Dar es Salaam Travel and Tanzania Southern Safari Circuit
While on safari in Dar es Salaam, you, like many other travelers, may also find it worthy visit other Tanzania tour destinations like Selous game reserve and Mikumi, Udzungwa and Ruaha national parks, which fall in the country’s southern safari circuit. Mikumi National park for example is just a few hours’ drive away. It also takes two hours to Zanzibar by ferry, and an even shorter time by flight. You can arrange day trips from Dar to nearby islands through some Dar es Salaam hotels including White Sands and Bahari Beach hotels.
Mikumi national park occupies 3,230 sq km and hosts a great diversity of African wildlife. Animal species found there include lion, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, zebra, warthog, and several antelope species. The park is also home to hippos, monitor lizards, and crocodiles and a good number of the endangered wild dogs. During the wet season, up to 300 bird species gather in Mikumi, many of which are migratory birds for Europe and Asia. The most dominant feature of Mikumi national park is its flood plain, which borders Uluguru mountains and Lumango hills range. Mikumi lies on the Northern border of Selous game reserve, forming a vast ecosystem of wilderness covering 75,000 sq. km. The plains of Mikumi are covered by grassland while miombo woodlands are found on the higher grounds.
Unlike several other destinations in the southern safari circuit, Mikumi is accessible throughout the year. The park is only four hours by road and one hour by flight from Dar es Salaam. If you are on a budget safari, you can take a bus ride to the park gate then organize game drives from there. You can get limited accommodation at the few luxury lodges and tented camps in the park. There are also three campsites. Mikumi is the ideal wildlife safari destination if you find yourself in Dar on a weekend.
The 1,990 sq km Udzungwa Mountains National Park is 348 km west of Dar and 65 km southwest of Mikumi. The mountains are part of the Eastern Arc Mountains that fall southeast of Kilimanjaro. The park is unique in Tanzania, having been created primarily to conserve plant life. The pristine mountain forest habitat hosts numerous rare plants. There are six primate species, out of which two species are endemic – the Iringa red colobus monkey and the Sanje Crested Mangabey. At the plateau area, you find elephants, lions, hunting dogs and buffaloes, though not in as large numbers as in some of the other Tanzania parks. Birds also do well here, and indeed the park ranks as one of Africas most important bird conservation areas. Scientists have in recent times come across at least four previously unknown bird species. The best time to visit is over the dry season between June and October. The hiking trails over the wet season are slippery, which can be quite a nuisance.
The Ruaha National Park is rightly named after its lifeblood- the Great Ruaha River. Occupying 12,950 sq km, it is Tanzanias second largest national park and the world’s biggest elephant sanctuary. Home to numerous crocodiles and hippo, the Great Ruaha draws many thirsty water buck, leopard, buffalo, reed buck, wild dogs, lion and hyena to its banks. Plain animals such as zebra, greater and lesser kudu, sable and roan antelope, impala and giraffe are found on the plains stretching from the rivers edge. The topography is agreeable to hiking and walking safaris are allowed. In wet season months of March to April and October to November the bird population peaks and the park has over 370 bird species, including some Eurasian migrants.
The Ruaha national park has an amazingly diverse plant life with over 1650 plant species present. The greatest distinction of the park is its unique mix of both Eastern Africa and Southern Africa plant and animal life. Ruaha climate is hot and dry, with temperatures rising to 40 degrees Celsius in October. The park lies 128 km west of Iringa, a town in Central Tanzania. In the past, Ruaha was inaccessible though today there are roads that facilitate year round access. The journey from Dar to Ruaha takes 10 hours by road, and one and a half hours by charter flight. A safari to Ruaha is best taken in the dry months, May to December. During this season, the banks of Ruaha river a magnet to the many thirsty animals. Visitors get to witness a spectacular animal drama involving courting and mating, feeding, and fighting. The park has limited accommodation, with only one luxury lodge, plus some campsites and self-catering chalets.
The indisputable star of the southern safari circuit is the Selous game reserve, named after the celebrated Victoria era naturalist and explorer, Fredrick Courtney Selous. Fredrick Selous died here during the first world war, at a time when Tanzania was under German rule. The game reserve is situated 500 km southwest of Dar es Salaam, and occupies 55,000 sq. km, an area larger than Switzerland. Selous is the largest game reserve in Africa and was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1982. Diverse habitats cover the Selous wilderness, ranging from open savanna grasslands, to woodlands, forests, and swamps.
More than 2,100 plant and trees species have been recorded in Selous. The lifeblood of the reserve is the Rufiji river with its many tributaries and oxbow lakes suitable for boat safaris. Africa wild animals found in Selous include buffaloes, hippos, wild dogs, lions, black rhinos, bush bucks, water bucks, impalas, giraffes, zebras, greater kudus, reed bucks, elands, among others. The elephant population in Selous is estimated at over 60,000. Birdwatching enthusiasts too have something worth seeing in Selous, with over 420 bird species recorded. Due to the game reserve’s huge size, wildlife is widely scattered, just like in Ruaha. Visitors can best enjoy the park at a slow pace, taking 3-4 days. Selous provides a very rewarding photographic safari experience especially at Stiegler’s Gorge, a spot that leopards favor greatly.
From Dar, you arrive after a 1-” hour charter flight or by traveling for 7 hours by road. Travel by road is not advised, except for the most adventurous souls. Selous is near the coast and is just a few hundred feet above sea level. The climate is hot and humid, particularly between October and March. Part of the reserve is closed in the wet season between March and May. The best time to visit is over the dry season period of June to October. Then on safari you can walk, boat and ride a 4WD vehicle. Accommodation is limited to just a few luxury tented and no-frills camps.
Sadani game reserve is yet another Tanzania safari destination worth visiting. Situated in the North Coast, about 50km from Bagamoyo, the reserve gives the visitor a unique beach and bush experience. African game found there include elephants, buffaloes, giraffes, leopards, and zebras. To get to Sadani however, you have to make your own special transport arrangements.
Prior to traveling into Tanzania and Dar es Salaam, visitors coming from areas infected with yellow fever need to be vaccinated against yellow fever, and have certificate of vaccination as proof. Visitors from such regions as Europe, North America, New Zealand, and Australia are exempted from this requirement since yellow fever is not endemic in those regions. Tanzania’s forested northwest region is a yellow fever high-risk area. Malaria is also very prevalent in Tanzania and travelers are advised to take anti-malarial medication starting as early as two weeks before arrival. Other recommended vaccinations are typhoid, hepatitis A, and polio. Additionally, a visa is required for all visitors except those from some specified African and commonwealth countries. Where possible, acquire the visa from the Tanzanian embassy or high commission in your country in advance. Some international airlines may not allow you to board a Tanzania flight without the visa. Generally, visas are also attainable at such entry points as Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, and Zanzibar international airports, and border posts like Namanga gate on the border with Kenya.
It is easy to get to Dar es Salaam through the top travel hubs in Africa e.g Nairobi, Johannesburg and Addis Ababa. Within Tanzania, there are many domestic flights connecting Dar and other Tanzania airports like Dodoma airport and Kilimanjaro international airport. From Mombasa in Kenya, there are ferry services by sea to Dar es Salaam. Traveling within Dar city itself is easy by use of Taxis. Per every journey within the city center, the taxis charge a standard Tsh 2000. Visitors can also get to Zanzibar by ferry, with four choices available: a catamaran, a hydrofoil, and 2 ordinary boats. Before boarding the ferry for Zanzibar, you will have to produce the yellow fever vaccination certificate. You will also pay an additional US$ 5 for port charges, apart from just the boat fare.
Like most of Tanzania, it never gets really hot in Dar es Salaam. Average temperatures are in the 30 degrees Celsius range, with the hottest season being from October to March. It is therefore recommended that you carry light clothing, i.e. short sleeved shirts, trousers and shorts for men, and short sleeved blouses, skirts and slacks for ladies. Nudity is nevertheless unacceptable in the entire country. If touring the highland areas of Tanzania, you may need warmer clothing like sweaters for the evenings and early mornings.