The Southern Circuit epitomizes Tanzania in her most pristine form, off the beaten track, away from the crowds of tourists and the sound of other safari vehicles. Here you will find prolific wildlife unscathed by human interaction, where the night sky dazzles with millions of stars, and a part of the continent which is untouched by time.
Selous Game reserve, the largest wildlife sanctuary lies in the south of Tanzania, stretching inland from the coas itt is bigger than Denmark. It lies south of Mikumi, covering an area of 54,600 sq. km, about 6% of Tanzania’s total area and is 4 times the size of Serengeti. The park is named after Englishman, Frederick Courtney Selous – Conservationist, hunter, explorer and author, whose adventure books on Africa became best sellers in Victorian England.
Selous contains the greatest concentration of big game left on earth. Selous Game Reserve is internationally famous for its animals. It has the world’s largest number of big game: – elephant, buffalo, rhino, sable antelope, wild dogs, hippo and lion. There are over 400 species of birdlife which include: – fish eagle, secretary bird, kingfisher, sunbird, hornbill, bill stork and hammer kop.
Selous has the finest bush landscape, unspoilt by time. Although it remains one of the least scientifically researched areas in Africa, some 1700 botanical species have been identified. In the far south, the vastness of the reserve and its general inaccessibility has turned the Selous into a magnificent refuge for animals, birds, insects and reptiles. The reserve was designated a ‘World Heritage Site’ by the United Nations in 1982 due to its unique ecological importance.
Selous game reserve is only 45 minutes away by air and 6 hours away by road from Dar Es Salaam. Unique activities include boat safaris along the Rufiji River, walking safaris with an armed ranger and game viewing in four wheel drive vehicles.
Ruaha National Park
Located in Central Tanzania, 128km west of Iringa, Ruaha National Park, second largest in Tanzania, the reserve is perhaps the least well-known. Covering a conservation area of 10,300 square kilometres in the south-west of the country, Ruaha sprawls within and along the Great Rift Valley, covering a unique transition zone where the Eastern and Southern species of both fauna and flora meet against a dramatic topographical backdrop.
This is also one of the few Tanzanian parks where sightings of the rarer antelope, such as the Sable, the Roan and both Lesser & Greater Kudu, are a probability rather than a possibility. The proliferation of plains game in the park also ensures that the larger predators – leopard and large prides of lion – are unusually active. The bird life, too, is unparalleled with some 530 species recorded.
Activities such as game drives, day walks and hiking safaris can be done.
Mikumi National Park
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 covers an area of 3,230 sq km, the fourth-largest park in Tanzania, and part of a much larger ecosystem centred on the uniquely vast Selous Game Reserve.
The park is located 283 kms west of Dar es Salaam, north of Selous, and en route to Ruaha, Udzungwa and Katavi. Mikumi is rich in wildlife and contains buffalo, elephant and lion. Also found are zebra, impala, warthog, hippo and giraffe. 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. 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 common residents such 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.
Saadani National Park
Saadani is where the beach meets the bush. The only wildlife sanctuary in East Africa to boast an Indian Ocean beachfront, it possesses all the attributes that make Tanzania’s tropical coastline and islands so popular with European sun-worshippers. Yet it is also the one place where those idle hours of sunbathing might be interrupted by an elephant strolling past, or a lion coming to drink at the nearby waterhole!
It is located on the north coast, roughly 100km northwest of Dar es Salaam as the crow flies, and a similar distance southwest of the port of Tanga. The park covers an area of 1,062 sq. km.
The park is generally accessible all-year round, but the access roads are sometimes impassable during April and May. The best game-viewing is in January and February and from June to August.
Protected as a game reserve since the 1960s, Saadani was gazetted as a national park in 2002, when it was expanded to cover twice its former area. The reserve suffered greatly from poaching prior to the late 1990s, but recent years have seen a marked turnaround, due to a concerted clampdown on poachers, based on integrating adjacent villages into the conservation drive.
A surprisingly wide range of grazers and primates is seen on game drives and walks, among them giraffe, buffalo, warthog, common waterbuck, reedbuck, hartebeest, wildebeest, red duiker, greater kudu, eland, sable antelope, yellow baboon and vervet monkey. Herds of up to 30 elephants are encountered with increasing frequency, and several lion prides are resident, together with leopard, spotted hyena and black-backed jackal. Boat trips on the mangrove-lined Wami River come with a high chance of sighting hippos, crocodiles and a selection of marine and riverine birds, including the mangrove kingfisher and lesser flamingo, while the beaches form one of the last major green turtle breeding sites on mainland Tanzania.
Activities that can be done in Saadani are game drives, guided walks, boat trips, swimming, visit the Saadani fishing village, which lies within the reserve, where a collection of ruins pays testament to its 19th century heyday as a major trading port.
UDZUNGWA MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
This is the most extensive and bio diverse mountain range in Southern Tanzania sheltering many endemic species of birds, primates, plants, amphibians, butterflies and reptiles including the Pygmy Bearded Chameleon. The Udzungwa Mountains National Park is part of The Eastern Arc Mountain Range and is often referred to as the Galapagos of Africa. Over 400 species of birds that can be found here making it an ornithological paradise. Some endemic primates include the Highland Mangeby, the Sanje Crested Mangeby, the Udzungwa Red Colobus, the Matundu Dwarf Galgo and the Mountain Dwarf Galgo. Endemic birds include the Rufous Winged Sunbird and the Udungwa Partridge.
Exciting activities in Udzungwa include hiking through nature trails, exploring the various waterfalls, birding, cycling, village tours, fishing and flycamping.