The Southern National Parks and game reserves of Tanzania
Selous Game Reserve
The game reserve name derives from the famous hunter and explorer Frederick Courtney Selous, a keen naturalist and conservationist as well as a hunter. Selous was killed in the first World War in the Beho Beho region of the reserve. Larger than Switzerland in size, the reserve is the largest in Africa and is second only to the Serengeti in its concentration of wildlife. One of the single largest remaining elephant populations in the world is in Selous. The best time to go to Selous is in the cool season between the end of June and the end of October. With a guide, walking safaris can be taken from the camps.
links: [UNESCO] | [Wikipedia]
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 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.
Udzungwa National Park*
Udzungwa is the largest and most biodiverse of a chain of a dozen large forest-swathed mountains that rise majestically from the flat coastal scrub of eastern Tanzania. Known collectively as the Eastern Arc Mountains, this archipelago of isolated massifs has also been dubbed the African Galapagos for its treasure-trove of endemic plants and animals, most familiarly the delicate African violet.
Udzungwa alone among the ancient ranges of the Eastern Arc has been accorded national park status. It is also unique within Tanzania in that its closed-canopy forest spans altitudes of 250 metres (820 feet) to above 2,000 metres (6,560 ft) without interruption.
Not a conventional game viewing destination, Udzungwa is a magnet for hikers. An excellent network of forest trails includes the popular half-day ramble to Sanje Waterfall, which plunges 170 metres (550 feet) through a misty spray into the forested valley below.
The more challenging two-night Mwanihana Trail leads to the high plateau, with its panoramic views over surrounding sugar plantations, before ascending to Mwanihana peak, the second-highest point in the range.
Ornithologists are attracted to Udzungwa for an avian wealth embracing more than 400 species, from the lovely and readily-located green-headed oriole to more than a dozen secretive Eastern Arc endemics.
Four bird species are peculiar to Udzungwa, including a forest partridge first discovered in 1991 and more closely related to an Asian genus than to any other African fowl.
links: [Udzungwa Web site]
Ruaha National Park
Southern Tanzania contains the most pristine and untouched wildlife areas. Vast tracts of land remain unexplored and unexploited – part of the Africa of long ago. The southern parks’ unspoiled loveliness is due in part to their relative inaccessibility. A four-wheel drive vehicle is always the best way to get around the region. Buaha is Tanzania’s second largest national park and one of its wildest. Crocodiles, hippos and clawless otters soak and play in the water and on the banks of the great Ruaha River. Reedbuck, waterbuck and buffalo drink, ever watchful for lion, leopard, jackal, spotted hyena and the hunting dog. The grassland borders of the river are home to the greater and lesser kudu, a large elephant population, eland, impala, Grant’s gazelle, dik dik, zebra, warthog, mongoose, wildcat, porcupine and the shy civet. There are plenty of Eurasian migrant birds on their outward and return journeys as well as resident kingfishers, plovers, hornbills, green wood hoopoes, bee-eaters, sunbirds, and egrets
The best months to go are between July and November when the animals are concentrated around shrinking water holes.
* Source: Tanzania Parks