Mkomazi National Park, at a glance
Mkomazi National Park is a hidden gem amongst the parks of Tanzania. Located in Northeastern Tanzania below the slopes of the Pare and Usambara Mountains, Mkomazi extends to Tsavo National Park in Kenya and together these two parks form the Greater Tsavo Ecosystem with an area of 43,ooo square kilometers.
Representing one of Tanzania’s most unique ecosystems – Mkomazi National Park is the southernmost extension of the Somali semi-arid belt and the Sahel Biosphere – the biogeographic region linking the Sahara Desert with Central Africa. For this reason, a number of species found in Mkomazi are found nowhere else in Tanzania.
Although protected as Mkomazi and Umba Game Reserves since 1951 it was only declared a national park in 2008 when Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) took over management of this 3,200 square kilometer wilderness.
Details of Mkomazi National Park
Size: 3,245 square kilometres.
Location: Northern Tanzania between Kilimanjaro and Tanga.
Best Time: Late June to early September.
To Do: Game viewing, bird watching, camping, hiking, and walking safaris.
Known For: Black rhinoceros and African wild dogs.
On the shores of the Umba River, Mkomazi translates into ‘The source of water’ in the Pare language.
Offering spectacular views of Kilimanjaro as well as a game viewing experience that includes the rare black rhinoceros and African wild dogs. Other rare inhabitants include the endangered gerenuk (which can be found nowhere else in Tanzania) and the African elephant.
The park is also home to crocodiles, leopards, lions, cheetahs, buffaloes, elephants, and zebra to name a few. Its semi-arid conditions make it a great place to spot the regal oryx, and the park is also home to a large variety of bird life and exotic plants.
Despite its close proximity to Moshi and Kilimanjaro, this 3,700km2/1,400mi2 extension of Kenya’s vast Tsavo National Park ranks among the most neglected of Tanzania’s protected areas. In terms of general wildlife viewing, Mkomazi doesn’t rank alongside most of the country’s better-known parks, but the quality of sightings improves with every passing year, and will hold considerable appeal to relaxed safari-goers who really want to escape the tourist treadmill.
When is the best time to go to Mkomazi National Park
The Dry season, from June to October, is the best time for general wildlife viewing in the park. However, the park isn’t a prime wildlife viewing destination and the scenery and views of the mountains are at their best in the Wet season, from November to May. This is also the best time to see elephants migrating into the park from Tsavo.
The climate in Mkomazi is usually dry and warm to hot. The warmest months are October to April, and the coldest months are May to September.
There are two Wet seasons. The ‘long rains’ are from March to May, and the ‘short rains’ are from November to December. Rains are very frequent during the rainy season but generally do not last all day.
Touris Attractions in Mkomazi National Park
It is possible to spot the Big 5 here however it may be difficult. Mkomazi is a Wet-season sanctuary for elephants coming from neighbouring Kenya’s Tsavo National Park and seeing elephants is a rare sight. The park has a rhino sanctuary for black rhinos, but is not easily possible to visit.
The rhinos spend their days and nights grazing and only sleep during the hottest parts of the day. When they aren’t eating, they like a cooling mud soak.
The park does have quite the variety of other wildlife and is home to the lion, buffalo, African wild dog, eland, Hartebeest, Grant’s Zebra and Spotted hyena, dik-diks and topi.
The wild dogs are long legged canines and can be seen in abundance at Mkomazi. They have four toes per foot unlike other dogs which make them unique and live in packs, social animals that communicate by touch, actions and vocalizations.
Giraffe, oryx, gerenuk, lesser kudu, eland, impala and Grant’s gazelle share the reserve with numerous predators including the cheetah. In all, 78 species of mammals have been recorded.
Mkomazi NP is quite an interesting park as visitors will find different animals here that you won’t find in many other locations in Tanzania as they are usually seen further north in Kenya. Such animals include the Such animals include the gerenuk, the vulturine guineafowl, and the fringe-eared oryx.
The birds of Mkomazi are numerous, with over 400 recorded species. Towards the western mountains the vegetation changes to a dry land forest attracting go away birds, ostriches, long crested eagles and bustards, European roller and the golden-breasted starling.
Doves, hornbills, weavers and guinea-fowl are all present in large numbers as well as such shrinking species including the martial eagle and violet wood-hoopoe.
How to get to Mkomazi National Park
The best way to get to Mkomazi is by road from the town of Moshi or Arusha. Mkomazi is right next to the small town of Same, which is a comfortable 69 mile drive south from Moshi. Most people fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), which is situated halfway between Arusha and Moshi and about 19 miles from Moshi. It is also possible to fly into Dar es Salaam and fly onto Arusha Airport (ARK) or Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO).
Kisima Airstrip is located about 40 miles from Mkomazi’s headquarters and is used by visitors who come to visit the Park through chartered flights. International flights into the country also arrive via Dar es Salaam (DAR) airport for visitors wondering how to get to Tanzania. DAR airport is located 18km south of Dar Es Salaam and a Tanzania visa and certain vaccinations may be required to enter the country
- The park is not well known and because of that it has its charm.
- Many species can be found.
- Mkomazi is vital refuge for two highly endangered species, the charismatic Black Rhino and sociable African wild dog
- It’s a cheap alternative for the northern national parks
- Start or end your trip @ stunning MamboViewPoint
Since Mkomazi was given National Park status it has seen a dramatic reduction in poaching, cattle grazing, fires, and other illegal activities. TANAPA, together with the George Adamson African Wildlife Preservation Trust, has also improved the road network and established several water catchments. In the last few years, game numbers have increased substantially with herds of up to a hundred zebra, eland, elephant, and buffalo being seen. There are many kongoni, giraffes, dik-diks and ostriches, and in the drier areas gerenuk, lesser kudu and beisa oryx. The larger cats are still rare, but with luck, you will encounter serval cat, caracal and wild cat, as well as wild dogs.
Here are some other activities which visitors can consider during their visit to Mkomazi NP:
- Nature walk: This can be done in the stunning Nilo and Amani Nature Reserves near Muheza town as well as hiking through Chome Nature Forest Reserve in Same.
- Walking safari: Walking in Mkomazi gives visitors an opportunity to go bird watching and walk around the beautiful Park with a trained Park Ranger around Dindira or Long walk starting from Zange area, the park’s HQ to the Babus area.
- Picnic: There are two picnic sites at Dindira and Vitewini areas where visitors can stop-off for a peaceful lunch whilst enjoying the wildlife on the plains from afar.
There are a small number of accommodation options at Mkomazi NP where visitors can stay during their trip.
With 2 lodges, cabins and hotels in the park and the surrounding towns, visitors have a number of options available including:
- Mkomazi safari lodge
- MamboViewPoint eco lodge
- Tona lodge
Lodges will typically have deluxe rooms, ensuite bathrooms, prepared dinners, excellent service and superb views across the surrounding landscape.
Newlyweds may also indulge on a Tanzania honeymoon safari or a luxury safari where they’ll receive a lot of extra pampering and top notch service, ensuring they feel all the love on a Tanzania safari.
- Babu’s Camp
- Zebra Camp
- Elephant Motel
There are a number of campsites near Mkomazi National Park that can cater towards the more budget conscious traveler including Pangani River Camp and 3 public campsites: Zange, Maore and Kamakota.
Bars/restaurants/amenities: Lodges will typically have all meals and drinks included in the lodge package.
The best way to get to Mkomazi is by road from the town of Moshi or Arusha. Mkomazi is right next to the small town of Same, which is a comfortable 69 mile drive south from Moshi.
Mkomazi National Park entry fee is $35.4 for adults or children of or above the age 16, $11.8 for children of age 5 to 15 and free for the children below the age of five.
The costs are applicable for 24 hours and it doesn’t include Rhino sanctuary visits. For the special rhino viewing, the cost is $35.4 for adults from age 16 and $11.8 for children aged 5 to 15 years.
The Rhino experience allows you to be in the home of Rhino for 1 to 2hrs. It is safe to note that you cannot enter the sanctuary with a private car but instead with special open safari vehicles.
The good news is, when you pay the fee for visiting the Rhino sanctuary, it includes the Tanzania National Park special open safari vehicle.
Game drive – Just like any other National Park in Tanzania, you can always do game drive. A game drive could give different experiences on each day because sometimes, you will be able to see so many animals and on others, there will be less in clear sight. However, this does not in any way make it boring or ugly! The landscape, rhinos and wild dogs projects can and will cheer up your day. You will also be able to see different species of birds and plants and who doesn’t want to know about the great botanic world!