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Discovering Southern Circuit Safaris in Tanzania

Most visitors travel to what is known as the Northern Circuit. This includes the dramatic Ngorongoro Crater, home to around 30,000 animals. Another popular destination is the vast Serengeti with its world-renowned Great Wildebeest Migration. Also high on the list are the exceptionally pretty Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Parks.

As wonderful as these popular places are, Tanzania has much more to offer than these well-known hotspots. If you want to escape the crowds, head to the country’s little-visited yet stunning and wildlife-rich Southern Circuit.

Safaris in Tanzania’s Southern Circuit focuses on two main destinations: Ruaha National Park and Selous Game Reserve. Although both are quite remote, they are easily accessed by road and flights

Ruaha and Selous are not yet on the mainstream tourist radar, having only a handful of lodges between them. What they have in abundance however, is a true sense of wilderness, of raw and untamed Africa. The Southern Circuit offers a very different – but equally as fascinating – Tanzania safari.

Spanning over 20,000 square kilometres, Ruaha is Tanzania’s largest national park. This vast tract of bush, about the size of New Jersey, is home to ten percent of Africa’s lions and East Africa’s highest population of elephants. Ruaha is located on something of a transition zone where East Africa meets the south. As a result, the wildlife here is particularly varied – on game drives and walking safaris, you’ll see greater kudu with their vast spiralling horns, or perhaps roan and sable, all handsome antelopes. The birdlife too is immensely diverse with over 580 species recorded.

Despite its scale, Ruaha National Park is one of the best places in Africa to see rare and elusive packs of wild dog, quirky carnivores with strange saucer-shaped ears and distinctively patterned coats of brown, black and white. Leopards are regularly spotted, either resting in the trees during the day or prowling the plains at night. Look out for large prides of lions too, particularly around the Mwagusi and Mdonya Rivers.

Selous Game Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is Africa’s largest game reserve: spanning some 48,000 km2, it’s roughly three times the size of the Serengeti. However, only a small fraction – around 5200 km2 – is accessible to photographic safaris with the largest chunk south of the Rufiji River allocated as private hunting blocks.