LANDSCAPE

Welcome to Mkomazi National Park

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Introduction

The Mkomazi National Park is a spectacular wilderness. Within sight to the northwest is Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest summit. To the south, the Pare and Usambara Mountains form a dramatic backdrop and, to the north, Kenya’s vast Tsavo National Park shares a border with Mkomazi, making common ground for migratory herds of elephant, oryx and zebra during the wet season. Together with Tsavo, it forms one of the largest and most important protected ecosystems on earth.

This beautiful park, lies between Tanga and Kilimanjaro, 3 hours driving from Moshi, If you want to see the most of it with fewer tourists in the park, go to Mkomazi, almost all animals are found in this park. We recommend this park to everyone who loves nature. Although there are plenty of animals, they aren’t concentrated therefore somewhat disappointing after Arusha, Manyara, Tarangire and the other parks of the Northern circuit. It is a quiet park but with lots of wildlife to see.

The Mkomazi National Park is a magnificent, 3,500 square kilometre national park in northern Tanzania. Remote and initially inaccessible, it was established in 1951, but never attracted the financial support provided for the better known wildlife strongholds such as the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Serengeti National Parks. Only since 1989, when the Tanzanian Government re-examined the reserve’s status and designated it a National Priority Project, has its true significance and importance been recognized. Nowadays it is good accessible. From Mambo Viewpoint it is only one and a half hour drive to the Kivingo entrance.

The animals, too, are typical of the arid nyika. Giraffe, oryx, gerenuk, hartebeest, lesser kudu, eland, impala and Grant’s gazelle share the reserve with elephant, buffalo, and numerous predators, including lion, leopard and cheetah. In all, 78 species of mammals have been recorded. You can sight spectacular species such as fringe eared oryx, lesser kudu and Gerenuk which are rare elsewhere in Tanzania.

The birds of Mkomazi are even more numerous, with over 400 recorded species. Doves, hornbills, weavers and guinea-fowl are all present in large numbers – as well as such striking species as the martial eagle and violet wood-hoopoe. Fantastic destination for birds watchers ,refuge of charismatic black rhino and African wild dog.

Reasons for you to take a shot at  Mkomazi National Park.

  1. The park is not well known and because of that it has its charme. It’s not crowdy and the animals are acting natural.
  2. Almost all species can be found.
  3. Mkomazi is vital refuge for two highly endangered species, the charismatic black rhino and sociable African wild dog.
  4. It’s a cheap alternative for the northern national parks.

Park Size, Vegetation and Name Origin

The park covers over 3,234 square kilometres (323,400 ha), and is dominated by Acacia-Commiphora vegetation; it is contiguous with Kenya’s Tsavo West National Park. The area commonly called ‘Mkomazi’ is actually the union of two previous game reserves, the Umba Game Reserve in the east (in Lushoto District, Tanga Region) and the Mkomazi Game Reserve in the west (in Same District, Kilimanjaro Region); in government documents they are sometimes called the Mkomazi-Umba Game Reserves. Of the two, Mkomazi is larger, and has more diversity of relief and habitat, and a longer shared border with Tsavo West National Park. In the rest of this entry, ‘Mkomazi’ will refer to both the Mkomazi and Umba reserves together.

Famous For

Mkomazi is a hidden gem of a National park. It can’t compete with the better known parks in the Northern circuit, but if you want a feel of real wilderness away from the crowds of tourists, then this is the place to go.

Mkomazi was a neglected game reserve since 1951, elevated to National Park in 1989. By then much of the animals were gone. But Mkomazi is proof that the tides can be turned. The number of Animals is increasing every year. Now Eland roam in herds of up to 70 animals. Most of the typical savannah antelopes and gazelles are found here. Lesser kudu lurk in the thick bushes. Cheetahs roam the open spaces. Not all animals are found in big numbers and there are plenty of places for them to hide from curious eyes.

Mkomazi may be best known for its rhino project. Unfortunately they are still kept in a special enclosure. Access by ordinary visitors is by hard to get special permit only.

For the bird enthusiast the park is a gold mine. Don’t rush, but take time to stop at bushes and watch how many different species a thicket can hold. The numbers of hornbills of various kinds are astounding.

Mkomazi deserves more visitors than it gets today.

History of contest

Mkomazi’s history is one of contest, with the main contenders being government conservation planners and local rural resources users. It differs from many other cases in East Africa because limited resource use within the reserve was initially permitted. When Mkomazi was first established a number of pastoral families from the Parakuyo ethnic group were allowed to continue to live there with a few thousand of their cattle, goats and sheep. The (colonial) government of the time permitted them to reside there because they had been in the area for many years and were thought not to threaten the ecological integrity of the reserve. The pastoralists were only allowed in the eastern half of the reserve. Immigrant Maasai pastoralists and families from other ethnic groups were evicted when the reserve was established.

However Mkomazi was soon subject to immigration by other herders, some of which was resisted by the Parakuyo residents, and some which was facilitated by them. Some 20,000 animals were counted in the eastern half of the reserve in the early 1960s. In the early 1970s pastoralists began living and grazing in the western half of the reserve and by the mid-1980s around 80,000 cattle were counted inside the reserve as a whole.

The quantities of cattle within the reserve caused considerable concern for the environment and there was continual pressure to have them evicted. In the late 1980s the government resolved to cease all grazing permission within Mkomazi and evicted all herders. By July 1988 these evictions were complete. Evicted Maasai and Parakuyo pastoralists contested the legality of the evictions, claiming customary rights to the reserve in the Tanzanian courts, but lost their case.

Conservation

It’s great! Yes, it is very dry, but this apparently attracts the lesser Kudu. But it still needs the Government concentration on water sources to rescue the lives of the animals and way to prevent poaching and encroachment.

Location

Northern Tanzania split between Kilimanjaro and Tanga administrative regions. The park borders on the west the Tsavo National Park in Kenya. The Zange entrance gate lies 112 km (69 miles) from Moshi, 550 km (341 miles) from Mwalimu J. K. Nyerere International Airport – Dar es Salaam, 142 km (88.7 miles) from Kilimanjaro International Airport, 120 km (75 miles) from Kilimanjaro National Park and 6 km (3.7 miles) from the town of Same.

How to get there

By road, Mkomazi is easily accessible via Same, which lies on the surfaced highway connecting Arusha to Dar es Salaam. The Park is also easily accessible on special arrangement through Njiro, Kivingo and Umba gates. The park can also be easily accessed from the nearby existing tourist attractions in Eastern Arc Mountains, The Coast and Kilimanjaro Mountain. Charter flights are available to Kisima airstrip.

What to do

Game drives, camping, site seeing, bird watching, walking safari, and hiking (uphill). Learn more about conservation and rhinoceros at Mkomazi rhino sanctuary.

Conclusion

Set below the verdant slopes of the spectacular Usambara and Pare Eastern Arc Mountain Ranges and overseen by iconic snow – capped peak of Kilimanjaro, Mkomazi is a virgin breathtaking beauty exhibiting unique natural treasures and immense sense of space – which adds to the fulfillment of high visitor’s enjoyment expectations – a much needed bridge between northern circuit and coastal attractions.