Mikumi National Park, the fourth largest one in Tanzania, has unique features compared to other safari parks in Tanzania. Firstly, it is one of the very few National Parks in the world which have a highway running through them. Also, it is only four hours’ drive from Dar es Salaam. Despite the easy access, it isn’t nearly as popular as the National Parks in Tanzania’s Northern Circuit. Some people might say it lacks the wilderness appeal being so close to civilization, but its flood plains attracting massive herds of Buffalo and elephants seem to disagree.
Mikumi National Park covers an area of 3 230 square kilometers near the town Morogoro in central Tanzania. It borders Selous Game Reserve, famous for its massive size and hunting grounds, in the south. This part of Tanzania constitutes a unique ecosystem surrounded by three mountain ranges- Udzungwa, Uluguru, and Malundwe. The highest point in the park is at Malundwe, with an elevation of 1 290 meters.
The Tanzanian highway A7 crosses the park in the middle, dividing it into two sections. The northern half comprises the Mkata plain, a river basin that gets flooded seasonally. The safari tours all take place in this part of the park. The plain has diverse vegetation that contains savannah, acacia, baobab, tamarind, and rare palm trees. The terrain further north is more jagged due to the mountains Rubeho and Uluguru. The most significant water source in this area is the Mkata River. The southern half of the park is mostly inaccessible, and it has somewhat skittish wildlife despite the abundance of grassland.
The northern section of Mikumi has a diverse wildlife population. The grassy plains of Mkata teem with hundreds of elephants, buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, and impala. As a result, the area is a common preference among predators. Lions are the most common, while leopards and hyena are rarer sights. The lions in the park are unique in the sense that they exhibit certain behaviors, such as climbing tree trunks.
The acacia trees are popular hangout spots for giraffes and elephants. The type of giraffe in Mikumi is a specific type that boasts features of both Masai giraffes and Somali giraffes.
The woodland towards the northern border is populous in rare antelope species like sable, greater kudu, eland, and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest.
There are two artificial lakes in the park, which are largely-populated by hippos.
The estimated number of bird species is over 400, which increases due to migratory birds from Europe. The endemic birds to look out for are lilac-breasted roller, yellow-throated longclaw and bateleur eagle, as well as hamerkop, and African fish eagle around the hippo pools.
Although the wildlife is limited to the northern half, Mikumi’s management knows how to utilize the area for safari tourism.
The wildlife rangers conduct safari tours twice a day. You have the option to choose the tours either in the morning, in the afternoon, or both. Each drive takes two hours along the 60 km circular road, and around the hippo pools that attract herds of many animals.
There are separate wildlife excursions for bird-watching, mainly around the hippo pools and the river.
The bush picnic around the hippo pools is a perfect way to enjoy Mikumi’s atmosphere while taking a break between safari tours. The sundown picnics with snacks and drinks are the most scenic options to see the best of the park during sunset.
If you are more of a sporty type, you can join nature walks and even bicycle safaris if the road conditions allow it. For hiking, you can go on a self-guided hike at Ulunguru Mountains and Udzungwa Waterfalls.
All activities include three meals, drinks, and snacks.
Climate And Best Time To Visit
Mikumi National Park, like the rest of Tanzania, experiences a hot and humid wet season, and a mild dry season.
The wet season is between November and May, where the amount of rainfall increases towards March. The rain between November and February is only in the form of afternoon showers; however, it becomes longer between March and May. The temperature ranges between 21 and 30 degrees.
June – September are the driest months, experiencing a minimum temperature at 18 degrees and sunny weather, with clear skies.
The dry season is the best time for wildlife viewing because the animals are attracted to the waterholes due to the scarcity of water sources. September and October see the biggest crowds of animals around the waterholes. On the other hand, April and May are the worst months to visit because of heavy rains and mud on the road.
Being only 286 km from Dar es Salaam, Mikumi National Park is very easy to reach. You can fly to Julius Nyerere International Airport from many destinations around the world. The airline company Safari Air Link organizes daily flights to Mikumi from Ruaha, Selous, Zanzibar, and Dar es Salaam.
You can also book a tour package that includes pickup from the airport or your accommodation in the city. It is straightforward to arrange transportation since Mikumi is very close to popular safari destinations like Selous and Ruaha.
There are also local buses running between Dar es Salaam and Mikumi via Morogoro; however, you need to check their timetable for the last bust if you are visiting only for the day.
Tips And Things You Might Need To Know
- Tanzania has a high risk of Malaria. We recommend that you take precautionary anti-malarial pills before, during, and after your trip. Also, you must wear long-sleeved T-shirts at night and during safari tours. Don’t forget to pack DEET-containing insect repellents.
- There are three types of accommodation in Mikumi. You can select between three campsites, two luxury tented camps- Camp Bastian, Morio Campsite, and three safari lodges – Mikumi Adventure Lodge, Tan Swiss Lodge, and Matembezi.
- Alternatively, you can look for bed and breakfast options in Mikumi town.