The Tanganyika National Parks Ordinance CAP  of 1959 established the organization now known as Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA), and Serengeti became the first National Park. Conservation in Tanzania is governed by the Wildlife Conservation Act of 1974, which allows the Government to establish protected areas and outlines how these are to be organized and managed.
National Parks represent the highest level of resource protection that can be provided. By February 2008, TANAPA had grown to 16 national parks, with plans to expand existing parks. Conservation of eco-systems in all areas designated as national parks is the core business of the organization.
Nature-based or wildlife tourism is the main source of income that is ploughed back for management, regulation, and fulfilment of all organizational mandates in the national parks.
The primary role of Tanzania’ national parks is conservation. The 16 national parks, many of which form the core of a much larger protected ecosystem, have been set aside to preserve the country’s rich natural heritage, and to provide secure breeding grounds where its fauna and flora can thrive, safe from the conflicting interests of a growing human population.
The existing park system protects a number of internationally recognized bastions of biodiversity and World Heritage sites, thereby redressing the balance for those areas of the country affected by deforestation, agriculture and urbanization. The gazetting of Saadani and Kitulo National Parks in 2002 expanded this network to include coastal and montane habitats formerly accorded a lower level of protection.
Tanzania National Park Land Acquisition
Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) is also currently acquiring further land to expand certain parks, and to raise the status of traditional migration corridors connecting protected areas.
By choosing to visit Tanzania you are supporting a developing country’s extraordinary investment in the future. In spite of population pressures, Tanzania has dedicated more than 46,348.9 square kilometers to national parks. Including other reserves, conservation areas and marine parks, Tanzania has accorded some form of formal protection to more than one-third of its territory – a far higher proportion than most of the world’s wealthier nations.
What to See in Tanzania National Parks
Stalk the stalker, watch it pounce upon its prey, see millions of animals crossing a river, track gorillas, live in the wild and discover unusual species while you’re at it. A wildlife safari is one of the biggest charms of any African adventure and Tanzania is perhaps the best country for a journey into the wild. Tanzania’s national parks are designed to suit all kinds of interests, preferences and comfort levels, and you can be rest assured that there is a safari which is perfect for you.
But before you embark on your safari adventure, you need to make one of the biggest decisions – which park to visit and which park to leave out. Serengeti or Ngorongoro feel like the most obvious places to be, but it is equally possible that you have a much better time in one of the lesser-known parks.
Serengeti National Park
Home to the Great Migration, the Serengeti easily makes its way into most bucket lists. Serengeti was the first of Tanzania National Parks to be established. This fascinating park presents all kinds of ecosystems which allows it to host a variety of plants, birds and animals. The sheer diversity makes it one of the most unique national parks in Africa. Over the years, Serengeti National Park has attracted people from all walks of life, including movie stars, celebrities, writers and poets, and it easily ranks as one of the most coveted safari destinations in Africa.
Ngorongoro Conservation Crater
Formed millions of years ago, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area closed off its borders to man with the help of walls that rose to heights of 400 to 600 meters. As a result, nature was allowed to run free here and create some of the most exotic species of plants and animals that the world has ever seen. This is one of the few places where you can see the Big 5 in a single day and it also hosts the endangered black rhino.
Lake Manyara National Park
Think of Lake Manyara as a mini Serengeti, it is among the smallest of Tanzania National Parks. The place is very small in size, and a majority of the area is covered by the lake itself, but it still hosts as many as 11 ecosystems and a vast and varied wildlife. The groundwater forest surroundings at Lake Manyara National Park offer a much-needed break from African savannahs. Tree-climbing lions are the superstars here, but predator sightings are difficult. A close encounter with hundreds of elephants is the next best thing.
Tarangire National Park
Tarangire National Park isn’t located on the main safari route, and is less crowded than most other Tanzania National Parks. The park is 10 times larger than Manyara and its game tends to be incredibly concentrated during peak season. The park is also known for its breathtaking baobab trees and stunning natural beauty.
Selous Game Reserve
Selous Game Reserve represents the largest uninhabited area in the continent, and this alone makes it worth visiting. The large untouched expanses of land showcase nature at its beautiful best. The reserve also presents the best bush vibe in Tanzania. Selous Game Reserve is one of the two destinations used by elephants for their annual migration, and if watching millions of wildebeests isn’t possible, you can go for the next best thing, watching thousands of elephants at Selous.
Ruaha National Park
An African safari tour in Tanzania to Ruaha takes you to the largest national park in Africa might not come with a world-famous reputation, but it certainly presents the wildest encounters for those who know what to look for. Ruaha National Park is most famous for its fascinating beauty, ancient baobab trees, picturesque river and dramatic scenes and it offers incredibly exciting game viewing experiences to its visitors.
Gombe Stream National Park
Gombe may be small in size, but its attractions pack a punch. The park is famous all over the world because of its connection to Jane Goodall and her pioneering research on chimpanzees. Chimpanzee tracking expeditions are an obvious highlight, but one can also expect to see several species of primates here. Gombe presents a trail system which lets visitors penetrate deep into the forest and enjoy some of the best views of the African bush.
Katavi National Park
Katavi is among the most remote of Tanzania National Parks, and reaching the park requires a lot of effort. This alone dissuades most travelers from visiting Katavi. However, take the first step and the park does its bit to ensure that you never have to go home disappointed. Katavi presents untouched wilderness and it is common to run across more predators than humans while you’re here.
Mahale Mountains National Park
Mahale Mountains National Park may be ignored by most tourists visiting Tanzania, but those wanting to get closer to their closest genetic relative, the chimpanzee, simply have to visit the Mahale Mountains. The park presents the best chimp tracking experience in Tanzania and visitors also fall in love with its stunning beauty. Better yet, Mahale Mountains is home to some of the glittery sand beaches that Africa is so famous for.
Mikumi National Park
Mkata Floodplain, the star attraction at Mikumi National Park, has often been compared to the great Serengeti because of its amazing diversity and concentrated wildlife. This alone makes Mikumi worth visiting. The park is also popular for presenting stunning photo ops and large herds of game animals.