​Expert Reviews – Mkomazi NP

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Philip Briggs   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Multiple times

Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.

1 person found this review helpful.

In the Shadow of Kilimanjaro
Overall rating

Despite its close proximity to Moshi and Kilimanjaro, this 3,700km2/1,400mi2 extension of Kenya’s vast Tsavo National Park ranks among the most neglected of Tanzania’s protected areas. In terms of general wildlife viewing, Mkomazi doesn’t rank alongside most of the country’s better-known parks, but the quality of sightings improves with every passing year, and will hold considerable appeal to relaxed safari-goers who really want to escape the tourist treadmill.

Mkomazi has been the site of a sanctuary for black rhino since the 1990s but the breeding facility was for years closed to visitors. That changed in 2021 with the opening of the 16km2/6mi2 Mkomazi Black Rhino Tourist Sanctuary at Mbula. The park now offers guided game drives into the sanctuary – which has been stocked with two male and four female black rhinos, all but one of which was born in Mkomazi – in an open-sided 4x4. Sightings are not guaranteed, but the odds are as good as anywhere in Tanzania, and we had a great close-up encounter with one of the males when we visited in 2022.

We also visited the park’s well-known African wild dog breeding centre at Kisimo Hill, which is included in the price of a game drive into the rhino sanctuary, but I wouldn’t particularly recommend this as the dogs are kept in a smallish enclosure that doesn’t feel much different to visiting a zoo.

Other animals likely to be seen in Mkomazi include elephant, giraffe, buffalo, plains zebra, Coke’s hartebeest and eland. On our most recent visit, we found that game viewing was most productive in the vicinity of Dindira Dam, where we were fortunate enough to see lions on two successive days. Mkomazi is an important refuge for dry-country antelope such as gerenuk, lesser kudu and fringe-eared oryx. These antelope are very uncommon along the main tourist circuits, but sightings are quite likely in the black rhino sanctuary, where there are no large predators.

For birders, Mkomazi is home to several dry-country birds at the southern extent of their range. Most spectacular among these is the vulturine guineafowl, which is more graceful than the common helmeted guineafowl and has a bright cobalt chest. Scenically, Mkomazi is surrounded by mountains, most conspicuously the Pare range, but also the more distant Kilimanjaro, which often emerges from its cloudy shroud in the late afternoon or early morning.

Ariadne van Zandbergen   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Multiple times

Ariadne is a renowned African wildlife photographer whose work is featured in many well-known guidebooks and magazines.

1 person found this review helpful.

A Sanctuary for Black Rhinos
Overall rating

Although its game-drive circuit is limited, Mkomazi National Park is part of a vast ecosystem extending across the Kenyan border into Tsavo East and West National Parks. You can really see anything here, but animals tend to be dispersed and a bit skittish. The setting is spectacular: mountains rise up in several directions and on a clear day Kilimanjaro can be seen in the distance. For me, it’s the feeling of untrammeled wilderness that makes Mkomazi an exciting destination. Every time we’ve visited, we’ve had the place more or less to ourselves. The circular drive to Dindira Dam is most productive for wildlife viewing. We saw lots of giraffes, zebras, Coke’s hartebeest and eland. And we were lucky to see lions ambushing buffalo as they came to drink. Mkomazi is also a good place to see dry-country specials, such as lesser kudu, fringe-eared oryx and the odd-looking gerenuk with its elongated neck.

The highlight of our most recent stay was a drive inside the new 16km2/6mi2 Mkomazi Black Rhino Tourist Sanctuary. We were taken in an open-sided 4x4 to look for these highly endangered heavyweights. Although chances are good to spot one of the four rhinos kept in the enclosure, sightings aren’t guaranteed. We drove around for almost two hours before we were rewarded with a very close-up encounter. This new activity is part of Mkomazi’s important rhino conservation efforts, which started in the 1990s.

Mary Fitzpatrick   –  
United States US
Visited: Multiple times

Mary is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including South Africa, Tanzania, East Africa and Africa.

Arid Savannah Landscapes & Fabulous Birding
Overall rating

Mkomazi is an arid expanse of savannah lands studded with baobab and thorn acacia and broken by low, rocky hills. It offers fabulous birding beginning almost immediately upon entry to the park and getting better as you progress northwards towards the campsite at Dindera Dam. It's also an ideal spot for those who enjoy watching for nature's little details, such as fresh elephant dung covered with yellow butterflies and dung beetles or helmeted guineafowl running into the grasses along the road side.

Larger wildlife is present - dik-diks, oryx, gerenuk and elephants are the main attractions. Yet, numbers cannot compare with those in Tanzania's northern parks, and I recommend that those visiting from outside Tanzania head further northwest, towards Serengeti and the rest of the wildlife-rich northern circuit.

Average Expert Rating

  • 2.7/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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