Tanzania’s top 5 off the beaten track

Tanzania is best known for its mainstream safari areas, in particular the northern safari circuit – this includes the world-famous Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti along with the lesser-known national parks of Lake Manyara and Tarangire. Even less frequently visited, but fast-growing in popularity, is Southern Tanzania. Here, a combination of the Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park makes for a vastly different experience to what a visitor would have in the north, particularly with the boat and walking safaris available in the Selous, and Ruaha’s thrilling night game drives! However, there are still places to go in Tanzania that are largely untouched by commercial tourism. These are perfect for travellers who want to get well off the beaten track and see some really remote locations!

1. Katavi National Park

According to the latest published figures (2013), Katavi welcomes only around 3,000 visitors through its gates annually, making it one of Tanzania’s quietest national parks. With a landmass of 4,471 square kilometres, Katavi is also Tanzania’s third largest national park – couple this with the fact that there are only four tented camps here, and visitors are guaranteed a pretty exclusive experience!

Kichaka 2015-18.1

Game viewing in Katavi is nothing short of epic – buffalo numbering in their thousands, the highest concentrations of hippo anywhere in the world, and frequent congregations of elephant herds make this park a very special destination! Predators such as lion and leopard are also abundant – and if you are lucky, you might also spot wild dogs and cheetah. Katavi is largely considered a ‘dry season destination’, with game viewing at its peak between July and October. However, the park is also extraordinarily beautiful during or just after the rains, when it is transformed into a lush green paradise with plentiful water birds and a myriad of colourful wild flowers!

2. Mahale Mountains National Park

Perched on the shores of the magical Lake Tanganyika in the far west of Tanzania, Mahale Mountains National Park is one of the most secluded safari parks in Africa. The park is home to anywhere between 800 and 1,000 chimpanzees split among 12 different communities, making Mahale arguably one of the continent’s best places to view chimps in their natural habitat!

Greystoke Mahale chimp 8 - Nomad Tanzania

Similarly to Katavi, Mahale receives a ridiculously low number of visitors per year (just 1,200 in 2013), ensuring that anyone staying in one of the park’s three camps will feel a world away from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life. Choosing when to visit Mahale is quite important – July to October is the recommended time, as hiking through the mountains during the rains is challenging at best!

3. Lake Natron

area. However, it is famous for its lunar-like landscapes, its fabulous flocks of flamingos, and Ol Doinyo Lengai, an active volcano that can be climbed by anyone with a sense of adventure!

lake natron

Lake Natron is unusual in that it is neither a national park nor a particularly strong game-viewing Located a 3-hour drive from Karatu, Lake Natron is very much the heartland of the Maasai people. This means that visitors can experience truly authentic cultural interactions as well as exploring the rugged landscape that this area is best known for! The Lake itself is home to the huge flocks of flamingos, found there from the start of the breeding season, typically August, until October, when salinity is at its highest in the Lake.

4. Kichaka Camp

Strictly speaking, Kichaka is not a destination but a property within Ruaha National Park. However, both its location and strong focus on walking safaris ensure that it receives a special mention here!

Kichaka 2015-18

Set up and run by Andrew ‘Moli’ Molinaro and his partner Noelle Herzog, Kichaka is situated on the banks of the seasonal Lunda River in a remote corner of Ruaha National Park – well away from any other camp or lodge! Its secluded location means that visitors will rarely to never bump into anyone else, while it is safe to say that walking is done in areas where very few humans have ever set foot.

The park itself is amazingly game rich, boasting exceptional predator populations along with much rarer species like lesser kudu and wild dog.

5. Saadani National Park

This recently gazetted national park lies to the north of Dar es Salaam. While game viewing here is perhaps not as spectacular as in some of the better-known national parks, it certainly provides an interesting option for those wanting to experience something entirely different to what is available in any other East African national park!

saadani

Consisting primarily of coastal vegetation and forest along the Tanzanian coastline, this stunning little park is the only place where guests can enjoy a safari-and-beach experience in one – hippo and elephant are often seen taking a dip in the ocean. Boating safaris along the Wami River are also a possibility here, giving visitors the chance to take in the park’s brilliant birdlife! A visit to Saadani will likely be a very personalised experience, as there are really only two viable lodge options – Saadani Safari Lodge and Saadani River Lodge.

Julian Carter-Manning is a Co-founder and MD at Yellow Zebra Safaris.

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