The most amazing African National Parks

Lake Manyara National Park is a national park in Arusha Region, Tanzania. Lake Manyara National Park is known for the flamingos that inhabit the lake. During the wet season they inhabit the edges of the lake in flocks of thousands but they are not so present during the dry season. Visitors can also expect to see upwards of 100 different species of bird on any given day. Leopards, lions, elephants, blue monkeys, dik-dik, gazelle, hippo, giraffe, impala, and more inhabit the park and many can be seen throughout the year. There is also a hippo pond at one end of the park where visitors can get out of their cars and observe from a safe distance.

Tarangire National Park is the sixth largest national park in Tanzania. The name of the park originates from the Tarangire river that crosses through the park, being the only source of water for wild animals during dry seasons. During the dry season thousands of animals migrate to the Tarangire National Park from Manyara. The park is famous for its huge number of elephants, baobab trees and tree climbing lions. Visitors to the park can expect to see any number of resident zebra and wildebeest. Other common animals include waterbuck, giraffe, and olive baboons.

The Maasai Mara National Reserve is in south-western Kenya, and is the northern continuation of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. It is named after the Maasai people (the traditional inhabitants of the area) and their description of the area when looked at from afar: "Mara". It is famous for its exceptional population of Big Cats, game, and the annual migration of zebra, Thomson's gazelle, and wildebeest from the Serengeti every year from July to October.

The Virunga National Park is in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. It was established in 1925 as Africa's first national park. Africa's first national park survived decades of chaos against all the odds; tourism has increased from zero in 2008, to approximately 2000 in 2010 with numbers growing steadily. The park is known for its exceptional biodiversity, containing more bird, mammal and reptile species than any protected area on the African continent. Both savanna and forest elephants as well as chimpanzees and low land gorillas can still be found in Virunga, along with Okapi, giraffes, buffaloes and many endemic birds!

(Photo Courtesy of Cai Tjeenk Willink)

Kibale National Park is a national park in western Uganda protecting moist evergreen rain forest. The park adjoins with Queen Elizabeth National Park and is an important eco-tourism and safari destination, popular for its population of habituated chimpanzees and 12 other species of primates. The park's population of elephants travels between the park and Queen Elizabeth National Park, and other large animals that live in the park include leopards, bushpigs, duikers and otters.

The Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda's most-visited game reserve. It is the most popular park because of its wildlife; including hippopotamuses, elephants, leopards, lions and chimpanzees. The area around Ishasha in Rukungiri District is renown for its tree-climbing lions, whose males sport black manes, a feature unique to the lions in this area. The park is also famous for its volcanic features, comprising volcanic cones and deep craters, many with crater lakes such as Lake Katwe, from which salt is extracted.

(Photo Courtesy of Cody Pope)

Chobe National Park, in northwest Botswana, has one of the largest concentrations of game in Africa. It is also the country's first national park. The park is probably best known for its spectacular elephant population: It contains an estimated 50,000 elephants. The flood plains in the northeast of the park are the only place in Botswana where the puku antelope can be seen. This is probably the most visited park section, partly because of its proximity to the Victoria Falls. In the western stretch of the park visitors on safari view warthogs, kudus, impalas, zebras, wildebeests and above all elephants bullying each other.

Kruger National Park lies in the north-east of South Africa in the eastern parts of Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces. It is one of the largest national parks in the world. All the Big Five game animals are found at Kruger National Park, which has more species of mammals than any other African Game Reserve at 147 species and the poisonous Black Mamba also calls this park home. Visitors have many options for accommodations; the park has 21 rest camps, as well as 2 private lodge concessions, and 15 designated private safari lodges.

The Namib-Naukluft National Park is a national park of Namibia encompassing part of the Namib Desert (considered the world's oldest desert) and the Naukluft mountain range. The most well-known area of the park is Sossusvlei, which is the main visitor attraction in Namibia. A surprising collection of creatures including snakes, geckos, unusual insects, hyenas, gemsboks and jackals reside here.

South Luangwa National Park in eastern Zambia, the southernmost of three national parks in the valley of the Luangwa River, is a world-renowned wildlife haven. It supports large populations of Thornicroft's Giraffe, and herds of elephant and buffalo often several hundred strong, while the Luangwa River supports abundant crocodiles and hippopotamuses. It is one of the best-known national parks in Africa for walking safaris.

(Photo Courtesy of Paul Maritz)

Loango National Park is often referred to as the true jewel of Africa's western coast. Located in western Gabon between the Nkomi and Ndogo Lagoons, naturalist Mike Fay called Loango 'Africa's Last Eden' and this is where Michael "Nick" Nichols from National Geographic took his well-known pictures of surfing hippos. The park’s savanna, pristine beach, forest and mangroves are a must see in Gabon. Loango National Park offers breathtaking panoramas and the unique opportunity to observe elephants, buffalos, hippos, gorillas and leopards venturing onto the white sand beaches.

Hwange National Park is the largest game reserve in Zimbabwe. The park lies in the west, on the main road between Bulawayo and the widely noted Victoria Falls. Hwange has amongst the highest diversity of mammals of any national park in the world with over 105 species and over 400 types of birds including 50 raptors! Tourists particularly love this park due to the fact that they can go on safari by horseback riding as well as walking and driving.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a large wildlife preserve and conservation area in southern Africa. The park straddles the border between South Africa and Botswana and comprises two adjoining national parks: Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa and Gemsbok National Park in Botswana. The park has abundant, varied wildlife; such as black-maned Kalahari lions, cheetahs, leopards, and hyenas. Blue wildebeest, springbok, eland, and red hartebeest also live and move seasonally within the park as well as over 200 species of birds.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park is situated on the east coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The iSimangaliso Wetlands Park was declared a world heritage site in 1999 at an unveiling ceremony where Nelson Mandela was the guest of honor. The park ranges from coral reefs and sandy beaches to subtropical dune forests, savannas and wetlands. Animals that call this park home include elephants, leopard, black and white rhino, buffalo, and in the ocean, whales, dolphins, and marine turtles including the leatherback and loggerhead turtle.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in southwestern Uganda in East Africa. The park is part of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, and is situated along the Democratic Republic of Congo border next to the Virunga National Park. The forest is one of the richest ecosystems in Africa. It is known for the 340 Bwindi gorillas, half the world's population of the critically endangered Mountain Gorillas, and is also a sanctuary for colobus monkeys, chimpanzees and many birds like hornbills and turacos.

(Photo Courtesy of Duncan Wright)

The Banc d'Arguin National Park lies in Western Africa on the west coast of Mauritania between Nouakchott and Nouadhibou. The park is a major breeding site and is home to wide range of birds including flamingos, broad-billed sandpipers, pelicans and terns. The region's mild climate and absence of human disturbance makes the park one of the most important sites in the world for these species.

(Photo Courtesy of Kokopelado)

-Tracy Smith

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