Mkomazi National Park : The reason many visitors choose Tanzania out of other tourist destinations as their favorite destination is because this fabulous country enables her visitors to access any of their favorite activities. This unique country is home to magnificent attractions like the mighty Kilimanjaro Mountain, Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater and idyllic sand beaches in the island of Zanzibar. Much of the Tanzanian famous destinations are located in so called ‘Northern Circuit’ where magical national parks like Serengeti, Tarangire, Lake Manyara , Arusha, Kilimanjaro and the breathtaking Mkomazi National Park. Kilimanjaro climbers are likely to combine the hiking experience with wildlife adventures by visiting this incredible park. Another advantage of visiting this park is that, the park is untouched; it has virgin lands and wild animals act so natural.
Mkomazi National Park is the off-the-beaten track destination worth spending a holiday at. This spectacular park is located between Kilimanjaro and Tanga regions on the border of Tanzania and Kenya. It is part of the Great Tsavo Ecosystem, a second largest transboundary ecosystem after the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem. Mkomazi is a Pare word for a “scoop of water” that mean little water.
Mkomazi was once a game reserve, “Mkomazi Umba Game Reserve” since 1951. It was established as a national park in 2008. This fantastic park is composed of scattered grey green scrubby bushes, savanna woodland and grassland. It is accessible by air, road and railway.
By road; the park is easily reachable through Arusha-Dar es Salaam surfaced road. You a diverge to one of its gates namely; Njiro, Kivingo and Umba gates. It is about 120 kilometers from Moshi town, about 200 kilometers from the Arusha city and about 440 kilometers from Dar es Salaam. It is also 142km from Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), 12km from Kilimanjaro National Park and 6km from Same town.
By air, chartered flights from Arusha Airport (ARK) to Kisima Airstrip are available. By railway, you can book a rail and stop at Same Railway Station. The best time for visiting this park is between June and October. Birders should visit Mkomazi between November and April to enjoy the scenes of colorful European and Asian migratory birds.
It is worth knowing about the entrance fees or conservation fees that you will pay at the gate entrances. Entrance fees once paid are non-refundable and are valid in 24 hours. TANAPA have updated these fees for the year 2022/23. For East African citizens and Tanzanian citizens of or above the age of 16 years, the fee is 5,000 Tanzania shillings while children aged between 5 and 15 years are charged a fee of 2,000 Tanzanian shillings. Foreign non-residents (non-East African citizens) of or above the age of 16 years are charged a fee of 30 USD and children aged between 5 and 15 years are charged a fee of 10 USD. Expatriates (foreign residents) of or above the age of 16 years are charged a fee of 15 USD while children aged between 5 and 15 years are charged a fee of 5 USD. Children aged below 5 years, regardless of their nationality are not charged any entrance fee. Other charges are also applied. But most of them are included in the safari packages offered by tour operators. Your tour operator will let you know.
Mkomazi National Park embraces spectacular attractions like wild animals, birds, natural features and stunning vegetation. Here are some of attractions found in Mkomazi National Park;
Wild animals; A large number of animals resides this marvelous park. You will encounter them in different part of the ecosystem. Common animals include elephants, topi, zebras, wildebeests, impalas, giraffes, black rhinos, lions, cheetahs, fringe eared oryx, wild dog and beisa oryx to name a few. In fact, a lucky man can spot all the Big Five animals in Mkomazi. Leopard is rarely seen in this park while elephant, buffalos, lions are commonly encountered. Black rhino and African wild dog are two endangered species found in Mkomazi. The authorities built a Mkomazi Rhino Sanctuary for protecting the black rhino from being an extinct. They also built a wild dog sanctuary for protecting the endangered African wild dog species. Therefore, you can enjoy viewing these cute mammals at small distance in their sanctuary. A sanctuary is a place where weak and young rhinos are kept and taken care of. After growing and becoming strong enough, they are released into the wild. Other animals like wildebeests, zebras and gazelles decorates the savanna plains of Mkomazi while world’s heaviest animals, elephants beautify the acacia woodlands. You will also be able to view the majestic giraffes, the symbol of Tanzania. Like the animals of the Great Serengeti Ecosystem, the animals of the Great Tsavo Ecosystem are migratory. During dry season, these animals cross the Tanzania-Kenya border into Tsavo National Park in Kenya for the search of pasture and water. These animals include giraffes, hartebeests, gerenuk, lesser kudu, buffalos, elands, wildebeests and zebras. Then, if you would like to trek this migration with less crowd, Mkomazi National Park is your best place.
Birds; Your primary of visiting Mkomazi National Park may not be birding, but you may be converted into a birder if you encounter the magical colorful singing birds found in this park. Mkomazi is home to five endemic bird species including the Somali, yellow-vented Eremomela, long-billed crombec, violet wood-hoopoe and Friedmann’s lark. You won’t find these species anywhere in the world except Mkomazi National Park. It is also a home to dry country bird species like Cobalt-crested vulturine and guinea fowl. Actually, Mkomazi is home to over 450 avian species. They can be seen in different habitats like riverine coasts, forests, trees and grasslands. Other species include ground birds like ostriches, ground hornbill, kori bustard and secretary bird. Migratory birds like the Eurasian roller tend to settle at Mkomazi National Park between November and April which is the best time for birding.
What to do in Mkomazi? There are dozens of activities you can be doing inside this attractive park. Here are some of them;
Game drives; A plenty of wild animals reside this national park. Game drives are best for viewing these animals. A morning game drive is best and reward you with clear visions of the animals and birds. You will wake up early in the 4:00 a.m. to prepare all necessary gears before your game drive. You can take a breakfast or pack some snacks for use. Tanzanian coffee is convincing; you will enjoy this sweet tea in the Mkomazi’s bush. In the morning, many animals are sunbathing close to their shelter. Birds are singing beautiful songs before disappearing to other places in search of food and mate. Big cats like lions, leopards and cheetahs are spotted in rock outcrops. They are less active in the morning. You will enjoy gorgeous pictures. Don’t forget to carry with you a pair binocular.
Bush meal; Tented camps and hotels know happy you will be when you have a meal in the African bush. They organize this event depending on what type of meal you want to eat with your partner, lover or family in the bush. Is it a lunch, dinner, breakfast or supper?
Cultural visits; Mkomazi National Park is surrounded with vibrant tribes worth a visit. They include the Pare, Chagga, Zigua, Wadigo among others. Pare are the charming and welcoming societies found in Kilimanjaro region specifically in Same and Mwanga districts. On your way to Mkomazi you may interact with these friendly people and you may taste their favorite dish is “Makande” (grinded maize grains supplemented with beans or other cereals). Chagga are usually found in Rombo, Moshi, Siha and Hai districts of Kilimanjaro region. Their sweet drink “mbege” which is made up of banana is less alcoholic and will interest you. They also grow tea and coffee in their plantations. Packaged coffee is sold in their “mangi” shops. Mangi are local shopkeepers usually from the Chagga tribe. Maasai are also found in the nearby Tanga and Arusha regions. You can book a trip to interact with these charming societies.
Camping; Public and private campsites are present in Mkomazi. Having a nice sleep while hearing the noises of the African wilderness is a once-in-a-lifetime experience every visitor wants to experience. MamboView Point Eco Lodge and Babu’s Camp are some of camps.
Different types of accommodations ranging from budget, midrange and luxurious, are also available in the Same town. Some of accommodations include Pangani River Camp, Tona Lodge, Mambo Cliff Inn, Elephant Motel, Mambo Guest House, Casa Lodge, Holy Night Guest House, Orlando Lodge, Hotel Kindoroko, Tumaini Guest House and Zebra Camp.