Mid last year, former tourism minister of Zimbabwe Walter Mzembi encouraged people in Africa to spend their holidays and weekends in wildlife parks where “natural social distancing” is observed.
Dr Mzembi defended his argument during a Zoom meeting saying that national parks or wildlife parks in Southern and East Africa were the safest areas free from coronavirus infections.
Last month, I visited three national parks in Northern Tanzania to test Dr Mzembi’s argument.
It is true that national parks provide a natural social distancing environment while still enabling visitors to interact with nature whether it is watching wild animals or trekking Mount Kilimanjaro.
Mikumi National Park is best known for its big African mammals and best for guided photographic safaris. The park is located some 250 kilometres from Tanzania’s commercial capital of Dar es Salaam and 55 kilometres from the Morogoro Municipality and is the nearest wildlife tourist park to Dar es Salaam for day-long tours.
Other parks in Southern Tanzania are Udzungwa and Kitulo National Parks. Located about 330 kilometres south of Dar es Salaam, Udzungwa is best for honeymoon safaris and offers scenic hiking routes.
Commonly known for its flowers, Kitulo National Park near Mbeya city in Southern Tanzania offers an exciting environment for honeymooners and walking safaris. Referred to as “God’s Garden”, is ideal for walking safaris.
Entry fees for Tanzanian citizens wishing to visit these three parks in southern Tanzania are Tsh5,900 ($2.60) per person above 16 years; those below 16 years are charged Tsh2,360 ($1.02) each. These fees also apply to East African Community citizens.
Non-East African Community adult citizens or foreign tourists visiting these parks to celebrate Valentine’s Day will pay $30 per person, those between 16 and five years pay $10 per a single entry and children below five years are allowed to enter the parks free of charge.
Wildlife parks in Northern Tanzania are set to attract more couples. Mr Shelutete said invitations have been extended to those wishing to visit Tarangire, Lake Manyara and Serengeti National Parks.
This article was first published in The EastAfrican newspaper on February 13, 2021.