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Serengeti National Park:

Certainly the name Serengeti might be something you’ve head before. In the maasai language the word Serengeti means "endless plains", a fitting name for this 14, 763 sq. kilometer expanse of grasslands and forests. It evokes, in many of our minds, an image of stampeding wildebeest across the plains, a calculating leopard waiting patiently for the right moment to make a move on her prey and huge elephants and giraffes strolling by exotic trees.

Nearly as large as the state of Connecticut, Serengeti National Park is the largest in Tanzania and one of the largest wildlife sanctuaries in the world. The park lies in a high plateau between the Kenyan border and Ngorongoro highlands and extends nearly all the way to Lake Victoria in the west. The landscape of the park, with its low vegetation and vast seas of open plain, is ideal for game viewing..

The Serengeti is famed for its annual migrations of wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles. As these massive Herds of herbivores search for new grazing ground, they are tracked and hunted by an impressive array of carnivorous predators such as lions, leopards, cheetahs, and hyenas. Buffalo, elephant, giraffe, hippo, antelope, ostrich, jackal, baboon, and dik-dik also inhabit the vast plains and woodlands. Bird life in the Serengeti is surprisingly abundant with nearly 500 species of birds having been recorded in the park.

The park was established in 1951 to protect its many species and ensure that it will remain a nearly perfect example of what it was in the beginning.

Ngorongoro Crater:

Ngorongoro Crater is widely considered to be one of the natural wonders of the world. 12 miles wide, 2000 feet deep, and covering an area of 102 square miles, it is the largest intact volcanic crater on earth and home to a spectacular concentration of wildlife. The crater hosts an estimated 30,000 animals on its floor, including large herds of buffalo and wildebeest, eland, hartebeest, elephant, hippo, lions, and the endangered black rhino.

Scientists believe that millions of years ago, Ngorongoro was an active volcano with a cone that some speculate was as high as Mt. Kilimanjaro. The volcano eventually became extinct and its cone collapsed and sunk, forming an enormous crater. The surrounding area was then slowly enveloped by tropical vegetation and colonized by various species of animals.

Today, mountain forests, lush vegetation, and fresh springs surround the rim of the crater's towering walls, which top out at an elevation of 7500 feet. With its dazzling natural beauty and the serenity of its surroundings, Ngorongoro is frequently referred to as "Africa's Garden of Eden".

The Crater is just one part of the 8300 sq. kilometer area called the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA). Also contained within the NCA's boundaries is the geologically important and historically controversial Olduvai Gorge, where Louis and Mary Leakey discovered numerous types of the fossil remains of early man.

Lake Manyara National Park:

The name Manyara, drives from the plant Euphorbia tirucalli form which the Maasai build a hedge to protect their livestock from predators and poachers. In the maasai language Maa, "emanyara" means to kraal.

Situated within a long and narrow passageway formed by the looming cliffs of the Great Rift Valley and the shores of a dazzling lake, Lake Manyara National Park is an incredible place to visit. For its moderately manageable range of 330 square kilometers, the Park offers vast variety and abundant wildlife, making it best for a day trip. One can see bushbuck, giraffe, zebra, ostrich, elephant, wildebeest, aardvarks and sometimes leopard. The park also attracts over 380 species of birds such as flamingoes, Egyptian geese, pelicans, cormorants, storks, and spur-winged geese.

The tall trees of the ground water forest are full of monkeys while elephants can often be seen on the slope of the escarpment amongst the baobab trees. In the acacia woodland, lions can be seen sprawled out in the heat of the day on the stout branches of the umbrella trees, while enormous hippos cool themselves in the pools along the lake shore. There are a number of hotels and lodges built on the rift walls at high altitude, which offer a superb view of the lake.

Tarangire National Park:

Covering approximately 2600 square kilometers, which contains nine different vegetation zones, each supporting distinct types of wildlife, Tarangire National Park is one of the finest parks in Tanzania. It is also located in the Rift Valley, not far from the eastern shore of Lake Manyara.

The rolling hills are punctuated with magnificent Baobab trees, alternating with open acacia woodland, rivers, and stands of palm trees. The unrestrained landscape of Tarangire is panoramic and calming as the lightly wooded savannas stretch far and wide in all directions.

Large herds of elephants, zebras, wildebeests, eland and Oryx congregate here until the wet season allows them to migrate to lush new grazing land. In the dry season (Aug-Oct), when many of the migratory wildlife species return to the permanent waters of the Tarangire River, the park boasts nearly as high a concentration of animal life as Ngorongoro Crater.

The birds are also attracted to the river and its surrounding watering holes. Nearly 300 species of birds have been recorded in the park, including green and yellow parrots, green wood hoopoes, Fischer's and yellow-collared lovebirds, as well as doves, cuckoos, mouse birds, swifts, and swallows.

Arusha National Park:

Located between the peaks of Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru, Arusha National Park covers an area of 137 square kilometers. There are three main areas of interest in Arusha National Park: the Ngurdoto Volcano Crater, the Momela Lakes, and the rugged Mt. Meru. Arusha National Park is also known for its remarkable range of altitude, topography, and vegetation, the park hosts a variety of species particular to forest, mountain, and aquatic habitats.

The Ngurdoto Crater: Lip to lip, the crater extends 3 kilometers and descends into a volcanic bowl packed with wildlife. The view from the rim is spectacular, where buffalo and warthogs can often be seen on the crater's swampy floor and the huge crowned eagle have been spotted flying overhead from time to time. It is surrounded by highland forest, a prime setting to also spot black and white colobus monkeys traveling along the treetops.

The Momela Lakes: These lakes, like many in the estimated 20 million-year-old Rift Valley, are shallow, alkaline and supplied predominantly by underground streams. Giraffes, hippos, and elephants are especially common to this area. Remarkably, the area is also a birder's paradise, hosting an astonishing variety of migratory and resident bird life. Over 400 species of birds have been recorded in the park. In addition to the large flamingo population, some famous species include the Crowned Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Silvery-Cheeked Hornbill, Egyptian Vulture, and Hammerhead Stork.

The Mt. Meru Crater: Mt. Meru, Tanzania's second highest peak, is an interesting mixture of lush forests and bare rocks. It offers one of the most spectacular landscapes in Africa and is considered to be the highlight of any visit to Arusha National Park. The forests contain a wealth of birds and other animals. Those who ascend the imposing 15,000-foot summit of the mountain will be rewarded with incomparable views of the majestic Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Rift Valley.

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