RUAHA NATIONAL PARK
Ruaha national park is one of the few Tanzania’s famous wilderness area where one can have a rare experience of game viewing spiced up by the fascinating landscape. The park is rich of plants and animals such as Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) which can not be found in any other national park. The park boasts of her almost untouched and unexplored ecosystem, making visitors’ safari experience very unique.
The Great Ruaha River as other rivers like Mwagusi, Jongomero and Mzombe save as the life line of the park. During dry season, these rivers become mostly the main source of water for wildlife. There are few natural springs saving the same purpose.
In the pick of dry season, elephants obtain water from dry sand rivers using their front feet and trunks. The remaining water falls along the Great Ruaha River are also important habitat for hippopotamus, fish and crocodiles.
Ruaha National Park has a bimodal pattern of rain forest; the short rainfall season begins November to February, while the long season is between March and April. The annual mean rainfall ranges between 500mm-800mm with the average annual temperature of about 280c. The park experiences its dry season between June and October when the temperature at Msembe headquarter reaches 350c.
Ruaha National Park has a high diversity of plants and animals including elephants, buffalos, antelopes and some of rare and endangered species like wild dogs. The park serves as water shade both for wildlife and human being. This makes it to be economically significant as it supports agricultural activities down stream and contributes to hydro- electric power (HEP) for the country at Mtera and Kidatu dams.
The park is one of the Tanzania birds’ paradise with more than 571species and some of them are known to be migrants from within and outside Africa. Migrating species from Europe, Asia, Australian rim and Madagascar have been recorded in the park. Species of interest in the park include Ruaha red-billed hornbill (Tokus ruahae) which is dominant in the area. The recently annexed wetland, the Usangu basin is one of the country’s important bird area (IBA) as recognized by Birdlife International. Though birds can be seen all the year around, the best time for bird watching is during the wet season.
Ruaha is believed to have high concentration of elephants than any national park in East Africa. It is also a place where, magnificent mammals like Kudu (both Greater and Lesser), Sable and Roan antelopes can easily be spotted in Miombo woodland. The male Kudu have beautiful spiraled horns while male Sable antelope have impressive curved horns. The park is also a habitat for endangered wild dogs. Other animals in the park include lions, leopards, cheetah, giraffes, zebras, elands, impala, bat eared foxes and Jackals.
Reptiles and Amphibians
Apart from large animals, the park also harbors a number of reptiles and amphibians such as crocodiles, poisonous and non-poisonous snakes, monitor lizards, agama lizards and frogs. The Great Ruaha and Mzombe rivers are presumably the most preferred habitat for crocodiles.
The park is characterized by semi-arid type of vegetation, baobab trees, Acacia and other species. There are over 1650 plant species that have been identified. The park is the transitional point of two vegetation zones, the Zambezian (characterized by Miombo vegetation) and Sudanian (characterized by Acacia vegetation).
Historical and cultural sites
There are several historical and cultural sites in the park which offer a visitor a chance to explore the Southern Tanzanian tribes. The early trade routes used by the Arab caravan crossed here. In 1830 these coastal traders expanded their routes northward, and in year 1857 to 1858 other European explorers such as Burton and Speke used these routes too. Chief Mkwawa used the same routes to visit his chiefdoms in Sangu and Gogo.
The park area often hailed as the land of the brave Chief Mkwawa, the Chief of the hehe people who resisted against the German attack in the late 19th century. The fierce and successful battle tactics against the German invasion made the Hehe tribe famous in the Southern highland of the then Tanganyika (Tanzania). The Hehe tribe under the leadership of chief Mkwawa was dominant around the Ruaha area. Some of the outcrops in the area are known as hiding places of chief Mkwawa who went into hiding after the fall of his empire (kalenga) to the German in 1894. In brief, it is believed that, this ancient land (Ruaha National Park) holds many secrets of chief Mkwawa.
Some of the cultural sites that were used for rituals are “Ganga la Mafunyo”, Nyanywa and Chahe, Painting rock at Nyanywa, the “Gogo” chief “Mapenza” grave at Mpululu and “Mkwawa” spring area believed to be used by Chief Mkwawa. Other historical sites near the park include Isimila pillars near Iringa town, Kalenga, Mlambalasi, Lugalo and God’s bridge just to mention a few.
The river systems and watershed are of economical, social and ecological significance for the park itself and country at large. Main rivers include the Great Ruaha, Mzombe, Mdonya, Mwagusi and Jongomero.
- Rift valley
The Great Rift Valley crosses the park. The escarpment wall along the western valley side is about 50-100m high in the north-eastern parts, increasing in height to the southwest. It is considered that, the valley of the Great Ruaha River is an extension of the Great Rift Valley. The Great Ruaha River flows for 160km long along the entire eastern boundary through rugged gorges and open plains.
- Natural springs
They occur throughout the park and they are associated with the base of the Western Rift Valley escarpment, most notably Mkwawa, Mwayembe, Makinde and Majimoto springs. These are dry season refugees for wildlife and when most of the rivers get dry.
- Undulating landscape
The park has undulating land and hills including kilimamatonge, Nyamasombe, Nyanywa, Chariwindwi, Igawira, Mwayiui, Kibiriti, Magangwe, Ndetamburwa and Isukanvyiola. These act as kopjes creating good habitat for animals such as klipspringer which normally can be seen in some of these hills.
Best time to see the wildlife
Best time to see predators and large mammals is during the dry season (mid May-December).
The wet season (January –April) is best for bird watching, lush scenery and wildflowers. The male Greater kudu is most visible in June which is their breeding season.
MIKUMI NATIONAL PARK
Mikumi is Tanzania’s fourth-largest national park. It’s also the most accessible from Dar es Salaam. With almost guaranteed wildlife sightings, it makes an ideal safari destination for those without much time.
Since the completion of the paved road connecting the park gate with Dar es Salaam, Mikumi National Park has been slated to become a hotspot for tourism in Tanzania. Located between the Uluguru Mountains and the Lumango range, Mikumi is the fourth largest national park in Tanzania and only a few hours’ drive from Tanzania’s largest city. The park has a wide variety of wildlife that can be easy spotted and also well acclimatized to game viewing. Its proximity to Dar es Salaam and the amount of wildlife that live within its borders makes Mikumi National Park a popular option for weekend visitors from the city, or for business visitors who don’t have to spend a long time on an extended safari itinerary.
Most visitors come to Mikumi National Park aiming to spot the ‘Big Five’ (cheetah, lion, elephant, buffalo, and rhino), and they are always not disappointed. Hippo pools provide close access to the mud-loving beasts, and bird-watching along the waterways is particularly rewarding. Mikumi National Park borders the Selous Game Reserve and Udzungwa National Park, and the three locations make a varied and pleasant safari circuit.
Swirls of opaque mist hide the advancing dawn. The first shafts of sun decorate the fluffy grass heads rippling across the plain in a russet halo. A herd of zebras, confident in their camouflage at this predatory hour, pose like ballerinas, heads aligned and stripes merging in flowing motion.
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 kilometre (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, draws 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 favoured 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 colourful 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.
About Mikumi National Park
Size: 3,230 sq km (1,250 sq miles), the fourth-largest national park in Tanzania, and part of a much larger ecosystem centred on the uniquely vast Selous Game Reserve.
Location: 283 km (175 miles) west of Dar es Salaam, north of Selous, and en route to Ruaha, Udzungwa and (for the intrepid) Katavi.
UDZUNGWA WATER FALLS
Is a national park in Tanzania with a size of 1,990 km2 (770 miles2).The habitats contained within the national park include tropical rainforest, mountain forest, miombo woodland, grassland and steppe. There is a vertical height range of 250–2,576 metres (the peak of Lohomero), which incorporates the Udzungwa Mountains part of the Eastern Arc Mountains. There are more than 400 bird species, 2500 plant species (25% of which are endemics) and 6 primate species. It has the second largest biodiversity of a national park in Africa.
Six primate species have been recorded, five of which are endemic. The Iringa red colobus and Sanje crested mangabey are only found in the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, the mangabey species was undetected by biologists prior to 1979.
Tourism in the Udzungwa Mountains national Park revolves around hiking and trekking, as the park has no roads and is accessible only on foot. The hiking trails range in difficulty from the short one-hour Sonjo trek to the extremely challenging 6-day camping trek the Lumemo Trail. The most common walk is the Sanje Waterfalls trail which takes approximately four hours to complete and allows the visitor access to the stunning 170 m waterfall and includes swimming in the waterfall plunge pools as part of the activity.
SELOUS GAME RESERVE.
Standing as the largest game reserve in Africa, Selous is also the second largest conservation area in Africa sized at 5,000square kilometers. It is definitely noted as even four times bigger than the Serengeti. While in Tanzania, it is very special to take a safari to Selous as it is one of the most remote game reserves hence least visited parks in Africa. Because of it elaborate and unique beauty, the Selous has so many safari animals and thus has it in history that UNESCO declared it a world heritage in 1982.
Channels and Rivers
Hot volcanic springs, sporadic lakes and channels from the nearby rivers such as the Great Rhuha and Rufiji rivers make Selous Game Reserve to have such a diverse landscape. The big herds of Tanzanian Elephants for example are attracted by the River Rufiji that flows through the reserve. The most popular on Tanzania safaris are the boat trips along the Rufiji River.
A walking safari is a must do if you are looking for something very special and different in the Selous game reserve. The beauty and peacefulness that you see and feel while on a Tanzania walking safari in the Selous reserve cannot be compared to any other.
Birding and Wildlife in Selous
The Selous is host to over 350 species of birds and reptiles, the species for plants accounts for about 2000 species as well as a wide range of wildlife. The largest concentration of elephants (110,000) on the continent has been known for taking home in this same reserve. The reduction in numbers estimated at about 30,000 to 50,000 are known for having been brought about by the “Ivory wars “ of the late 70s and early 80s which also brought about a much devastating effect on the herds ,reducing them in numbers.
Apart from being very famous for elephants, rhinos and hippopotamus, the selous game reserve also has a vast range of game including: brindled gnu, Nyasaland gnu, sable antelope, eland, greater kudu, waterbuck, hartebeest, zebras, giraffe, reedbuck, warthog, spotted hyena ,lion, leopard, hunting dog, in addition to the largest populations of buffalo in Africa.
It is such a special occasion to take a Tanzania Safari visit in the Selous Game Reserve, you are able to experience magnificent safari animals, walk among the breathtaking beauty and probe the unveiled parts of the national park.
Majority of wildlife in selous are some of the main attractions. A variety of game viewing activities are therefore available in this park. A number of trips are offered by boat, vehicle or on foot. Boat safaris for example allow you to move swiftly on the lakes and channels leading you through to the birds and animals closely including hippos and crocodile. All the lodges should be able to offer guided walks for all those in the right age bracket .(usually 12 years and over.16 years for Lake Manze and Impala, which come with big chances of interface with big game such as buffalo, lion on foot, or even elephant.
Towards the end of the dry season especially, game drives are rather truly rewarding as many large mammals gather around the five lakes .Some of the camps offer overnight fly camping excursions which involve sleeping out in an exalted mosquito net in the middle of the bush land.
KITULO NATIONAL PARK
Kitulo National Park is a protected area of montane grassland on the Kitulo Plateau in the southern highlands of Tanzania. The park is at an elevation of 2,600 metres (8,500 ft) between the peaks of the Kipengere and Poroto mountains and covers an area of 412.9 square kilometres (159.4 sq mi) lying in Mbeya Region and Njombe Region. The park is administered by Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) and is the first national park in tropical Africa to be established primarily to protect its flora.
Locals refer to the Kitulo Plateau as “Bustani ya Mungu” (“The Garden of God”), while botanists have referred to it as the “Serengeti of Flowers”.
Protection of the Kitulo Plateau’s unique flora was first proposed by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), in response to the growing international trade in orchid tubers and increased hunting and logging activities in the surrounding forests. In 2002, President Benjamin Mkapa announced the establishment of the park. The park was formally gazetted in 2005, becoming Tanzania’s fourteenth national park. TANAPA has stated that the park could be expanded in the future to include the neighbouring Mount Rungwe forest.
In 2005, field scientists from the WCS discovered a new species of primate on and around Mount Rungwe and in the Livingstone Forest area of the park. Initially known as the Highland Mangabey, later changed to its Tanzanian name of Kipunji, it is one of the 25 most endangered primates in the world.