Mkomazi National Park
is a substantial conservation area which extends over 3234 square kilometres in the far corner of Tanzania Northeast
The park is best known for its pioneering conservation projects, led by Tony Fitzjohn and the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust, who have been working hard to restore the area to its former glory since pastoralists were removed back in the 1980's.
Of greatest note are the breeding projects which have been established for wild-dogs and black rhinos, two of the area's most threatened animals.
The park is home to a number of species which you are unlikely to see elsewhere in Tanzania, notably gerenuks and lesser kudus, plus a handful of different birds.
The area experiences very low visitor numbers and therefore feels distinctly off-the-beaten-track.
There is great future potential here. The park was upgraded to national park status in 2008 and should start to significantly improve in terms of wildlife and infrastructure in the years to come.
On the downside, Mkomazi has very low wildlife densities. This is a surprisingly arid area, more similar in character to Samburu
further north in Kenya than the more fertile reserves of Tanzania North
. So wildlife here is inherently more scarce. How much this dearth of wildlife is also due to hunting and poaching we simple do not know.
The other big problem is that the wild-dog and rhino conservation projects are extremely difficult to access. We have made repeated attempts to gain permission for our guests to visit these projects, confident that a significant income could be generated by this means, but we have never made any progress. We have even offered to make considerable up-front donations to the project out of our charitable fund, but these approaches seem to have fallen on deaf ears. It seems that the people in charge are more concerned about keeping the projects under wraps rather than using them to promote much-needed tourism into the reserve.
There is a marked shortage of accommodation facilities inside the reserve. As yet none of the leading safari operators have been able to take the plunge and put a camp in here, they know it would be commercially not viable.
The reserve is very difficult to sensibly combine with other safari areas. Mkomazi is basically about 4 hours drive from Arusha in the opposite direction from the Serengeti.
Finally it is worth mentioning that this reserve has a rather controversial history, with major evictions of pastoral people having taken place at various intervals. The local people have long viewed Mkomazi as a place which has been stolen from them by government. The upgrading of the reserve to national park status seems to have put an end to any chance of a mixed-use solution, but the discontent among locals remains. Whilst the visitor numbers remain so low, it is hard to see how any sizeable benefit can be derived from the reserve for the local people.
Mkomazi is a very large slice of wilderness, very attractive in so many ways. But it is way too peripheral for most people, too far off the main safari routing through the country, with wildlife which is way too scarce and very limited accommodation options.
If we could just get a bit more momentum into the project, open up the wild-dog and rhino breeding projects to high-end guests, have one of the leading safari companies establish a camp here, start up a scheduled air service between here and the Serengeti, then one day we might really help to get this show on the road.
In the meantime Mkomazi remains the kind of place which will be sought out only by real safari enthusiasts, who have been everywhere else and are interested in discovering more about this particular corner of the country.Babu's Camp
... is the only decent accommodation option inside the reserve.
Other little-visited attractions in this region include West Kilimanjaro safari
, Arusha National Park safari
, Usambara Mountains safari
Many people visiting Tanzania Northeast also combine with the adjacent Tanzania North
region, including Serengeti safari
, Ngorongoro safari
, Tarangire safari
and Lake Manyara safari
Some visitors also combine with options further afield including Ruaha safari
and Selous safari
to the south 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.