Mikumi National Park these open horizons and abundant wildlife of the Mkata Floodplain, the popular centerpiece of Mikumi, is often compared to the more famous Serengeti Plains. At the end of the Dry season the waterholes, including the hippo pool, become a wildlife magnet, and huge herds of elephant and buffalo visit these spots throughout the day.
The grasslands of Mikumi support large herds of zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, and impala. Giraffe and elephant are also common. Predators, such as lion and spotted hyena, are present but sightings are less common than in some of the more popular parks. Troops of yellow baboon and vervet monkey can be found throughout the park.
Zebra, wildebeest, impala, and buffalo can be found on the grassy plains. Lion, which prey on these animals, share the same area and can occasionally be spotted. Giraffe browse leaves from the isolated acacia trees that fringe the Mkata River. The small islands of shade provided by these acacias are also favored by elephants.
Mikumi is one of the most reliable places in Tanzania for sightings of the eland, the world’s largest antelope. The equally impressive greater kudu and sable antelope can be found in the miombo woodland-covered foothills of the mountains that rise from the park’s borders. Lichtenstein’s hartebeest is one of the more unusual antelopes found here.
The Dry season, from June to October, is the best time for wildlife viewing in the park. Wildlife is easier to spot because the vegetation is thinner and animals gather around predictable water sources such as the Mkata River, the hippo pool, and other waterholes. At the end of the Dry season, during September and October, these waterholes are almost constantly visited by big herds of buffalo and elephant as well as other wildlife. The 80% portion of Mikumi southeast of the Tanzam Highway is inaccessible to tourists. The 60km circuit open to tourists is on the Mkata River floodplain, comprised of open grassland interspersed with acacia woodland, patches of Borassus palms, and the odd baobab tree.
More than 400 bird species have been recorded, with such colorful common residents as the lilac-breasted roller, yellow-throated longclaw and bateleur eagle, joined by a host of European migratory birds from November to April. The hippo pool and Mwanambogo dam are a good place to see some of the water-associated birds like African fish eagle, African spoonbill, and hamerkop, and the Mkata River offers great views of African open bills fishing.
Birdlife is good throughout the whole year, but at its best from November through April. At this time, resident birds are in breeding plumage, and migratory birds from North Africa and Europe can be found. Wildlife Safaris is best during the Dry season (June to October).
Mikumi enjoys uniform conditions because of its equatorial location. The months of the Dry season (June to October) are among the coolest. This is particularly true of the higher altitudes, although these are mostly inaccessible to tourists. The Wet season (November to May) is humid and hot, especially in the closing months of the year.
The climate in Mikumi varies from warm to hot and humid, with little change throughout the year. The warmest months are October to March, and the coolest is June to August.
Mikumi’s Wet season runs from November to May. Rains occur almost daily, usually in the afternoon, but seldom last long. The Dry season is from June to October.
Dry season –June to October
Afternoon temperatures are usually around 27°C/81°F. The days are bright and clear. June, July, August & September – It hardly ever rains. These are the coolest months. Night temperatures drop to about 18°C/64°F.
October – If early, rains might start at the end of October.
Wet season –November to May
It is hot and humid in the Wet season. Afternoon temperatures are usually around 30°C/86°F and night temperatures are around 21°C/70°F.
November & December – This is the beginning of the Wet season, and the exact start is unpredictable. Rains are infrequent, usually in the afternoon. It is rare for it to rain throughout the day.
January & February – The rainy season is well on its way now, and there will be more rainy days in these months. Still, it’s rare to experience rain all day. Afternoon showers are common.
March, April & May – These are the wettest months. There tends to be cloud cover and rain most days, although seldom for the whole day. The average temperatures range from 28°C/82°F for a high and 21°C/70°F for a low.
The Dry season (June to October) is the peak period for watching wildlife. The bush thins out and animals are easy to spot. Plus, the absence of precipitation is balanced by an abundance of sunshine. You can still see wildlife in the wetter periods, but the humidity and the mosquitoes might drive you crazy.
Wildlife Safaris in Mikumi is fine throughout the year, but the best time is from late June to October (the Dry season). At this time vegetation is thinner, and animals gather around waterholes. The end of the Dry season (September and October) is particularly rewarding as big herds of animals come to drink at the last sources of water.
Safaris to Mikumi usually start from Dar es Salaam, and your point of entry for the country is Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR). Mikumi is a four-hour drive away from Dar es Salaam and can easily be visited as a weekend get-away. However, most people visit Mikumi en route to Selous or Ruaha, the most popular parks in southern Tanzania. The only scheduled flights to Mikumi are with Safari Air Link which offers a daily connection to Ruaha, Selous, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. If driving from Ruaha, the distance is about 320km/200mi, and the drive takes roughly five hours.
Mikumi National Park is very safe to visit in our opinion. There isn’t a lot of crime towards tourists in Tanzania. The small numbers of issues that do occur are usually in urban areas, so normal safety precautions need to be taken when visiting towns and cities en route to parks.
It is advisable to get several vaccinations before traveling to Tanzania – seek advice from your local health professional. Malaria is present, so guarding against it by using antimalarial medicine and mosquito repellent (look for those containing DEET as they are most effective) is recommended. Covering up in the evening when mosquitoes are most active is also a good idea.