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  Southern Tanzania
The southern circuit:
· Selous Game Reserve
· Mikumi National Park
· Ruaha National Park
· Udzungwa Mountains N.P.
Other parks/areas:
· Saadani National Park
 
 
Destination facts:
Southern Tanzania
The parks in southern Tanzania are situated in a transition zone between a northern and a southern vegetation zone, which gives them a partly different fauna and flora compared to the parks in northern Tanzania. The wildlife is rich, although not as abundant as in the north, but visitors are considerably fewer. Many visitors travel to the parks by air, as road distances may be long.

Mikumi, Ruaha and huge Selous are the classic parks in this region, while Saadani is a fairly recent addition to the national parks, offering both wildlife and coastal beaches.

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Young lions resting.

Selous Game Reserve
Selous covers vast 54,500 km2/21,043 sq mi in central/southern Tanzania, and is one of the largest parks in Africa. Most safari tourism is concentrated to the area north of the Rufiji River in northern Selous.

Much of Selous is covered by miombo woodland and grass plains. It has a strong elephant population, and a mixed wildlife including classic safari animals such as lions, hyaenas, giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, African buffalos and antelopes, for example Lichtenstein's hartebeest and greater kudu. Sable antelopes can be found in the mountains on the northern park border, and the rare African wild dogs are present.

Selous is a game reserve, which means that the park rules are less restrictive than in the national parks. Walking safaris, night game drives, boat tours and fishing are allowed, in addition to classic game viewing from safari vehicles.

There are a number of good lodges and tented camps, most of them lining the Rufiji River.

Selous is a one-day drive west of Dar es Salaam, on tarmac and (mainly) bush roads.

More about Selous
 

Giraffes in Mikumi.

Mikumi National Park
Mikumi is (together with Saadani) is the easiest park in southern Tanzania to reach by road. A four-hour drive on tarmac west from Dar es Salaam on the coast brings you straight to Mikumi, where the road cuts trough the park, dividing it in a northern and a southern half.

The northern part consists of mainly grassland and savanna, surrounded by low mountains, while the southern part is covered by hills and forests. As a result, game viewing is easier in the open landscape of the north, where classic savanna wildlife such as lions, giraffes and elephants may be seen. Baboons, African buffalos, Lichtenstein's hartebeest and leopards can also be seen. Sable antelope and greater kudu inhabit the more vegetated areas of the southern part.

Accommodation is available in a couple of camps, of which two are close to the main entry gate and the road from Dar es Salaam. If combined with other parks, a normal stay in Mikumi is a full day. The park has a fair size (3,230 km2/1,247 sq mi), though, and more time can be spent there if you're not continuing to the prime parks Selous or Ruaha.

More about Mikumi
 

Herd of elephants.

Ruaha National Park
Ruaha is a remote park, 620 km/385 mi inland west of Dar es Salaam. It is large (13,000 km2/5,019 sq mi) and has fairly few visitors, making it an interesting area for those searching a wilderness experience.

Much of inland Tanzania, including the Ruaha area, is bushland. The Great Ruaha River along the southern border of the park is a permanent source of water and attracts many animals, especially during the dry seasons (June to October). The wildlife includes greater and lesser kudu, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, sable, roan, oribi, lion, leopard, cheetah, African wild dog and more, including a strong population of 10,000 elephants.

The park has lodges and camps ranging from tourist class to luxury. A normal stay is a 2–4 days. Many visitors combine Ruaha and Selous in a fly-in safari, spending 3 or 4 nights in each park.

Access by road is possible, but most visitors arrive by air. There are scheduled safari flights from Arusha, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar.

More about Ruaha

Udzungwa Mountains National Park
Udzungwa Mountains isn't a main destination on the southern circuit, but rather a park that some choose to visit to add the park's special type of nature to their experience. Udzungwa is set on a mountainside, at altitudes from 300 m/1,000 ft to 2,800 m/9,200 ft. This means a variety of different biotopes, including rain forest, and a varied wildlife. There are elephants, African buffalos, elands, lions, leopards, bushbucks, waterbucks and duikers, and local varieties of red colobus and mangabey monkeys. It's also a good birding area, offering a varied general bird life and endemic weavers and sunbirds. The park lacks road infrastructure, so visitors explore it on foot, guided by park rangers.

There are no lodges or camps in Udzungwa Mountains, only some fairly basic hotels in nearby Mangula. An option is visiting Udzungwa on a daytrip from Mikumi, where better accommodation is offered.

More about Udzungwa Mountains

Saadani National Park
Saadani is the only Tanzanian park set by the sea, and the only coastal park in East Africa where you can see the large mammals. The landscape of Saadani ranges from sandy beaches with palm trees to acacia woodlands, coastal rain forests and mangroves. The mammal wildlife includes elephants, lions, hyaenas, sable antelopes, hartebeest, zebras, greater kudus, giraffes, African buffalos, hippos, colobus monkeys and others. Dolphins and turtles may be seen close to the shores.

A few lodges and camps in and around Saadani offer accommodation and activities, including game drives, boat tours and bush walks. A normal stay would include 2 days spent exploring the park, plus any additional days you would like to spend on the beach, fishing, snorkelling etc.

The park is four hours by road or less than one hour by air north of Dar es Salaam.

More about Saadani

 
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Page updated 8 June 2012