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Tanzania National Parks

Rubondo Island National Park
This little-visited park, set in the remote southwest of Lake Victoria, protects the 240 sq km island for which it named, along with 11 smaller uninhabited islets. It was originally gazetted as a kind of ‘floating zoo’ for the introduction and protection of rare forest wildlife, a plan that led to the introduction of chimpanzee, black-and-white colobus, elephant and giraffe, but was abandoned in 1973. Today, the main wildlife attraction is the ease of locating the normally elusive sitatunga antelope and spot-necked otter, and the tremendous variety of water-associated and forest birds such as African fish eagle and African grey parrot. A pleasant midrange tented camp and recent introduction of scheduled flights make this a worthwhile tag-on to a standard Serengeti safari.
Minziro Forest Reserve
Sandwiched between the Uganda border and the Kagera River, west of Lake Victoria, this is the most important forest in Tanzania when it comes to wildlife more normally associated with West Africa. It supports around 50 bird species otherwise unrecorded in Tanzania, including such stunners as great blue turaco, white-bellied kingfisher, chestnut wattle-eye and red-headed bluebill. At least 500 butterfly species occur here alongside typical West African mammals such as grey-cheeked mangabey, red-legged sun squirrel and Peters’ duiker, while swamps fringing the Kagera River harbour the likes of sitatunga and papyrus gonolek. Access isn’t easy and facilities are non-existent by comparison to similar forests in Uganda and Rwanda.

Mkomazi Game Reserve: This 3,700 sq km extension of Kenya’s vast Tsavo National Park ranks among the most neglected of Tanzania’s protected areas, despite its close proximity to Moshi and Kilimanjaro. This might well change, however, following recent rumours it is to be upgraded to full national park status. Mkomazi doesn’t offer game viewing to compare with the likes of the Serengeti, but for those who want to escape the tourist treadmill, the wild semi-arid scenery and scarcity of other tourists will compensate. Most large mammal species associated with the likes of Tarangire are present, and it is the best place in Tanzania to seek out dry country antelope such as gerenuk and lesser kudu, as well as being the site of an important breeding project for the African wild dog. A bird checklist of 400 species includes several dry-country specials at the southern extent of their range. Any safari could tag Mkomazi onto a longer safari, with the option of camping within the park or overnighting at a basic hotel in the nearby town of Same.

Kitulo Plateau National Park: In 2006, Kitulo became the first national park in equatorial Africa to be gazetted largely for its floral significance. Perched between the wild peaks of the Poroto and Livingstone Mountains, the 442 sq km park consists of a 2,600m-high plateau referred to locally as Bustani ya Mungu (God’s Garden) or the ‘Serengeti of Flowers’, in reference to its spectacular wildflower displays. Some 350 vascular plant species (of which 10% are endemic) include 45 terrestrial orchids, and a selection of red-hot pokers, aloes, proteas, giant lobelias and lilies. Wildlife is thin on the ground, but includes eland, mountain reedbuck, avian rarities such as the blue swallow, mountain marsh widow and Kipengere seedeater, and endemic species of butterfly, chameleon, lizard and frog.

Amani Nature Sanctuary: Centred on a century-old German botanical garden high in the forested Eastern Usambara, this under-publicized sanctuary is primarily of interest to birdwatchers, though it also hosts forest mammals, including monkeys, small antelope and giant elephant-shrew. The Eastern Usambara, like Udzungwa, forms part of the Eastern Arc Mountains and is known for its wealth of endemics, most familiarly the small flowering ‘African violets’ of the genus Saintpaulia, which are popular pot plant in the US and Europe. The 340 recorded bird species include a dozen that are globally threatened. Amani receives few visitors, but it is reasonably accessible from Moshi and Tanga, and the old botanical gardens boast decent accommodation and superb birdwatching, as well as serving as the trailhead for guided walks deeper into the forest.

 
   
 
 
   
 
   

     
 
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