Mkomazi National Park

Mkomazi National Park (3,700 km2/1,430 sq mi) is situated in north-eastern Tanzania, bordered by Tsavo West National Park in Kenya to the north-east and by the Pare Mountains to the south-west. As to tourism, Mkomazi is a mainly unexploited park. This former game reserve was upgraded to national park in 2007.
The nature is dry open savanna and bushland, surrounded by mountains. There are some roads, basic camping facilities and a semi-permanent tented camp. The roads vary in quality from fair to very poor bush road. Four-wheel drive is necessary to manage the worst roads.

Thanks to private conservation initiatives, the park has received a lot of publicity. You shouldn't expect a mammal wildlife nearly as good as the one you'll find in the main parks of northern Tanzania (Serengeti, Ngorongoro,Lake Manyara and Tarangire, or even Arusha National Park, though. Water is scarce in Mkomazi, and little wildlife may be present during dry seasons.

Mkomazi used to be herding grounds for local pastoralists, but these and their livestock were evicted by the authorities in the late 1980's.

Wildlife species

Some mammal species found in Mkomazi are elephant, African buffalo, lion, leopard, lesser kudu, fringe-eared oryx and aardwolf. There is also the largest Tanzanian population of gerenuk, a long-necked gazelle. When reading about Mkomazi from some sources, you may get the impression that black rhinos and African wild dogs are roaming the savanna as an integrated part of the Mkomazi ecosystem; some sources even refer to Mkomazi as a Big Five park. Both these species are in fact present, but in projects to reintroduce them. The rhinos are kept in a fenced sanctuary covering some 2 % of the park, and the wild dogs are also enclosed. The birding can be good. Some 400 species have been recorded, including many birds of prey, such as Wahlberg's eagle, pearl-spotted owlet, martial eagle and secretary bird.

Visiting the park

Mkomazi has few visitors, and this may be reason enough for some safari-goers to visit the area. We have found ourselves all alone in the park. The wildlife is less habituated to vehicles than in the main parks such as Serengeti, and is therefore shyer. The park rangers manning the entrance gate and doing the paperwork for visitors may not speak English; you may need your Swahili phrasebook if you visit the park on your own.

Getting there

Mkomazi is situated off the main road from Arusha/Moshi to Dar es Salaam, three to four hours' drive from Arusha. When travelling in direction towards Dar es Salaam, turn left after the bus station in the small town Same, and follow the bush road some km/mi to the park gate.

Umba Game Reserve

Umba Game Reserve (1,500 km2/580 sq mi) borders Mkomazi National Park and is a continuation of the Mkomazi biotope. Some dry-area species can be found, for example gerenuk and fringe-eared oryx.

Usambara Mountains

The Eastern Usambara Mountains are situated in north-eastern Tanzania, south of Mkomazi National Park. The mountains (up to 2,440 m/8,000 ft) are forested, and home to for example the rare antelope Abbot's duiker and endemic bird species. The nature is beautiful, offering a diverse flora. There is an 85 km2/33 sq mi nature park accessible by roads and trekking routes, as well as lodges, a number of camping sites and a few hostels.