1. Mount Kenya National Park
A favorite of trekkers and serious mountain climbers, Mount Kenya National Park was created around Africa’s second highest mountain, formed between 2 million and 3 million years ago by a series of volcanic eruptions. Imagine the reaction when nineteenth-century missionaries first reported seeing the snowy peak on the equator! Its forest and lower slopes abound with elephants, Cape buffalos, bushbucks, waterbucks, baboons, black rhinoceroses, leopards, monkeys, hyenas, giant forest hogs, and fantastic birdlife as well as giant forest hogs. More elusive are the sunni buck; the bongo, a rare type of forest antelope; the Mount Kenya mole shrew; and a variety of owls. Random sightings of albino zebras have even been reported.
2. Lake Nakuru National Park
Lake Nakuru, a shallow alkaline body of water, lies on a paved road, making it an easy three-hour drive from Nairobi, 100 miles south. Flamingos, often more than 1 million, literally turn its shores pink, a world famous spectacle, while feeding on the abundant algae that thrives in the warm waters. Large numbers of pelicans concentrate by the fresh-water streams that flow into the lake. More than 400 other species, including African fish eagles, white-winged black terns, stilts, avocets, ducks, and in the American winter, the migrant waders, reside on the lake and in the park, too.The national park surrounds the lake, offering wide ecological diversity, from lakeshore, woodland, and grassy plains to rocky escarpments and ridges. Recently enlarged to provide a sanctuary for the black rhinoceros, now it boasts one of the largest concentrations of rhinoceros in the country (both black rhino and white rhino). A number of Rothschild’s giraffes, relocated for safety from western Kenya, live in the park. Here, waterbucks, zebras, and Cape buffalos are common. Like the lions of Lake Manyara, Lake Nakuru National Park’s lions are often seen in the acacia trees. Leopards are sighted frequently, as well, this park being one of the places visitors have the best chance of glimpsing these elusive big cats. The bushlands offer elands, warthogs, impalas, mountain reedbucks, and dik diks, while rock hyraxes and klipspringers occupy the cliffs and escarpment.
3. Maasai Mara National Reserve
Wildlife viewing in the early morning from a hot air balloon delights the eye. Accommodations vary from simple lodges to luxury camps and ranch homesteads Adjoining the Serengeti National Park of Tanzania, a land of undulating hills and rolling grasslands supporting a huge animal population, Maasai Mara National Reserve is one of East Africa’s best-known game viewing areas. Often the casual visitor will be treated to the sight of a cheetah roaming the plains to run down its prey; a lion pride, numbering as many as 20, led by a handsome black-maned male; or a leopard devouring its kill in the lower branches of the sausage tree.Hundreds of hippopotamuses and crocodiles sun themselves on the banks of the Mara River. Elephants, Cape buffalos, giraffes, gazelles, and topis abound. And, from July to September, the wildebeest and zebra migrations overflow into Maasai Mara from Tanzania. Wildlife viewing in the early morning from a hot air balloon delights the eye. Accommodations vary from simple lodges to luxury camps and ranch homesteads
4. Nairobi National Park
The only park close to a capital city in the entire world, Nairobi National Park (Size: 117 sq km) harbours a range of exciting game including lion, leopard, cheetah, impala, coke’s hartebeest (kongoni), eland, Maasai giraffe, hippo and buffalo, including the indigenous Black Rhino. On the other hand it’s an ornithological paradise, with over 400 species of birdlife recorded. One of the most successful rhino sanctuaries in Kenya, Nairobi National Park symbolises Kenya’s renowned hard line stand on No trade in game trophies.It is here where the then Kenya’s President Daniel Arap Moi’s dramatically in 1989 torched 10 tons of ivory worth Kshs. 60 million, in a bid to eliminate the mass slaughter of Africa’s elephants for their tusks. Most visitors to East Africa’s safari capital; Nairobi, rarely miss an opportunity to visit this park.
5. Amboseli National Park
Amboseli National Park is located right at the foot of Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro (19, 340 feet). Feeding on the lush grasses, elephants abound in its forest and swamps. Cheetahs prowl the salt flats. Giraffes wander through the forest, while zebras and wildebeest feed on the open plains. The snow-capped dome of the Kibo Peak forms a magnificent backdrop, making this gem of a park a photographer’s paradise. Accommodations are available in a number of camps and lodges.
6. Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Park
Split in two by the main Nairobi/Mombasa highway, Kenya’s largest park area covers a total area of 769 square miles. The Tsavo National Parks were once famous for their herds of more than 60,000 “red” elephants, so called for the red murrum earth, like talcum powder, with which they spray themselves. Although these herds have recently dwindled due to poaching and drought, a strong drive by Kenya Wildlife Service has brought peace to their lives, and the populations are increasing again. These parks are also known for their fabled maneless lions. In one year, just three of these lions ate as many as 140 Indian workers during construction of the Kenya-Uganda railway. Once reputed to be the fiercest predators in Africa, they were featured in the 1996 film Ghost and the Darkness. In Tsavo West are the Mzima Springs, where visitors can view hippopotamuses and crocodiles from the underwater hide. Further south is the community-owned Kasigau Ranch, adjoining Tsavo West. Located near Mount Kasigau, the 52,000 acres of dry bush and scrubland play host to several wild plants, animals, and rare bird species and offer visitors a chance to interact with the communities that harbor wildlife in their backyard.
7. Serengeti National Park
Covering 5,675 square miles and contiguous with Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, Serengeti National Park is Tanzania’s largest and most famous park. Tens of thousands of hoofed animals, constantly searching for fresh grasslands, sweep across its vast treeless plains. More than 1 million wildebeests are the chief herbivores and the main prey of the large carnivores, such as the lions, and the hyenas. In fact, the spectacular annual migration of wildebeest herds represents the Serengeti’s main attraction. Just a few of the other animals calling the park home are leopards, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, giraffes, elephants, zebras, antelopes, monkeys and baboons, crocodiles, jackals, warthogs, and nearly 500 species of birds.
8. Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Bordering Serengeti National Park to the north and west, the entire Ngorongoro Conservation Area covers about 3,190 square miles and encompasses the archeologically important Olduvai Gorge and Lakes Ndutu and Masek. Within the area is Ngorongoro Crater, a volcanic basin of more than 99 square miles, with walls rising 1,998 feet. A natural amphitheater for more than 25,000 animals, mostly zebras and wildebeests, it constitutes just one part of several interrelated ecosystems, from the beautiful crater highlands to the vast stretches of plains bush and woodland. Here undoubtedly is the best place to see the black rhinoceros in Tanzania as well as prides of lions, dominated by the magnificent black-maned males. The soda lake on the crater floor hosts many water birds, such as the colorful flamingo. Other wildlife includes leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, elephants, warthogs, impalas, Cape buffalos, hartebeests, elands, and smaller mammals of all sorts.
9. Lake Manyara National Park
Bordered by the dramatic western escarpment of the Great Rift Valley, Lake Manyara National Park is renowned among ornithologists for its superb bird life, more than 350 species, including storks and flamingos. Also of great interest are its famous tree-climbing lions and its abundance of hippos that can be observed at closer range here than at most other places. The park also boasts elephants, giraffes, gazelles, impalas, Cape buffalos, wildebeests, baboons and forest monkeys, hyenas, and a great number of smaller mammals. This wide variety of animals make their home in 127 square miles of diverse habitats: the rift wall, ground water forest, acacia woodland, open grassland, swamp, lake shore, and the lake itself.
10. Mt. Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro, by any name, is a metaphor for the compelling beauty of East Africa. Not only is this the highest peak on the African continent; it is also the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, rising in breathtaking isolation from the surrounding coastal scrubland to an imperious 5,895 metres (19,336 feet). Also known as the ‘roof of Africa’ or ‘the mountain of Light’, Kilimanjaro is one of the world’s most accessible high summits, a beacon for visitors from around the world. Most climbers reach the crater rim with little more than a walking stick, proper clothing and determination. And those who reach Uhuru Point, the actual summit, or Gillman’s Point on the lip of the crater, they will have earned their climbing certificates and their memories. But there is so much more to Kili than her summit. The ascent of the slopes is a virtual climatic world tour from the tropics to the Arctic. The cultivated foot slopes give way to lush montane forest, inhabited by elusive elephant, leopard, buffalo, the endangered Abbot’s duiker, and other small antelope and primates. Higher still lays the moorland zone, where a cover of giant heather is studded with otherworldly giant lobelias. Above 4,000m, a surreal alpine desert supports little life other than a few hardy mosses and lichen. Then, finally, the last vestigial vegetation gives way to a winter wonderland of ice and snow – and the magnificent beauty of the roof of the continent
11. ARUSHA TOWN
Arusha town is the safari capital of Northern Tanzania and the starting point for virtually all safaris into Ngorongoro and the Serengeti. This town lives and breathes safari. Every shop on India Street is a safari company and because everyone is basically in or allied to the same profession, there is a real spirit of comradely about the place.The nicest thing about the place is that it is right under Mount Meru, which kind of lifts the atmosphere a bit. The canter of town is a colorful African town sort of style that’s quite appealing. Outside of town there are some lovely coffee plantations and rural areas and the lower slopes of Meru are heavily forested. All the best hotels are outside town including Ngurdoto Lodge, Mount Meru Hotel and Serena Mountain Village. The town is only one and half-hour flight from Nairobi and is well connected by major routes into and out of Tanzania.
12. Arusha National Park
The closest national park to Arusha town – northern Tanzania’s safari capital – Arusha National Park (Size: 137 sq km) is a multi-faceted jewel, often overlooked by safari goers, despite offering the opportunity to explore a beguiling diversity of habitats within a few hours. The entrance gate leads into shadowy montane forest inhabited by inquisitive blue monkeys and colourful turacos and trogons. During dusk and dawn, when the veil of cloud on the eastern horizon is most likely to clear, one gets a majesticsnow-capped peak of Kilimanjaro. But it is Kilimanjaro’s unassuming cousin, Mount Meru – the fifth highest in Africa at 4,566 metres (14,990 feet) – that dominates the park’s horizon. Its peaks and eastern footslopes protected within the national park, Meru offers unparalleled views of its famous neighbour, while also forming a rewarding hiking destination in its own right. Among the game to expect here are: giraffes, buffaloes, elephants, colobus and blue monkeys, dikdiks among a host of birds.