Mikumi National Park
Forming the northern border of Africa’s biggest game reserve, the Selous, Mikumi National Park is only three to four hours drive from Dar es Salaam, lying astride the main highway to Zambia, and en route to the National Parks of Ruaha and Udzungwa Mountains. The main feature of the park is the Mikumi flood plain, along with the mountain ranges that border the park on two sides. Open grasslands dominate in the flood plain, eventually merging with the miombo woodland covering the lower hills. The park is rich in wildlife. And animals like buffaloes, hippos, baboons, sable antelopes, lions, wild dogs, wildebeests, zebras, impalas, giraffe, warthogs, and elephants which can easily be viewed all the year round. Reptiles including crocodiles, monitor lizards and pythons are also resident in the park. Over 300 species of bird have been recorded some of which are Eurasian migrants.
Harbouring one of East Africa’s great forests, Udzungwa Mountain National Park has an area of 1900 sq km, bordered by the Great Ruaha River to the north, with Mikumi National Park and Selous Game Reserve located further to the north and east. Protected as a national forest reserve until 1992 when it was commissioned as National Park, Udzungwa Mountains is undoubtedly one of the few true virgin and unique forested lands remaining in the world.
The major attractions include its biologically diverse forest, harbouring some plant species found nowhere else in the world, from a tiny African violet to 30-metre high trees. Apart from the forest, which acts as a water catchment area and having a large number of endemic species of both animals and plants, the park has spectacular mountains scenery, grasslands, rocks, rivers and waterfalls. One of the most interesting sights is the presence of two indigenous species of primates, the Iringa red colobus monkey and the Sanje Crested Mangabey, not known until 1979. Apart from providing habitat to about six species of primates, its plateau contains populations of elephants, buffalos, lions, leopards, African hunting dogs and several forest bird species.
Selous Game Reserve
The Selous Game Reserve, with an area of about 55,000 sq. km, is the largest well-watered wildlife sanctuary in Africa, and one of the largest protected areas in the world. Its size is simply stunning, bigger than Switzerland, uninhabited and little touched by human interference. It is perhaps the most pristine wilderness still remaining in Africa, with a wide variety of wildlife habitats, including open grasslands, Acacia and miombo woodlands, swamps and riverine forests in the many tributaries of the mighty Rufiji River which flows through the reserve. Due to its unique ecological importance, it was designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations in 1982.
Its wildlife is spectacular, with some of its mammal and reptile populations are the largest in Africa, namely buffaloes, elephants, hippos, wild dogs and crocodiles. Other wildlife include the wildebeest, impala, waterbuck, zebra, eland, the greater kudu, sable antelopes, giraffe, baboon, the vervet and blue monkeys, and the black and white colobus monkey which can be seen in certain riverine forests moving from tree to tree in family groups. There is a large population of predators including lions, leopards, cheetah and the spotted hyena, and about 440 species of birds in the Selous, of both resident and migratory birds.
Ruaha National Park
Ruaha National Park derives its name from the Ruaha River, which flows along its southeastern border. The river provides permanent water in the park and, during the dry season, animal concentration along its banks is spectacular. Ruaha National Park is about two to three hours drive from Iringa, a famous town on the Dar es Salaam to Zambia highway, and covers an area of 12, 950sq km, making it the second largest National Park in Tanzania, after Serengeti. This unspoilt wilderness is rich in flora (about 1650 plant species) and fauna, and contains a wide variety of animals that includes Greater and Lesser Kudu, roan and sable antelopes, which are rarely seen in most other game parks especially in Northern Tanzania. Ruaha National Park is famous for its herds of elephant and buffaloes.
The Ruaha River, which plays an important role in the ecosystem of the park, provides sanctuary to a large number of hippos and crocodiles. During the dry season the river attracts great quantities of game including lions, leopard, hunting or wild dog, impala, waterbuck, warthog, giraffe, and elands. In the plains ostriches, cheetahs and Grants Gazelles can be seen. The park is rich in bird life throughout the year, with over 370 bird species recorded. The best time for game viewing is during the dry season, from May to December. During the wet months from January to April some tracks become impassable.
Saadani National Park
Located only 130 km north of Dar es salaam and directly to the west of Zanzibar, Saadani is the only coastal wildlife sanctuary in East Africa, which not only means relaxing on Indian Ocean beaches after each safari, but provides the opportunity to observe Africa’s big game and birdlife interacting with the sea.
The Reserve, about 1000 sq. km in size, is being considered for upgrade to the National Park status.
Saadani has a diverse population of mammals and birds. Elephant, leopard, lion, buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, colobus monkey, hippo, crocodile and the rare Roosevelt sable can be seen here. Saadani offers a choice of a driving safari, nature walk, and boat safari.
Kitulo National Park
Locals refer to the Kitulo Plateau as Bustani ya Mungu – The Garden of God – while botanists have dubbed it the Serengeti of Flowers, host to ‘one of the great floral spectacles of the world’. And Kitulo is indeed a rare botanical marvel, home to a full 350 species of vascular plants, including 45 varieties of terrestrial orchid, which erupt into a riotous wildflower display of breathtaking scale and diversity during the main rainy season of late November to April. Perched at around 2,600 metres (8,500 ft) between the rugged peaks of the Kipengere, Poroto and Livingstone Mountains, the well-watered volcanic soils of Kitulo support the largest and most important montane grassland community in Tanzania. One of the most important watersheds for the Great Ruaha River, Kitulo is well known for its floral significance – not only a multitude of orchids, but also the stunning yellow-orange red-hot poker and a variety of aloes, proteas, geraniums, giant lobelias, lilies and aster daisies, of which more than 30 species are endemic to southern Tanzania. Big game is sparsely