The southern national parks offer a truly wild experience. If you're flying into Dar es Salaam, Mikumi National Park is easily accessible by road but, in most cases, you'll catch a flight on a small aircraft to reach these parks and reserves.
BEST TIME TO VISIT THE SOUTHERN CIRCUIT
The best time to visit parks in Southern Tanzania is during the dry season (June - November) because the roads are passable and you can actually drive around (which helps on safari!). The dry season also means that the game is more concentrated around the rivers that run through these vast parks, thus making it easier to spot wildlife. From December - March you get more chance of seeing young animals but the weather is very hot and humid.
PARKS AND RESERVES IN SOUTHERN TANZANIA
Selous Game Reserve is Africa's largest reserve, a world heritage site, and not nearly as crowded as the Serengeti. You can see elephant, cheetah, black rhino, African hunting dog, plenty of hippo and crocodile. The Selous swamps, rivers and wetlands allow tourists to enjoy their safari by boat, which gives a different perspective. Walking safaris are also popular here. Selous Game Reserve has problems with poaching and sometimes the wildlife is skittish because of this. The area is not suited for cattle because of the high prevalence of tsetse flies and therefore locals hunt wildlife for their meat.
Ruaha National Park is remote, large, and full of wildlife - particularly elephant. There are also large prides of lion, cheetah, leopard, kudu and almost every other African mammal you'd like to see. The park is home to the Great Ruaha River and it's here during the dry season (May to December) that you get some spectacular game viewing. Ruaha is approximately 10 hours drive from Dar es Salaam and would require a stay of a number of nights. Other attractions like Ismaili Stone Age Site can also be incorporated in this trip.
Mikumi National Park is very accessible from Dar es Salaam (a four hour drive) and is, therefore, the most visited park by local Tanzanians. The National Park borders Selous and shares its abundant wildlife including lion, giraffe, buffalo, eland, African hunting dog and many more. Mikumi is a good stop over point if you're on your way to Selous or Ruaha. The best time to visit is June - February during the dry-season.
ADD-ONS TO THE SOUTHERN CIRCUIT
Udzungwa Mountains National Park is a two hour drive from Mikumi and is famous for its bio-diversity. If you like rare plant life and rainforests with enchanting waterfalls, it's well worth a trip.
Saadani National Park is a nice mixture of bush and beach. Situated on the Indian Ocean facing the island of Zanzibar, Saadani is accessible from Dar es Salaam by road (4 hours) or charter flight. You can see lots of hippo, crocodile, and elephant. Boat safaris and walking safaris are popular here. Best time to go is January to February and from June to August.
Zanzibar is one of Tanzania's biggest tourist draw cards and a popular add-on after a dusty safari. Stone Town, in the heart of the main island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The streets are perfectly preserved in this ancient trading town. You can also enjoy spice tours, snorkeling, scuba diving and much more.