Tanzania is long known for its impressive National Parks, an impressive 16 in all from the world famous Serengeti in the north to Selous in the south, covering over 40,000 sq.km. (approx. half the entire area of Ireland).
Mikumi National Park is the closest one to Dar es Salaam and within driving distance, so ideal for a weekend road trip out of the hot and humid capital city.
An early Saturday morning start north out of Dar es Salaam, was the advice to escape the clutches of the weekend market traffic, especially on the Morogoro Road, so the advice was to travel north to Bagamoyo, then west to Msata, south to Chalinze and then turning west again directly to the city of Morogoro, a city nestled at the feet of the Uluguru Mountains and the gateway to Mikumi National Park. A journey of some five hours along very decent roads, so even though I took the trip alone, it was very enjoyable , I even managed to avoid the notorious Tanzanian traffic police, and at one stage found myself going down the wrong way on a oneway street in Morogoro packed with Saturday traders and shoppers ! (signs are kind of optional extras in Tanzania).
I stayed at the Nashera Hotel which I would highly recommend as it has amazing views of the Uluguru Mountains (named after a local tribe), has decent food and a nice bar, where I sat with a few locals and discussed the continued demise of Chelsea FC, while watching their latest capitulation! I also bumped into a couple from Killarney, Co. Kerry on a business trip here (Irish turn up everywhere, really, don’t they ?).
Early start Sunday morning, picked up by Hamad my guide and companion for the day, at 5am, for my safari trip to the heart of Mikumi (Safari is the Swahili word for “journey”) and off we went into the dark morning further into the mountains for an hour and half until we arrived at the gates of the Park just in time for breakfast. A National Roadway runs through Mikumi, as it’s a major transport route from the busy Port city of Dar es Salaam running westwards to inland cities and indeed further to countries such as Zambia, Congo and Malawi. It makes for an unusual sight as large container trucks cutting through wild grasslands with giraffes grazing by the roadside.
After a welcome breakfast, we spent our day inside the Park, animal spotting. What struck me was the beauty and openness of the grassland savannah landscape and the surrounding mountains, Tanzania is a truly beautiful country, and to see the herds of Wildebeest and Buffalo wild in the open was breathtaking to be honest.
I had been promised by Hamad that I would definitely see Giraffe, Elephant, Impala, Zebra & Baboon, but that seeing the mighty Simba (Swahili word for Lion), can be a little more challenging.
We saw Zebra, Impala and Giraffes u close and personal and most impressive of all was the two families of Elephants bunched closely together under the shade of tress, and also cooling themselves in a lake, nothing compares to seeing them in the wild. We then also struck gold and came across a Lion with a few cubs, who came very close to us and prowled about, Hamad noted that she was angry but it was just amazing to see them in their own habitat up close like that. This is the real Africa at its rawest and most awe-inspiring.
Lunch in the Park completed a fantastic day, and i started back on my journey to Dar es Salaam.
A very satisfying weekend trip, thanks to Hamad and the folks at http://watusafaris.com/ for a great trip, hopefully I’ll fit in a tip to Serengeti soon.