Nyerere NP, Udzungwa Mountains NP, Ruaha NP and Mikumi NP, Tanzania
Tanzanian Southern Circuit
£7,850 pp sharing
At a Glance
Dates: September 20th - October 2nd, 2023
Extension: We do not currently offer any extensions to this itinerary.
Prices: £7,850 pp sharing (with a £750 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
On arrival into Dar es Salaam, you will be met by your Pictus Safaris tour leader and transferred to your city centre hotel. There is a pre-tour briefing in the hotel this evening, with the remainder of your day at leisure.
This morning we will wake early and head directly to Nyerere, stopping for lunch en route. 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, even on the drive through the park to our camp, 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.
After a chance to settle into camp this evening, there will be time for a boat safari on the Rufiji, with sundowners on offer as enjoy the sunset, interrupted only by the snorts of the hippo pods in the river.
Days Three to Four
Today we have two full days to explore the areas around Lake Manze, and even as far afield as Lake Tagalala, in search of Leopard, Lion and Spotted Hyena. We may choose to spend full days 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 Manze. 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 overnight by Lake Manze, with night drives on offer each evening.
After breakfast in the Selous, we will make the full-morning 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 a lovely lodge just outside the park.
We will explore the depths of Mikumi today. 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
This morning we will bid farewell to Mikumi and head to an entirely different ecosystem - the Udzungwa Mountains. The next few days will be spent exploring these mountains on the Mwanihana Trail, a hiking trail that takes in both the fascinating forests of Mwanihana, as well as Mwanihana Peak. Arriving in Udzungwa at around noon, we begin our hike in earnest today. We typically move through the forest slowly and deliberately, scanning the canopy for the unusual bird species that reside here, as well as several species of primate. This area has a high density of the rare Sanje River mangabey, and this is a key target today, but there are also good populations of Udzungwa red colobus and even kipunji we should keep an eye out for.
After a full afternoon hiking, we will reach our basic campsite and enjoy a freshly-prepared dinner. A spotlighting session around camp will aim to reveal some of the elusive crepuscular and nocturnal wildlife that roam the Mwanihana Forest, including grey-faced sengi and Abbott's duiker.
Today we enjoy a full day hiking the quiet and remote Mwanihana Forest. This area is rarely-visited by tour groups, and it is a real privilege to walk this ancient forest. If time permits, we will ascend Mwanihana Peak, a 6,824 foot (2,080 m) summit that rises from the forest. If not, we will simply hike the forest scanning for birdlife and primates today before setting up camp for our final night in the forest. Another spotlighting session tonight will focus on mountain galagos, rarely seen nocturnal primates that can often be encountered here.
After a final day of hiking, we will make it to a wonderful tented camp just outside the park. This evening, you may choose to rest in camp and enjoy the Udzungwa red colobus that feed on the camp's manicured lawns, or you may choose to hike up to a habituated group of Sanje River mangabeys if we didn't get a glimpse of them during our hike. We overnight at this beautiful tented camp.
Much of today is spent on the road, taking us west through Iringa to the wildest national park in this corner of Tanzania - Ruaha. We aim to arrive at our charming lodge by early evening, allowing time for dinner before an evening/night drive. What is immediately apparent in Ruaha is just how healthy the ecosystem is, with large numbers of grazers complemented by huge herds of elephant and towers of giraffe. Our drive tonight will likely focus on the huge prides of lion that hunt along the banks of dry riverbeds, but don't rule out a special sighting of species including wild dog, cheetah and even caracal.
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.
This morning you are transferred to Iringa Airport for your flight to Dar es Salaam, where the tour ends.
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 2023, 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 20th to October 2nd.
The cost of this trip is £7,850 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 £750 pp for this trip. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £3,150 plus any single supplement 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 Dar es Salaam 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 border 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.