5 Best National Parks to Visit on Self Drive in Tanzania

Visiting Tanzania and going on safari is so much more than you can ever imagine when you choose a 4×4 route and the adventure of rooftop camping. Complete freedom to create your own adventure, at your own pace and with your own objectives.

You can rent a car in Tanzania fully equipped with a rooftop tent and explore its national parks on your own. Plan the itinerary and go to wherever your heart desires. Should you prefer to have some local knowledge on hand; the safari can be escorted or guided. You can also brake-up the camping with some eco-lodge stays along the way.

Camping could be at private campsites in some areas, or in either public or special campsites inside the national parks. At the public campsites, you will share the space with other campers and the sites have very basic ablutions. When you book a special campsite, you will be away from everybody else and with no facilities but camping on the plains of the National park all by yourselves is an unforgettable experience.

If you have concerns about getting lost, you will be provided with a GPS and logged-in waypoints. The GPS contains tracks for Tanzania so you don’t need to waste valuable holiday time setting up this navigational system. Printed maps are also provided.

Tanzania is one of the most enchanting and beloved safari destinations in Africa and the world at large. Far more than just a place to see the great Wildebeest Migration and the Big Five, Tanzania offers a wealth of natural experiences to be treasured for a lifetime. Here’s a quick hit list of some of the most visited national parks in Tanzania;


Best described as an area of endless plains, the Serengeti National Park covers an area of about 14.763 square kilometers making it one of the most extensive protected areas in Tanzania. Serengeti National Park is situated in the north and shares its northern border with the Kenyan Maasai Mara Game Reserve and its southern boundary with the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

You can easily combine a safari within the three national parks; Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Masai Mara using a rental car from Self Drive East Africa.

This vast conservation area offers refuge to a variety of mammal species that count up to 3 million and about 2 million migratory mammals that usually confine in the park each year that cross the River Mara. This natural wonder features up to 1.3 million wildebeests, millions of Thompson’s gazelle, zebras, and many more.

This park features three major regions, each of which comes with its spectacular tourist attractions and they include; the Serengeti plains which feature the most beautiful scenery of the park and are mainly famous as one of the best breeding grounds for wildebeests and they usually live within this area from December to May.

Other wildlife species include gazelles, zebras, impalas, hartebeests, buffaloes, topis, waterbucks as well as kopjes, hyrax, pythons, and many others.


Lake Manyara National Park is situated near Tarangire about 130 kilometers west of Arusha. The 325 square kilometers protected area features the most breathtaking terrain comprising of open grasslands, forests, and the dominant red western rift escarpments which offer the most spectacular backdrop to the Lake itself.

Lake Manyara National Park features one of the smallest national parks in Tanzania but encompasses a diversity of remarkable landscapes and wildlife. This park takes visitors about 90 minutes drive from Arusha with possible extensions to Tarangire National Park, Serengeti, and Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

This park is famous for its incredible wildlife species like dik-dik, Klipspringer, wildebeests, warthogs, cape buffaloes, ostriches, zebras, elephants, giraffes, blue and vervet monkeys, wanders and migratory flamingoes, hippos especially in the north and south of the Lake, waterbucks, tree-climbing lions, spiral-horned impalas, baboons, pelicans, storks, nomadic quelea, insect eaters, seed eaters, geese, herons, cormorants, keening crowned eagles, squawking hornbills, clucking crested guinea fowl and many more.

About 300 bird species thrive within this park. There is also a waterfall that spills over the escarpment wall and fills the rivers most of which can be canoed from for amazing safari adventure


Ruaha National Park is situated in southern Tanzania and features among the very few most spectacular and untapped National Parks in East Africa. Its area coverage is more than the small European states such as Cyprus, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Malta, and others and features distinct terrains ranging from mountains to swamps and from forests to sand Rivers.

This park is situated within convergence zone of lush highland Riverine forest with ferns and orchids and dry, arid valley floor with palms, baobabs, and Miombo woodlands, over 64 species of mammals including 17 antelope species including roan antelope, six distinct mongoose, crocodiles, warthogs, baboons, zebras, dik-dik, giraffes, hippos, elephants, buffaloes, birds that make up about 570 distinct bird species (kingfishers, night herons, stilts, storks, goliath, fish eagle, glossy ibis, hadada, scops, and pearl spotted owls, martial eagles, weavers, blue waxbills, fire finches, pale billed, van der Decken’s), 6 cat genera including lions, cheetahs, leopards, African wild cat, caracals and many more.


Tarangire National Park is a national park in Tanzania’s Manyara Region. The name of the park originates from the Tarangire River that crosses the park. The Tarangire River is the primary source of freshwater for wild animals in the Tarangire Ecosystem during the annual dry season.

The Tarangire Ecosystem is defined by the long-distance migration of wildebeest and zebras. During the dry season, thousands of animals concentrate in Tarangire National Park from the surrounding wet-season dispersal and calving areas.

The park is famous for its high density of elephants and baobab trees. Visitors to the park in June to November dry season can expect to see large herds of thousands of zebra, wildebeest, and Cape buffalo.

Other common resident animals include waterbuck, giraffe, dik-dik, impala, eland, Grant’s gazelle, vervet monkey, banded mongoose, and olive baboon. Predators in Tarangire include lion, leopard, cheetah, caracal, honey badger, and African wild dog.


The Ngorongoro Conservation Area was considered the largest Area established as a separate conservation area in 1959 and covers about 8400 sq km including the volcanic highlands. It extends from Lake Manyara in the east, lake Natron in the northeast, and Lake Eyasi in the south. There are four main features including; the crater, lakes, mountains, and forests.

The crater includes; the Ngorongoro crater, the Olmoti, and the Empakaai crater, the lakes include; lake Natron and Lake Magadi soda. The mountains include; the OldonyoLengai which is still active. The forests include the famous forested areas of the Olduvai Gorge.

The things to do in Ngorongoro Conservation Area include; hiking, game drives, nature walks, the visit to the Olduvai Gorge, and a visit to the Maasai boma. It’s only one and half days needed to see the crater and the game drives are limited to half days.

The fauna and flora found here include; the swamps, lakes, woodland, grassland, heath, the dense Montanan forest. The wildlife includes; gazelles, zebras, black Rhinos, lions, wildebeests, spotted hyenas, hippos, elephants, buffalos, the mountain reedbuck, serval, the ostrich, and the kori bastard.


Tanzania is one of the best safari destinations in Africa. A lot awaits you in Tanzania, a country that offers both a bush to the beach safari experience. Get started with planning your safari to Tanzania and get to know why many safari enthusiasts recognize Tanzania as one of the top holiday destinations on the continent.