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Tanzania National Parks


KataviNational Park
Set within the remote arm of the Rift Valley that terminates in the shallow, brooding expanse of Lake Rukwa, Katavi is East Africa’s best-kept game viewing secret. The third-largest national park in Tanzania at 4,500 sq km, this isolated and untrammelled tract of wilderness remains one of the few reserves where you might drive around for days without encountering another tourist – a thrilling taste of Africa as it must have been a century ago. Katavi is the archetypal dry season park. Practically a no-go area during the rains, it comes into its own during the dry season, when the muddy trickle of the Katuma River forms the only source of drinking water for miles around, and the flanking floodplains support game concentrations that defy belief – including some of Africa’s most impressive concentrations of buffalo, elephant, hippo and crocodile.
Mikumi National Park
Possibly because it is bisected by the surfaced main road to Zambia, Mikumi has never acquired the near-mystical status of more remote counterparts such as Ruaha and Katavi. But the very accessibility of this 3,230 sq km sanctuary – the country’s fourth-largest national park and an extension of the 150,000 sq km Selous-Niassa ecosystem – makes it a thoroughly attractive goal for a self-contained weekender out of Dar es Salaam, or as an initial pit stop on a more extensive safari through southern Tanzania. Those who do make the effort to visit Mikumi can expect to encounter few other tourists and plenty of wildlife – indeed the park’s open horizons and high wildlife concentrations have drawn frequent comparisons to the more famous Serengeti Plains.
Saadani National Park
This recently gazetted national park bills itself as ‘where the beach meets the bush’ and it is indeed the only viable African wildlife sanctuary to boast an Indian Ocean beachfront. As such, it shares many attributes with the rest of East Africa’s legendarily beautiful tropical coastline – but with the added frisson that an afternoon’s sunbathing might be interrupted by an elephant or baboon strolling past en route to a nearby waterhole!
Such hedonistic concerns aside, this under-publicized gem of a reserve protects a full 1,000 sq km of coastal bush inhabited by creatures as diverse as hippos, lions, dolphins, green turtles, vervet monkeys, pythons, seagulls, egrets and eagles – in short, it’s the ideal wildlife-lover’s alternative to the more crowded and developed beaches around Zanzibar and Dar Es Salaam.

Udzungwa Mountains National Park
This little-visited 1,990 sq km park protects part of the Udzungwa Massif, the largest and most biodiverse of a chain of a dozen Tanzanian ranges known collectively as the Eastern Arc. Swathed in closed-canopy forest with an altitudinal span of 250-2,000m, Udzungwa, is not a conventional game viewing destination, and its vast potential for hikers, birdwatchers and primate lovers is hampered by limited tourist development. The bird checklist of 400-plus species includes the eagerly sought green-headed oriole and endemic Udzungwa hill partridge, discovered in 1991. The park is also a stronghold for three endemic monkeys: Iringa red colobus, Sanje crested mangabey and the recently discovered kipunji. Walking possibilities include a half-day ramble to Sanje Waterfall and the more challenging two-night Mwanihana Trail. continued on next page...

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