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Mikumi National Park


... is located in the Southern Region of Tanzania which, at an impressive 3230 square kilometres the fourth largest conservation area in the country.

Although the majority of this land area is mountainous and inaccessible to the visitor, the open grasslands of central areas are still extensive and perhaps represents the closest thing that southern Tanzania has to the plains of the Serengeti.

The backdrop of mountains on three sides of the reserve makes for pretty landscapes, great for photography and with some remarkable sunrises and sunsets.

There are significant wildlife populations here, with large herds of zebras, wildebeest, buffaloes and impalas. Giraffes and elephants are less common, whilst lions and spotted hyenas are present in decent numbers, but are quite elusive.

The reserve forms a key part of a much larger ecosystem. To the south it is connected directly to Selous. To the east are the Uluguru Mountains and to the west the Udzungwa Mountains, both disconnected from the park by areas of human habitation and farming, but wildlife still manages to migrate between. Recent research also seems to be showing that wildlife may be still migrating in significant numbers between Ruaha and Selous, with Mikumi as a stopping-off place in between. It may be a bit too much to hope that the greater Selous/Ruaha ecosystem can remain viable for wildlife in the face of increasing population pressure, but the presence of Mikumi certainly helps.

The real big negative for Mikumi, and the reason that it is not considered one of the leading reserves in the country, is that a major sealed highway runs directly through the heart of the main wildlife area. This road completely destroys any sense of wilderness from the area and demotes this park to a one night convenience stopover. It is often joked that the best game-viewing in Mikumi is along the edges of the road, flattened by passing trucks.

There is apparently a proposal in place to construct an alternative road which would divert the TanZam highway around the northern side of the reserve. We have heard rumours that the Danish government has volunteered to pay for and undertake this construction, but that the Tanzanian government is loathe to accept the offer whilst they are at the same time attempting to get a road built through the Serengeti. Hopefully this is just short term politics and that the road will be diverted in due course. However it may be too much to hope that the existing road would be removed completely ... the parks authorities love their fast access roads and it may seem counter-productive to them to remove a perfectly good sealed road only for them to have to grade a dirt road every year.

When to visit ...

The best time to visit Mikumi is generally considered to to be during Jul/Oct, the latter part of the dry season, when the unusually long grasses here tend to have died back or been burned, greatly improving visibility. However the ease of access means that the park really can be visited year round.

How we like to include this area in trips ...

The majority of visitors to Mikumi are residents of Dar es Salaam, for whom this represents the cheapest option for a safari weekend.

The park also represents a convenient overnighting location for overland safaris travelling between the more prestigious reserves of Selous and Ruaha. The problem is that, in contrast to the north of the country, overland safaris in this southern region really do not work well at all, with way too many main road miles. This situation is greatly exacerbated by the fact that the key connecting road between Selous and Mikumi has been closed since around 2002. We are unsure of the real reason for this, but the closure necessitates a diversion around Morogoro of around 14 hours, a tough drive which takes you way outside the wildlife areas. So there is relatively little traffic passing along this route. However we do still offer it as an option, for guests who really enjoy travelling overland.

The vast majority of visitors on safari in southern Tanzania therefore fly between the main parks and, since Mikumi isn't really of sufficient quality to be included on this circuit, it rarely features.

Stanley's Kopje Camp ... is by far the best accommodation in the park, very nicely located on a small hill to the north-east and with direct access into the most attractive and productive wildlife areas.

We also sometimes use lodges in this area as bases from which to visit the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, which is a fair distance to the south, but which has even more limited accommodation options.

Visitors to Mikumi tend to do so in combination with the key elements of interest in Tanzania South, notably Ruaha safari and Selous safari..

Serious safari travellers often combine Tanzania South with further safari options in the Tanzania North region, including Serengeti safari, Ngorongoro safari, Tarangire safari and Lake Manyara safari.

Some visitors also combine with options further afield including Mount Kilimanjaro treks in the northeast of the country, Katavi safari and Mahale Mountains chimpanzee safari out west, Maasai Mara safari over the border in Kenya and Virunga Mountains gorilla safari over in Rwanda.

These mainland areas are also commonly combined with nights down on the Tanzania Coast, especially on Zanzibar Island, Pemba Island, Mafia Island or Fanjove Island, usually in trips of 10 to 21 nights.

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Tony Fishlock
Tony Fishlock, Finance Director
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