5 Unbelievable Places to Watch Wildlife in Tanzania
Thinking of Tanzania might conjure images of wildebeests and antelope galloping across wide-open plains. But this African gem actually boasts an incredible number of ecosystems, from lush tropical rainforests and colorful coral reefs, to highlands, snow-capped mountains and arid valleys. In fact, more than a quarter of Tanzania’s land is dedicated to national parks and game reserves – more than any other country in the world.
For animal lovers, all that topographical variety is something to celebrate, as Tanzania is home to a staggering number of animals. Here are five destinations that are sure to provide wow-worthy wildlife watching.
1. Marvel at Elephants in Ruaha National Park
Some 12,000 elephants call this national park home, making it the prime place to spot a herd of these gentle giants in their natural habitat. Of course, plenty of other animals trek across this 15,000-square-mile park as well: wild dogs, hippos, antelopes, zebras, leopards, impalas and cheetahs, to name a few. Bring your binoculars and a sense of patience: The more time you spend in the park, the more wildlife you’re sure to spot.
2. Ogle the Water Wildlife in Rufiji River
Africa’s largest wildlife reserve, the Selous Game Reserve, stretches nearly 19,000 square miles along Tanzania’s southern end and could easily consume a week of wildlife watching. But Rufiji River, which cuts through the reserve and connects the highlands to the sea, warrants a visit by boat. You can watch lazy crocodiles and all manner of reptiles, as well as thirsty elephants splash around in the churning waters. Bird lovers will rejoice at the hundreds of rainbow-hued birds found here, ranging from the goliath heron and yellow-billed stork to the fist-sized malachite kingfishers.
3. Get Up Close with the Lions in Ngorongoro Crater
This is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tanzania – and with good reason. The deep, volcanic crater offers stunning vistas of the surrounding countryside and one of the densest concentrations of lions in the world. In addition to the 60-plus lions that roam the area, you can spot the rare black rhinoceroses (just 26 in the area) and thousands of wildebeests, elands and gazelles. Relatively unfazed by tourist traffic, the lions have been known to pad right past safari vehicles.
4. Spread Your Wings on Rubondo Island
In a remote corner of Lake Victoria sits tranquil Rubondo Island, which offers stunning beaches and dense, animal-packed forests. It’s largely overlooked by tourists in favor of mainland national parks, which means it’s not uncommon to have the island almost to yourself. You can explore by boat or on walking safari, and take photos of the many migratory birds that make this island a temporary home.
5. Study the Chimps at Mahale Mountains National Park
Intrepid travelers who reach this relatively remote national park will be rewarded with white-sand beaches and lush forests jam-packed with fascinating wildlife. The biggest highlight is arguably the chimpanzees, as Mahale Mountains is a sanctuary and there are roughly 700 chimps living in and around the park. Though the area is blissfully uncrowded, the chimps are acclimated to human visitors, which means they’re comfortable getting close (have your camera handy).
Tanzania is a kaleidoscope of different habitats and native animals, and travelers looking to immerse themselves in wildlife will not be disappointed. You could pick just one spot for safari, but folding a few destinations into your trip will expand what you see even more.
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