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refox3488

Budget Safari - 3 Day Mikumi N.P. & Udzungwa MT N.P.

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refox3488

Trip Background: After returning from a trip to South East Asia with a group of 7 friends in 2018, we all decided that we needed to plan another trip for 2019. Since we all had traveled fairly extensively in Europe and Asia, i offered Africa as the place for our next adventure. Originally, i thought that we would do a mobile camping safari in Kenya, but i soon found out that not everyone's idea of going to Africa included an extended photo safari in the many wonderful national parks of Africa. After losing several votes to the majority, our itinerary included a short safari to Mikumi N.P. and a day of hiking in Udzungwa N.P with the majority of our trip spent on the island of Zanzibar.

 

This trip report will cover the short trip to Maikumi and Udzungwa National Parks. I wasn't originally planning on writing up a review since there are so many better parks and longer trips already on this site, but i found this safari to be a great option for travelers who either don't have the time or the money to do amore thorough safari.

 

Dates: Sep 15 - 17 2019

 

Budget: Total per person for our three day, two night trip was $468 and included: transfer to and from Dar Es Salaam, 2 nights accommodation at Camp Bastian, 2 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches and 2 Dinners, Bottled Water, Entry Fees for both parks and a Hiking Guide at Udzungwa.

 

Tour Operator: The trip was organized by African Pangolin Safaris and our driver/guide was Yunus Mohamed. Yunus was super personable, quickly got to know our group and provided great information and insight, i would definitely travel with him again. 

 

Accommodations: Camp Bastian lived up to its 5 star review on trip-advisor. We were given the 4 Bedroom Cottage ( 3 rooms with double beds and 1 room with a bunk bed and a single) on the property, which was very large, clean and had comfortable beds. We used the large deck at the front of the cottage to play cards and have a couple night caps both nights we were at camp. The cottage was perfect for a large group of friends.

 

Other amenities at camp included a bar and pool. The pool was large and great after our hike. The bar was reasonably priced and had good service. WIFI was available in the common areas ( reception, pool, bar and dinning areas) and we didn't have any trouble with the speed.

 

The camp serves a buffet dinner that had plenty of options: meat or fish, a couple starches, soup, bread and a few different vegetables, which were all very tasty. At dinner they took our breakfast order for the next morning you could order as much as you wanted from the menu card and it was served when you arrived at breakfast. Breakfast was supposed to start at 6:00 am, but we were not actually served until 6:45 our first morning, service was at a relaxed African pace so we got a later start then we intended. However,  a word from our guide on the second night to the camp staff insured that breakfast the second morning was served right at 6 and in a much faster manner, so the first day was probably just a misunderstanding as to when we wanted to leave.

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Edited by refox3488
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refox3488

Day One: Yunus picked us up from our hotel in Dar Es Saalam, he was 15 minutes early, which was great as it meant we left right on time after having time to load the truck with all of our luggage.

 

The drive to Mikumi gave us a chance to experience the suburban sprawl of DAR and to see the small villages along the way, i felt like it allowed us to truly experience a piece of life in Tanzania. Most of the time, we were going too fast for pictures and had the windows closed because of the road dust, but i found the trip to be interesting. Currently, the highway is being expanded to six lanes so there was a lot of construction until we got to the end of DAR, which took around 1.5 hours. At around the half way point we stopped at a gas station that had a restaurant and grocery store to use the bathroom and get some food. 

 

Once we arrived at the park we completed the entry paperwork and then took off to Mikumi Wildlife Camp to get lunch. Yunus had called ahead and ordered our lunch for us, so we were served right away. Most of us opted for the grilled chicken, it was fantastic very juicy and well seasoned, came with chips and a simple salad. We all loved the chili ketchup, which none of us had experienced before. 

 

We started our drive in the park at 1:45 PM, were met by impalas, baboons and warthogs on the way in. Further into the park, we ran into a family of elephants, including a couple young ones that stole the show.  Our next stop was near a dazzle of zebra they quickly decided to turn their butts towards us in typical zebra style. We then circle around the smaller hippo pound, where the hippos were in residence, we found out day 2 that they had moved to the smaller pound because the larger pound was over grown with green plants. Several species were hanging out at the hippo pound including crocodiles, baboons and yellow billed storks. We then ran into another family of elephants, including one that was much more interested in getting a drink than posing for photos, he quickly became a group favorite. 

 

After spending sometime with the second elephant family we went off in search of the lions. We were allowed to go off roading in the area that they were last seen, but unfortunately they were to far in for us to find, so we spent the golden hour with the zebras and giraffes instead. It was a nice drive and it felt like we had the entire park to ourselves, i only saw one or two other vehicles the whole afternoon.

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refox3488

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refox3488

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refox3488

Day Two: Our mission for Day Two was to hike to Sanja Falls and swim in the waterfall. We got off to a later start then we wanted because of our leisurely breakfast, but reached Uduzungwa Mountain National Park around 10:00 AM after a 1.5 hour drive from our camp. After registering at the park, our hiking guide gave us an overview of the National Park, showed us a map of the hike and highlighted the native species we might see on the hike. We had opted for the longer hike which was an 8 KM circuit, the shorter hike is 7.2 KM and has you go up and down the same 3.6 KM path, so for just a little longer hike you get to cover double the amount of rainforest. 

 

The hike was a lot more intense then we were expecting, it was very steep and the stairs that were made out of logs and rocks from the rainforest were more of a hinderance than a help. While none of us are regular hikers, we are all fairly young, late twenties, early thirties and fairly active, even the most physically fit of us found this hike difficult, the least physically fit of us was sore for three days after.  I would recommend anyone interested in this hike pack double the amount of water that you think you need and wear good hiking shoes, your toes will thank you.

 

While the hike was rigorous and the monkeys  we were  looking for were scarce, the views of the water and valley did not disappoint.

 

The waterfall has three levels, swimming is allowed on level 3 and level 1. Swimming isn't allowed at level 2, but we did have lunch there because of the amazing view looking over the Tanzanian sugar cane fields below. 

 

Lunch was provided by our camp and was more food then any of us needed, even after the uphill portion of the hike. Our trip down the mountain was also pretty rough because of the steep grade, luckily our guide found us some nice walking sticks, which were very appreciated. We completed the hike in five hours, which was on the short end of the estimate that we were given by the guide at the beginning so even though we felt like we were struggling the whole time our group didn't do to bad. 

 

The hike ends at a village, several men were selling souvenirs as well as coconuts and water. We drove back to camp and spent the rest of the day by the pool with well deserved cold drinks. 

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Caracal
4 hours ago, refox3488 said:

 I wasn't originally planning on writting up a review since there are so many better parks and longer trips already on this site, but i found this safari to be a great option for travelers who either don't have the time or the money to do amore through safari.

 

 

 

I for one am very pleased you changed your mind and decided to post this report. I have fond memories of Mikumi and Sanje Falls - isn't that view from the top of the Falls spectacular? - well worth the climb. What's more you did better than me - when I did the climb back in 2005 I missed out on the endemic Red colobus and the Sanje Mangabey. The closest I got was the pungent smell of the colobus urine under the trees where they'd been roosting overnight!.

Good to see there are elephants with young and interesting to hear that there are still few other visitors despite Mikumi being quite accessible from Dar. Thanks for this posting and for including details about cost, operator etc.

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refox3488
17 hours ago, Caracal said:

 

I for one am very pleased you changed your mind and decided to post this report. I have fond memories of Mikumi and Sanje Falls - isn't that view from the top of the Falls spectacular? - well worth the climb. 

Yes, the view from the top is spectacular and well worth the climb.

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refox3488

Day Three: Our mission for day three was to find the lions in Mikumi. The night before, at dinner, we had run into a couple other campers that had seen the lions make a wildebeest kill that morning and had also been lucky enough to find a leopard, so our hopes were high that we would be able to find the lions near their kill the next morning. 

Thankfully the lions of Mikumi didn't disappoint, and we quickly found them on the edge of a ditch that they had dragged the kill into. The lions had hid it very well in the bottom of the ditch in the bushes and shrubs. We could smell it, but no one could see it. There were two lions still protecting the kill, a young juvenile male and an adult female. Both just seemed to want to lay about and recover from their feast. The young male’s siesta was abruptly interrupted when a baboon walked to close to his resting spot to go unchallenged. Luckily for the baboon, the response was tempered by the male’s full belly and exhaustion, after eating such a big meal, after running the baboon off a little, the male slumped back down to continue resting. I got some more pictures of him, but then noticed a baboon troop not far away, which had the cutest little baby baboon. I have named him Dobby because he looks like the house elf.  

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refox3488

Day Three Cont.: 

 

At this point, our guide was informed that another lioness had been spotted with her young cubs a little further down the road, so we decided to go look for them. Our guide told us that the mom was sisters with the female lion that we had seen earlier and that they had a third sister, who had even younger cubs, but she and the youngest cubs were hiding in the tall grasses off the road, which we had searched on Day 1 to no avail. In addition, their pride has two males, but they were last seen on the other side of the highway. According, to our guide they have a pretty large territory and can be hard to find because they roam such a large space. 
 
I throughly enjoyed watching the cubs and their mom interact. The one cub was much more energetic and you could tell he was a pawful, while the other cub was more shy and reserved, cautiously hanging back and thinking before following after his mom and sibling. After a bit of play with mom and each other the cubs and mom headed off into the tall grass were the other sister was believed to be. Instead of following them, we went to look for the leopard that had been spotted the day before, we drove through a part of the park that reminded me of Leopard Gorge in the Masai Mara, it was very rock with lots of Acacia trees. Sadly, we did not spot the leopard, but enjoyed looking for it. 

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refox3488

Day Three Cont.:

We returned to the more wide open plains section of the park and got to watch the zebras, giraffes and wildebeests for a while. Eventually, a family of elephants wandered through, once again the baby stole the show. After a while, we decided to move back to the hippo pounds, the hippos were still hanging out in the smaller of the pounds, but this time had a large herd of cape buffalo keeping them company. 
 
Across the road at the larger hippo pound, we were allowed to get out and stretch our legs and use the restroom. We saw a group of men cleaning the plants out of the larger pound to make it more appealing for the hippos to return. We also got to take pictures in the large baobab tree close to the restrooms.
 
We circled back around to the ditch that the lions had stashed their kill in, the female was still relaxing on the bank, but it was getting warm so within ten minutes of us arriving, she got up and moved into the bush and out of our eyesight for some shade. 
 
Before our first drive, I had mentioned  that I hoped to get some pictures of a lilac breast roller. Yunus, our guide, delivered just as we were about to make our way out of the park. I don’t consider myself a birder, but my pictures of the L.B.R. are definitely some of my favorites from the trip. 
 
Finally, we came upon a Black Backed Jackal on our drive out, it was hot so he was hanging in the shade, but we were all excited to have seen another mammal. 

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refox3488

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refox3488
Overall, Mikumi does not have the same density of predators as some of the more well known parks, for instance no one we spoke with had seen a hyena in the park. Where Mikumi excels is on the beauty of the park and the emptiness.  I was really surprised at how few other visitors there were. The busiest sighting was in the morning with the lions at their kill and there were only four vehicles there including ours, we were all spread out around the ditch too so it did not feel crowded at all. The rest of the day we would occasionally see another vehicle, but for the most part we were alone in the park. 
 
We left the park at 11:00 AM, but didn’t make it back to Dar until 7:00 PM traffic outside Dar was terrible with the construction on the highway and we all were very relived when we eventually pulled up to our hotel. The Highway should be much improved when it is completed, but for now it’s a bit of a nightmare with people, goats and cows just randomly crossing the highway and heavy machinery regularly blocking traffic. 

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michael-ibk

I too am very happy you decided to write this report. Very impressed with the quality of gameviewing in Mikumi. We are going to Udzungwa next February for three days, so really appreciate your pictures and the description of the hike.

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Atravelynn
On 9/28/2019 at 12:49 AM, refox3488 said:

This trip report will cover the short trip to Maikumi and Udzungwa National Parks. I wasn't originally planning on writing up a review since there are so many better parks and longer trips already on this site, but i found this safari to be a great option for travelers who either don't have the time or the money to do amore thorough safari.

That's one of the benefits of this site.  It shows all kinds of safaris and nature outings.

 

"Where Mikumi excels is on the beauty of the park and the emptiness. "  Add those qualities to less costly and you have a winner.

 

Your missions were accomplished on safari and in sharing this info with us.  Thanks!

 

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TonyQ

Thank you for a fascinating report. Some great sightings and lovely photos.

Thank you for posting.

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refox3488

@michael-ibk, @Atravelynn, @TonyQ Thanks for reading and your kind comments! I'm glad some of you found the report helpful!

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