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Tanzania Northern and Southern Circuit Safari

Tanzania Northern and  Southern Circuit Safari

Tanzania has a lot of national parks and has over 22 national parks divided into four zones, this is according to the Tanzania National Parks agency (TANAPA). These zones are the Southern Zone which has three national parks, Ruaha National Park, Katavi National Park and Kitulo National Park. The western zone has six national parks, Serengeti National Park, Saa Nane Islands National Park, Burigi Chato National Park, Rubondo National Park, Gombe National Park, and Mahale National Park. Northern Zone has Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, Arusha National Park, Mkomanzi National Park, Kilimanjaro National Park, Ngorongoro conservation Authority, Lake Natron Game reserve and Lake Eyasi Game Reserve. Eastern Zone has Saadani National Park, Mikumi National Park and Udzungwa National Park.

These zones are also referred to us as regional circuits, and it is this way to make it so much easier to plan your trip, all of these circuits offer breathtaking landscapes, intriguing wildlife and a plethora of exciting safari activities and game drives. The two main most visited circuits are northern and southern, but for the sake of knowledge, we will cover all four circuits which are the Northern Safari Circuit, Southern Safari Circuit, Western Safari Circuit and Coastal Circuit. There is a saying most people tend to use which is If you are to do only one safari in your life, the northern safari circuit would be your perfect destination. It also has a strong National Geographic feeling. But, if you would like to veer away from the crowds and enjoy a massive wilderness almost all to yourself, then the southern safari circuits may be your best bet. To say hello to the primates, go to the western circuit. Of course, if you want to spend time in a tropical paradise, the coastal circuit of Tanzania will always amaze you.

Tanzania Northern Circuit

Tanzania northern circuit

Northern safari circuit has it all Tanzania has to offer, we also refer to it as it has some of Africa's most iconic parks and reserves including Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, Kilimanjaro National Park, Arusha National Park, and the Great Rift Valley lakes Natron and Eyasi. As a result to the popularity of these parks, the northern safari circuit has been known to be the most visited circuit and always has more tourists than any other circuit in Tanzania. In some of the seasons, especially during peak seasons, it is not uncommon to see plenty of vehicles in one area.

Main entrance

The main entrance to this circuit is Arusha city, which is served by Arusha airport and Kilimanjaro International Airport. Tourists have also other options depending on their flights whether to land in Dar es salaam, Nairobi, Adis Ababa or Kigali Rwanda and connect flights to Kilimanjaro international Airport or Arusha Airport.

What makes the northern circuit so unique?

The beauty of the northern circuit is the accessibility, you can move from one national park to another easily simply by driving. Tarangire national park, Lake Manyara national park, Ngorongoro Crater and the famous Serengeti national park are all close to each other and it is easy to move from one park to another simply by driving or by taking private flights to the park directly. The other attractive part is the game drive in this park, visitors spend most of their time in the park doing game drives and some roads can be dusty or muddy, closed vehicles with pop-up roofs are typically used in this area. The pop-up roofs and large windows allow excellent game viewing while maintaining safety and comfort throughout the trip. The presence of animals in abundance in these parks is also another beautiful thing, ranging from the big five to variety of bird species, plants, and insects. World-famous Big Five is also a common sighting all year-round, accommodations facilities options ranging from budget camps to luxury lodges and exclusive tented camps are widely present in all of the parks and near the parks. If you have to make a one life time safari to Africa, then the only best option is to do it in the northern circuit, in this circuit you can trek the worlds famous free standing Mountain, Mt. Kilimanjaro or Mt. Meru, you can visit the worlds most visited parks, Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.

Parks found in the Northern Circuit:

Serengeti National Park

Tanzania is famous because of Home to the Great Wildebeest Migration which has been consistently named the greatest show on earth and the World Cup of Wildlife, Serengeti National Park is one of the major attractions of Tanzania. It displays the breathtaking scenery of a wildlife-ridden Africa all year-round and visitors never go zero when it comes to game viewing.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Africa's Garden of Eden, is where you can find the famous Ngorongoro Crater, the world's largest unbroken, inactive volcanic caldera. It is another UNESCO World Heritage Site that promises sightings of the Big Five and all other wildlife including about 25,000 large mammals. The crater rim sits around 7,500m above sea level and is covered in ancient forests draped in lichen, making it a unique site to spot such incredible diversity and concentration of animals and birds.

Lake Manyara National Park

Imagine a vast soda lake filled with massive herds of vibrant pink flamingoes, white rhinos, zebras and other wildlife? In Lake Manyara National Park, you get to see this before your very eyes. Aside from such a sight to behold, the main attractions in this park include the tree-climbing lions and the prolific elephant population.

Best time to visit Northern Circuit Parks: June to October and December to March

Tanzania Southern Circuit

For those who want to get away from the crowds and experience a remote safari adventure, the southern safari circuit would sound perfect for that. The parks in this region are enormous, untouched, remote and teeming with a spectacular diversity of wildlife. The parks included in the southern safari circuit are Selous Game Reserve, Ruaha National Park, Mikumi National Park, and Udzungwa Mountains National Park. Although the Big Five isn't complete here and cannot be found all in one area, a lot of other animals like roan antelopes, sable antelopes, black rhinos and cheetahs can be easily spotted. Also, this is where you can find the world's thickest population of the last remaining African wild dogs.

Main Gateway

To get to the southern safari circuit, the main entry hub is Dar es Salaam, a major city and commercial port in Tanzania. Tourists often fly to Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) and then take a light aircraft to one of the parks. The good news is, a myriad of airlines fly directly to DAR from many parts of the world, including the US, UK, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia. However, since southern circuit parks are not accessible by road, travellers also need to take into account that they need to book a domestic flight into the parks as well.

What's great about it?

For game viewing, open-sided vehicles are available. This enhances the game viewing experience as it offers 360-degree views of the virgin landscape and exciting game. Also, the proximity of the southern circuit to the coastal circuit makes it a perfect bush and beach vacation sort of like an adventure in the true wild side of Africa and then a relaxing tropical getaway. What makes the southern safari circuit even more appealing is that they offer activities that are not available in the more popular northern circuit. For example, guided walking tours, fly-camping, and boating cannot be experienced in the north. On top of that, you get to enjoy a wealth of wildlife and untouched landscape virtually all to yourself.

Top Southern Safari Parks:

Selous Game Reserve

Selous is one of the largest game reserves in the world. It is widely popular for being the home to the world's largest population of wild dogs as well as some of the country's last remaining black rhinos. Considered a hidden gem of Africa, Selous boasts of a variety of vegetation zones, ranging from dense thickets to riverine forests and swamps to open wooded grasslands.

Ruaha National Park

Covering 20,226 square kilometres (7,809 sq mi) of savannah, Ruaha National Park is Tanzania's and East Africa's largest park. It hosts 10% of the planet's lion population as well as one of the largest elephant populations anywhere. The park can be reached by car on a dirt road from Iringa or by light aircraft in Dar es Salaam. If you drive from the town of Iringa, you will reach the park in 2 hours whereas if you drive from Dar, it will be an approximately 10-hour journey all in all. Via plane, it will be about 2.5 hours through either Msembe airstrip or Jongomeru airstrip.

Mikumi National Park

Mikumi National Park is the fourth largest park in the entire country. Since its road improvements connecting Dar es Salaam, Mikumi has become a hotspot for Tanzania tourism. Elephants, wildebeests, zebras, and buffaloes along with other mammals are abundant in this park. Although occasional, you can also spot lions potentially preying on other animals, giraffes browsing on the leaves of the acacia trees, and hippos resting on the Mkata River.

Best time to visit Southern Circuit Parks: June to October

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