Lioness at Ruaha National Park
© All Rights Reserved cmgildea
Southern Tanzania is, in comparison to the Northern Safari circuit, almost devoid of tourists. If you speak to Tanzanians in the north they usually seem to consider it out of the way. However with the recently improved road down the coast it is easily accessible and offers a much better taste of the real Africa. This region borders Mozambique and has a land border on the road south of Mtwara near Msimbati. For more information on safaris in Tanzania, check the Tanzania/Safari article.
The coastal areas are, as you'd expect, hot and humid all year round. Further inland are a number of plateaus, including the Makonde plateau where temperatures are cooler, but still hot.
The main city in the south is Mtwara which is the capital of the Mtwara region. Other significant cities on the coast include Lindi and the relatively famous Kilwa home to some very important Arab period ruins on a small island just off the main Town of Kilwa.
Newala, Masasi and Ndanda are located on the Makonde plateau and have some basic accommodation but are very much off the beaten track.
Sights and Activities
- The recently formed Mnazi Bay Marine Reserve is a beautiful marine reserve, with coral reefs lying just a feet feet below the surface, within snorkelling distance, and mangrove swamps behind the beach. The nearest village is Msimbati, from there follow the road out of town to find a spot on the beach. There is no real tourist infrastructure here, it is popular with the ex pats in Mtwara and it is possible to organise diving from there or Mikindani. Even outside the marine reserve, and indeed all along the coast the beaches are often well worth a stop. Do be sure to keep about 200 metres away from any habitations though for sanitary reasons!
- The Makonde Plateau is well worth a visit and offers some spectacular views along it's steep cliffs. The view from the police station in Newala offers a view across the Ruvuma River into Mozambique.
- Ruaha National Park - Together with the Rungwe and Kizigo Game reserves the park formes the massive Ruaha Ecosystem, with the Ruaha river flowing through its eastern parts. This park is home to several rare animals, like the wild dog and the sabelantilope.
- Selous Game Reserve - This is the second biggest game reserve of Africa and you can find wild dogs here as well, next to most large predators and large herds of elephants. It is the only place in Tanzania where you can join a guide for a safar on your feeth.
- Gombe Stream National Park - This is probably the best park is Tanzania to get face to face with animals you are not likely to see elsewhere in the country. The park is in the east, near the town of Kigoma and close to the borders with Rwanda and Burundi. Although it is a very small par, the main attraction here is to visit the chimpanzees, a primate only found throughout the western and central parts of Africa.
It is hot and humid year round, the rainy season usually involves a short downpour before the sun comes out and dries everything. Usually, January and February and July/August are the driest times of the year, with longer rains from March to May and shorter ones during October, early November.
Air Tanzania and Precision Air fly to Mtwara. Smaller flights may be available to smaller airstrips at Lindi and Newala (where it ends at the top of a cliff).
The coastal road (Dar es salaam -> Kilwa -> Lindi -> Mtwara has been improved recently so a 4x4 may not be necesary, but it's still preferable to use one.
Buses run Dar es salaam -> Kilwa -> Lindi -> Mtwara and smaller dala dala transport is available between smaller villages and towns.
A weekly ferry runs from Dar es salaam -> Mtwara. It can be pretty cramped if it rains and everyone bundles into first class from the decks. You are unlikely to see any tourists on it.