Mkomazi is in the East of Tanzania, in the shadow of the mighty Kilimanjaro and not far from the other much more famous parks in the area: Tarangire and of course the Serengeti. Many people, travelling between safaris, or heading north from Dar es Salaam, come incredibly close to this hidden gem without even realising it. Yet it’s only in recent times that it has been getting the attention that it deserves.
Until the 1980s, Mkomazi was overlooked by tourists and governments alike, being less famous than the other nearby safari parks. However, poaching, hunting and pastoralism threatened the area’s natural ecosystem, to the extent that two very rare animals, the Black Rhinoceros and the African Wild Dog were almost driven to extinction, and disappeared from the area completely.
With intervention from conservationist charities and the Tanzanian government, Mkomazi has been a huge success story in bringing these animals, and the ecosystem of Mkomazi itself, back from the brink. For the opportunity to see some of the true treasures of Africa, the Black Rhinoceros and the African Wild Dog, as well as a unique and important ecosystem, Mkomazi is a safari that simply shouldn’t be passed by.
While parks in the East of Tanzania are famous for their grazing animals; antelope and wildebeest, and their predators; lions and hyenas, the safari park of Mahale is known for another type of animal entirely; the chimpanzees. Mahale has the highest population of chimpanzees in Africa, and they are also accustomed to human visitors, making this your best opportunity to see one of Earth’s most famous primates at home in their natural habitat. The larger numbers and friendly attitude of Mahale’s chimps mean that it’s not such a struggle to see them, though depending on the time of year it may take anywhere from an hour or two to an entire day to find them.
Chimpanzees aren’t all that Mahale has to offer either. Another reason many visitors love to spend their time mostly in the east of Tanzania is thanks to the wonderful beaches and pristine waters of the Indian Ocean. Though it’s not on the ocean, Mahale can offer you the same, some might even say a better, experience, with soft, pure white sand and crystal clear waters on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.
You’ll have just as much opportunity to relax in Mahale on the gorgeous beaches, the calls of wild birds sounding in the distance and the Mahale Mountains rising up from the horizon behind you. Even better, you can do this all just outside your lodge, if you choose to stay in the famous Greystoke Mahale, situated right on the beach front. Being less well known and smaller than the eastern beach lodges, you’ll almost have the beach to yourself on an evening.
The last, and least well known but certainly not least impressive, safari park we want to tell you about is the Katavi National Park unspoiled, untamed and almost untouched, a perfect place for experiencing the isolation and history of a pre-human Africa.
In 2005, the total number of visitors to Katavi was roughly 250, and possibly as many as 700 in 2008. Compared to the number of tourists visiting Tanzania as a whole, which reached over 1 million in 2013 alone, Katavi really is less well known, and far less crowded, despite being Tanzania’s third largest national park, in terms of area covered.
Katavi is home to the Katuma River, which in the wet season also creates a surrounding floodplain, perfect for viewing rare wading birds, hippo and crocodiles. The real treat for Katavi, though, is during the dry season, when the river and floodplains dry up and much of the local wildlife have to come to a much smaller area to find the water they need. This is your chance to see a huge array of animals and some truly amazing displays.
To keep themselves hydrated, entire, massive herds of hippos must come together to share small smaller mudholes, which also leads to aggression between males and frequent outbursts of fighting. Herds of grazing animals must pass by or stay in the area to make sure that they stay watered, and the lions and hyenas know to expect them, so you can also take the opportunity to see predators and prey come together frequently.
All this, and you get to visit it in practical isolation, knowing that Katavi is as it has always been. Katavi is our recommendation for a true taste of African wilderness that can be achieved almost nowhere else.