Selous Game Reserve is located in south-east Tanzania and is the largest protected wildlife reserve in Africa. It covers 5% of all Tanzania, over 50,000 square kilometres and has within its boundaries a huge diversity of terrain and habitat. Because of its size and location, it is largely unspoilt, allowing the visitor to experience safari in the true wilderness far from civilization. Created in the early part of the last century, Selous reached its present size in 1975.
Perhaps the most striking feature of the reserve is the Rufiji River Delta, a large area of wetland that is home to a large variety of animals and birds. It is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Africa, a paradise for the photographer. As well as the wetlands and waterways, it also offers ancient forest, scrubland and hills. Most visitors view its northern areas, nearest to Dar es Salaam leaving vast tracts almost untouched to the south.
In the Delta the Rufiji River meets with another, the Great Ruaha River, to create a fascinating system of waterways. This includes the Stigglers Gorge and along their courses hippos and crocodiles can be seen. Because of this terrain, boat game-drives are becoming a popular alternative to the vehicle ones, giving the visitor a different perspective on the reserve. As it is a Game reserve rather than a National Park more activities are allowed, meaning that you can enjoy hiking safaris and even fly-in to remote areas for overnight camps.
With plenty of hippos and elephant enjoying the abundant water and lush grazing, there is plenty of large game to view. Because of this abundance, there is also a good population of lions, as well as cheetah and leopards. It is still home to the endangered black rhino and has large herds of many of the grazers. Because of its position in the south of East Africa, it offers the bird-watcher an interesting mixture of both Eastern and Southern African birds.
Ruaha National Park is located in south-central Tanzania. Remote and untamed, Ruaha is the destination in Tanzania for a safari away from the crowds. Its vast landscape is primarily rugged, semi-arid bush country, bordered by the Great Ruaha river to the east and the Mzombe river to the west, with rocky outcrops and sandy river tributaries. As the meeting point between East and Southern Africa, it experiences diverse habitats and wildlife.
Wildlife here includes lion, cheetah, leopard, buffalo, elephant, African wild dog and antelope including the greater and lesser kudu and Grant’s gazelle. There are more than 450 species of birdlife, and the birding during the wet season (January to April) is excellent.
Mikumi National Park is situated along the northern border of the Selous. At 3,230 sq km (1,250 sq miles), it is the fourth-largest park in Tanzania, and part of a much larger ecosystem centred on the vast Selous Game Reserve. Mikumi is within easy reach of Dar es Salaam, because it is bisected by the main highway to Zambia.
The open horizons and abundant wildlife of the Mkata Floodplain, the popular centrepiece of Mikumi, draw frequent comparisons to the more famous Serengeti Plains. Zebra, wildebeest, impala and buffalo herds migrate across Mikumi and resident predators prey onthe migrates. Giraffes forage in the isolated acacia stands that fringe the Mkata River, islets of shade favoured also by Mikumi's elephants.
Criss-crossed by a good circuit of game-viewing roads, the Mkata Floodplain is perhaps the most reliable place in Tanzania for sightings of the powerful eland, the world's largest antelope. The equally impressive greater kudu and sable antelope haunt the miombo-covered foothills of the mountains that rise from the park's borders.
More than 400 bird species have been recorded, with such colourful common residents as the lilac-breasted roller, yellow-throated longclaw and bateleur eagle joined by a host of European migrants during the rainy season
Udzungwa Mountains National Park is perhaps Tanzania's most important sanctuary of terrestrial biodiversity.
Udzungwa's 1,900km2 of land ranges from canopied rainforest through arid woodland to barren semi-desert. It is the only site in East Africa with an unbroken canopy forest stretching from lowland altitudes of 250m to montane forests at over 2,000m above sea level.
Consequently a full quarter of Udzungwa's floral species are endemic, and it has the highest ratio of endemic fauna of any East African range. Its most exalted endemic residents are primates: the Sanje crested mangabey, the Matunda galago and the Uhehe red colobus.
Udzungwe has many other mammals, though not the typical safari game you'd expect of Tanzanian reserves. Its mountains are fascinating to bird watchers, with at least 400 recorded species, 25 endemic. Udzungwe is an esoteric safari destination, but true nature lovers should not pass up the opportunity to experience it.
The Kitulo Plateau National Park is a Tanzania safari park situated above the Great Rift Valley in the southern highlands. It is a protected area that includes the Kitulo Plateau and the adjacent Livingstone Forest. The park is known locally as “God’s Garden” or the “Serengeti of Flowers”. It is a fairly new Tanzania safari park and was established in 2005.
It is the only park in the tropical African regions dedicated to the protection of wild flora and due to the fact that it is still relatively unknown; the visitor numbers are quite low, which is good news for those looking for a more exclusive and uncrowded experience. The Plateau has a unique mix of Afromontane and Afroalpine grasslands where for about six months of the year during the rainy season from November to April – is covered in a beautiful carpet of indigenous flowers. There are over 40 species of orchid as well as plenty of irises, aloes and geraniums. The total amount of plant species found in this Tanzania safari destination is 350. The Plateau is also home to a large diversity of birds including large breeding colonies of Blue Swallows, Denhams Bustard, Lesser Kestrel and the Pallid Harrier and there are thousands of butterflies as well. Although there is a collection of wild game in this region, the attraction here is definitely the flora and the best way to explore the Plateau is on a walking safari or hiking. The best time for hiking is between the months of September and November when the soil is not so wet. The wildflower displays peak between December and April and the weather from June to August can be quite cold and foggy – not the best conditions for walking or hiking.