Park Life

The Southern Tanzania Safari (trip code: WYS) offers the opportunity to spend five days of game viewing in three different parks in southern Tanzania. The three parks on this itinerary, Selous, Ruaha and Mikumi, are lesser known than their northern counterparts (Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Amboseli), but that only adds to their appeal. Offering spectacular wildlife viewing experiences with far fewer tourists, these three parks are an ideal destination for wildlife enthusiasts.

Selous Game Reserve:

At 45,000 square kilometres, Selous is one of Africa’s largest wildlife reserves. With only the northern section open to tourists, game drives here are a completely different experience than in other areas of East Africa.

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One of the main attractions of this area of Tanzania is the chance to see African wild dogs in the wild. Selous is home to almost 30% of Africa’s wild dogs. Now endangered, these canines are now the rarest large carnivore in East Africa. They can form packs of up to 40 members, but most in East Africa average 10 animals. Relying on sight when hunting, these animals tend to hunt at dawn and dusk; using endurance rather than speed, they will continue to chase until their prey is exhausted and can be brought down. As a result, packs have a large range and can cover great distances in a day, making them difficult to spot when game viewing

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With two full days in Selous we had some fantastic wildlife experiences: watching a Spotted hyena nursing a young pup, finding a pride of lions resting after a fresh buffalo kill, seeing the same kill completely devoured within 24 hours, spending an hour with a large herd of elephants, and seeing an incredible number of birds including the African fish eagle.  However, despite our best efforts, the African wild dog eluded us.

Selous - African fish eagle

On the third day, as we drove through the park on our way to the next overnight stop, our leader spotted fresh dog tracks along the road. He continued to search for the pack, even when the trail had disappeared, hoping that they would be resting nearby, and after an hour his tenacity paid off; we ran into another vehicle which had just left the sleeping dogs. Following their directions, we drove over a tree stump and under overhanging branches to find ourselves in a clearing with a pack of seven resting animals. We still had a long distance to travel that day so our time with the wild dogs was brief, but to spend even 15 minutes amongst these elusive and endangered animals was an incredible experience I will not forget.

Ruaha National Park:

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During our two days in Ruaha, Tanzania’s largest national park, we enjoyed an early morning walking safari watching hippos wallowing in the shallows to escape the heat of the midday sun, and playing hide and seek with an elephant behind a tree at the roadside.  However, it was the hour spent with a pride of resting lions which was my highlight of this park, if not for the entire trip. The lions, seemingly unperturbed by our presence, barely raising their sleepy heads to glance in our direction as the vehicle came to a halt. There were several cubs of varying ages in this pride; the youngest being twins who were about a month old. Watching them playing together and being cared for by their mother was a wonderful end to our day of game viewing in this beautiful park.

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Mikumi National Park:

Mikumi is underrated, offering far better game viewing than might be expected. It is the most easily accessible park in southern Tanzania, and is therefore the busiest park in the area, but it is still comparatively quiet in relation to the parks found in the northern parts of Tanzania.

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We spent only one night here, but with our lodge nestled in the heart of the park we were able to do a late afternoon game drive as well as an early morning one, both of which presented us with different wildlife we hadn’t seen in the previous two parks. We found a family of three jackals in the early morning, watched two young male giraffes practice their fighting skills, and caught sight of warthogs before they turned tail and scarpered! We even observed a pair of lions beside the road as they attempted to mate and hunt. There was enough time to fully experience each of these remarkable encounters with no other vehicles around. Simply amazing.

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By Sarah Ahern, Wildlife Product Executive

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