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In wildlife densities and ease of viewing, the southern safari circuit isn’t quite on a par with the northern circuit. However, its ‘off-the-beaten-track’ character makes for a more holistic wilderness experience. Tourist densities are lower and camps tend to be more exclusive, catering to a more upmarket clientele.
The southern circuit is often the choice for a second safari on which ticking off the big five is less of a concern. The circuit is also popular as an add-on to a beach holiday in Zanzibar or around Dar-es-Salaam. In most cases, you will fly into Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar-es-Salaam and fly on by chartered plane to Ruaha or Selous. The immense Selous Game Reserve is most popular because of its proximity to Dar-es-Salaam.
You can easily drive here from the city and take in the less impressive Mikumi National Park on the way. Selous lies on the Rufiji River and, aside from the usual game drives, boattrips and walking safari are offered. The very remote and wild Ruaha National Park is one of Africa’s best kept secrets with excellent game viewing, including many animals that aren’t easily seen in the north, like wild dog and several unusual antelope species.
Selous Game Reserve
The Selous Game Reserve is located in the south of Tanzania and is one of the largest faunal reserves of the world. Some of the typical savannah animals like elephants, hippopotamus, African wild-dog, Cape buffalo and crocodiles are found in this park in large numbers than in any other game reserve or park. A section of the northern park along the Rufiji River has been designated a photographic zone and is a popular tourist destination. Several high end lodges and camps mainly situated along the river and lake systems are available in the park. Attractions in the park include the river rufiji which flows into the Indian Ocean opposite Mafia Island and the stiegler gorge – a canyon 100 meters wide and 100 meter deep. Walking safaris are permitted in the Selous and boat trips on the Rufiji are a popular activity.
Mikumi National Park
The Mikumi National Park is located in Mikumi near Morogoro. It is bordered by the Selous Game Reserve to the south. It is also bordered by the Udzungwa Mountains and Uluguru Mountains. Its landscape compares to that of the Serengeti with the north-west characterized by alluvial plain of the river basin Mkata. Vegetation in this area consists of savannah dotted with acacia, baobab, tamarinds and some rare palm. Tree climbing lions are found in the Mikumi National Park. Other animals include giraffe, elephants, zebras, impala, eland, kudu, gnu, wildebeests, black antelope, baboons and buffaloes. About 5km from the north of the park are two artificial pools inhabited by hippos. The park also boasts more than 400 species of birds.
Ruaha National Park
Ruaha National Park is Tanzania’s largest national park. It is popular for its large population of elephants. Other animal species found at Ruaha are African wild dog and sable antelope. It is also a true birdwatchers paradise – 436 species having been identified. Among the resident birds are different species of hornbill, kingfishers and sunbirds. Migrants’ e.g. the white stork also visit Ruaha. There are lodges in Ruaha and several park-run public campsites.
Udzungwa National Park
The habitats in the Udzungwa Mountains National Park include tropical rain forest, mountain forest, miombo woodland, grassland and steppe. The Lohomero peak which incorporates the Udzungwa Mountains and part of the Eastern Arc mountains has a vertical height ranging between 250-2,576 meters. There are more than 400 species of bierds, 2,500 plant species and 6 primate species. Tourism in the Udzungwa Mountains National Park revolves around hiking and trekking as the park has no roads and is only accessible on foot.