Selous Game Reserve
Located in southern Tanzania, Selous Game Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and vast wildlife sanctuary totaling 50,000 square kilometres. Many amazing wild creatures are found in abundance here, amongst the dramatic and wild landscape which is relatively free of human impact.
The topography of the park ranges from grassy woodlands and plains, to dense thickets and also rocky outcrops, bisected by the Rufiji River. The tributaries of Rufiji form a network of lakes, lagoons and channels. Boating safaris on the river are highly recommended as the ultimate way to take in the stunning natural beauty of the park, not to mention the crocodiles and hippo that dwell in the brown waters. Listening to the sounds of the water and watching the black-and-white colobus monkeys swinging in the trees of the revering forest really is something you can only experience here.
One third of the world’s African wild dogs are resident at Selous – this is a rare opportunity to see these fascinating creatures in the wild. Large numbers of elephant, black rhinoceros, cheetah and giraffe live in this sanctuary, along with waterbuck and reedbuck, which gather at the shores of Lake Tagalala, and magnificent sable antelope and greater kudu grazing in the longer grasses and shrubs.
Ruaha Game Reserve
Ruaha National Park is unparalleled in terms of wildness and austere beauty. This park is still accessible, however, and perfect for those adventurous safari-goers who long for a taste of the real African wild.
The life-blood of Ruaha National Park is the Great Ruaha River on the eastern boundary, swelling and flooding during the wet season, and shriveling to scarce pools during the dry. Aside from the resident crocodile, hippo, turtle and fish, myriad creatures rely on the Great Ruaha and its snaking, seasonal tributaries – from the 10,000 elephants that roam the plains over huge distances, to the clans of hyena, wild dog packs, 20-strong lion prides, as well as gazelle, giraffe, zebra, greater kudu and even leopard. Ruaha is also a great place to spot the rare and impressive sable and roan antelopes.
There is more than just one way to enjoy this fabulous place. Aside from the usual game drives, there are photographic blinds dotted around the park, in strategic locations to spot animal congregations. Boating safaris are also gaining popularity – surely the best way to take in swooping, calling fish eagle and lazy, grunting hippos.
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 kilometer (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 centre-piece 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 favored 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 colorful common residents as the lilac-breasted roller, yellow-throated long claw 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 water birds.
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 meters (6,560 ft)
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 meters (550 feet) through a misty spray into the forested valley below.
Ornithologists are attracted to Udzungwa for an avian wealth embracing more than 400 species, from the lovely and easily-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.