Mikumi National Park abuts the northern border of Africa's biggest game reserve - the Selous – and is transected by the surfaced road between Dar es Salaam and Iringa. It is thus the most accessible part of a 75,000 square kilometre (47,000 square mile) tract of wilderness that stretches east almost as far as the Indian Ocean.
First gazetted in 1964 with additions made to the north and south in 1975, Mikumi National Park has risen through the ranks to be the 4th largest National Park in Tanzania with an area of 3230 sq km. Combined with Selous Game Reserve which borders it to the southwest, this greater ecosystem is the size of Denmark.
The park is surrounded by an arc of mountains and protected land, with the Uluguru Mountains to the east, the Mbesera, Madzini and Mazunyungu hills to the north and west. Perhaps due to the shadow cast by these mountainous areas, Mikumi is renowned as having the most fabulous light and colour, making it a favourite with wildlife and safari photographers, both professional and amateur.
The landscape is divided into two by a road and it seems that the partition separates 2 distinct environments. The north west of the park is characterised by alluvial plains, baobabs, acacias, and palms, while the south east of the park is less accessible and not as popular with wildlife.
What to see and Do
Mikumi National Park is a prime game viewing area that is part of the Selous ecosystem. The Mkata plain supports vast herds of plains game such as wildebeest, impala, zebra and giraffe, hunted by their associated predators; while greater kudu, roan and sable antelope are found in the surrounding less fertile hills. Although game sightings can never be guaranteed on a safari, there are lots of sightings of the African wild dog.
The ecosystem is rather special as there are 4 major and distinct vegetation zones converging in Mikumi: miombo woodland from southern Africa, arid bushland from the north, the coastal zone to the east and the mountains of Uluguru and Ruhumero to the north and west making a unique ecotonal area. The animals and birds species are also different in each of these habitat types.
The park boasts 60 mammal types, 400 birds and over 1200 plant species. Such diversity should not be underestimated and guests should prepare themselves to see a range of predator and prey.
The main rainy season, or the 'long rains', lasts during March, April and May. Afternoon downpours are the norm, which are heavier and more predictable beside the coast and on the islands. The humidity is high and daily temperatures reach the low-mid 30s (degrees Celsius).
The long dry season lasts from June to October, during which time the rainfall is unusual. Temperatures vary hugely with altitude and location, but it's usually a fine, clear sky and sunny weather.
During November and December there's another rainy season, which is known as the 'short rains'. These are much lighter than the long rains and less reliable. If it has rained during the short rains, then it normally dries up for a few months in January and February, which is Tanzania's 'short dry season', before starting to rain again in earnest in March.
Where to Stay
Vuma Hills is a luxurious permanent tented camp, perched above the trees stretching over the seemingly endless wilderness south west of Mikumi National Park. Accommodation is in 16 spacious and comfortable tents with luxurious, colonial interiors, complete with shaded wooden veranda at the front and ensuite bathroom at the back.
Stanley's Kopje takes full advantage of its commanding position on a hill overlooking the Mkata flood plain and the Mwanamboga waterhole. It is the sister lodge of Vuma Hills Camp, but it is only open seasonally. Stanley's Kopje offers an intimate, personalised experience.
Mikumi Wildlife Camp looks out over a waterhole which tends to get rather busy during the dry season, with elephant, buffalo and impala being regular visitors. It has 9 Bandas, each sleeping a minimum of 4 people in 2 separate rooms, making the camp ideal for families. Rooms are ensuite and have large verandas.