Monday, January 20, 2014

Tanzania: Mikumi National Park - Most Accessible and Affordable but Underrated By the Nationals

FOUR hours of driving from Dar es Salaam en route to Iringa you will be passing through Mikumi National Park, the most accessible place to enjoy wildlife viewing at most ease and have quiet evenings to recharge one's batteries. No regrets in visiting the place as reporter, HENRY LYIMO, details.
About four hours of driving from Dar es Salaam en route to Iringa, we started to see some wildlife. Monkeys playing along the road, giraffe forage in the isolated acacia trees and the impalas eating from the savannah grass.
At the main gate, we were met by a charming staff, the people you will surely need when you are tired and you need to relax. To our pleasant surprise they assured us we could use our saloon car for a self-drive expedition or with a guide.
Whatever our preference we were assured of a memorable game viewing experience. We were indeed surprised that the guest lodges had spacious modern rooms equipped with en suite bathrooms. After dinner and a few drinks as we retired to our rooms for a quite night sleep, we decided we would stay for one more day. After the breakfast, we had a full day game drive to enjoy the wildlife at the park.
The park is criss-crossed by a good circuit of game-viewing roads to make your game viewing expedition the most spectacular. With the aid of a guide we saw most of the wildlife.
Apart from monkeys and herds of impala, our first most exciting sight of wildlife was a couple of giraffes, some feeding high up on an acacia and others wandering leisurely. Sighting these majestic creatures, the tallest animals in the world, with their extremely long necks and legs, and its distinctive coat patterns, provided a most fascinating scene to watch.
We spotted huge herds of buffalo and they reminded us of a bull we saw grazing just closer to the road caring the less about the vehicles. Other animals that we saw included eland, the world's largest antelope, equally impressive greater kudu and sable antelope.
We also saw several zebra. Our game expedition would be incomplete without seeing lions, known as the king of the jungle due to its majesty and strength. We were lucky to spot three lionesses just lying under a shade. Our guide tells us lions are mainly nocturnal.
They rest or sleep about 21 hours a day! After seeing lions we were willing to call it off and go back to the lodge. We were extremely satisfied with the game drive even though we missed seeing leopards and the rhino. It definitely exceeded our expectations.
A South African national, Marc Wegerif, often comes to Mikumi National Park and he said he had never been disappointed in game drive expeditions, accommodation and meals. He said he and his company had a great game viewing expedition.
They saw most of the wildlife including lions and they were looking forward to come again. "We have been here several times and have not been disappointed," he says. According to him, what makes Mikumi National Park unique is its location not very far from Dar es Salaam and closer to Morogoro and Iringa.
It makes it easy to drive to the park. Mikumi National Park is about 100 kilometres from Morogoro town. It is passed through by the Dar es Salaam - Iringa highway. It is thus the most accessible part of a 75,000 square kilometre (47,000 square mile) tract of wilderness that stretches east almost as far as the Indian Ocean.
"It is nice here. It is easy to get here and it easy to see most of the wildlife... you do not have to struggle to see them... . "It is also easy to drive up to here. The fact that we can drive ourselves up to here makes it more attractive," he said.
Accessibility, affordability and reliability, are three words that describe better the Mikumi National Park, he said. "Mikumi National Park is highly accessible, most affordable especially to Tanzanians and it is reliable as you can see most of the wildlife anytime of the year.
However, it seems as if Tanzanians have no passion for tourism. A visit to any tourist spot, even to those considered affordable to many, will confirm this. Dennis Hyera, shares the viewpoint. To him, Tanzanians have not awaken to appreciate the beauty of their unique wildlife riches.
Mr Hyera, who also had enjoyed a game viewing drive at the park in a company of his wife and children, said it was unfortunate that despite the cheap rates fixed for Tanzanians, only a few visit the national park. "You will not spend a fortune to visit Mikumi.
The rates are cheaper for Tanzanians," he said. To Alban Lutambi, a tour operator in Iringa, the problem is not money but attitude. Mr Lutambi who had brought to the park seven foreign tourists, says he has 12 years in the tourism industry and therefore he was speaking from experience.
He says most of Tanzanians are simply not enthusiastic about tourism because they are less adventurous. "There are so many people who can afford to come to these places but they will not, even when you don't charge them a dime," he said.
He says those who had ventured to go to one of the attractions keep on going as they simply cannot resist the urge for more adventures. "Once you visit one of the attractions you will not stop. The glamorous lure will not let you will just will have that desire to go to another, more exciting place," he says.

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