Expert Reviews – Mkomazi NP

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In the shadow of Kilimanjaro
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Despite its close proximity to Moshi and Kilimanjaro, this 3,700 sq km extension of Kenya’s vast Tsavo National Park ranks among the most neglected of Tanzania’s protected areas. In truth, it doesn’t really offer a game viewing experience to compare with most other parks in Tanzania, but it will appeal to relaxed safari-goers who really want to escape the tourist treadmill. Among the animals most likely to be seen are elephant, giraffe, dry-country antelope such as gerenuk and lesser kudu, and several dry-country birds at the southern extent of their range. Scenically, the park comes into its own when nearby Kilimanjaro emerges from its cloudy shroud, usually in the late afternoon and early morning.

Arid Savannah Landscapes & Fabulous Birding
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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.

Mkomazi is frequently noted for its rhino and wild dog conservation projects. However, these are kept in enclosed sanctuaries, and are not viewable as part of general tourism.

It’s all in the scenery
Overall rating

In spite of its easy accessibility just off the Arusha – Dar-es-Salaam highway, Mkomazi remains the Northern Safari Circuit’s most overlooked park. As Tanzania’s youngest national park it lacks tourism infrastructure and the animals are still very skittish around humans and vehicles. We were never able to get within reasonable distance of the animals, with most, including a small herd of elephants, taking off as soon as they heard our vehicle. While it may not be a great ‘game’ destination, Mkomazi is an extraordinary place for birders, as there are many species endemic to the area, and it’s a vital refuge for two endangered species – the black rhino and the African wild dog – both successfully re-introduced in the 1990's. The scenery too is outstanding with views of the Pare Mountains and occasionally glimpses of the snow-capped peaks of Mt Kilimanjaro miles off in the distance. For me the highlight was Babu’s Camp – enjoying a sundowner to the sound of birdsong was magic. So while I wouldn’t recommend the park as a “must-see” safari destination, I’d certainly recommend it as a good overnight stop to break-up your trip between Arusha and Dar-es-Salaam.

Tanzania’s Newest National Park
Overall rating

Twenty years ago Mkomazi was a clapped-out game reserve on the point of collapse.
Today it is a magnificent, 1,500 square mile wilderness raised to full national park status due to the hard work and determination of a dedicated team of Tanzanians led by Tony Fitzjohn, who formerly worked with in Kenya with George Adamson and his lions. Mkomazi means “place of no water” – a perfect description of this classic dry-country park whose thornbush, baobabs and rocky hills share a common frontier with Kenya’s vast Tsavo national park, forming one of the largest ecosystems on earth.

Elephant, gerenuk and lesser kudu find refuge here, together with well over 200 bird species including the martial eagle and golden-breasted starling; but game is still scarce and big cats seldom seen. In short, this is a park for lovers of space and solitude and truly wild landscapes with huge views extending all the way to Kilimanjaro.

Mkomazi, Tanzania’s new National Park
Overall rating

This park is not a prime wildlife destination, but the birding is great and the setting is spectacular. Mountains rise up in several directions and on a clear day, Kilimanjaro can be seen in the distance. Most animals tend to be skittish here, but giraffes are plenty and herds of zebra can often be seen in the distance. Some dry country specials like gerenuk antelope, often seen browsing on its hind legs, and the tiniest of antelopes, the Kirk’s dik-dik are easily spotted. Wild dogs and black rhinos have been reintroduced, but are still kept in enclosed areas. Difficult to really recommend for conventional game viewing, but great for walking safaris or chilling out a few days in the bush in Babu’s tented camp – the only accommodation inside the park.

Average Expert Rating

  • 2.4/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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