The Southern Highlands are a paradise for hikers, the mountainous scenic volcanic terrain makes a beautiful backdrop against which to explore the crater lakes, hot springs and rainforests. The area also boasts a number of National Parks that give visitors the opportunity to view a wide array of wildlife.
Ruaha National Park
Kitulo National Park
Around 130km from the small town of Iringa lies the Ruaha National Park. The park takes its name from the Ruaha River which runs along it’s south eastern side. The river is a magnet for birds and animals alike and hippo, crocodile and fish eagle are a familiar site. Boating safaris are a great way for visitors to experience the park.
The best months for visiting the park to maximize your opportunity of viewing wildlife is during the dry months, typically July to November, as animals tend to concentrate at water sources. Elephant, lesser and greater kudu, sable and roan antelope, zebra, giraffe and impala are amongst the animals you can expect to find as well as a number of small predators. Large predators in the park include lion, leopard, cheetah, jackal and crocodile. Birdlife includes the sooty falcon, Eleonoras falcon, Pels fishing owl and bateleur as well as in the region of 500 other species.
Due to it’s remote location, the park is relatively untouched by humans and continues to offer visitors an often undisturbed wilderness experience.
Known locally as ‘Bustani ya Mungu’ or Garden of God, the Kitulo National Park is a paradise for brirdwatchers, hikers and botanists. It’s best visited during the rainy season when the park comes alive with wild flowers. The park contains a large number of endemic species and over 50 species of orchid, a variety of aloes, proteas and lobelias to name but a few. Ornithologists may get the opportunity to view the rare Denhams bustard which is resident within the park. Other notable species include the blue swallow, Kipengere seedeater and mountain marsh widow.
Lake Nyasa, covering an area of around 30,000km² straddles the border between Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique. It offers visitors a chance to take things easy and an opportunity to snorkel the beautiful lake waters.
Mikumi National Park
Easily accessible by tar road from Dar es Salaam, the Mikumi National Park is a popular park for those wanting to get out of the city for a few days. The Mkata floodplain is crossed by a number of roads which often makes wildlife viewing effortless. It’s possible to find the ‘big 5’ within the park as well as a number of other species including hippo, eland, greater kudu and sable antelope. Bird lovers could encounter more than 400 species including the lilac breasted roller, bateleur and yellow throated longclaw as well as a host of waterbirds.
Udzungwa Mountains National Park
Part of the Eastern Arc Mountains, the Udzungwa Mountains are home to a well preserved forest habitat. Primates are widely found within the park including the highland mangabey, the endemic Sanje crested mangabey, the Matundu galago, blue monkey and black and white colobus to name just a few. In total, more than 10 primate species have been found within the park. Elephants and buffalo are also regular features in Udzungwa Mountains National Park.
Hiking within the park allows the visitor to witness these and other endemic species in their natural environment. Five distinct trails of varying difficulty cover the forests and mountain peaks within the park and with no roads through the Undzungwa Mountains National Park, hikers have the area all to themselves.
© ecoTravel Africa 2011