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Mkomazi National Park.
  Mkomazi NP
Size: 3,700 km2/1,430 sq mi.
Wildlife & attractions: Few visitors, wildlife mainly during rainy seasons, birding, rhino and wild dog sanctuaries.
Getting there: 3–4 hours mainly on tarmac from Arusha.
Mkomazi map
Mkomazi map.
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Tanzania map.
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Mkomazi National Park
By Tanapa.
Umba Game Reserve
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Mkomazi National Park
Mkomazi National Park (3,700 km2/1,430 sq mi) is situated in north-eastern Tanzania, bordered by Tsavo West National Park in Kenya to the north-east and by the Pare Mountains to the south-west. As to tourism, Mkomazi is a mainly unexploited park. This former game reserve was upgraded to national park in 2007.

The nature is dry open savanna and bushland, surrounded by mountains. There are some roads, basic camping facilities and a semi-permanent tented camp. The roads vary in quality from fair to very poor bush road. Four-wheel drive is necessary to manage the worst roads.

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Thanks to private conservation initiatives, the park has received a lot of publicity. You shouldn't expect a mammal wildlife nearly as good as the one you'll find in the main parks of northern Tanzania (Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara and Tarangire, or even Arusha National Park), though. Water is scarce in Mkomazi, and little wildlife may be present during dry seasons.

Mkomazi used to be herding grounds for local pastoralists, but these and their livestock were evicted by the authorities in the late 1980's.

Wildlife species
Some mammal species found in Mkomazi are elephant, African buffalo, lion, leopard, lesser kudu, fringe-eared oryx and aardwolf. There is also the largest Tanzanian population of gerenuk, a long-necked gazelle. When reading about Mkomazi from some sources, you may get the impression that black rhinos and African wild dogs are roaming the savanna as an integrated part of the Mkomazi ecosystem; some sources even refer to Mkomazi as a Big Five park. Both these species are in fact present, but in projects to reintroduce them. The rhinos are kept in a fenced sanctuary covering some 2 % of the park, and the wild dogs are also enclosed.

The birding can be good. Some 400 species have been recorded, including many birds of prey, such as Wahlberg's eagle, pearl-spotted owlet, martial eagle and secretary bird.

Two male gerenuks browsing.

Visiting the park
Mkomazi has few visitors, and this may be reason enough for some safari-goers to visit the area. We have found ourselves all alone in the park. The wildlife is less habituated to vehicles than in the main parks such as Serengeti, and is therefore shyer.

The park rangers manning the entrance gate and doing the paperwork for visitors may not speak English; you may need your Swahili phrasebook if you visit the park on your own.

Getting there
Mkomazi is situated off the main road from Arusha/Moshi to Dar es Salaam, three to four hours' drive from Arusha. When travelling in direction towards Dar es Salaam, turn left after the bus station in the small town Same, and follow the bush road some km/mi to the park gate.

Umba Game Reserve
Umba Game Reserve (1,500 km2/580 sq mi) borders Mkomazi National Park and is a continuation of the Mkomazi biotope. Some dry-area species can be found, for example gerenuk and fringe-eared oryx.

Usambara Mountains
The Eastern Usambara Mountains are situated in north-eastern Tanzania, south of Mkomazi National Park. The mountains (up to 2,440 m/8,000 ft) are forested, and home to for example the rare antelope Abbot's duiker and endemic bird species. The nature is beautiful, offering a diverse flora. There is an 85 km2/33 sq mi nature park accessible by roads and trekking routes, as well as lodges, a number of camping sites and a few hostels.

Lodges, camps and hotels
There are basic camping facilities in the park.

Elephant Motel.Elephant Motel in Same is less than 10 km/6 mi from the park gate and is conveniently located by the main road. The standard is basic. The motel has 20 rooms with private bathroom and television. Some rooms also have air conditioning and refrigerator. There is a bar, a restaurant and some business services, including Internet.

Web site:

Tona Lodge.Tona Lodge in the Pare Mountains may be an interesting experience for the more adventurous safari-goer. It's situated high in the mountains and offers good views of the park and the surrounding landscape.

The lodge is very basic (and inexpensive), and offers accommodation, meals, and cultural walks and trekking in the Pare Mountains. Drive an hour southwards on the bush road from Mkomazi park gate to Kisiwani village, where you (after asking for directions) turn right into the mountains for a one-hour drive on a very, very poor mountain road to the lodge. You'll need four-wheel drive and a strong heart. Start in good time before dusk.

Web site:

Babu's Camp is a small tourist class tented camp in Mkomazi, situated some 10 km/6 mi from the western Zange Gate. The tents, set right in the bush, are fairly spacious and have ensuite bathrooms. Meals are eaten in a dining tent. Electricity is provided by a generator during parts of the day, but not at night. The camp offers night game drives and bush walks. You can expect a good safari atmosphere.

Web site:

Mkomazi Camp is 8 km from the Zange Gate in Mkomazi and has tented rooms with ensuite bathrooms. It is a small camp offering campfires and bush atmosphere, and activities such as conservation education, horseback riding, walking safaris and night game drives.

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Page updated 27 April 2013