Mikumi National Park is the fourth-largest national park in Tanzania and was in 1964 and later expanded to share a border with the Selous, extending over 3,230 sq km (1,247 sq miles). Popular with expatriate weekenders, Mikumi safari has never caught on among international visitors. It is, nevertheless, delightful. The extensive Mkata Floodplain, crossed by a 60km (37-mile) road loop running northwest of the Tanzam Highway, feels like a compressed replica of the Serengeti. Its seasonally inundated grassland hosts impressive herds of zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, elands and impala; hippos snort and grunt in the waterholes, and around 400 species of birds have been spotted here. Giraffes lope elegantly through stands of flattopped acacias, elephants stroll majestically across the grassland, and the majestic greater kudu and sable antelope skulk in the thick Brachystegia woodland. Handsome golden-maned lions are common, and hyenas are regularly heard serenading the night sky.
Mikumi town, on the western border of the national park, was founded in 1914 and named after the borassus palms that flourished in the vicinity. Sadly, no palm groves grace Mikumi today: this scruffy little town, whose shape is defined by the highway along which it seems to creep further with each passing year, has all the aesthetic appeal of an overgrown truck stop. However, it is a popular budget base from which to explore Mikumi national park, and it also lies at the junction of the approach road – signposted left – to the marvelous Udzungwa Mountains.