THE SOUTHERN PARKS
The Southern Circuit is considered wild and beautiful. Remote and unspoilt.
Selous Game Reserve - with over 50,000 sq. km. The largest game reserve in Africa and one of the largest in the world. Contains more than two thirds of all Tanzania's elephant population. Has the largest surviving population of hippopotamus and crocodiles in Africa. Boat excursions and walking safaris are conducted there. Best time to visit the Game Reserve - June to October.
Ruaha national park, 20226 sq kilometers making it the largest national park in Tanzania and East Africa at large. It became the largest national park in East Africa due to the addition of the Usangu game reserve and other important wetlands in 2008.
Mikumi National Park. 300 km west of Dar es Salaam. Has numerous wildlife. Wild dogs, lions, leopards, buffalo, giraffes, zebras and elephants can be seen.
Udzungwa Mountain Park - 40 km south of Mikumi. A rain forest area - covering 1,000 sq. km, has been declared as a conservation area. The area has spectacular mountain scenery, water falls, and rare vegetation not found anywhere in the world. Has also a rich bird life.
Each of these areas is an attraction in its own right with Mikumi and Selous combining to a land area greater than the size of Switzerland. The Ruaha ecosystem including at its centre the National Park has recently been extended to make it the largest National Park in Africa. Saadani is the only area in East Africa which combines both beach and game viewing. The Udzungwa Mountains is an ancient rainforest trapped in the present, recent research shows this area is a true ecological hotspot with a large number of endemic species including the Sanje Crested Mangabey.
Best time to go on Safari in SOUTHERN Tanzania
The most pleasant time to visit the Southern Parks is during the cool season from the end of June until October. The wet season is generally from November to May, with a dryer spell in January and February. This is also a beautiful time to visit as the trees and flowers are blossoming and everywhere the vegetation is green. During the heavy rains, normally from the end of March to May, the Reserve is inaccessible and the tourist camps are closed.
SELOUS GAME RESERVE
At 54.600 Km² the Selous is the largest game reserve in Africa . To put it in perspective, the Selous is larger than Switzerland and half the size of the U.S. state of Ohio. Until recently, the reserve was only accessible by plane or by train. However, with an improvement to the road network, the area is now accessible to everyone. The concentrations of wildlife in the Selous are understandably huge. The Selous, named after a German explorer and author, boasts Tanzania's largest population of elephant – currently about 10,000 animals – as well as some of Africa’s largest numbers of buffalo, hippos, Nile crocodile and wild dogs.
Other species commonly seen are lion, bushbuck, impala, giraffe, eland, baboon, zebra and greater kudu. The Selous also contains one of the fewviable populations of black rhinos in the world, with between 150 and 200 individual animals. The reserve also contains more than 350 different bird species and 2,000 different species of plants. The Selous was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983 due to its unique ecological importance.
The landscape is shaped by the Rufiji River and its tributaries, lined by Barrassus Palms, and it is the heart of the park. The Rufiji swells through the park down to the Indian Ocean forming a series of small lakes that serve as an important source of water for the multitude of the plains game. It is only in the Selous Game Reserve that one can combine game drives, boat tours and walking safaris. The hinterland around Lake Tagalala and Beho Beho is some of the most picturesque in area.
RUAHA NATIONAL PARK
Ruaha national park is one of the few Tanzania’s famous wilderness area where one can have a rare experience of game viewing spiced up by the fascinating landscape. The park is rich of plants and animals such as Greater Kudu (Tragelaphusstrepsiceros) which can not be found in any other national park. The park boasts of her almost untouched and unexplored ecosystem, making visitors’ safari experience very unique.
The Great Ruaha River as other rivers like Mwagusi, Jongomero and Mzombe save as the life line of the park. During dry season, these rivers become mostly the main source of water for wildlife. There are few natural springs saving the same purpose.
In the pick of dry season, elephants obtain water from dry sand rivers using their front feet and trunks. The remaining water falls along the Great Ruaha River are also important habitat for hippopotamus, fish and crocodiles.
Ruaha National Park has a bimodal pattern of rain forest; the short rainfall season begins November to February, while the long season is between March and April. The annual mean rainfall ranges between 500mm-800mm with the average annual temperature of about 280c. The park experiences its dry season between June and October when the temperature at Msembe headquarter reaches 350c.
The park history dates back to 1910 when it was gazetted Saba Game Reserve by the Germany then the name was changed by British to Rungwa Game reseve in 1946. In 1964 the southern portion of the Game was gazetted as Ruaha national park and in 1974 a small section of South Eastern part of the Great Ruaha River was incorporated into the park. The name “Ruaha” originates from the Hehe word “Ruvaha”, which means “river”. Ruaha National Park is part of Rungwa-Kizigo –Muhesi ecosystem which covers more than 45000km2. In 2008 Usangu game Reserve and other important wetlands in Usangu basin have been annexed into the park, making it the largest park in Tanzania and East Africa with an area of about 20226km2.
Ruaha National Park has a high diversity of plants and animals including elephants, buffalos, antelopes and some of rare and endangered species like wild dogs. The park serves as water shade both for wildlife and human being. This makes it to be economically significant as it supports agricultural activities down stream and contributes to hydro- electric power (HEP) for the country at Mtera and Kidatu dams.
The park is one of the Tanzania birds’ paradise with more than 571species and some of them are known to be migrants from within and outside Africa. Migrating species from Europe, Asia, Australian rim and Madagascar have been recorded in the park. Species of interest in the park include Ruaha red-billed hornbill (Tokus ruahae) which is dominant in the area. The recently annexed wetland, the Usangu basin is one of the country’s important bird area (IBA) as recognized by Birdlife International. Though birds can be seen all the year around, the best time for bird watching is during the wet season.
Ruaha National Park has a wide range of physical features from the Great Rift Valley, river systems, natural springs, wetlands, hot water springs, and kopjes to the beautiful rolling hills and mountains.
The river systems and watershed are of economical, social and ecological significance for the park itself and country at large. Main rivers include the Great Ruaha, Mzombe, Mdonya, Mwagusi and Jongomero.
MIKUMI NATIONAL PARK
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.
UDZUNGWA MOUNTAIN PARK
Brooding and primeval, the forests of Udzungwa seem positively enchanted: a verdant refuge of sunshine-dappled glades enclosed by 30-metre (100 foot) high trees, their buttresses layered with fungi, lichens, mosses and ferns.
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.
Of six primate species recorded, the Iringa red colobus and Sanje Crested Mangabey both occur nowhere else in the world – the latter, remarkably, remained undetected by biologists prior to 1979.
Undoubtedly, this great forest has yet to reveal all its treasures: ongoing scientific exploration will surely add to its diverse catalogue of endemics.