Northern Tanzania is home to the Serengeti Plains, Olduvai Gorge and Mount Kilimanjaro. Of particular note in the northern region is the vast expanse of land set aside for national parks and wildlife reserves. Approximately one quarter of Tanzania's total area is protected land. These sprawling parks and reserves are among the most popular attractions in the country.The abundance of wildlife, along with the annual migration of millions of animals across Northern Tanzania offers some of the finest wildlife viewing in Africa.Mount Kilimanjaro or Mount Meru is a highlight for avid climbers and for those wanting to expend less effort, try the paths across the Shira Plateau.
Engaruka is an archeological site from the 15th to 16th C featuring seven large villages with a complex irrigation canal and intricate agricultural system. As on of the most important historical sites in Tanzania, Engaruka was abandoned with little understanding of why this occurred around 1700.Several archeologists have investigated the ruins including Hans Reck in 1913 and Louis and Mary Leakey in 1935. The lack of burial sites, the identity of the founders of this farming community and how they developed such an ingenious farming system are puzzling to the many researchers.The Engaruka Cultural Tourism Program provides a half-day tour of the ruins or local farms to learn about current farming and irrigation methods. It is possible to climb to the top of the escarpment to view the ruins and surrounding plains, with the assistance of a Maasai guide.Engaruka is also the name of a modern village not far from the archeological site. North of the village is Kerimasi, a peak that can be climbed in one day or a two-day hike can be arranged to include Ol Doinyo Lengai, an active volcano. Ol Doinyo Lengai is the only active volcano in Tanzania, and it continuously erupts. Sometimes the eruptions are explosive but more often it is just bubbling lava at the subsurface. The name means "mountain of God", the Maasai interpret the white deposits of ash and lava to be the white beard of God.
Serengeti National Park
Serengeti National Park is a vast treeless plain with thousands, even millions of animals searching for fresh grasslands. 'Serengeti' means an 'extended place' in the Maasai language. As the largest national park in Tanzania, the Serengeti attracts thousands of tourists each year. A visit to Serengeti National Park is enriching at any time but the best months for wildlife viewing is between December and June. The wet season is from March to May with the coldest period from June to October.The annual migration of millions of zebra and wildebeest takes place in May or early June. The migration of these vast herds is one of the most impressive natural events and the primary draw for many tourists. Large herds of antelope as well as lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, bat eared fox, hunting dog and jackal are also found in Serengeti National Park. Wildlife such as baboons, hyraxes and klipspringers are attracted to the granite outcroppings that are found throughout the Serengeti. Nearly 500 species of bird, including vultures, storks, flamingoes, and ostrich have been recorded on the Serengeti. The swamp area attracts birds by the thousands including the crowned crane and sacred ibis. This area should be avoided during the rainy season.The first European to set foot in the Serengeti was the German explorer and naturalist Dr. Oscar Baumann. In 1913 the first hunters arrived to discover the wildlife plentiful, especially the lions.
Lake Manyara National Park
Lake Manyara National Park is comprised of forest, woodland, grasslands, and swamps. Two-thirds of the park is covered by water and Lake Manyara is host to thousands of flamingoes, at certain times of year, as well as other diverse bird life. Birds found within the park include ostrich, egrets, herons, pelicans and storks. The rare pygmy goose, various species of ibis and the African spoonbills have also been seen.The highlight of Lake Manyara Park is the large population of elephants, tree-climbing lions and hippos that can be observed at a much closer range than in other parks. This national park is also home to the largest concentration of baboons in the world.Lake Manyara was formed between two and three million years ago when streams poured over the valley wall after the Rift Valley was formed. The lake was probably at its largest 250,000 years ago but in recent years the lake levels are falling. Two sets of hot springs are located within Lake Manyara National Park. The smaller of the two, Maji Moto Ndogo, is near the wall of the escarpment and the second, Maji Moto, is near the Endabash River.Wildlife drives, canoeing (when water levels are high enough), mountain bike tours and bird watching are the most popular activities in Lake Manyara National Park. A small museum located at the gate to the park features displays of bird and rodent life found in the park.
One of the most frequented attractions in Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro National Park is home to Africa's highest mountain peak. A World Heritage Site, the Park also offers some animal spotting opportunities.
Tarangire National Park
Tarangire National Park was established in 1970 and is best visited in the dry season from July to September when the animals gather along the river. During the dry season, Tarangire National Park has one of the highest concentrations of migratory wildlife. Wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, impala, gazelle, hartebeest and eland crowd the lagoons.One of the most noticeable highlights of Tarangire National Park is the baobab trees that dot the grassy landscape.The park is excellent for birdwatching, more than 300 species have been recorded in Tarangire. These species include buzzards, vultures, herons, storks, kites, falcons and eagles.
Lake Eyasi is a soda lake located on the floor of the Rift Valley. Also known as the 'forgotten lake' due to the mostly unexplored landscape, Lake Eyasi is larger than Lakes Manyara or Natron. The impressive landscape surrounding the lake includes the Crater Highlands, the plains of the Serengeti and the western wall of the Eyasi Escarpment.Small groups of bushmen inhabit the area, the Hadza and Watindiga live in nomadic groups. They hunt with bow and arrows and gather roots, tubers and wild fruits much as their ancestors did during the Stone Age.A nearby cave, the Mumba, has been excavated to reveal many fossilized hominoid remains such as a prehistoric skull, molars and prehistoric tools. Animal remains have also been uncovered including antelope, rhino, zebra and hippo. Within the Mumba cave, ochre paintings have been discovered leading archeologists to believe that various people have used this cave as shelter over the years.
Moshi is a little town on the edge of the plains that start to climb towards Mount Kilimanjaro. Most visitors to Moshi are getting set to climb Kilimanjaro.Moshi means "smoke" in Swahili, the town was named for the cloud that shrouds the mountain for most of the day, the snows are visible in early morning and late evening.Although a former administrative and European area, few attractions can be seen. The Railway Station is a two-story building from the period when Germans occupied the town. The station has low arches, arched windows and a gabled roof. On Station Road, there is an Indian shop building dating from the colonial period. Stone columns, wide curved steps and a cupola are characteristics to note.Moshi is where Catholic missionaries introduced the Arabica coffee seeds at the end of the 19th C. It is now one of Tanzania's major coffee producers.
Babati is a lively market town located in a fertile region along the edge of the Rift Valley. Babati is home to the Barbaig people who have maintained their traditional culture - women wear goatskin dresses and men walk around with spears.Southwest of Babati is Mount Hanang, the fourth highest peak in Tanzania. Babati has become a base for adventure seekers as they head to Mount Hanang.Around the town is Lake Babati, home to floating hippos, water birds and an abundance of fish, including tilapia and Nile perch.Guided nature walks are available presenting the opportunity to for bird watching, 400 bird species have been recorded in the Babati area.
Marangu is a large village located on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. Marangu is a lively market town with a cool climate. The location of the town makes it an ideal starting point for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Marangua is also an excellent location for hiking, bird watching and taking the sights of rural Africa.The Cultural Tourism Program offers the opportunity for visitors to watch traditional blacksmiths, visit nearby caves and waterfalls as well as experience life in the local Chagga tribe.
Mto Wa Mbu, Tanzania
The name Mto Wa Mbu means Mosquito Creek. This small town does have a problem with mosquitos but it also a busy market town with local fruit and vegetables for sale. The central market sells arts and crafts as well as fresh food.The backdrop for Mto Wa Mbu is palm, baobabs and acacia trees framed by the Rift Valley escarpment. Located halfway between Arusha and the Ngorongoro Crater, Mto Wa Mbu is also close to the entrance gate for the Lake Manyara National Park. The town makes a good base before venturing off to explore the park.