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Destinations / Sourthern Tanzania

Southern Tanzania is made up of The Selous, Ruaha and Saadani, with the capital of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam also in Southern Tanzania and the starting point for your safari – please click on the links to see our list of recommended camps and lodges in each section, although of course we can deal with whichever lodge or camp you like, all of our holidays are tailor made from start to finish.

Southern Tanzania safaris are wilder than the North, with far fewer camps and lodges, and a completely different landscape of rocky outcrops, rivers, doum palms, open plains, swamps and hot springs. There is plenty of game here, but due to the thicker bush, it can be hard to see, but when it is found, the reward is that much greater. The rare African wild dog are often seen in the Selous for instance, and the beautiful Ruaha National Park feels like the end of the earth.

 

  • SELOUS GAME RESERVE
  • MIKUMI NATIONAL PARK
  • RUAHA NATIONAL PARK
  • UDZUNGWA NATIONAL PARK

A 50,000 sq. km Natural World Heritage Site, this is a stunning and largely undisturbed natural sanctuary that offers a plethora of large game and matchless photo opportunities.

Populated by hippopotamus, elephant, cheetah, giraffe and crocodile live in this immense sanctuary. The number and variety of game is largely due to its diverse vegetation that includes dense thicket, forest and open wooded grasslands.

Activities: Vehicle photographic safaris, walking safaris, boat wildlife safaris, fly camps, flying safaris.

Accommodation: Luxury lodge/tented camps, camping in and out of the park..

Features: Rufiji River system, lakes, woodland, bush, baobabs, nut palms. Elephant, black rhino, lion, hyena, leopard, wild hunting dog, giraffe, zebra, antelope, wildebeest, buffalo, greater and lesser kudu, waterbuck, bush buck, forest duker, crocodile, hippo, excellent birding.

Best time to visit: June to Oct – Dec – March (depends how early the rains come - flights into the southern parks stop during the rainy season April to June)

Swirls of opaque mist hide the advancing dawn. The first shafts of sun colour the fluffy grass heads rippling across the plain in a russet halo. A herd of zebras, confident in their camouflage at this predatory hour, pose like ballerinas, heads aligned and stripes merging in flowing motion.

Mikumi National Park abuts the northern border of Africa's biggest game reserve - the Selous – and is transected by the surfaced road between Dar es Salaam and Iringa. It is thus the most accessible part of a 75,000 square kilometre (47,000 square mile) tract of wilderness that stretches east almost as far as the Indian Ocean. The open horizons and abundant wildlife of the Mkata Floodplain, the popular centrepiece of Mikumi, draw frequent comparisons to the more famous Serengeti Plains.

Lions survey their grassy kingdom – and the zebra, wildebeest, impala and buffalo herds that migrate across it – from the flattened tops of termite mounds, or sometimes, during the rains, from perches high in the trees. Giraffes forage in the isolated acacia stands that fringe the Mkata River, islets of shade favoured also by Mikumi's elephants. Criss-crossed by a good circuit of game-viewing roads, the Mkata Floodplain is perhaps the most reliable place in Tanzania for sightings of the powerful eland, the world’s largest antelope. The equally impressive greater kudu and sable antelope haunt the miombo-covered foothills of the mountains that rise from the park’s borders.

More than 400 bird species have been recorded, with such colourful common residents as the lilac-breasted roller, yellow-throated longclaw and bateleur eagle joined by a host of European migrants during the rainy season. Hippos are the star attraction of the pair of pools situated 5km north of the main entrance gate, supported by an ever-changing cast of waterbirds.

About Mikumi National Park

Size: 3,230 sq km (1,250 sq miles), the fourth-largest park in Tanzania, and part of a much larger ecosystem centred on the uniquely vast Selous Game Reserve.

Location: 283 km (175 miles) west of Dar es Salaam, north of Selous, and en route to Ruaha, Udzungwa and (for the intrepid) Katavi.

Getting there: A good surfaced road connects Mikumi to Dar es Salaam via Morogoro, a roughly 4 hour drive. Also road connections to Udzungwa, Ruaha and (dry season only) Selous. Charter flights from Dar es Salaam, Arusha or Selous. Local buses run from Dar to park HQ where game drives can be arranged.

What to do: Game drives and guided walks. Visit nearby Udzungwa or travel on to Selous or Ruaha.

When to go: Accessible year around.

The game viewing starts the moment the plane touches down. A giraffe races beside the airstrip, all legs and neck, yet oddly elegant in its awkwardness. A line of zebras parades across the runway in the giraffe's wake. In the distance, beneath a bulbous baobab tree, a few representatives of Ruaha's 10,000 elephants - the largest population of any East African national park, form a protective huddle around their young.

Second only to Katavi in its aura of untrammeled wilderness, but far more accessible, Ruaha protects a vast tract of the rugged, semi-arid bush country that characterises central Tanzania. Its lifeblood is the Great Ruaha River which courses along the eastern boundary in a flooded torrent during the height of the rains, but dwindling thereafter to a scattering of precious pools surrounded by a blinding sweep of sand and rock.

A fine network of game-viewing roads follows the Great Ruaha and its seasonal tributaries, where during the dry season, impala, waterbuck and other antelopes risk their life for a sip of life-sustaining water. And the risk is considerable; not only from the prides of 20-plus lion that lord over the savannah, but also from the cheetahs that stalk the open grassland and the leopards that lurk in tangled riverine thickets. This impressive array of large predators is boosted by both striped and spotted hyena, as well as several conspicuous packs of the highly endangered African wild dog.

Ruaha's unusually high diversity of antelope is a function of its location, which is transitional to the acacia savannah of East Africa and the miombo woodland belt of Southern Africa. Grant's gazelle and lesser kudu occur here at the very south of their range, alongside the miombo-associated sable and roan antelope, and one of East Africa’s largest populations of greater kudu, the park emblem, distinguished by the male's magnificent corkscrew horns.

A similar duality is noted in the checklist of 450 birds: the likes of crested barbet, an attractive yellow-and-black bird whose persistent trilling is a characteristic sound of the southern bush, occur in Ruaha alongside central Tanzanian endemics such as the yellow-collared lovebird and ashy starling.

About Ruaha National Park

Size: 10,300 sq km (3,980 sq miles), Tanzania's 2nd biggest park. Location: Central Tanzania, 128km (80 miles) west of Iringa.

Getting there: Scheduled and/or charter flights from Dar es Salaam, Selous, Serengeti, Arusha, Iringa and Mbeya. Year-round road access through Iringa from Dar es Salaam (about 10 hours) via Mikumi or from Arusha via Dodoma.

What to do: Day walks or hiking safaris through untouched bush. Stone age ruins at Isimila, near Iringa, 120 km (75 miles) away, one of Africa's most important historical sites .

Best time to visit: For predators and large mammals, dry season (mid-May-December); bird-watching, lush scenery and wildflowers, wet season (January-April). The male greater kudu is most visible in June, the breeding season.

Part of an ancient group of mountain ranges which stretch across Tanzania and Kenya, known as 'The Eastern Arc', the Udzungwa are the most extensive mountain range in Tanzania. They were formed at least 100 million years ago and many endemic species have evolved here, making them something of 'an African Galapagos'. Local taboos have helped to preserve the wildlife, and now this national park protects almost 20% of the Udzungwa Mountains.

Amongst the larger attractions are 10 species of primate, three of which are endemic: the Uhehe (aka Iringa) red colobus, the Matunda galago and the Sanje crested angabey. The last of these is amongst the world's 25 most threatened primates. With a day to explore slowly, you'll usually see the red colobus, along with the black and white Angola colobus. Blue and vervet monkeys and yellow baboons are also common.

More than 400 species of birds live here, including many regional endemics like the Udzungwa forest partridge, which was new to science in 1991. With more scientific research, further new species are bound to be discovered. A quarter of the plants here are endemic, including some Saitpaulia species, closely related to African violets. There are also endemic amphibians, reptiles, and butterflies.

Setting off in walking shoes, with water and snacks, you'll explore the park's walking trails with a national parks' guide. These trails vary in length from a few hours to three days, and do have steep sections, but are always taken at your own pace. Expect to pass streams and waterfalls amidst the thick forest vegetation. We recommend Udzungwa as an excellent day-trip from Mikumi - or perhaps a short stay at the new Udzungwa Forest Mountain camp.

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