Southern Parks of Tanzania
A 12-day Exploration of Tanzania's Remote Southern Parks
Southern Parks of Tanzania
Most visitors to Tanzania tend to travel to the more famous northern parks such as the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. However, far from the crowded northern safari circuit, the southern parks offer abundant game, vast landscapes, and a remote, wilderness experience. On this private 12-day journey across southern Tanzania, you’ll soak up this wild atmosphere as you explore some of the largest wildlife reserves in Africa. Visit the enormous Selous Game Reserve, the baobab studded plains of Ruaha National Park, and hike to a spectacular waterfall in the rainforests of the Udzungwa Mountains. Your accommodation will be in small lodges and a remote tented camp deep in the bush of Tanzania.
Your adventure begins in the bustling city of Dar es Salaam, on the Indian Ocean coast for a night before the journey south to the vast Selous Game Reserve. On game drives through the reserve's diverse habitats of rivers, lakes, and forest you'll encounter abundant game and birds. Enjoy a boat cruise on the Great Rufuji River with it's large population of hippos and crocs. Passing through mountainous scenery and rural villages, you'll next explore Mikumi National Park. Sit quietly at one of the many waterholes and watch the wildlife come and go.
Your journey continues as you drive over mountain passes and through baobab filled valleys to the spectacular Ruaha National Park. The remote Ruaha Park is well known for big cats, large elephant herds, and beautiful scenery. Spend your days searching for game by vehicle and on foot then return to camp and fall asleep to the roaring lions. Your safari ends at the small but stunning Udzungwa Mountains National Park. The Udzungwas rise steeply from the valley floor and are covered with verdant rain forests. This park is home to over 10 rare primates and many birds. Hike the forest trails to the top of Sanje Falls, keeping an eye out for the endemic Udzungwa Red Colobus Monkey. Return to Dar es Salaam for onward flights.
Please note: This is a sample itinerary and we're happy to work with you to customize this safari to your interests and budget.
Learn More About The Southern Parks of Tanzania
Day 1 | Arrive in Dar es Salaam | The Slipway Hotel | Bed & Breakfast
Upon arrival at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, you will be met and transferred to the Hotel Slipway to rest up from the flight before starting our journey south.
The Hotel Slipway is ideally located about 40 minutes from the airport (depending on traffic!) on the Msasani Peninsula overlooking Msasani Bay and the Indian Ocean. The air-conditioned rooms are bright and breezy, with handcrafted wooden furniture, bright Indian bed throws, and sea-facing balconies. The hotel is integrated into the Slipway complex with restaurants, bars, coffee-shops, bookstores, and local shops selling Tanzanian artwork – all right on your doorstep. There is also a small supermarket and bank if you need any last-minute safari supplies.
Day 2 | Dar es Salaam to Selous | Selous River Camp | Full Board
Your guide will meet you at the Hotel Slipway for a safari briefing, then you'll depart with a picnic-lunch to the outskirts of Selous (pronounced seloo) Game Reserve, a road journey of about 6 hours. Arrive at the Selous River Camp in the early afternoon and check-in. Relax in the afternoon and then head out for a boat safari (2-3 hours) on the Great Rufiji River outside the Reserve.
Selous River Camp is a small, award-winning safari lodge, set within a forest high above the Rufiji River on the very edge of the Selous Game Reserve. Accommodation is provided in a traditional Mudhut room, which is crafted by Tanzanian methods from earth, sticks and sisal rope and thatched with doum palm leaves. The inside of the Mudhut is fully decorated and furnished with unique rustic furniture and an en-suite bathroom features a flushing toilet and a hot water shower. Each Mudhut is facing the river with its many hippos and crocs and amazing sunsets.
Days 3-4 | Selous Game Reserve | Selous River Camp | Full Board
The next two days will be spent in the Selous searching for birds and wildlife on game drives. A typical day starts early. Your guide will pack a picnic lunch as you’ll be spending the entire day exploring this vast Reserve. Five lakes and the mighty Rufiji River are the focal points of the photographic sector with a stunning variety of habitats and landscapes. Selous has the largest population of the endangered Wild Dog and chances are high to come across buffalo, crocodiles, elephant, giraffe, hippo, hyena, lion, waterbuck, wildebeest, zebra and many more. You will also be astounded by the bird life variety. Each evening return to your accommodation at Selous River Camp.
Selous Game Reserve, covering nearly 20,000 square miles and bigger than Switzerland, is Africa’s largest reserve and one of the largest protected areas on earth. Besides the plentiful game and diverse habitats, the Selous sees far fewer visitors than the more famous Serengeti or Ngorongoro. The northern region has been allocated for photographic safaris while the southern region is mainly a collection of hunting concessions. The reserve is named after Fredrick Selous, an early hunter and explorer in southern and eastern Africa, who was killed by German soldiers in this region during World War 1. The Selous was established in 1922 and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.
The Great Rufiji River bisects the northern half of the reserve as it flows through acacia woodlands, swamps, and grassland. The river sprawls out across the landscape into a series of lakes and deltas which ebb and flow with the rains. The rich diversity of habitats found in the Selous supports an amazing array of birds and mammals.
Healthy populations of large mammals can be found in the Selous. Cape buffalo numbers are estimated to be between 120,000-150,000 and the reserve’s 4,000 lions are probably the largest populations in Africa. The is Selous also home to wildebeest, zebra, impala and significant herds of giraffe, greater kudu, waterbuck, bushbuck, Lichtenstein's hartebeest and eland. It is also one of the most important sanctuaries in Africa for the endangered African wild dog, sable and puku antelope. Hyena and leopard are common while the rivers and lakes support huge numbers of hippos and crocs. Historically, the Selous contained great herds of elephants but heavy poaching in recent years have reduced elephant numbers.
More than 440 bird species have been recorded in the Selous. On the rivers and lakes you'll find pink-backed pelicans, African skimmers, giant kingfishers, egrets, and herons while African fish eagles soar overhead. In the woodlands and grasslands you’ll find raptors, hornbills, coucals, and weaverbirds.
Day 5 | Selous to Mikumi National Park | Tan Swiss Lodge | Full Board
After an early breakfast you’ll depart the lodge with a picnic-lunch and enjoy another game drive right across Selous Game Reserve as we head towards the north gate. The drive today takes us across the Uluguru Mountains and Morogoro to the outskirts of Mikumi. We’ll arrive at the Tan Swiss Lodge, which is located at the park border and have the afternoon to enjoy its amenities.
Tan Swiss Lodge located directly at the park border. The lodge offers comfortable and clean accommodation with Tanzanian charm and Swiss hospitality in guest rooms, bungalows and camping. All rooms are spacious and comfortable, have en-suite bathrooms and private terraces. They are fully air-conditioned and equipped with mosquito nets, tv’s and fans. The lodge also offers a pool and a fantastic garden area that invites relaxation.
Day 6 | Mikumi National Park | Tan Swiss Lodge | Full Board
Spend the day on a full day game drive as you explore Mikumi National Park. The all-weather roads are passable throughout the rains so it is a great all year-round safari destination. An excellent place for close up encounters with lion, and you will have a great chance to see the very shy leopard. The open savannas are surrounded by mountains making for great vistas and dramatic skies. Return to Tan Swiss Lodge in the late afternoon.
Mikumi National Park, covering over 1200 square miles is Tanzania’s fourth largest park. Mikumi protects a combination of flat, open grasslands and wooded hills flanked by the Uluguru Mountains to the north and the Udzungwa Mountains to the south. With a landscape of baobabs, black hardwood trees, and grassy plains, the park is home to a wide variety of game. Established in 1964, the park was recently extended to the border of the Selous Game Reserve and wildlife frequently migrates between these two protected areas.
The open horizons and abundant wildlife of the Mkata Floodplain, the centerpiece of Mikumi, draw frequent comparisons to the more famous Serengeti Plains. Wildebeest, impala, zebra, warthogs, vervet monkeys, yellow baboons, and buffalo are commonly seen in the grasslands as lions watch for prey from the tops of termite mounds. Giraffe and elephant forage in the isolated acacia stands that fringe the Mkata River while hippos and crocodiles bask in the river and waterholes. More than 400 bird species have been recorded, with such colorful common residents as the lilac-breasted roller, yellow-throated long claw and bateleur eagle.
Game viewing is best at the end of the dry season (Sept-Nov) when water is scarce and wildlife must congregate around the few permanent water sources. Sitting quietly at the edge of a waterhole and waiting to see what shows up can be highly rewarding as a steady stream of elephants, buffaloes, and antelope arrive to quench their thirst.
Days 7 | Mikumi to Ruaha National Park | Ruaha Kilimatonge Tented Camp | Full Board
You’ll depart the Tan Swiss after breakfast and for a picturesque drive through baobab filled valleys and up the Iringa escarpment to Ruaha National Park, a journey of 5 – 6 hours. Your introduction to this remote park will be your first game drive as we make our way to the camp for lunch. After lunch and some time to settle in your tents, you’ll continue the game drive in the afternoon and search for the massive concentrations of antelope and plains game.
Ruaha Kilimatonge Camp is located at the foot of the Kilimatonge Hill. Your private, exclusive camp is situated on a dry river bed and overlooking a giant slab of rock with wildlife coming up close and even through the camp. Leopards are often spotted on the rocks opposite the camp and elephants are a frequent visitor to dig for water in the sandy river bed. The camp staff is keeping watch at all times for your safety. A small crew of expert guides, cooks and room attendants at the camp will take care of all chores and will ensure your stay is comfortable and safe. Kilimatonge Camp has 4 tents accommodating up to 7 guests in total.
Large walk-in tents with en-suite facilities will be your accommodation for the next 4 nights. The tents are laid out with twin wooden beds (joined to make doubles), with thick mattresses. Luggage racks, side tables and solar lanterns furnish each tent. In the bathrooms, a dresser table holds a sink bowl, mirror and soaps/shampoos. Towels are provided on a towel rail. Showers are gravity fed hot water bucket showers. Hot water is available all day long and the crew fill and raise the canvas shower buckets on demand. Toilets are flushing chemical toilets in a wooden ‘thunder box’. Tents are cleaned daily while guests are on game drives, and a turn down service is provided during dinner (when rooms are also sprayed for mosquitoes). A shaded awning provides for a small private veranda outside each tent with safari chairs and a side table.
An open sided dining tent is the focal area for all meals. Additionally, a shaded and cushioned lounge area is provided in camp for relaxation. In the evening seating is provided around the camp fire. Solar charging points provide power and solar lighting is used throughout camp.
Tea and coffee is available in the dining tent throughout the day and a well-stocked cash bar is available for those gin and tonics around the campfire.
Days 8-10 | Ruaha National Park | Ruaha Kilimatonge Tented Camp | Full Board
The next three days will be spent exploring this unique national park. As the camp is located in an area of the park central to the major wildlife congregations, you will lose no time in the morning finding game. There is no set daily schedule and each day’s activities will be determined by our guide’s knowledge of animal movements and our interests. However, each day will follow a general pattern.
The day starts with the rising of the sun, with your wake-up call between 5am and 6am. A camp assistant will be on hand to fill your wash-hand basin with steaming hot water and freshly made tea and coffee will be served around the campfire. Breakfast is available and for early morning game drives we’ll take a packed breakfast. We head out as early to track fresh spoor left from the animal's overnight activities – you may spot fresh lion tracks walking straight past the camp or evidence of a passing herd of buffalo not far away. Your guide will assess the best areas to explore depending on what calls were heard during the night as well as the tracks found on the road.
Having spent the morning exploring the surrounding wilderness in search of Ruaha’s hidden treasures, you will return to camp for lunch or enjoy a picnic lunch on full day game drives. Upon returning to camp, you’ll have the afternoon to relax and later head out into the wilderness once more as the animals awake from their day’s slumber and gather at the watering holes. As the sun sets on the horizon, one can only marvel at the sheer splendor of an African sunset.
Following your afternoon game drive, we’ll return to camp to enjoy a hot shower under the starry night sky and gather around the warmth of the campfire to relive the day’s events and excitement. A three-course dinner is served against the magical backdrop of the African night sky. Retreating to the comfort of your tent after enjoying a nightcap around the campfire, we’ll fall asleep to the calls of the African night.
Game drives will be in a 7 seat open sided vehicle, with a cool box for drinks and snacks. On one evening, following an early dinner, your guide will take us out for a 3-hour night drive. Night drives are exciting as we’ll likely see the smaller nocturnal mammals like civets, genets, and springhares. Predators are active at night and if you’re lucking we may come across leopards or a hunting pride of lions.
You’ll also have the opportunity to explore the bush on foot. Walking is a great way to slow down and learn about the trees, plants, and ecology of the African bush. With your guide and an armed ranger, you’ll learn to identify the tracks of various animals and search for birds and small game not easily seen from a vehicle. This is generally a 2.5-hour activity, starting after breakfast or in the late afternoon when the temperatures are coolest. You will need to carry only water and camera gear in a small back pack.
Ruaha National Park, wild and untrammeled, is Tanzania’s largest national park. The park occupies an important transition zone between southern and eastern Africa species making Ruaha one of the most biodiverse parks in east Africa. With surrounding game reserves, Ruaha forms the core of a much larger wilderness of nearly 60,000 square miles. Ruaha itself protects 7,800 square miles of a wide range of habitat including rocky hills, open plains dotted with enormous baobab trees, and seasonal wetlands that drain into the Great Ruaha River.
The elephant population of Ruaha is the largest of any Tanzanian park, with about 12,000 elephants. You will see plenty of giant tusker’s dust bathing, crossing the river system, and gathering in enormous herds. Ruaha also ranks with the Serengeti for big cat sightings. Lions are numerous with many unusually large prides, often numbering more than 20 individuals. Leopard sightings are common, particularly in the area around Kilimatonge Hill. It is also one of the few places in Africa to support a viable population of the African wild dog.
Plains game is abundant, including zebra, buffalo, giraffe, impala, grants gazelle, bushbuck, waterbuck. The impressive Greater kudu, absent in northern Tanzania, is present in Ruaha. Other wildlife includes black-backed jackals, hyena, hippos, and warthogs. Birdlife is prolific, with over 500 species recorded in the park.
Days 11 | Udzungwa National Park | Udzungwa Forest Camp (Hondo Hondo) | Full Board
Today you'll say good bye to your camp crew for your drive to the Udzungwa Mountains National Park. After breakfast, you’ll enjoy a last, early morning game drive as you make your way to the Ruaha gate. You’ll head to Iringa and visit the local market of this bustling town before continuing on to the Udzungwas. In the afternoon you’ll arrive at our final lodge, the Udzungwa Forest Tented Camp, located just outside the park. The afternoon is free to relax or walk around the grounds looking for endemic birds and monkeys.
Udzungwa Forest Tented Camp sits on the border the Udzungwa Mountains National Park. The lodge is known locally as Hondo Hondo, meaning “hornbill” in Swahili, and sits on lush green grounds overlooking the border of the rain forest with excellent views of the forest canopy. A number of different hornbill species fly in over the forest edge every evening at sunset, and the valley echoes with their distinctive calls.
The camp offers six en-suite tented rooms which overlook the forest boundary. Furniture for each tent is made from locally available renewable sources such as coconut wood and bamboo and the soft throws over the beds are made by the local Ifakara Women Weavers Group. The open-air bathrooms offer views up into the nearby forest canopy while you shower and are equipped with western-style flush toilets. All hot water is heated using solar energy. Electric lighting is provided through the camp with low-energy LED bulbs, and each tent is equipped with lighting, personal solar reading lights, a solar fan and a socket for charging phones and cameras.
Days 12 | Udzungwa National Park | Udzungwa Forest Camp (Hondo Hondo) | Full Board
Today you’ll set off with a picnic-lunch to Udzungwa Mountains National Park for a 3 hour hike up to the Sanje Waterfall. Sanje is the highest waterfall in the Tanzania park system and cascades 550 feet down the slopes of the Udzungwas. The trail is well-marked though it is steep (about 1500 feet elevation gain) as you climb up the ridge to the base of the falls.
There is excellent monkey watching opportunities during your hike and your guide will point out primates along with amazing birds, butterflies, and plants used in traditional medicine. Cool off with a swim in the plunge pool at the bottom of the falls. If we’re feeling ambitious we can hike to the top of the falls to enjoy views over the savanna below. The elevation at the top is 2600 feet above sea level and you’ll get a taste of the elfin sub-montane forest, festooned with thick vegetation, lichens, and mosses.
Udzungwa Mountains National Park is small by African standards (770 square miles) but makes up for lack of size with stunning scenery, rainforest cloaked mountains, and an amazing diversity of plants and animals. The Udzungwa Mountains form part of the Eastern Arc Mountain Range, one of the oldest mountain ranges in Africa and supports some of the most ancient and diverse biological communities in Africa. The Eastern Arc is famous for their high degree of endemism – covering less than 2% of Tanzania but more than 50% of the country’s plant and animal species. Over 300 endemic animals and over 800 endemic plants have been found in the Eastern Arc. The Udzungwa Mountains form one of Africa’s most remarkable biodiversity regions and walking them is a memorable experience.
The Udzungwa Mountains is a primate hotspot with twelve species, five of which are Tanzanian endemics (the newly discovered Highland Mangeby, the Sanje Crested Mangeby, the Udzungwa Red Colobus, the Matundu Dwarf Galago and the Mountain Dwarf Galago). Other primates include the Vervet Monkey, Sykes Monkey, Black and White Colobus, Yellow Baboon, Grant’s Galago, Small-eared Galago, and greater Galago. The national park is also among the top ten areas for bird conservation in Africa with over 250 bird species. The Udzungwa Mountains are also home to several Tanzanian endemic birds including Rufous Winged Sunbird and the Udzungwa Partridge.
Day 13 | Return to Dar es Salaam
After early breakfast you will be driven to Dar es Salaam and dropped off either in Dar es Salaam or at the domestic/international terminal of the Julius Nyerere International Airport. If you’d like to spend tonight in Dar or extend your safari to the northern parks (Serengeti, Ngorongoro) or any of the Indian Ocean islands (Zanzibar, Pemba, or Mafia), let us know when booking.
As our Southern Tanzania Safari is a private, tailor-made itinerary, there are no specific departure dates. Just let us know your potential travel dates and we will check on availability of all services.
PAYMENT: A non-refundable, 30% deposit is required within 14 days of receipt of invoice to confirm booking. Balance is due 45 days before departure. If booking is within 45 days of departure date, entire balance is due upon receipt of invoice. Other terms & conditions apply.
What's included/excluded in the rate may vary depending on final itinerary.
INCLUDES: Lodging, meals, activities as indicated; unlimited mileage in private 4x4 safari vehicle, professional driver/guide, camp crew, Selous, Mikumi, Ruaha, Udzungwa park fees; water in vehicle, airport transfers; current government taxes and fees.
EXCLUDES: International or domestic flights, pre- or post-safari accommodation/extensions, drinks, laundry service, optional activities not listed in itinerary, visas, travel insurance, gratuities, personal items.
- $4385.00 (4 guests)
- $4105.00 (6 guests)
*Rates are per person sharing and may vary depending on final itinerary. Single supplement applies.
Length: 12 days/11 nights
Route: Starts and ends in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
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