The southern portion of Tanzania is far less developed, tourists are just discovering this region, but there is access to some of the best game parks in Africa. Southern Tanzania is also an important agricultural area producing large crops of maize, coffee and tea. Selous, Katavi and Ruaha are several of the most popular destinations in this part of the country offering remote, untouched wilderness and abundant wildlife. Selous Game Reserve is a World Heritage site and the largest game reserve in Africa.Southern Tanzania has spectacular natural and cultural highlights with many unique safari opportunities offered.
Selous Game Reserve
Selous Game Reserve was named for Captain Frederick Selous, a British conservationist, explorer and hunter who wrote a book about his travels and the region. Captain Selous was President Theodore Roosevelt's escort on a trip in 1909, he was killed during WW I by a German sniper and buried overlooking the Beho Beho River.Selous is the largest game reserve in Africa, established in 1922, it covers 5% of Tanzania's total area. The southern area is a forbidden area that is undeveloped heavily forested and contains a series of steep cliffs. Travelers are limited to the area north of the Rufiji River. This area of the Selous Game Reserve has large open grassland, woodlands, rivers, hills and plains. The best time to visit is July through October.The Rufiji River bisects the Selous Game Reserve and has the largest catchment area of any river in East Africa. The river is an important feature of the reserve providing the opportunity to watch the diverse water-based wildlife. A broad range of game can be found including elephants, hippos and rhinos as well as buffalo, antelope, giraffe, warthog, wildebeest, lion, leopard and cheetah. The diversity of bird life in Selous includes over 350 recorded species.Steigler's Gorge is another impressive part of Selous Game Reserve. It was named for a German explorer who was killed by an elephant in 1907. A cable car spans Stiegler's Gorge for a better view of the rushing waters.
Mikumi National Park
Mikumi National Park borders the Selous Game Reserve. The abundant wildlife, attracted to the lush vegetation, includes lions, eland, zebra, wildebeest, elephant, hippo and giraffe. Eland, the world's largest antelope, are frequently sighted around the Mkata Floodplain. Mikumi is the most reliable destination in Tanzania for viewing the eland. Several observation towers in the park allow visitors to view the entire park.Over 400 bird species have been recorded in Mikumi National Park such as storks, pelicans, herons, ibis, eagles and kites. Many species found in Mikumi are rarely seen in the northern game parks of Tanzania.Mikumi National Park is the location for several educational and research centers such as the ongoing field study of yellow baboons.
Ruaha National Park
Ruaha National Park is the least accessible park in Tanzania and as a result of the remoteness the landscape remains untouched. Birdwatcher's can enjoy over 400 species of bird that are not found in northern Tanzania and the river, spectacular gorges and majestic trees are especially appealing to photographers.As Tanzania's second largest park, Ruaha has large herds of buffalo, elephant and gazelle. The concentration of elephants are some of the largest in Tanzania, they travel in herds led by matriarchs.The Great Ruaha River is the main feature of Ruaha National Park providing magnificent wildlife viewing on the banks. The river also provides much of the electricity to Tanzania through a hydroelectric dam at Kidatu.
Udzungwa Mountains National Park
Udzungwa Mountains National Park is a forested area that is home to several species of primates, including the rare Iringa red colobus and the Sange crested mangabey monkey. Fragments of the Eastern Arc Mountains rise from the Udzungwa rainforest below and views from the peaks allow climbers to see the Selous Game Reserve and the coast of the Indian Ocean.There are many hiking trails in Udzungwa Mountains National Park that wind through various sections of the park. The most popular route is the half-day ramble to Sanje Waterfall.Mountain climbing is a popular activity that draws many visitors. Climbers can follow the trail up to Mwanihana Peak, the second highest point in the park or Luhombero Peak, the most challenging trail.The diverse wildlife includes the forest antelope and vervet monkeys as well as hippos, crocodiles, elephants and leopards. A number of endangered bird species have been recorded in Udzungwa Mountains National Park.
Iringa is a small town located at the heart of the tea industry in Tanzania. Maize, vegetables, fruits and tobacco are also grown around Iringa making it an agricultural center and home to a wonderfully colorful market.Many Germans settled in Iringa and left behind a collection of German colonial architecture, which is found in the old Boma, town hall, hospital and post office. Several battles took place in Iringa during the first and second world wars and the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery has graves of the deceased.Northeast of Iringa is the Gangilonga Rock, the legendary spot where Chief Mkwawa met with his tribe to strategize about their fight with the Germans in 1894. The Chief was defeated in 1898 but committed suicide rather than risk being captured.
Isimila Stone Age Site
Isimila Stone Age Site is an Acheulean site where tools, stone artifacts and bones were found in a dry bed that was once a shallow lake. Discovered in 1951 and excavated in 1957, soil erosion exposed many items at Isimila. Tools that were found include axes, cleavers and spherical stones and they are believed to date from 60,000 years ago.Many fossilized bones believed to be those of mammals related to the modern giraffes, but with much shorter necks and an extinct form of hippopotamus with periscope-like eyes that protrude were uncovered.Isimila appears to have been a watering hole and a place to hunt for early hominoids.The area surrounding Isimila Stone Age Site is known as Isimila Gully with pillars of limestone that were left standing by erosion over the millennia. This site is worth the journey and has become a popular picnic spot.
Mbeya, founded in the late 1920's, is the capital of southern Tanzania. The town came about as a supply center when the gold rush hit the Lupa gold mines. Mbeya is ideal as a base for travelers wanting to explore the Southern Highlands of Tanzania.Mbeya offers trout fishing in the mountains to the south, and for hikers, some of the best trekking in the Poroto Mountains. The hills around Mbeya are full of heather and bracken.Excursions from Mbeya could include a visit to Galula, with its imposing Catholic Church built by the French White Fathers and evidence of Iron Age and late Stone Age sites. Southwest of the town is the Mbozi Meteorite, believed to have landed over 1,000 years ago.
Mikindani was named for the young palm trees (mikinda) that grow around the town. The protected lagoon at Mikindani has an admirable harbor that has provided for generations of fishermen and traders. Arabian traders in the 9th and 18th C settled in Mikindani.Mikindani is a fascinating town with winding streets and a blend of thatched mud houses and coral houses influenced by Arabic architecture. Balconies on the upper floor, flat roofs and ornate doorways are evidence of the Arabian influence.Dr. David Livingstone set out from Mikindani on his final expedition in 1866.Mikindani is the perfect location as a base for exploring the surrounding area.
The German Boma was built in 1895 and served as a fort and administrative center. At the time Old Boma was built, Mikindani was one of the most important ports in Tanzania at the time. The Old Boma is located on the side of a hill overlooking the Indian Ocean. This national monument has been restored as a hotel while still retaining its original features. The renovations took over 3 years due to the poor condition of the Boma.The tower at Old Boma is ideal for magnificent views over the town.
Lukwika-Lumesule Game Reserve
Lukwika-Lumesule Game Reserve is the most southerly game reserve in Tanzania and one of the least visited wilderness areas in Africa. The Ruvuma River is the border between Lukwika-Lumesule and Mozambique. Many of the animals wade across, while hippos and crocodiles lounge in the river. Large concentrations of elephants migrate across the river to the southern edge of the Lukwika-Lumesule Game Reserve.Other animals that have been spotted in the dense vegetation include lions, leopards, antelope, elands, greater kudus and plentiful bird species.During the hunting season, July to December, Lukwika-Lumesule Game Reserve is closed to visitors.
Mtwara is a small town located in one of the more remote locations in Tanzania. Mtwara was originally built by the British to take advantage of a groundnut scheme that eventually failed.Mnazi Bay-Ruvuma Estuary Marine Park is nearby Mtwara providing opportunity for tourists to visit some of the most isolated diving sites on the coast.The appeal to tourists is the easy access to Mtwara, the sheltered harbor, and the relaxed atmosphere. Mtwara is close to the Mozambique border so it has become the main entry point from Tanzania.St Paul's Church in Mtwara features Biblical scenes painted by German priests.
Mnazi Bay Marine Reserve
Mnazi Bay Marine Reserve is noted for the miles of white sand, the coral reefs close to the shore, and excellent snorkeling opportunities. Mnazi Bay Marine Reserve is a protected area encompassing 650 square kilometers.Msimbati Beach is a white sandy beach with plenty of swimming available at most times of the day. A coral reef lies just offshore and turtles are common in the area. Msimbati Island has the remains of a deserted house belonging to the self-proclaimed "Sultan of Msimbati", actually he was Leslie Latham Moore, an eccentric Englishman.