The southern safari circuit of Tanzania is much less visited, less well known and consequently untrammelled, compared with the iconic destinations of northern Tanzania like the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. For these reasons it represents a genuinely authentic experience for those seeking a real wilderness safari. The southern circuit boasts game viewing, landscapes and high quality camps to match anywhere; without the crowds. Contrary to popular opinion southern circuit safaris are also very competitive on price with other East African parks. The distances are indeed vast, so flying is recommended. Combine your safari with similarly less frequented coastal destinations like Mafia and Pemba Islands for some time by the ocean.
The major safari destinations of Tanzania. Safaribookings.com
Ruaha National Park
Ruaha lies in the centre of southern Tanzania and is the largest national park in Tanzania, and indeed one of the largest in Africa. It is one of the finest safari destinations in East Africa and one of its best kept secrets. The entire ecosystem, including the game reserves of Rungwa, Kisigo and Muhesi to the west and north, comprises some 40,000+ sq. km of wilderness. Ruaha is our home patch and constitutes the pivot of many of our safaris. The relatively tiny tourist area of the park, the cornerstone of which is the Ruaha River itself, is known for its large population of elephant and lion, mighty baobab trees, beautiful and varied landscapes and a small selection of excellent safari camps. Most of the conservation and community work we support including the Mkuyu Guide School is based around Ruaha.
Selous Game Reserve
The Selous is one of the largest protected areas in the world. Being relatively close to Dar es Salaam, it is usually the first stop on a southern circuit itinerary. The Selous has a fascinating history of big game hunting, war and conservation. Camps are generally quite high end with the more affordable accommodation clustered around the eastern gate. Boat safaris on the lakes and tributaries of the Rufiji River bring a different dynamic to Selous safaris. Greener and wetter than Ruaha, the Selous is one of the best places to catch a glimpse of the elusive wild dog and a great combination with Ruaha.
Representing a picture perfect tropical paradise, Mafia Island also has the largest marine national park in East Africa. Unlike many East African coastal destinations the wildlife here is still intact and there are some fantastic opportunities on offer; some of the best snorkelling and diving in Africa, swimming with whale sharks, turtle hatchings, whale watching and more. After a few bumpy days on safari, the coastal breeze, warm Indian Ocean waters and curling your toes in the sand is the ideal way to unwind, whilst everyone else is on Zanzibar.
Katavi National Park
The first outpost of the even more remote and inaccessible western circuit of Tanzania; Katavi is reached by plane and has only three permanent camps. Best visited in the dry season, Katavi has some of largest congregations of hippos and crocodiles you are likely to see anywhere. Katavi is often combined with Mahale, a short hop away by plane.
Mahale Mountains National Park
The Mahale mountains are found in westernmost Tanzania on the banks of Lake Tanganyika overlooking the Congo. Mahale is a remnant of the equatorial forest that once stretched across western, central and eastern Africa. Reached only by plane from Ruaha, Katavi or Arusha; the main attraction here is the opportunity to walk into the forest to find wild chimpanzees. Add this to the crystal clear waters of the Lake, spectacular mountains and forest and you have a truly unique experience. Book early as spaces are very limited.
Udzungwa Mountains National Park
One of the newest national parks in Tanzania, Udzungwa is one of the largest remaining sections of the Eastern Arc mountains and a real nature kids paradise where species new to science are still being found. The park is also unique in offering a suite of activities that don't include game drives, the most popular of which are mountain hikes to see and swim in the spectacular waterfalls, watching for endemic species of monkey on the way. Udzungwa makes a great inclusion to road safaris from Dar es Salaam.