Africa is a continent that exerts a powerful appeal on any human being. Whether you come from the most technologically advanced society or from a developing Country, Africa sticks to you with an almost supernatural power and brings you back to your origins.
I know practically no one who has returned from this extraordinary continent and has not suffered what the Italians call “Mal d’Africa”. A pleasant feeling of nostalgia that pervades us when we return from a trip over there, which has disclosed us our origins, wild and ancestral landscapes that penetrate our emotions in such a powerful way that we cannot help but want to return, as soon as possible.
All sub-Saharan Africa exerts this appeal on travelers. From Kenya to Angola, from Tanzania to Botswana or from Rwanda to Namibia, wherever you are, you are overwhelmed by a powerful nature, unparalleled landscapes and a wild life that has no equal on other continents.
To start our journey to Africa I choose for you a true superstar: Tanzania.
Tanzania is a rather large and populous Country and is home to some of the continent’s best-known parks, as well as one of the world’s best-known natural landmarks: Mount Kilimanjaro. It is from here that we start. Kilimanjaro International Airport is in fact the gateway to classic travel on the northern national park circuit.
The first surprise is the breathtaking view of Mount Kilimanjaro that appears immediately after leaving the airport, along a straight road that leads to the junction that connects Moshi to Arusha, the two gates for excursions on Kilimanjaro itself and the northern parks ring. On the clearest and clouds free days the unmistakable profile of this immense and solitary mountain will show itself in all its majestic and massive pawer.
Today, however, I will tell you about the large parks. Not every parks but rather those thatfrom my point of view are more beautiful and that deserve a longer visits than those that are normally included in the catalogs of local tour operators, which sometimes are a little rushed. Tanzania is one of the best-selling African destinations (the Country reached 2,000,000 tourists per year in 2019). However, despite the fact that the increase in tourist flows has brought some economic benefit to a portion of the local society -including the people of the small villages that provide staff to hotels and lodges – it has also considerably overcrowded the most well-known parks, so that the Safari experiences are not always optimal and groups of vehicles stationing in front of a feline are frequently observed, slightly compromising your view and your Safari experience as a whole. All the above unless you’ve hired a great guide. Try Humphrey Mrosso, an expert guide and a passionate wildlife photographer.
What I recommend is not to avoid the Serengeti, but to give yourself more time to explore two other parks, perhaps by allocating 2 full day safaris each. These are less crowded parks, equally fascinating and rich in wild life as much as the Serengeti, but having benefited from a lower media exposure, they are decidedly less crowded and allow a full enjoyment of your Safari and photo shoots to frames in your living room.
- The Tarangire National Park: managed by TANAPA (Tanzania National Parks Authority) this park can be reached from the city of Arusha, in about 2.30 hours by car. The distance to be covered is only 120 km but the speed limits and the frequent checks by the local police require you to keep a rather low speed. It’s not a bad thing, this car ride offers you enchanting glimpses of Africa with plains and hills that constantly follow one another, as well as passing through some villages that show the real life of the locals. The park takes its name from the Tarangire river, whichruns in the northern area, and is quite extensive, with two main gates: one to the north and one to the south. I suggest you access the park from the southern gate. The road from Arusha is tarred except for the last 4 km. The motto of the park is “the elephant paradise”, and it is absolutely true!! This park is home to the largest population of elephants in Tanzania, as well as of kudu, orix, hyenas, wild dogs, cheetahs, zebras and a collection of 550 different species of colorful birds. After passing a small airstrip, used by those tourists with high financial availability, who stay at the lodges inside the park, continue a bit further to reach the banks of the river, which even in the dry season offers a dense and luxuriant vegetation that attracts families of elephants and buffaloes. The sight of this landscape will be fixed in your memory indelibly.
- Arusha National Park: this park also falls under the authority of TANAPA. It is a smaller park and very little visited. Its position, just outside the city of Arusha and at the foot of Mount Meru (the second highest peak in Tanzania after the Kilimanjaro, which always offers a view, even on rainy days) makes it an easy and surprising visit. The reduced number of visitors (compared to other large parks) offers the opportunity for a peaceful and pleasant Safari rich of surprises. It can be reached with a short journey of about 45 minutes by car. After passing through the gate, with Mount Meru watching over you, you will lose yourself in an immense variety of wild life spanning from zebras to giraffes, from kudu to antelopes of all kinds and a vegetation which is simply incredible . It is more difficult to see the predators here, but honestly… who cares. Visiting this park will give you such a sense of peace and tranquility that you will understand the true meaning of the expression “Mal d’Africa”.
Few more things to keep in mind:
Access fees to national parks are quite high. Tarangire and Arusha National Parks are among the cheapest but still higher than in other Countries.
During the Safari in the parks, from time to time, you will stop in a clearing to stretch your legs, have a refreshing drink and also to eat a snack. Even if your Guide will be very smart and will identify the safest places, when you get out of the car, remember to take a good look around, to see if any wildlife is well hidden behind the bushes, to avoid disturbing them as well as getting yourself frightened.
On this topic check my related post titled “what to pack for a Safari”
If this article stimulated you to visit Tanzania and you want help planning your trip, fill out the contact form and I will be happy to help you.