SAFARIS: The Southern Circuit, Tanzania

The Southern Circuit is a lot quieter than the Northern Circuit. When out on a game drive, or at many of the lodges, you will not see any other guests. This, and the more varied landscape, gives the south a wilder and more natural feel. Each area is an attraction in its own right. The combined area of Mikumi National Park and Selous Game Reserve is larger than the total area of Switzerland!

The following parks (in alphabetical order) are all considered part of the Southern Circuit:

  • Mikumi National Park
  • Ruaha National Park
  • Saadani National Park
  • Selous Game Reserve
  • Udzungwa Mountains

Mikumi National Park
Highlights

  • Close enough to Dar-es-Salaam to make it an excellent day trip option (approximately 4 hour drive on good roads).
  • Habitat is composed primarily of the Mkata River floodplain which is surrounded by gently rolling hills covered in Miombo woodland.
  • The park is contiguous with the Selous Game Reserve and acts as a wildlife corridor thereby making for excellent game viewing.
  • A popular destination by ecologists and environmentalists – visited by colleges, universities and research centers from around the world.
  • Mikumi hosts typical East African wildlife including buffaloes, giraffes, elephants, lions, zebras, leopards, wild dogs, elands, crocodiles and variety of birdlife including the 300 species of migrant European birds seeking refuge and joining resident species such as the lilac breasted roller.

Ruaha National Park
Highlights:

  • A vast and magnificent wilderness covering 12,950 square kilometers.
  • Tanzania's second largest park located in the Miombo woodland of Southern highlands region of Tanzania together with several smaller reserves and conservation areas (for a total area covering about 40,000 square kilometers)
  • Second largest elephant population in Tanzania (after Selous Game Reserve) estimated at over 10,000
  • The park hosts large herds of buffaloes, great and lesser kudus, Grant's gazelles, wild dogs, ostriches, leopards, lions, cheetahs, roan and sable antelopes, hartebeest
  • More than 400 different bird species including doves, shrikes, African cuckoo, green wood hoopoe, spotted eagle owl, brown parrot, European white stork and many more
  • The Great Ruaha River, after which the park is named and flowing through the eastern side of the park, is home to hippos, crocodiles and numerous water birds.
  • The Ruaha River is fringed by tall trees – thorny species such as acacia and albida, plus tamarind, wild figs and baobab.
  • Access to Ruaha National Park is best done by air from Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Kigoma or Dodoma. By road, Ruaha is 625 kilometers / 388 miles from Dar es Salaam.

 

   

Saadani National Park
Highlights:

  • Saadani is the only area in East Africa which combines both beach and game viewing.
  • Tanzania's only coastal reserve, it is an area of savannah, grassland and unspoiled beaches.
  • Wildlife highlights include the most southerly home of Coke's hartebeest, plus elephant, leopard, lion, buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, colobus monkey, the rare Roosevelt sable, as well as hippo and crocodile.
  • The Eastern boundary of the park is set along the Indian Ocean: white beaches stretch to the horizon in both directions, and off-shore shoals provide good snorkeling and swimming.
  • Saadani is rich with birdlife typical of the wetter coastal plain where more than 300 species have been recorded.

Selous Game Reserve
Highlights:
  • African's largest wildlife reserve and most extensively protected area.
  • A proclaimed world heritage site, covering an area of 45,000 square kilometers; vegetation includes savannah wooded grassland, and deciduous "Miombo" woodland. Common features include thorn bushes, ground water forests as well as rocky out-crops (kopjes).
  • The great Rufiji River splits the ecosystem into two distinct parts. Stiegler's Gorge, 100m deep and 100m wide, is a magnificent natural feature with a cable car that ferries safari vehicles across the river.
  • Biggest elephant population in Tanzania
  • World's largest population of buffalo
  • Other wildlife highlights include Africa's last remaining black rhino populations, wildebeests, hartebeests, greater kudu, sable antelopes, elands, reedbucks, waterbucks, warthog, zebras, giraffes, lions, leopards, abundant hyenas and hunting dogs, and rare cheetahs. There are over 350 species of bird, 2000 plant species and reptiles such as crocodiles, snakes and lizards.
  • The hot springs at Maji Moto is a great place to soak away the dust and bruises of overland safari travel (unlike nearby Lake Tagalala which is extremely dangerous with its large population of crocodiles!).
  • Grave site of Captain Frederick Courtenay Selous (a British soldier) whose name was given to the Game Reserve in 1922 after he was killed by elephant during World War I in 1917.
  • Access to Selous Game Reserve is possible using daily flights from Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar to the Matambwe Airstrip at the Selous Game Reserve; by road, it is a 6 to 8 hour trip from Dar es Salaam. The most pleasant time to visit is from June to October, when the temperature is not as hot.

 

 

 
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