The parks of Southern Tanzania are generally accessed by light aircraft, often in combination with some beach time in Zanzibar.
This type of fly-in lodge-based safari is a relatively relaxed affair, with typically 3 or 4 nights at each lodge. Hopping directly between camps in this way ensures a very pure wilderness experience.
The number one location is Selous, a wonderful languid reserve down on the coastal plateau, with great boat safari, birding and some pretty solid game-viewing.
Being located on the humid coastal plateau and with the great Rufiji river winding its way through the heart of the landscape, Selous has an unusually languid atmosphere. This is a very high quality game area, with superb birdlife along the river, good populations of elephant, lion and some decent packs of wilddog.
The reserve naturally lends itself to a slower pace of safari ... flying in to luxury camps, spending days out on the river, with early and late game-drives punctuated by lunches and siestas.
Ruaha is up on the central plateau and is very different in character and in many ways complementary to Selous. The Ruaha valley is hidden away in the central highlands of Tanzania, a remote and rugged landscape, whose river draws in heavy game densities during the dry season Jun/Dec.
In a country with so many wonderful reserves Ruaha often finds itself passed over. The park therefore experiences relatively low visitor traffic, although what vehicles there are do tend to cluster around central areas.
Ruaha tends to be visited mainly as an easy flying safari combination with the Selous. It is also possible to combine it with parks in the North and West.
Mikumi National Park is an unspectacular park, with reasonably pretty undulating landscapes and with decent resident game populations. The best time to visit the park is during the dry season which is June through February. During the rainy season (March through - May) some of the park roads are impassable.
Mikumi is the 3rd largest park in Tanzania covering 3230 square kilometers. The park is named after the village just beyond its western border on the Dar es Salaam - Iringa Highway which bisects the park for 50 km. Mikumi shares its boundary in the extreme south, with the Selous Game Reserve, and the two make one ecosystem with some animals (Elephant, Buffaloes and Zebras) migrating to and from the northern part of the reserve into Mikumi National Park.
Udzungwa is a small national park which encompasses an upland area of particular scientific interest due its diversity of small mammals, birds and reptiles. There is no road access, but a small network of hiking trails through the mountainous terrain and pristine forests.