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A Trek into Tanzania’s Southern Wilderness

Tanzania’s Southern Wilderness, often overshadowed by the more renowned Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater in the north, holds unique allure for those seeking an exclusive photo safari experience. The great migration is, well, great – but this famed attraction of wildebeest carries with it a high volume of tourism and all its consequences. By contrast, Tanzania’s south offers something more exclusive.

Aptly described as ‘Tanzania’s worst kept secret’ by Oliver Fox of Foxes Safari Camps (more from him below!), the southern national parks are endowed with the same rich diversity of wildlife and magnificent scenery as the north, but without the congestion and overly-used safari routes.

With an intentionally curated itinerary, our upcoming photo safari focuses on the unexplored and secluded locations in southern Tanzania, where over half of the country’s protected areas are, and you will be journeying to the best of them. From the Nyerere National Park, with its 500 species of birds and the Rufiji River sprawling across it; to Ruaha National Park, with its thousands of ancient baobab trees and the continent’s largest population of lions. You’ll also visit the Mikumi National Park, home to endemic species of primate, huge herds of buffalo and elephants, and healthy populations of leopards.

5 Highlights of Our Tanzania Photo Safari

With this safari, we invite you onto an exclusive photographic adventure through Tanzania’s truly wild landscapes.

1. Close Wildlife Encounters

The absence of the great migration doesn’t mean a lack of wildlife. “In fact, in October, the driest month, rivers become parched, concentrating wildlife around pools of the remaining water sources,” explains Oliver. “Thinned-out bushes provide greater vantage points, making wildlife encounters more predictable, and of course easier to photograph.”

a lion lying down on a dirt ground

Foxes Safari Camps, where you will be staying, is positioned strategically within all three national parks in the itinerary and offers unparalleled proximity to wildlife. This intimate experience in the wild is embraced by the fact that there are no fenced camps. When you are in camp, wildlife is free to roam wherever they choose to, and this means the perfect sighting and photo opportunity is always lurking close by.

Oliver mentions that recently, at Ruaha River Lodge, a few guests got a closer encounter than they had anticipated; “After dinner, the Masai guides had picked the guests up from the restaurant to escort them to their rooms. They had walked most of the way up when suddenly the Masai stopped the group and told them to be calm, still, and silent. Two lionesses appeared a few meters ahead, stopped, looked at the group, and walked off. You can imagine the huge sigh of relief let out in unison!”

“Masai guides are particularly adept at keeping guests safe because they learned from a young age to be acutely aware of their surroundings when to notice danger, and when to remain calm – you will be in good hands.”

Sightings like these, although special, are not uncommon. Ruaha National Park has a healthy population of lions, with prides of 20 to 25 scattered throughout the territory. In addition, this park has one of the largest concentrations of elephants in East Africa, and it’s home to herds of buffalo, Sable antelope, Grant’s gazelle, roan, giraffes, and hippos – you will certainly hear the grunting lullabies of love-lorn river horses through the otherwise quiet nights at Ruaha.

2. Hidden Gems

Southern Tanzania boasts over half of the country’s protected parks, with Ruaha, Vuma Mountains, and Nyerere standing out. Besides all the animals just mentioned, Ruaha’s diverse species also include predators like striped hyenas, leopards, cheetahs, and wild dogs. The diversity of species at this area is assuredly quite different from what you would capture in Kenya or South Africa.

A scenic view of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania

Further East, in the Vuma Mountains overlooking the Mkata Plains and Mikumi National Park, the grasslands offer habitat to vast herds of wildebeest, buffalo, zebra and giraffes which in turn attract the great predators, especially leopards. The mountains are also a notable bird paradise – with over 500 species recorded in the area.

Mikumi is, as Oliver described it, “not just an ideal location for setting your sights on game drives; it is also a remarkably vibrant setting. The expansive grasslands before you transform, showcasing a breathtaking array of oranges and yellows as the day progresses into a night sky littered with brightly lit stars unmarred by light pollution — a photographer’s dream.”

To this lineup of adventures, Nyerere National Park adds the wildlife attracted by the Rufiji River that flows all year round. Crocodiles, hippos and around a third of Tanzania’s entire population of elephants plus, the highest density of wild dogs in Africa. And of course, lions, which are almost ubiquitous in Southern Tanzania. The sandbanks, islands and channels of the Rufiji River also attract incredibly diverse species of birdlife.

3. Family-run Camps in the Wilderness

During our upcoming photo safari in this region, we’ll have the pleasure of staying at three lodges run by Foxes Safari Camps. “Foxes Safari Camps is a third-generation family-run business established in 1982,” explains Oliver, “and we’re proud to offer a premier experience. Because we opened quite sometime before our counterparts, we had the first pick of locations near the main water sources, and now Ruaha River Lodge and Rufiji River Camp provide a unique vantage point for wildlife viewing.”

elephants in Africa walking in a safari

“Elephants are the least shy about getting up close and personal, often coming up to tents to eat the Makuti fruit that falls onto the roof – so don’t be startled, that’s just a trunk!”

Needless to say, we’ll be guided by the very best during our game drives. “As you go off on your photography adventures in private open vehicles and with exclusive access, you will be accompanied by personalized in-house trained guides with a wealth of knowledge. There will be an abundance of time to capture the perfect shot.”

4. Photo Safari Meets Sustainability

3 Zebras walking on a grass field

Oliver Fox emphasizes that with such a rich history of being a family-run business for three generations, Foxes Safari Camps has remained true to its ethos of Africa is wildlife roaming free. “From the intentionality in our architectural design that combines local materials with Swahili-styled designs, creating a unique blend of wild setting and comfort, to the assurance of self-reliance and sustainable consumption through the on-site family farm, our camps simply prioritize an authentic experience.”

5. Behind the Lens

Throughout this photo safari, you will be guided by Alan Hewitt; seasoned wildlife and conservation photographer and official UK ambassador for FUJIFILM.

“I’m really looking forward to the diversity of this trip,” Alan says. “The three locations offer diversity in species and habitat. On some photography safaris, photography can be limited to actual game drives but at our chosen camps and lodges, there is increased potential of iconic species coming close enough for photography to continue throughout the day. I am particularly excited to see the wild dogs too, Nyerere National Park has recorded packs numbering 56 dogs!”

a cheetah lying down on a rock

Wondering what gear to bring? Here’s what the man behind the camera suggests: “Southern Tanzania’s reduced tourist numbers offer a more ethical and unrestricted wildlife photography experience. My advice to you is to think carefully about equipment; the locations chosen have a diverse habitat and landscape and this brings opportunities to work on wider contextual photography. Although telephoto lenses are important, packing a wider angle mid-range zoom is also important.”

Get More Tips on How to Choose a Tanzania Photo Safari

Join Us to Experience the Wonders of Southern Tanzania

In the serenity of southern Tanzania lies a distinct diversity of wildlife and breathtakingly picturesque landscapes waiting to be explored – and photographed! Our carefully curated safari promises an exclusive experience into the heart – and meat – of some of the best national parks in this region.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting your photography journey, this expedition is tailored to all levels of photographers. With a maximum of six participants, our small group setting allows for personalized tutoring from Alan Hewitt, ensuring everyone captures the magic at their own pace.

Don’t miss the chance to be part of this intimate adventure and immerse yourself in the wonders of Southern Tanzania. Secure your spot now and let your lens capture the wild!

Learn More About Our Tanzania Photo Safaris