Swirls of opaque mist hide from the advancing dawn at Mikumi National Park. The first shaft of sun colours the fluffy grass heads rippling across the plain in a russet halo. Confident is the camouflage of their stripes at this predatory hour, zebras pose for our pleasure, like ballerinas on stage, heads aligned, stripes merging, flowing motion.
Forming the northern border of Africa’s biggest game reserve â€“ the vast Selous â€“ Mikumi is one of the most popular of Tanzania’s national parks the most accessible part of a 75,000 square kilometre (about 47,000 square miles) wilderness that stretches almost to the shores of the Indian Ocean. The main feature of the park is the Mikumi flood plain, along with the mountain ranges that border the park on two sides. Open grasslands dominate in the flood plain, eventually merging with the miombo woodland covering the lower hills.
Here, lions survey their kingdom, sometimes from a perch high in the trees to keep their feet dry when the rains soak the plain’s sticky black soil. Many other animals retreat to the miombo woodlands in the wet season, where observation towers above the reline offers above the tree line offer panoramic views of the plain laid out below, home to formidable herds of buffalo. Mikumi elephants are more compact than the rest of their Tanzanian cousins, but still a lot bigger than any Land Rover. The rains swell the parks bird population to more than 300 species and Eurasian migrants seek refuge in Mikumi, joining resident’s stars like the lilac breasted roller.
The parks road network provides visitors with a variety of easy game drives. Hippo inhabits pools 5 km north of the main entrance and zebra, giraffe, hartebeest and wildebeest abound.