The gorgeous Mkomazi National Park is among the most underrated parks in Tanzania. While not nearly as visited as some of the other national parks that Africa has to offer, Mkomazi has plenty of attractive features that would make it worthwhile for anyone to make a visit. Endangered species, such as black rhinos and the African wild dog, interesting animals, and bird watching are all available for you to enjoy. In addition, there is plenty of sight-seeing to do, as well as hiking and both driving and camping safari.
- +The black rhino sanctuary
- +Interesting animals, such as the oryx and gerenuk
- +The chance to see endangered African wild dog
- +Bird watching (over 450 species)
- +Driving and camping safari
About Mkomazi National Park
Mkomazi National Park is home to miles of incredible beauty, including animals, vegetation and birds. Mkomazi is not as often visited as other parks in Tanzania, but it is just as beautiful and impressive and it has a lot to offer to the visitor who ventures out into its wilderness.
Thousands of tourists pass Mkomazi up on their way to some of the other parks, but as of 2006, Mkomazi has also been declared a national park and it welcomes people to come around and explore its natural, wild beauty. The park offers the chance to see lots of different animals, including giraffes, buffalos, zebras, elephants, hartebeest and eland.
However, the real crowning glory of Mkomazi National Park are the African wild dog and the black rhino. These endangered species are extremely rare and they depend on the natural and protected environment at Mkomazi, in order to survive. While wild dog can be seen all over the park, the black rhino benefits from a separate sanctuary that is fenced, in order to keep them safe.
In addition to these two special species, there is also the gerenuk, the kudu and the oryx – all extremely fascinating and among the most interesting-looking animals you will ever have the chance to see in the wild.
Like most of the other parks in Tanzania, Mkomazi National Park is also a great home for birds – 450 species to be precise – which makes it an ideal location for bird watchers and other types of bird enthusiasts who are hoping to see ground hornbill, ostrich, Eurasian roller, guineafowl, secretary bird, kori bustard, and plenty of others.
As for visitors who wish to have some peace and quiet and just admire the sights, Mkomazi enjoys some truly fantastic landscape and lots of space in which to walk around, go sight-seeing, take pictures or just relax and enjoy the tremendous beauty of undisturbed nature.
You can access Mkomazi National Park by driving or flying. By car, you can get there through Same, on the same highway that connects Dar es Salaam to Arusha. Access is also granted through Umba, Kivingo and Njiro gates, with special arrangements.
Should you decide to arrive by way of charter flight, you will arrive to the Kisima airstrip.
When to Go & Weather
- June-October: since this is the dry season, it is the one recommended for visiting if you are interested in viewing wild animals.
- March-June: this period is much better suited for admiring landscapes, for this is during the wet season, when animal sightings are rarer.
Mkomazi National Park is accessible all year round, but you may have a preference for one season or the other, depending on what you are interested in seeing. Most people come for game viewing, which is best during the dry season. Temperatures are consistent throughout the year, with an average of 25°C-30°C both during dry (June-October) and wet (November-May) season.
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Mkomazi was initially named a Game Reserve in 1951, later achieving National Park status in 2006. Upon its establishment, pastoral families went on living there with their animals, with the permission of the government, as they were not considered a danger to the Reserve and its ecological integrity. However, they only resided in the half in the east. Other ethnic groups, besides the Parakuyo, were evicted, but as time went by, immigrant pastoral families came into the Reserve, whether with the Parakuyo residents’ blessing or not. As a result, the stock numbers grew, especially the cattle, which increased in number from 20,000 in the 1960s to 80,000 in the 1980s.
This ever-growing size of the animal population became a threat to the ecological integrity and the environment, so eviction started being considered. Grazing stopped by the end of the 1980s, and in 1988 all herders were evicted, despite the Parakuyo and Maasai pastoralists’ protests and contestations. The evictions were ruled to be legal and organizations such as the Tony Fitzjohn/George Adamson African Wildlife Preservation Trust, the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust, and the British Charity have taken the forefront of a reserve restoration campaign. They have worked towards rebuilding the infrastructure of the reserve, creating sanctuaries for Black Rhinoceros and African Wild Dog (endangered species) and helping communities.
Wilderness is de rigeur at Mkomazi National Park, with everything natural and untouched. The Usambra Mountain, Pare Mountain and, of course, Mount Kilimanjaro offer an extraordinary view and are, alone, worth visiting Mkomazi. But mountainous sights are not the only thing this unique National Park can provide to its many visitors. Wildlife is the truly spectacular show to see, here, especially the migrations of herds of zebra, oryx, or elephant. This can be witnessed in the wet season.
The dry nature of the area means that the typical fauna includes impala, gerenuk, buffalo, oryx, lesser kudu, lion, giraffe, elephant, Grant’s gazelle, hartebeest, cheetah or leopard. The park is said to be the home of as many as 78 mammal species. In addition, the bird population is nothing to sneeze at, either. More than 400 species currently live in the protected habitat at Mkomazi, including violet wood-hoopoe, hornbills, guinea-fowl, martial eagle, doves, or weavers.
Because of the location – the South of the Sahel zone – the area is very dry, as mentioned, which means the typical flora is constituted of mbugas (grassland), baobab trees, bush, umbrella acacias, grey-green nyika bush and other kinds of vegetation that thrive in the dryness of the savanna.
Ecology and the conservation of wildlife is extremely important in Mkomazi, as demonstrated by the community’s efforts to preserving the park and its ecological integrity. While, in the beginning, pastoralists were allowed to reside in the Reserve, alongside their stock, that soon changed because of the danger the animals posed to the environment that needed to be protected. Thus, they were all evicted, in the best interest of preserving the location. Despite having been ruled as illegal, pastoralists still can be found roaming the Reserve, particularly during the wet season, but they are no longer such a threat to the integrity of the park.
By all means, the Reserve was able to be reformed and is now a protected area that has recovered from prolonged grazing. Several environmentalist organizations have taken it upon themselves to create spaces for endangered species within the Mkomazi Reserve, including for African Wild Dog and Black Rhinoceros. The local communities are deeply involved and invested in preserving these valuable natural assets and the wilderness of Mkomazi.
- The area used to have a problem with rampant ivory poaching, which brought the number of elephants down to 11 in Mkomazi. However, after efforts have been made towards protecting them, nowadays there are almost 1000 elephants in Mkomazi, which can be seen mainly during the wet season.
- The region was able to be rehabilitated thanks to it receiving the status of National Priority Project. This way, all efforts were channeled into bringing the Mkomazi Game Reserve to its former state, as a haven for numerous species of plants and animals, including endangered ones.
- Human interference is a major issue for the Mkomazi National Park, not only because of grazing but also because of poaching, hunting, poisoning and even arson. That is precisely why it was important for authorities to step in and declare the reserve a protected area. While illegal activity still goes on to some degree, it is manageable, and it does not majorly impact the environment and the wildlife.
- In order to incentivize the local communities to contribute to protecting the wildlife, educational programs have been set in place, meant to inform the people about the dangers of human activity and the importance of preserving the ecological integrity of the park.