WELCOME TO SOUTHERN TANZANIA

The Southern Circuit is not as famous as the Northern Circuit. Nevertheless, it still offers some of the most remarkable sights in Tanzania. Although it has a less number of tourists, the advantage is that you benefit greatly from witnessing the unspoilt nature of Tanzania.

The Selous Game Reserve and the Ruaha National Park are echanting areas of wilderness with remote and luscious landscapes that are home to a variety of wildlife including the continent’s largest populations of buffalo, hippo, crocodile and elephants. Other animals that you will see are lions, leopards, antelopes and both the greater and lesser kudu.

RUAHA NATIONAL PARK

Size

10,300 sq km (3,980 sq miles) Tanzania’s 2nd biggest park.

LOCATION

Central Tanzania, 128km (80 miles) west of Iringa.

GETTING THERE

Scheduled and /or charter flight from Dar es Salaam, Selous, Serengeti, Arusha, Iringa and Mbeya Year- round road access through Iringa from Dar es Salaam (about 10 hrs) via Mikumi or from Arusha via Dodoma.

TO DO

Day walks or hiking safaris through untouched bush. Stone age ruins at Isimila, near Iringa 120 km (75 miles) away, one of Africa’s most important historical sites.

BEST TIME

For predators and large mammals, dry season (mid-May-Dec), bird watching, lush scenery and wildflowers, wet season (January-April). The male greater kudu is most visible in June, the breeding season.

The game viewing starts the moment the plane touches down. A giraffe races beside the airstrip, all legs and neck, yet oddly elegant in its awkwardness. A line of zebras parades across the runway in the giraffe’s wale. In the distance, beneath a bulbous baobab tree, a few representatives of Ruaha’s 10,000 elephants – the largest population of any East African national park – form a protective huddle around their young.

Second to Katavi in its aura of untamed wilderness, but far more accessible, Ruaha protects a vast tract of the rugged, semi-arid bush country that characterizes central Tanzania. Its lifeblood is the Great Ruaha River, which courses along the eastern boundary in a flooded torrent during the height of the rains, but dwindling thereafter to a scattering of precious pools surrounded by a blinding sweep of sand rock. A fine network of game-viewing roads follows the Great Ruaha and its seasonal tributaries, where – during the dry season – impala, waterbuck and other antelopes risk their life for a sip of life-sustaining water. And the risk is considerable not only from the prides of 20-plus lion that lord over the savannah, but also from the cheetahs that stalk the open grassland and the leopards that lurk in tangled revering thickets. This impressive array of large predators is boosted by both striped and spotted hyena, as well as several conspicuous parks of the highly endangered African wild dog.

Ruaha’s unusually diversity of antelope is a function of its location, which is transitional to the acacia savannah of East Africa and the miombo woodland belt of Southern Africa Grant’s gazelle and lesser kudu occur here at the very south of their range, alongside the miombo-associated sable and roan antelope, and one of East Africa’s largest population of greater kudu, the park emblem, distinguished by the male’s magnificent corkscrew horns. A similar duality is noted in the checklist of 450 birds the likes of crested barbet – an attractive yellow-and black bird whose persistent trilling is a characteristic sound of the southern bush – occur in Ruaha alongside central Tanzania endemics such as the yellow – collared lovebird and ashy starling.

SELOUS GAME RESERVE NATIONAL PARK

The Selous is Africa’s largest game reserve with a very high quality game viewing area offering a wonderful mix of driving, walking and river safaris. The Selous Game Reserve has an area of more than 50,000 sq km making it the world’s largest conserved area excluding Polar Regions. Selous is three times bigger than the Serengeti National Park. The reserve is a World Heritage Site and covers almost 6% of Tanzania’s land. The Selous takes its name from the famous hunter and conservationist Frederick Courteney Selous who was killed in action in WW1 within the now Selous. His grave lies close to the Beho Beho Hills and can be seen on a game-drive in that area.

The Selous Game Reserve is home to a high diversity of both large mammal and bird species. The Selous Game Reserve has over 60,000 elephants and 40,000 hippos. The world’s largest population of African Hunting Dogs exists in the reserve. Of Tanzania’s 1,113 different species of bird, 430 have been positively identified within the Selous Game Reserve.

The park is bisected by the Rufiji River which gives the park its distinctive character and beauty – a truly relaxed, peaceful place.

The northern sector of the park is the focal area for safaris with large herds of elephant and buffalo alongside a healthy population of lions and the elusive wild dog. The many thousands of wildebeest, zebra, impala, greater kudu, hartebeest and eland all add up to make this a truly rewarding game viewing experience. There is also an impressive array of birdlife.

Safaris in the Selous are mainly lodge based, with visitors enjoying early morning and late afternoon activities whilst otherwise relaxing and enjoying the environment within camp. The walking and fly-camping options available are a true highlight.