Mikumi National Park

Mikumi National Park is your ideal first Safari experience if you want a relatively small park with wide open floodplains and an abundance of game. It also makes a thrilling weekend get-away from Dar es Salaam. Mikumi is just 3,230 km2, but part of a huge ecosystem adjoining the largest game reserve in Africa, the Selous, so you’ll benefit from the animal populations migrating across the border

Mikumi National Park shares a border with the infamous Selous game reserve, so you will not encounter too many tourists here as they tend to go to the much larger Selous instead. What’s great about Mikumi is you benefit from the mighty game population that migrates over the border from the huge ecosystem of the Selous, which means there is an abundance of wildlife for you to experience on the wide, grassy floodplains of the Mkata River. The only negative is that the Tanzam highway runs through the park, which detracts a little from the feeling of wilderness, but makes Mikumi easy to reach by car.

 

The Beautiful Mkata Floodplains

The open horizons of the Mkata floodplains are the centrepiece of Mikumi National Park, so impressive they are often compared to the plains of the Serengeti. You’ll see game roaming freely across the vast, grassy spaces dotted with Acacia woodland and the odd Baobab tree. The Uluguru Mountains provide a stunning backdrop to the north and the Rubeho Mountains border the southeast of the park. Professional wildlife photographers love this park for its natural beauty and superb lighting.

The Abundant Wildlife

Your heart will skip a beat when you witness game migrating across the border from the Selous – herds of wandering wildebeest, zebras, giraffes and elephants, packs of wild dogs, and the more unusual greater kudu and eland (the world’s largest antelope). It’s an experience like no other, feeling the ground vibrate beneath you with the stamping of hooves, the smell, the dust, the sounds, as a herd of wildebeest passes by. It awakens the senses.

You are likely to see lions lazing in the shade beneath the Acacia trees and you may encounter a leopard, as they are more common in Mikumi in recent years. Black-backed jackal and spotted hyenas are present, but be patient as these hunters are more elusive. You will marvel at the “midget” elephants – much smaller than a normal African elephant, with short, thin tusks. Visit the hippos lurching and snapping at eachother in two cool pools north of the entrance gate – they are a star attraction. If you love birds, you’ll be in paradise as over 400 bird species have been recorded, some with dazzling colour like the yellow-throated longclaw, the red-billed oxpecker and the violet-crested turaco.

Activities

On a game drive, you can cover the 60km circuit that criss-crosses the park in two full days. Guided walks are available if you would like to get up close and personal with nature. You’ll be accompanied by a guide and an armed ranger. Book a night safari for a chance of seeing the nocturnal honey badger. Spotted hyenas are vociferous at night, so you have a good chance of encountering them. How about a flying safari? This gives unbeatable views of migrating wildlife and is perfect if you have limited time in the area. Visit nearby Udzungwa or travel on to Selous or Ruaha.

Accommodation

In the park itself, there are two excellent mid-range lodges, three tented camps and three campsites. These all seem to cater for expats and not tourists, so are well-priced. If wondering which type of accommodation to choose, you might like the experience of hearing animals walking around and beneath the elevated tents of a tented camp. Staying in a lodge close to a watering hole is especially good in the dry season as it attracts many animals. Camping in Mikumi National Park is permitted in the established campgrounds. Keeping a fire going all night is recommended. Some lodges are closed from March to May.

Best Time to Visit

Game driving in Mikumi National Park is good throughout the year, but the best time for you to visit is during the dry season from June to October. Animals gather at the water holes and the vegetation is at its thinnest.

How to Get There

Mikumi National Park is in central Tanzania, north of the Selous game reserve. Mikumi is the closest park to Dar es Salaam, 250km away and a 4 hour drive along a surfaced road. Local buses run from city to park. The village of Mikumi is at the park’s western entrance, 15km from the gate.