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Best Game Reserves in Tanzania

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Adelle Bell

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Adelle Bell

Author: Adelle Bell - 24 June 2021

Last Update: 10 May 2024

One of Africa’s most exciting wildlife adventures is a safari, and Tanzania is one of the greatest places to observe one. With 38% of its territory set aside as protected wildlife areas, Tanzania private game reserves offer a diverse choice of National Parks and Game Reserves to suit a wide range of desires and travel tastes.

Tanzania has currently managed to maintain a total of thirty-two (32) game reserves. You’ll need to know which parks and reserves are best for you before you go on your luxurious safari vacation in Tanzania. We’ve compiled a list of the best game reserves found in Tanzania that we believe should go on every tourist’s bucket list:

Northern Parks

1. Serengeti National Park

What makes Serengeti National Park unique?

Serengeti National Park, the only place where you can see millions of migrating wildebeest crossing the Acacia plains, the cradle of human civilization, and perhaps the nearest thing you’ll ever get to an untouched African wilderness. Despite the thousands of animals constantly on the move, time appears to stand still when on a Serengeti National Park Safari.

Serengeti National Park Safari
Serengeti National Park Safari  

How to get to Serengeti National Park?

The Serengeti National Park is relatively easy to enter, despite being one of the few places left where nature’s ancient laws and seasonal cycles have remained largely unaltered. Flying from Arusha to one of the park’s seven airstrips is the most convenient choice.

A Tanzania safari in a 4×4 safari vehicle from Arusha to Serengeti National Park is also possible, with stops in one or two other parks along the way. Of course, you can combine these options by booking a one-way Serengeti Tanzania safari and returning to Arusha.

Where to stay at Serengeti National Park?
  • Lemala Ewanjan Camp

Lemala Ewanjan Tented Camp is the ideal hideaway for those seeking adventure and seclusion. Come face to face with extraordinary animals in their natural environment on the vast plains of Serengeti National Park. Learn about the lives of the locals and take in all that this beautiful location has to offer.

Lemala ewanjan tented camp
Lemala ewanjan tented camp

  • Lemala Kuria Hills Lodge

Lemala Kuria Hills Lodge is a perfect and secluded location for your Serengeti safari adventure if you’re looking for a majestic experience. You will have the opportunity to see African wildlife in their natural environment while sipping wine and dining on delectable African cuisine hidden within the Wogakuria Hills.

Lemala Kuria Hills Lodge
Lemala Kuria Hills Lodge | Photo credits:

Best time to visit Serengeti National Park?

The dry season (late June to October) is the most popular time to visit the Serengeti National Park for a safari. To quench their thirst, animals congregate around rivers and waterholes. 
The Great Migration is in full swing, and your chances of seeing a famous river crossing are at an all-time high.

Safari itinerary recommendation

2. Ngorongoro conservation area

What makes the Ngorongoro conservation area unique?

Ngorongoro crater conservation area in Northern Tanzania, which was once a massive volcano, is the world’s largest intact caldera. Some claim it would have been higher than Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro before it erupted.

It is now an extensive highland region with the prominent 600 m deep Ngorongoro Crater as its focal point, long after having collapsed and eroded.

Ngorongoro Crater Safaris
Ngorongoro Crater Safaris

How to get to the Ngorongoro conservation area?

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is usually visited as part of a larger package that includes a trip to the Serengeti. The Ngorongoro conservation area is conveniently located along the way, just a three-hour drive on a tarred road from Arusha, the starting point for all safaris in northern Tanzania.

The distance to the crater from the Seronera region in the Serengeti is about 140km/90mi, and the driving time is about three hours. This would obviously take much longer due to the opportunity to see wildlife along the way. It takes about two hours to travel 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Lake Manyara to the Ngorongoro Crater, and about four hours to drive 180 kilometres (110 miles) from Tarangire.

Flying into Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), which is about 46km/29mi from Arusha, is the fastest way to get there. It’s also possible to fly into Dar es Salaam’s Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) and then on to Arusha Airport (ARK) or Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO).

Where to stay at the Ngorongoro conservation area?
  • Lemala Ngorongoro Tented Camp

The intimate Lemala Ngorongoro is nestled in a lovely ancient acacia forest on the rim of the majestic Ngorongoro Crater.

The main benefit of staying at Lemala Ngorongoro Tented Camp is the fast and simple drive down to the crater floor in the morning, as it is located next to the quiet Lemala crater access road on the eastern side. Lemala guests usually have an hour’s head start over others descending via the far busier Seneto crater access road on the western rim. Game drives from camp may start as early as 6.15 am and guests can be down among Ngorongoro’s abundant wildlife.

Lemala Ngorongoro Tented Camp
Lemala Ngorongoro Tented Camp

  • Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

The game lodge at the top of the world has been dubbed Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. It’s easy to believe you’ve reached a world of pure imagination, what with the natural wealth of the Crater spread out at its feet and the stunning architecture.

The ancient caldera, which is nearly three million years old, is home to one of the most spectacular wildlife havens on the planet. Within its rim, endangered black rhinos roam the jungle, giant tusked elephants prowl the grasslands, and flamingos swarm the soda lakes.

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

The best time to stay at the Ngorongoro conservation area

The rainy season, which runs from April to May, is also regarded as the best time to visit the Ngorongoro Crater since there are far fewer visitors and the crater is lush and green in comparison to the dusty dry-season landscape.

Safari itinerary recommendation

3. Tarangire National Park

What makes Tarangire National Park unique

The Tarangire National Park, Tanzania’s sixth largest national park, covers 2,600 square kilometres and is known for its massive elephant herds and mini-wildlife migration that occurs during the dry season when around 250,000 animals join the park.

Located slightly off the popular northern Tanzania Safari Circuit, the park lies between the meadows of Masai Steppe to the southeast and the lakes of the Great Rift Valley to the north and west.

How to get to Tarangire National Park?

There are two major ways you can access Tarangire National Park and that is either by road or air transport. The easiest way to get to Tarangire is to fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA). The distance from Arusha is 46 kilometres (29 miles).

Another choice is to fly into Dar es Salaam’s Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) and then book a domestic flight from Arusha Airport (ARK).

Where to stay at Tarangire National Park?
  • Tarangire Treetops

Tarangire Treetops is located peacefully on the edge of Tarangire National Park within Tanzania. All of the Treetops Rooms have some of the largest bedrooms in camp in this part of the world, with 65 square meters of floor space and an exotic double shower within the bathroom.

Tarangire Treetops
Tarangire Treetops

Best time to stay at Tarangire National Park?

The best time to visit Tarangire National Park is during the middle and end of the dry season, which lasts from late June to October. During the rainy season, most of the animals leave the park, making animal watching less enjoyable.

Safari itinerary recommendation

4. Lake Manyara National Park

What makes Lake Manyara National Park unique

Lake Manyara National Park, home to tree-climbing lions, a soda ash lake teeming with thousands of pink flamingos, Tanzania’s largest elephant population, and stunning scenery!

How to get to Lake Manyara National Park?

You can enter the park via either the southern or northern gates. Since most lodging is located near the northern exit, it is used more frequently. Arusha is 126 kilometres from Lake Manyara National Park, which takes about 90 minutes to drive.

Where to stay at Lake Manyara National Park?
  • Lake Manyara Tree Lodge

Nine stilted treehouse suites, crafted from local timber and makuti palm fronds, weave a sophisticated blend of intimacy and romance, offering privacy and exclusivity in the cool, leafy surroundings, with elephant visitors passing through. Lemala Manyara Tree lodge Camp is located in the northern Tanzanian national park of Lake Manyara. This luxurious mobile camp offers 8 huge tents, the main tent with a lounge and dining room, as well as a campfire, all set in the middle of an acacia forest.

Lake Manyara Tree Lodge
Lake Manyara Tree Lodge

Best time to stay at Lake Manyara National Park?

Lake Manyara National Park is a year-round safari destination in Tanzania, but the dry season, from June to October, is considered the best time for game watching.

Safari itinerary recommendation

5. Arusha National Park

What makes Arusha National Park unique?

It is a common day trip destination for visitors who are about to embark on longer northern circuit safaris from Arusha. Mt. Meru’s cliffs, summit, and ash cone, as well as the Momela Lakes, Ngurdoto Crater, and the lush highland forests that cover its lower slopes, are all part of the small national park.

How to get to Arusha National Park?

Arusha National Park is only 45 minutes from Arusha city. In fact, the majority of the town’s lodging is located along the road leading to the National Park. Since Arusha is the starting point for all safaris in Tanzania’s northern region, a visit to this small park can be included. There are several ways to get to Arusha city.

Where to stay at Arusha National Park?
  • Lake Duluti Lodge Arusha 

Lake Duluti Lodge consists of 19 spacious contemporary African-styled romantic chalets that are ideally placed for optimum privacy and view inside a thirty-acre active coffee farm on the outskirts of Arusha. All chalets are positioned to face the coffee farm and each has a private deck with an amazing view of the ancient indigenous trees found in big number within the farm. The Tanzania Safari lodge is built to make you feel as though you are staying at home rather than in a high-end hotel. The Lake Duluti Lodge is known for its fine dining, first-class exclusivity, five-star customized excellent service, first-class facilities, and environmentally friendly design and operations.

Lake Duluti Lodge Arusha
Lake Duluti Lodge Arusha | Photo credits:

  • Rivertrees Country Inn 

You will most likely be exhausted from your flight when you arrive in Arusha. Rivertrees Country Inn provides a tranquil and relaxing environment in which you can re-energize for your safari. This deluxe, tranquil Arusha hotel is located at the foothills of Mount Meru and features 18 garden suites, two cottages, and the River House. All 24 rooms are spotless, with comfortable beds, carefully selected furnishings, complete bathrooms, mosquito netting, and complimentary bottled water. Bathtubs or showers are available in the garden rooms. The River Cottages offer a secluded retreat along the Usa River, where you can also see blue and vervet monkeys.

Rivertrees country inn
Rivertrees house

Best time to stay at Arusha National Park?

Game viewing inside Arusha National Park is excellent all year round however best views are enjoyed during the dry season, which starts towards the end of June to the finish of September.

Safari itinerary option


Southern Parks

6. Nyere National park (formerly known as Selous National park)

What makes Nyere National park unique?

The Selous Game Reserve is Africa’s largest protected game reserve, spanning 54,600 square kilometres and consisting of a vast wilderness of forests, grassy plains, mountains, and open woodlands. 

Selous Safari Holidays are highly recommended because this reserve is twice the size of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and three times the size of South Africa’s Kruger National Park.

How to get to Nyere National park?

The Selous Game Reserve can be reached by road, but there is a direct route from Dar es Salaam that covers a distance of 240 kilometres (149 miles) and follows the eastern road. The journey is bumpy and slow, taking between 6 and 7 hours, or nearly half a day. This road will take you via Kibiti and Mloka before arriving at Mtemere gate, where you will be able to enter the park.

The TAZARA Railway station is another choice for getting into the Selous Reserve (Tanzania Zambia Railway). It starts in Dar es Salaam and takes you on a journey through Tanzania’s wilderness, culminating at the Matambwe railway. You will enjoy the beauty of the green countryside on this trip. The journey takes between 4 and 5 hours. A charter flight is the third choice for getting to Selous Game Reserve. From Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, and Arusha, there are numerous departure flights that land at various accommodations or public access airstrips.

Most tourists who come to Tanzania on a safari fly into Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR), where they can easily link to a flight to Selous. The Selous and the nearby Ruaha national parks are served by these scheduled flights. While being the most costly, this is the quickest way to get to Selous game reserve.

Where to stay at Nyere National park?
  • Serena Mivumo River Lodge

Serena Mivumo River Lodge in Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve welcomes you with boutique sophistication, impeccable amenities, and a breathtaking location.
The Selous Game Reserve river lodge is nestled along the Rufiji River’s banks, with spectacular views of Stiegler’s Gorge.

Serena Mivumo River Lodge
Serena Mivumo River Lodge | Photo credits:

  • Roho ya Selous 

Roho ya Selous is located in the heart of Nyerere National Park (formerly Selous Game Reserve), Africa’s largest reserve and home to one of the continent’s largest wild dog populations. During the day, giraffes and elephants stroll through camp, and the sounds of nearby hippos and lions punctuate the night. This region is renowned for its water-based activities due to its network of lakes and rivers.

Roho Ya Selous
Roho Ya Selous | Photo credits:

Best time to stay at Nyere National park?

Selous Game Reserve is best visited between June and October, which is also Tanzania’s peak tourist season. When we discuss the Selous Tanzania Weather, we’ll be looking at the seasonal weather patterns that occur in the Selous and how they impact the game reserve. The Selous, as a classic dry park, offers exceptional game viewing opportunities, which improve as the dry season progresses. The best time to see animals is from July to October; however, this does not mean that game watching is not possible at other times of the year.

Safari itinerary recommendation

7. Ruaha National Park

What makes Ruaha National Park unique?

Ruaha National Park, located in Tanzania, is one of the continent’s largest parks. It’s well-known for its diverse flora and fauna, but it’s also home to massive elephant populations, with an estimated 12,000 elephants migrating through the Ruaha ecosystem each year.

How to get to Ruaha National Park?

Ruaha is 625 kilometres from Dar es Salaam and 130 kilometres from Iringa by car. Travel time varies depending on traffic and road conditions, but it is approximately 9 hours from Dar.

Daily scheduled flights from Arusha, Dodoma, Kigoma, and Dar es Salaam fly into the park’s two airstrips (Msembe and Jongomero). It is also possible to book chartered flights.

Where to stay at Ruaha National Park?
  • Ruaha river lodge

Set on one of the most beautiful stretches of the Great Ruaha River, you can watch the game all day from the comfort of your veranda; few other camps can match this place. Ruaha is split into two sections, with one dining banda along the river and the other high on a nearby kopje, each offering a unique perspective.

Ruaha River Lodge
Ruaha River Lodge | Photo credits:

  • Jabali Private House 

The spacious three-bedroom Jabali Private House is situated in Ruaha National Park, which is famous for its large lion population. The house caters to only one party at a time, and each group is looked after by their own dedicated team of staff, which includes a private chef and a guide, ensuring a truly exclusive safari experience.

Best time to stay at Ruaha National Park?

Ruaha National Park is a traditional dry-season park, with the best viewing opportunities between mid-May and December. As the dry season draws to a close, the game congregates around available water sources, providing unrivalled game viewing opportunities.

The bush turns lush and green during the wet season, from January to April, and many migratory birds arrive from northern climes, making it an ideal birdwatching paradise.

Safari itinerary recommendation

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