • Game drives, hot air balloons, fly camping, walking expeditions into the wild – which of these attract you the most?
  • Would you like to watch a few predators or thousands of game animals?
  • What kind of accommodation are you looking for?
  • Are you a budget traveler or are you searching for luxury?

Below we are listing highlights, lowlights, and facts about some of the top national parks in Tanzania:

Serengeti National Park

Home to the Great Migration, the Serengeti easily makes its way into most bucket lists. This fascinating park presents all kinds of ecosystems which allows it to host a variety of plants, birds and animals. The sheer diversity makes it one of the most unique national parks in Africa. Over the years, Serengeti National Park has attracted people from all walks of life, including movie stars, celebrities, writers and poets, and it easily ranks as one of the most coveted safari destinations in Africa.

A herd of Zebra at Serengeti National Park
Image by: Andrushko Galyna/


  • Home to the Great Migration
  • Authentic game viewing opportunities
  • Hot air balloon safaris
  • One of the best destinations to spot African predators
  • Excellent accommodation options


  • The park is very crowded during peak season

Serengeti Facts

  • Number of annual visitors: 90,000
  • Size: 13,250 sq. km.
  • Altitude: 3737 feet to 7133 feet
  • Common Animal SightingsWildebeest, giraffe, gazelle, big cats, elephant, zebra, eland, topi, kongoni.
  • Best Season to Visit: June to July and January to February
  • Nearby Attractions: Ngorongoro Conservation Center, Lake Natron, Tarangire National Park

Ngorongoro Conservation Crater

Formed millions of years ago, the Ngorongoro Conservation Crater closed off its borders to man with the help of walls that rose to heights of 400 to 600 meters. As a result, nature was allowed to run free here and create some of the most exotic species of plants and animals that the world has ever seen. This is one of the few places where you can see the Big 5 in a single day and it also hosts the endangered black rhino.

A Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis) walking in the rain at the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania
Image by: Stu Porter/


  • Year-round wildlife viewing
  • Watch the endangered black rhino
  • Excellent accommodation
  • Explore the Maasai culture by visiting a traditional village
  • See the Big 5 in a single day


  • Expensive
  • Very crowded during peak season

Ngorongoro Facts

  • Number of annual visitors: 400,000
  • Size: 8228 sq. kms.
  • Altitude: 3310 feet to 1959 feet
  • Common Animal Sightings: Black rhino, wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, elephant, topi, buffalo, cheetah, lion, spotted hyena, leopard, golden jackal, bat-eared fox
  • Best Season to Visit: June to September
  • Nearby Attractions: Serengeti National Park, Empakaai Center, Mount Kilimanjaro

Lake Manyara

Think of Lake Manyara as a mini Serengeti. The place is very small in size, and a majority of the area is covered by the lake itself, but it still hosts as many as 11 ecosystems and a vast and varied wildlife. The groundwater forest surroundings at Lake Manyara offer a much-needed break from African savannahs. Tree-climbing lions are the superstars here, but predator sightings are difficult. A close encounter with hundreds of elephants is the next best thing.

Giraffes in Lake Manyara national park Tanzania
Image by: Curioso Travel Photography/


  • Night safaris, hiking and trekking available
  • Tree-climbing lions
  • Splendid bird-watching opportunities
  • See elephants from up close
  • Breathtaking natural beauty
  • Wildlife is usually concentrated in certain pockets


  • Very crowded during peak season

Lake Manyara Facts

  • Size: 330 sq. kms.
  • Altitude: 3127 feet to 4741 feet
  • Common Animal Sightings: Baboon, flamingo, elephant, wildebeest, giraffe, blue monkey, buffalo, water-buck, impala, warthog, zebra, klipspringer, Kirk’s dik-dik, lion, leopard.
  • Best Season to Visit: July to October
  • Nearby Attractions: Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Center

Tarangire National Park

Tarangire National Park isn’t located on the main safari route, and is less crowded than most other national parks in Tanzania. The park is 10 times larger than Manyara and its game tends to be incredibly concentrated during peak season. The park is also known for its breathtaking baobab trees and stunning natural beauty.

Zebras, Imapala, Baobab tree at Tarangire National Park
Image by: LuCaAr/


  • Night safaris and walking safaris available
  • Excellent accommodation options
  • Concentrated wildlife viewing opportunities during dry season
  • Breathtaking scenery


  • Animal sightings are difficult during wet season
  • The park tends to get crowded during peak season

Tarangire Facts

  • Number of Annual Visitors: 160,000
  • Size: 2850 sq. kms.
  • Altitude: 3222 feet to 5400 feet
  • Common Animal Sightings: Elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, eland, impala, gazelle, hartebeest, buffalo, wildebeest and giraffe
  • Best Season to Visit: July to October
  • Nearby Attractions: Arusha, Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Center, Lake Manyara National Park

Selous Game Reserve

Selous Game Reserve represents the largest uninhabited area in the continent, and this alone makes it worth visiting. The large untouched expanses of land showcase nature at its beautiful best. The reserve also presents the best bush vibe in Tanzania. Selous Game Reserve is one of the two destinations used by elephants for their annual migration, and if watching millions of wildebeests isn’t possible, you can go for the next best thing, watching thousands of elephants at Selous.

African Elephants in Selous Game Reserve
Image by: Stu Porter/


  • One of the few destinations in Africa to see wild dogs
  • Elephant migration Boat safaris available
  • Excellent wildlife viewing opportunities during dry season
  • Lion sightings are common
  • One of the best destinations to see wild dogs
  • Excellent accommodation


  • Hunting allowedMalarial area
  • Animals are scattered during wet season
  • Compact wildlife viewing circuit

Selous Facts

  • Size: 47,665 sq. kms.
  • Altitude: 118 feet to 4793 feet
  • Common Animal Sightings: Elephant, wild dog, crocodile, black colobus monkey, hippo, antelope, bushbuck, sickle-horned sable, reedbuck, waterbuck and curly-horned greater kudu
  • Best Season to Visit: June to November
  • Nearby Attractions: Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar

Ruaha National Park

The largest national park in Africa might not come with a world-famous reputation, but it certainly presents the wildest encounters for those who know what to look for. Ruaha National Park is most famous for its fascinating beauty, ancient baobab trees, picturesque river and dramatic scenes and it offers incredibly exciting game viewing experiences to its visitors.

Lion seen in the Ruaha National Park
Image by: didier13/


  • Fly camping trips
  • One of the best destinations to see wild dogs
  • Guided treks
  • Unusual antelope species
  • Doesn’t get crowded


  • Remote location
  • Lack of proper low-budget accommodation
  • Animals sightings are difficult during wet season

Ruaha Facts

  • Number of Visitors: 20,000
  • Size: 10,300 sq. kms.
  • Altitude: 2362 feet to 6188 feet
  • Common Animal Sightings: Giraffe, greater kudu, sable antelope, lesser kudu, zebra, impala, bushbuck, buffalo, hartebeest, gazelle, waterbuck, elephant, lions, black-backed jackals, cheetahs, leopards, spotted hyenas and African wild dogs
  • Best Season to Visit: June to October
  • Nearby Attractions: Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam

Gombe Stream National Park

Gombe may be small in size, but its attractions pack a punch. The park is famous all over the world because of its connection to Jane Goodall and her pioneering research on chimpanzees. Chimpanzee tracking expeditions are an obvious highlight, but one can also expect to see several species of primates here. Gombe presents a trail system which lets visitors penetrate deep into the forest and enjoy some of the best views of the African bush.

Chimpanzee on a tree in the Gombe Stream National Park
Image by: SURZ/


  • Home to Jane Goodall’s research
  • Chimpanzee sightings are common
  • Hikes available
  • Exclusive and uncrowded


  • Accommodation is limited

Gombe Facts

  • Size: 52 sq. kms.
  • Altitude: 2516 feet to 5269 feet
  • Common Animal Sightings: Chimpanzee, vervet monkey, olive baboon, blue monkey, red colobus monkey, white-tailed monkey, bushbuck, bushpig and leopard.
  • Best Season to Visit: July to October
  • Nearby Attractions: Ujiji, Mahale Mountains National Park

Katavi National Park

Katavi is remote, very remote, and reaching the park requires a lot of effort. This alone dissuades most travelers from visiting Katavi. However, take the first step and the park does its bit to ensure that you never have to go home disappointed. Katavi presents untouched wilderness and it is common to run across more predators than humans while you’re here.

Hippo Family in the Katavi National Park
Image by: byrdyak/


  • Game safaris and walking expeditions available
  • Spectacular hippo viewing opportunities
  • Exclusive and uncrowded
  • Unusual species of antelopes


  • Limited accommodation
  • Very difficult and expensive to get to the park
  • Animals are scattered during wet season

Katavi Facts

  • Size: 4,471 sq. kms.
  • Altitude: 2677 feet to 5361 feet
  • Common Animal Sightings: Eland, sable, roan antelope, hippo, buffalo, reedbuck, giraffe, impala, zebra, duikers, elephant, lion, leopards and wild dog
  • Best Season to Visit: June to October
  • Nearby Attractions: Ruaha National Park

Mahale Mountains National Park

Mahale Mountains National Park may be ignored by most tourists visiting Tanzania, but those wanting to get closer to their closest genetic relative, the chimpanzee, simply have to visit the Mahale Mountains. The park presents the best chimp tracking experience in Tanzania and visitors also fall in love with its stunning beauty. Better yet, Mahale Mountains is home to some of the glittery sand beaches that Africa is so famous for.


  • Excellent place to see chimpanzees
  • Hiking expeditions available
  • Exclusive and uncrowded
  • Fishing and kayaking available
  • Walking tours availableSpectacular beaches


  • Very difficult to get to
  • Limited accommodation
  • Expensive

Mahale Mountain Facts

  • Number of Visitors: 1,000
  • Size: 1613 sq. kms.
  • Altitude: 2484 feet to 8117 feet
  • Common Animal Sightings: Chimpanzee, red colobus monkey, antelope, red-tailed monkey, blue monkey, warthog, bushbuck, hippo, crocodile and leopard
  • Best Season to Visit: May to October
  • Nearby Attractions: Nkungwe, Kigoma

Mikumi National Park

Mkata Floodplain, the star attraction at Mikumi National Park, has often been compared to the great Serengeti because of its amazing diversity and concentrated wildlife. This alone makes Mikumi worth visiting. The park is also popular for presenting stunning photo ops and large herds of game animals.


  • Good animal sightings during dry season
  • Perfect for weekend getaways
  • Excellent accommodation
  • Guided walks available


  • Animals are scattered during wet season
  • Single road circuit
  • Lack of wilderness appeal

Mikumi Facts

  • Size: 3220 sq. kms.
  • Altitude: 653 feet to 4131 feet
  • Common Animal Sightings: Hippo, zebra, giraffe, elephant, impala, wildebeest, spotted hyena, buffalo and lion.
  • Best Season to Visit: June to October
  • Nearby Attractions: Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Selous Game Reserve

We also have prepped the Wildlife Safaris in Tanzania – A Bookmundi Guide, a guide that focuses on Tanzania and helps you understand what to expect and how to move forward.

3 thoughts on “Top 10 Best National Parks in Tanzania – Overview”

  1. With so much information provided for African Safaris which one would you recommend for my first safari trip in Africa? In this moment I am hesitating between the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Crater and Tarangire National Park. I will be traveling with my wife in June 2017. Your feedback is appreciated.

    1. Just one? Do Serengeti – two days should be sufficient. On the way, if you can spare a day, go to Ngorongoro Crater. Absolutely worth it.

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