Tanzania is a country of legends, a place where the game-filled plains seem to melt into the horizon, and a place where the wildlife still enjoys relative freedom of movement.
Wildlife of Tanzania
Tanzania wildlifeRenowned for nature's greatest spectacle in the great wildebeest migration and the natural world's most unique ecosystem in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania's wildlife is nothing short of the ultimate wildlife experience on earth.
Tanzania is generally considered a country of open plains but in this vast African country there are numerous landscapes and eco-systems. It is true that the north-east of the country is open but the rugged hill country of the south and mountains and lakes of the west ensure a varied diversity.
Of the Great MigrationThe short nutrient-rich plains of the southern Serengeti and northern Ngorongoro Conservation Area attract the great wildebeest herds to calve soon after the rainy season when the new grasses have sprouted. After spending up to four months on the southern plains the herds begin to move north in search of food and water.
The high nutritional value of the southern plains of the Serengeti came about through the formation of the Ngorongoro Crater. Ngorongoro was once a mountain thought to have been higher than Kilimanjaro - a volcanic eruption spewed lava across the plains north of Ngorongoro. Over time the lava plains were covered by windblown dust and plants began to take root.
As the ground cover built nutrients were trapped in this upper level and the plants, mainly grasses, thrived. Due to the depth of the ground cover large trees were unable to take root hence the incidence of small trees and shrubs on the southern plains. Nutrients cannot penetrate the lava level resulting in the short grasses being nutrient-rich.
Besides the great herds the Serengeti is home to a high species density - with predators such as lions, leopards and cheetah common sightings.
The African EdenFormed when the great mountain exploded the Ngorongoro Crater today is literally a self-sufficient garden of eden. After the explosion and cooling wind-blown dust and seeds were trapped in the crater and the seeds took root. As with the southern plains of the Serengeti nutrients were trapped in the upper layers of ground cover, providing for nutritious grass and shrubs.
Animals found this incredible source of food, and sufficient water, and stayed. Despite fears of in-breeding amongst some of the animals the crater today still manages to amaze scientists and visitors alike.
The crater has one of the highest densities of wildlife on the continent. More than twenty thousand animals survive in the 260 square kilometer area. Ngorongoro Crater has the largest density of lions on the African continent.
Where East meets SouthThe wild southern parks of Tanzania are considered the transition zone of species - where the East African plains and Southern African woodlands meet. Ruaha and Selous in particular are the parks associated with the transition. Ruaha is the southern-most range for lesser Kudu and Grant's gazelle and is also home to the sable and roan antelopes, two species associated with woodland habitats. Selous Game reserve is the northern range of sub-species such as the Niassa wildebeest and Johnston's impala.
The western reaches of Lake TanganyikaThe shores of Africa's deepest lake host man's closest relatives. The forested mountains on the shores of Lake Tanganyika are home to a relatively large chimpanzee population. Tanzania's chimpanzees have been immortalized through the work of Jane Goodall who spent almost twenty years studying the populations of Gombe Streams National Park on the northern reaches of the lake. It is at Gombe Streams where the chimpanzee behavior of using tools to feed was first recorded and where the incredible bahaviour of hunting other animals was first seen.
Further south lies the incredibly beautiful Mahale Mountains National Park where a group of Japanese scientists have been studying chimpanzee behavior for decades. It was in Mahale where incidents of lions preying on chimpanzees were first mooted.
Tanzania wildlife havenTanzania is arguably the most dramatic wildlife destination in Africa boasting all the big game that has made African safaris famous and hosting the finest chimpanzee interactions on the continent. The dramatic landscapes and unique, pristine wilderness areas ensure its iconic status.
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