The Northern Circuit & Parks

The best developed of Tanzania’s tourism routes is known as the Northern Circuit. Here there’s the chance to see the big five’ – elephant, leopard, lion, rhino and buffalo – and huge herds of wildebeest and zebra on their annual migration.

The circuit includes many of the country’s most famous national parks, Arusha, Lake Manyara, Tarangire and the Serengeti as well as famous landmarks such as the Ngorongoro Crater, the Olduvai Gorge and Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro.

Arusha & Mount Meru

Just 32 km away from the town of Arusha is the Arusha National Park, it consists of three spectacular features, the Momela Lakes, Mount Meru and the Ngurdoto Crater. On clear days’ magnificent views of Mount Kilimanjaro can be seen from almost any part of the park. The vegetation and wildlife varies with the topography, which ranges from forest to swamp. The park is famous for its 575 species of birdlife, both migrant and resident, and black and white colobus monkey – the only place they may be seen on the Northern Circuit. Elephant are rare, and lion absent all together, but other animals frequently seen in the park are baboon, buffalo, giraffe, hippo, hyena, warthog, zebra and a wide range of antelope species including dik dik and waterbuck.

Tourist attractions include canoe safaris on the Momela lakes, riding safaris on specialised car-free routes, nd walks around the rim of the Ngurudoto Crater, and three or four day climbs of Mount Meru – at 4565m/14977 foot – the fifth tallest mountain in Africa – a great way to acclimatise for climbing Kilimanjaro.

Getting there: A short drive from Arusha or Kilimanjaro Airport.


Close to Arusha, only two hours away, Tarangire National Park gets its name from the river that threads its way through the reserve. It is famous for its dense wildlife population which is most spectacular between June and September, the dry period. During this time thousands of animals – elephant, buffalo, giraffe, eland, hartebeest, kudu, wildebeest and the rarely seen oryx and gerenuk – migrate from the dry Masai steppe to the Tarangire River looking for water. Lion, leopard, Cheetah and other predators follow the herds. Tarangire has the largest population of elephant of any park in the northern circuit and is also home to 550 varieties of bird including the Kori bustard – the heaviest flying bird.

Getting there: A 90 minute drive, or 30 minute flight, from Arusha.


Lake Manyara

This park is famous for its tree climbing lions, which spend most of the day spread out along the branches of Acacia trees six to seven metres above the ground. Nestling at the base of the Great Rift Valley escarpment the park is noted for its incredible beauty.

As visitors enter the gate they pass through a lush forest, home to troops of baboons and both blue and vervet monkeys. Further along the forest opens up into woodlands, grassland, swamps and beyond these the soda lake itself, covering 200 sq km and sanctuary to over 500 species of bird including flamingo, pelican, hornbills, Palm Nut vultures, storks and sacred ibis.

The park is particularly noted for its huge herds of buffalo and elephant. Also Maasai giraffe, hippo, reedbuck, warthog, wildebeest, zebra, a great variety of smaller animals and the endangered wild dog.

Getting there: A half hour flight from Arusha or a Two hour drive from Arusha. Lake Manyara is on the route to the
nearby Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai and the Serengeti.


Mkomazi is a refuge for the Endangered Black Rhino and Wild dog. The National Park shares a large stretch of border with The Tsavo National Park In Kenya and contains 90% of all botanic species found in Tanzania with one third classified as unique in the world.

It is also home to the Mkomazi Rhino Breeding Project. A Black Rhino Watching experience is a new special excursion available in the sanctuary. The Captive Breeding Programme for the African wild dog is another project for the preservation of endangered species that is based in Mkomazi. Elephant, Zebra, Hartebeest, Kongoni, Buffalo, Generuk, Oryx and Lesser Kudu can be seen.

Getting there: By road from Arusha, Moshi or Tanga.