At a Glance
Dates: September 16th - September 29th, 2023
Extension: We do not currently offer any extensions to this itinerary.
Prices: £2,995 pp sharing (with a £250 single supplement), excluding international flights.
In a sentence: Tanzania's Southern Circuit is an under-appreciated jewel, often overshadowed by the marvellous Serengeti, and its constituent parks are amongst the finest for eclectic wildlife viewing in all of Africa.
Tanzania boasts an incredible range of safari destinations, with perhaps the most famous being the Serengeti, with its impressive predator population and jaw-dropping Great Migration. The Serengeti, along with the Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara and Tarangire, form an extraordinary 'Northern Circuit', visited by safari enthusiasts the world over. Less often visited, but just as impressive, is Tanzania's 'Southern Circuit'. Winding its way south-west from Tanzania's largest city, Dar es Salaam, this route takes in Nyerere National Park, Udzungwa Mountains National Park Ruaha National Park and Mikumi National Park, all spectacular wildernesses with a huge amount to offer. Lacking many of the creature comforts of the 'Northern Circuit', these reserves are rougher around the edges, but offer an authentic wilderness feel, quieter roads and remarkable sightings. All of the 'Big Five' can be encountered here, although Black Rhino are exceedingly rare, but the real stars are the Cheetah, African Wild Dogs, Serval and other predators that are encountered in these reserves with remarkable regularity. When one also takes into account the numerous species of rare primate that can be encountered in the Udzungwa Mountains, this itinerary is one of the most diverse on offer in Eastern Africa, and at an affordable price.
Dar es Salaam & Nyerere NP
Our tour begins with an early-morning pick-up from your hotel in Dar es Salaam, where you will meet your Pictus Safaris representative and local guide. Our initial drive today, will take around six hours, broken up by a break for lunch and photographic opportunities if desired. Arriving during the early afternoon, we set up camp in the grounds of Hippo Camp, a small and neglected camp just outside Nyerere National Park on the banks of the Rufiji River. Whilst Hippo Camp's lodge accommodation is lacking, our basic tented accommodation on the banks of the Rufiji offers real value for money, and we recommend using this afternoon to wander the banks of the Rufiji taking in the impressive view, as well as the local birdlife and primates. Blue Monkeys and Angola Colobus are commonly seen in camp, and previous guests have also seen Black-and-Rufous Elephant Shrew. As the evening sets in, you have the opportunity to head out onto the Rufiji River by boat, taking in the local Hippo pods as they yawn at sunset, making for great photographs. If lucky, Bush Elephants may even make an appearance along the riverbank to drink, although the Elephant population here has sharply decreased in this area in recent years due to rampant poaching.
After your boat safari, you will return to camp for dinner before some well-earned rest. Hippo Camp is home to several Thick-Tailed Galagos, whose cries you may well hear as you drift off to sleep. For those who wish to, we offer a drive around Hippo Camp this evening to explore the Buffer Zone and its nocturnal residents. Numerous duiker species, Genet, Civet and even Caracal and Serval have been seen on this short drive previously, although sightings can be sporadic.
This morning we will wake early and head directly through the Buffer Zone to the entrance gate to Nyerere National Park. This vast national park is newly-formed, created in 2019, and consists largely of the area formerly known as Selous Game Reserve. Widely regarded as one of the most impressive expanses of wilderness left on the African continent, the main game-viewing area is set on the banks of the Rufiji River, attracting a wide array of mammals and birds. Guests are often surprised by the setting of this park, dotted with palm trees and other tropical plants, and visiting this park is certainly not a typical safari experience! Our initial efforts will be to locate the prides of Lion resident in this area, often found lounging on the water's edge or in the dappled shade of a palm tree. We may also be rewarded with sightings of Buffalo, Bush Elephant and antelope including Lichtenstein's Hartebeest.
As the heat of the day sets in, we will leave the Rufiji River and head inland towards Lake Tagalala, one of the few areas within the national park where camping is permitted. The route to Lake Tagalala is prime game-viewing territory, with large prides of Lion commonly observed here. The few large remaining herds of Bush Elephant also frequent this area, as do clans of Spotted Hyena. If very lucky, we may even encounter some of Nyerere's most famous residents, African Wild Dogs. Along with the Okavango Delta in Botswana, this southern area of Tanzania is one of two true strongholds for this species in all of Africa. Sightings are sporadic, but with the inside knowledge of our local guide we hope to get lucky today.
At midday, we will arrive at Lake Tagalala and establish camp. The campsite here is basic, with functional toilets and showers, although these are often left unmaintained. The setting is truly stunning, however, with a view of the lake below and the dense woodland on nearby escarpments. Our afternoon game drive will take us to the lake shore, where Lion and Hyena populations are high, and these keystone species should provide excellent sightings here. The southern side of the lake is also known to harbour a habituated population of Leopards and, despite the fact that Nyerere is not typically a fantastic destination for Leopard sightings, we may be fortunate enough to encounter this elusive cat this evening.
Today we have a full day to explore the area around Lake Tagalala, in search of Leopard, Lion and Spotted Hyena. We may choose to spend a full day on game-drive, allowing us to reach areas further from camp including the grave of Frederick Selous, or instead we might opt to break our day into morning and evening game drives to allow concerted efforts at tracking down the Leopards local to Tagalala. Either way, today usually provides excellent sightings, and we often spend many hours in the presence of hunting Lions or feeding Elephants here. We will again spend the night at the remote campsite at Lake Tagalala.
This is very much a driving day, although we will start with a final game drive this morning to focus on any species that may have eluded us in Nyerere. We will then drive through the national park to our exit gate, which in itself may present us with game-viewing opportunities. Black Rhino are present in this area and, although they are extremely rare, a sighting may be possible with a great deal of luck. Beware, though, as this drive will certainly lead us to encounter Tsetse flies in their thousands, make sure you have insect repellent!
Once we have left Nyerere, we will spend the remainder of our day driving to Morogoro, a large town en route to Ruaha. Whilst the town itself is uninspiring, the drive to Morogoro is breathtaking in parts, taking us through the Uluguru Mountains that are dotted with smal villages. At points the road will be lined with ancient Baobab trees, at others we will drive through thick rainforest. Birders should keep an eye out for species as diverse as Secretary Bird and Silvery-Cheeked Hornbill. Mammal-watchers may glimpse Bush Elephants feeding around one of the many rivers we cross, but the highlight today must be the sensational scenery. We will overnight at the basic but comfortable Morogoro Arc Hotel, which offers the chance of a hot shower after three nights of camping.
Leaving Morogoro early, we will make a beeline for Iringa, a bustling town where we will stop for an early lunch. We will then strike out onto the little-travelled roads to Ruaha National Park. Whilst these tracks can be dusty and a little uncomfortable, we will be well-rewarded, arriving in time for an afternoon fame drive around our accommodation at the Ruaha Bandas.
Ruaha can provide truly unparalleled game-viewing experiences, and this afternoon we hope to introduce you to some of this national park's most famous residents. The sand rivers that snake through the park are home to large prides of Lion, as well as impressive herds of Buffalo and Bush Elephant. The narrow plains punctuated by Giraffe, Lesser Kudu and Grant's Gazelle are stalked by Cheetah and African Wild Dogs. And the rocky koppies that overlook the park hold one of Tanzania's highest densities of Leopards. This afternoon we may choose to focus on any one of these areas, with great sightings very likely. Once we have returned to the Bandas, we will enjoy a hot dinner before heading back out in a park vehicle for a night drive. The large predators are all possible tonight, but we may opt to seek out more elusive nocturnal wildlife, including Serval, Caracal, Crested Porcupine and Honey Badger.
Our accommodation tonight will be the Ruaha Bandas, small self-contained units offering en-suite facilities and two comfortable beds.
Perhaps the finest day for game-viewing on this entire itinerary, today we head out for a full-day game-drive taking in all the habitats there are to offer in Ruaha. Our early morning will be spent driving the roads along the bottom of the koppies near the Bandas, a well-known hotspot for Leopards. A sunrise sighting of a Leopardess sunning on a boulder, or laying on the branch of a Baobab, is hard to beat. As the sun rises, we will head to Ruaha's open plains, where coalition of Cheetah and pack of African Wild Dog are reliably seen. And in the heat of the midday sun, we will aim to intercept Lion and Elephant as they head to the rivers to drink. Our afternoon can be focussed as we choose, with guests often opting to head back to areas frequented by Leopards, as these cats often prove to be the most elusive in Ruaha.
We will again offer an exciting night drive tonight, with the chance to focus on rare smaller mammals in the hours of darkness.
Much like the previous day, we have a full day to scour Ruaha National Park today, with our focus entirely dependent on the wishes of the group. We will also offer a further night drive to those interested in pursuing some of Ruaha's rarer species.
A particularly early start today for all, we we head out into Ruaha on foot with a ranger to explore some of the nuances of our surroundings. We will have an opportunity to focus on birds, small mammals, tracks and flora this morning, and the chance to see a number of species on foot. After around two hours on foot, we will have breakfast before our final full-day game-drive into the park to locate any species we may have missed to this point.
Udzungwa Mountains NP
This morning we will bid farewell to Ruaha and head for the Isimila Stone Age site. This small archaeological site is a good area for lunch, and also presents an opportunity to learn more about the anthropological history of the area. A little open-air museum provides an introduction to the site, and a local guide will talk us through the site's history.
After lunch, we will head directly to the densely forested Udzungwa Mountains. Although we won't have time for a walk this evening, the drive into the area is scenic and worth the visit alone. We will overnight at the basic Twiga Hotel - whilst the accommodation here is not luxurious, it is well-located and a good base to explore the park in the coming days.
Udzungwa Mountains NP
After breakfast, we will head into the park for our first hike into the Udzungwa Mountains. We will head to the Sanje Waterfall, where you have the chance for a (chilly!) swim in the plunge pool, and the nearby viewpoint with a vista across the Kilombero Valley. One of the highlights in Udzungwa is the diversity of rare primates, amongst the most-prized being Udzungwa Red Colobus, Sanje Mangabey and Kipunji. Sightings of these rare mammals can be hard to come by, but we will head out on an evening walk to maximise our chances.
Udzungwa Mountains NP
Today will be a full-day of trekking on the trails in the national park, with a particular focus on the ultra-rare Abbott's Duiker and Grey-Faced Sengi. For those wanting a more relaxed day, the birding around the hotel grounds is excellent and can also make for a highly-rewarding day.
After breakfast at the Twiga Hotel, we will make the two-hour drive to Mikumi National Park. Sometimes omitted from tours of the 'Southern Circuit' due to its relative proximity to Dar es Salaam and reputation for crowds, this national park can actually be hugely rewarding. Lion, Leopard and Ground Pangolin are all possible here, and this is also one of the best locations for Serval and Porcupine in Tanzania. Our afternoon will be spent driving across Mikumi's plains in search of big cats - sadly, despite what many operators say, Wild Dogs are no longer present here. After dinner, we will have another opportunity for a night drive, where we may encounter African Wild Cat, Serval and Civet. Our accommodation in Mikumi will be basic but comfortable tourist cottages.
On our final full day, we will explore the depths of Mikumi. The expansive plains here are a great spot for sightings of relaxed Elephant, and the rich and varied antelope populations support large prides of Lion. The real trophy of Mikumi is the surprisingly obliging local population of Ground Pangolin - whilst sightings are far from guaranteed, this remains one of the better places in Africa to see this iconic species.
After a final morning game drive in Mikumi, we will drive to Dar es Salaam where the tour will end. We recommend flights leaving Dar es Salaam after 22.00, and can arrange accommodation in Dar es Salaam for you for an additional fee should you wish.
Please be aware that whilst we make every effort to follow the above itinerary as closely as possible, circumstances may
occasionally arise that mean the tour deviates from the itinerary.
Dates and Prices
This tour will run in September 2022, aiming to take advantage of the dry season when wildlife populations congregate around water sources, and when large predators are at their most mobile. The tour will run from September 17th to September 30th.
The cost of this trip is £2,995 per person excl. flights. This includes all meals, accommodation and wildlife-focussed activities. Drinks are not included. We regret that we must levy a single supplement of £250 pp for this trip. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £750 must be paid.
Flights and Visas
Pictus Safaris do not offer flight booking services. However, we do recommend the use of travel comparison websites such as skyscanner.net or momondo.com to identify the best fares, and then booking with the airline directly where possible. This will reduce the likelihood of complications and fees should any issues with your booking arise. If you wish to spend an additional night in Dar es Salaam at the beginning or end of your tour, we can arrange this for you at an extra cost. We strongly recommend booking flights leaving Entebbe after 22.00 on your return, if leaving on the same day that we return to Dar es Salaam to avoid disruption to your plans.
British nationals do require a visa to enter Tanzania. Clients of other nationalities are advised to check well before travel whether they require an entry visa. Details of the process of obtaining a tourist visa for Tanzania will be provided to you upon booking. The cost of a Tanzania entry e-visa for UK citizens is $50 - these may be obtained online or on arrival into Tanzania.
Weather and What to Bring
The weather in Tanzania in September is mild and dry, with maximum temperatures of around 26 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 13 degrees Celsius.
A full packing list will be circulated at least two months prior to departure. Pictus Safaris will be able to provide one extra set of binoculars and two spotlights per group, and clients are welcome to bring additional camera, videography and scope equipment should they wish to. Please note that the use of drones is not permitted in many protected areas. We strongly recommend bringing comfortable, loose-fitting and neutral-coloured clothing on safari - please do not bring camouflage clothing. We recommend against dark coloured clothing (e.g. black or dark blue) as this attracts biting flies. Worn-in hiking boots with ankle support are a must, as are sunglasses, sun protection and a hat.
Do also remember to budget for any expenses not included in the cost of the trip, including for gratuities and additional activities. We recommend bringing US Dollars.
Safety and Security
The security situation in Tanzania is good - however, there is some unrest in Mozambique close to its northern order with Tanzania. At this stage, this has not spread to Tanzania, but we are constantly monitoring this situation and will advise all clients should the security situation in Tanzania deteriorate.