With all the attention focussed on its more famous northern destinations such as the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania's equally enticing southern and central conservation areas tend to be overlooked. On the one hand that's a shame as they deliver a range of astonishing safari experiences from classic big game viewing to sublime bird watching and even chimpanzee trekking but on the other hand it does mean that you'll have these amazing places virtually to yourself.
Suitable for safari aficionados, wildlife enthusiasts and nature photographers who have already been to Africa's more popular national parks, South Central Tanzania's remote parks and reserves are very wild and virtually undeveloped but nevertheless are home to comfortable safari lodges and offer a range of activities from game drives to river cruises.
Choose the timing of your south and central Tanzania safari carefully and work closely with one of our safari experts to ensure maximum value from this challenging but very rewarding region.
Mahale Mountains & Gombe Stream – rainforests & chimpanzee trekking
They're hard to reach but travellers to either of these two little-visited national parks will soon realise why: lying on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, mountainous Mahale and Gombe offer a pristine Central African rainforest to explore. Forest birds, butterflies and small mammals are abundant but it's the primates that steal the show and none more so than chimpanzees. Although the chimpanzees are the star attraction of the Gombe Stream National Park, they are not the only one - there are many other species, including baboon, vervet monkey, red colobus monkey, blue monkey and bush babies.
A Gombe safari is a great opportunity to meet a chimpanzee up close - go chimp trekking during the July to October dry season when chimpanzees forage at lower altitudes and are easier to find.
Nyerere National Park (Selous Game Reserve) – Africa's greatest safari wilderness
At 50 000km², the Nyerere (Selous) really does deliver on its promise of a vast, virtually unvisited safari destination. Home to large numbers of classic African animals, the Nyerere is Big 5 country and can be explored by 4X4 or on foot while the Rufiji River offers excellent opportunities for boat safaris. Tanzania's best place for wild dog, the Nyerere is predator heaven and boasts large numbers of lion, cheetah and spotted hyena.
Best visited from June to October, travellers should avoid Nyerere during the March - April rainy season.
Read more about Nyerere (Selous).
Ruaha National Park – Tanzania's biggest elephant herds
Deep in Tanzania's little-visited south lies huge Ruaha, noted for its striking, rugged landscapes and abundant wildlife. Large numbers of elephants top the what-to-see list but it's a great destination for predators and the bird count is over 400 species. The Great Ruaha River adds an intriguing wetland aspect to this very under-rated safari destination.
Go between May and October for great dry season game viewing.
Read more about Ruaha.
Katavi National Park – incomparable dry season game viewing
It's Tanzania's 3rd largest park but you'll probably have the place to yourself: A Katavi safari will really take you off the beaten track but it offers the intrepid safari-goer an unforgettable wildlife experience. Katavi receives only a handful of visitors each year - the only option is to fly in and there is only one camp - but once you arrive and lay eyes on the thousands of plains game roaming freely you will realize that this untouched wilderness truly belongs to the animals. In fact, Katavi is one of the few places in East Africa where you can expect to meet more lions than people.
The best time to go on a Katavi safari is in the dry season from May to November. The park is home to huge numbers of buffalo, elephant, hippo, crocodile and lion, centred in increasing concentrations around Katavi's rivers as the hot dry season wears on.
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Discover off-the-beaten-track destinations with The Road Less Travelled: Africa's Most Unique Safaris