In addition to the nine parks of the northern and southern circuits Tanzania has seven other national parks to explore.
A mountainous strip bordering the shores of Lake Tanganyika, 16km north of Kigoma. Gombe is currently Tanzania’s smallest park. It covers just 56sq km and is only reachable by boat from Kigoma. Gombe offers visitors the rare chance to observe the chimpanzee communities made famous by British explorer Jane Goodall. A number of monkey species can also be seen including red colobus, red-tail and blue monkeys.
The area is heavily forested making it unsuitable for carnivores and safe for walking. Birdwatchers will be richly rewarded.
Getting there: By air from Arusha or Dar es Salaam. Or by road or train to Kigoma and then a one-hour boat trip.
Recently extended southward to cover some 4500 sq km the main features of Tanzania’s third largest park, located about 40 km southeast of the town of Mpanda, are Lake Katavi, with its vast floodplains, the palm-fringed Lake Chala and the Katuma River. The park is noted for its Miombo woodland and is home to buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and zebra. Antelope species include eland, impala, topi, roan, and sable.
Water fowl are abundant with Lake Chala particularly rich in bird-life with 400 species recorded. Katavi also boasts the greatest concentration of hippo and crocodile.
Getting there: By charter flight from Arusha or Dar es Salaam. Or a day’s drive from Mbeya or, in the dry season, Kigoma.
One of the two more recently gazetted national parks, Kitulo is the first park in tropical Africa to be recognised largely for its floristic significance. Known locally as ‘God’s Garden’ or the ‘Serengeti of Flowers’, Kitulo plateau has had over 350 species of plants documented to date. These include 45 species of orchids, many of which are not found anywhere else in the world. Also only found in Kitulo, and the Nundulu Mountain Reserve adjacent to Udzungwa Mountains National Park, the Kipunji – or Highlands Mangabey – is the rarest monkey in Africa. First discovered in 2003 it was the first new monkey genus established since 1923.
The plateau is also home to some important bird species, again many endemic to Tanzania, including the endangered blue swallow, Denham’s bustard, mountain marsh widow, Njombe cisticola, and Kipengere seedeater. Some of the world’s rarest butterflies inhabit the area.
Getting there: By road from Dar es Salaam to Chimala, via Mbeya, and then only by a 4×4 vehicle.
The other sanctuary of the chimpanzee, Mahale Mountains National Park, is only reached by charter flight or by boat from Kigoma. Covering an area of approximately 1,600 sq km, the park’s western boundary is the shore of Lake Tanganyika. The chimpanzee population is estimated at around 1,000 and may be observed in their natural habitat in groups of up to 30.
Yellow baboons, red colobus, redtailed and vervet monkeys also live in the park and are commonly seen as are bush-babies, bush-pigs, bushbuck, blue duiker, civet, hyrax and whitetailed mongoose. Buffalo, elephant, giraffe, leopard, lion, porcupine and other various types of antelope are also present but will prove more difficult to find. Lake Tanganyika is also home to more than 250 species of fish.
Getting there: Between a four and a nine-hour boat trip, depending on the boat, from Kigoma. Or a two-hour flight from Arusha or Dar es Salaam.
A water wonderland comprising Rubondo Island and nine smaller islands tucked into a corner of Lake Victoria north-west of Mwanza. The park provides a variety of habitats ranging from savannah to open woodland, dense forest, papyrus swamps and sandy beaches. There is also a wide variety of animals including bushbuck, crocodile, elephant, genet, giraffe, hippo, mongoose, vervet monkey and the reclusive sitatunga – a shaggy coated aquatic antelope.
The birdlife is unique with beeeaters, fish eagle, grey parrot, heron, ibis, malachite kingfishers, paradise flycatchers, spoon-billed and saddle-billed stork flocking to ‘Bird Island’ to breed.
Getting there: By air from Arusha or Mwanza. Or by road from Mwanza and then a boat transfer.
Tanzania’s first coastal wildlife sanctuary is located on the Indian Ocean coast some 45 km north of Bagamoyo and directly west of Zanzibar. The park contains many indigenous species including Liechtenstein’s hartebeest and the rare Roosevelt sable. A good population of elephant live in Saadani as do several herds of buffalo while numerous large groups of hippo and crocodile inhabit the nearby Wami River. Lion, leopard, spotted hyena, and black-backed jackal are present as are eland, giraffe, greater kudu, red duiker, reedbuck, warthog, waterbuck, wildebeest, zebra, yellow baboon and vervet monkey. The bird life is extensive and includes fish eagle, flamingo and the mangrove kingfisher. Dolphin are common off the coast; whales pass through the Zanzibar channel, and green turtle breed on the beach. Saadani village, one of the oldest communities on the East African coast, the Kaole ruins and historic Bagamoyo are nearby.
Getting there: About a four-hour drive from Dar es Salaam or by charter flight from Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar.
Saanane Island, in Lake Victoria, was recently elevated to national park status increasing the number of Tanzania National Parks to 16. It is the smallest national park in East Africa covering an area of only 2.18 sq km. Saanane is currently home to agama lizards, clawless otter, crocodile, impala, monitor lizard, python, rock hyrax, tortoise, vervet and de brazza monkey, and wild cat but there are plans to introduce new species such as dik-dik, grant’s gazelle, klipspringer and zebra. Over 40 type of resident and migratory birds may be seen.
Getting there: By air to Mwanza and then by boat.