The Northern Circuit is the most famous and popular safari destination in the country. The parks are not far from Mt Kilimanjaro, making both a mountain climb and safari in the same trip very common. The inclusion of two of the most famous safari destinations in the world, Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area also increase the popularity of this circuit. These safaris are usually started from either Moshi or Arusha. Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO airport code) is located between the two towns.
Serengeti National Park
The Serengeti is approximately an 8 hour drive west from Moshi. The trip can be broken up by visiting Ngorongoro Crater or Lake Manyara National Park along the way. Because of the size of the park, it is advisable to plan on a few days at the park. Camping can be done inside the park for the ultimate close to nature experience or you may stay at one of the lodges or luxury permanent tented camps located within the park boundary. For the luxury experience of a lifetime, book an early morning hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti ending with a white linen breakfast with sparkling wine in the wild.
The Serengeti is also in the route of one of nature’s greatest events, the annual migration of the wildebeest. Millions of hooves, pounding the ground as they make their way across the park, followed by carnivores, ready to feast on the weak and weary. The migration is a never ending cycle but timing where the herds will be is climate dependent and can be a bit tricky to predict far in advance. See our animated migration map below to see the average monthly location. There is really no bad time to come to the Serengeti though and you will find that all the park’s fame is well deserved.
world. Adding a few days to your trip to enjoy the lake is a great option. To see some great lakeshore lodge options, see our coastal excursions page.
Ngorongor Conservation Area
Along with the Serengeti, this is a destination that is not to be missed. Within the steep walls of the crater, you will see vast numbers of animals. All the most desired varieties of animals found in East Africa can be seen here, excepting giraffe, which cannot negotiate the crater’s incline. Technically this is a caldera rather than a crater (a crater is by definition limited to a smaller size) and the backdrop of the caldera’s walls creates a beauty and is the conservation area’s trademark. You will see the Maasai with their herds among the wild game found in the caldera. Because of the fragility of ecosystem here, overnights are not allowed inside of the caldera, including the Maasai who have to vacate the caldera each night. The surrounding highlands has some great camping or lodge options however with some fantastic scenery overlooking the caldera.
Lake Manyara National Park
A popular park to visit paired with trips to Ngorongoro Crater, it is a great park in its own right. Elephant, wildebeest, water buffalo, babboon, giraffe and lion are all easily visible. It is also the most favored park for bird watchers. It is a quite different park from Ngorongoro and is definitely worth a visit. The park can also be visited as a day trip from Moshi or Arusha.
Tarangire National Park
With the Tarangire River winding its way through the park, this is an especailly good choice to visit during the dry season (July – November) when the animals congregate along the river bed. The park has a large number of elephants and giraffe. It is common to see wildebeest, water buffalo, zebra, impala, lion and leopard. Walking safaris inside Tarangire are available as well as driving safaris. The park is located close enough to Moshi that it can be seen as a one day safari if desired. See our itineraries for ideas or have us work with you on creating your own.
Arusha National Park
Arusha National Park is just 32 km away from Arusha town, which was described by Sir Julian Huxley as “gem amongst parks.” It consists of three spectacular features, the Momela Lakes, Mount Meru and the Ngurdoto Crater and has an abundance of wildlife, fauna and flora. Magnificent views of both the Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru can be spotted on clear days from almost any part of the park. The vegetation and wildlife varies with the topology, which ranges from forest to swamp. The park is famous for its 575 species of bird-life, both migrant and resident, and black and white colobus monkeys. Other animals frequently seen in the park are baboon, elephant, buffalo, giraffe, hippo, hyena, zebra and a wide range of antelope species. Leopards are present but, as always, difficult to find. Recently added tourist attractions include canoe safaris on the Momela Lakes and walking safaris around the rim of the Ngurdoto Crater.
Mkomazi National Park
This park is located approximately 1 1/2 hours east of Moshi. Kenya’s Tzavo National Park shares a common border with Mkomazi. It is among the newest national parks in Tanzania and does not yet have a great infrastructure and is not heavily visited. The best times to visit are during the rain season of March through May when many animals from Tzavo National Park come down into Mkomazi.