Brooding and primeval, the forests of Udzungwa seem positively enchanted: a verdant refuge of sunshine-dappled glades enclosed by 30-metre (100 foot) high trees, their buttresses layered with fungi, lichens, mosses and ferns.
Udzungwa is the largest and most biodiverse of a chain of a dozen large forest-swathed mountains that rise majestically from the flat coastal scrub of eastern Tanzania. Known collectively as the Eastern Arc Mountains, this archipelago of isolated massifs has also been dubbed the African Galapagos for its treasure-trove of endemic plants and animals, most familiarly the delicate African violet.
Udzungwa alone among the ancient ranges of the Eastern Arc has been accorded national park status. It is also unique within Tanzania in that its closed-canopy forest spans altitudes of 250 metres (820 feet) to above 2,000 metres (6,560 ft) without interruption.
Not a conventional game viewing destination, Udzungwa is a magnet for hikers. An excellent network of forest trails includes the popular half-day ramble to Sanje Waterfall, which plunges 170 metres (550 feet) through a misty spray into the forested valley below.
The more challenging two-night Mwanihana Trail leads to the high plateau, with its panoramic views over surrounding sugar plantations, before ascending to Mwanihana peak, the second-highest point in the range.
Ornithologists are attracted to Udzungwa for an avian wealth embracing more than 400 species, from the lovely and readily-located green-headed oriole to more than a dozen secretive Eastern Arc endemics.
Four bird species are peculiar to Udzungwa, including a forest partridge first discovered in 1991 and more closely related to an Asian genus than to any other African fowl.
Of six primate species recorded, the Iringa red colobus and Sanje Crested Mangabey both occur nowhere else in the world – the latter, remarkably, remained undetected by biologists prior to 1979.
Undoubtedly, this great forest has yet to reveal all its treasures: ongoing scientific exploration will surely add to its diverse catalogue of endemics.
About Udzungwa Mountains National Park
The Udzungwa Mountains National Park with it’s area of 1990 sq. km is part of unique Eastern Arc Mountains, which cover about 10,000 square kilometers. The park is centered on 30 41’ E and 70 48’ S in the Iringa and Morogoro regions of south central Tanzania.
Udzungwa Mountains National Park rises between 250m asl Park and 2576m asl Lohomero at the highest peak.
Drive from Dar es Salaam or Mikumi National Park.
What to do
From a two-hour hike to the waterfall to camping safaris.
Combine with nearby Mikumi or en route to Ruaha.
The major attraction is biologically diverse plants, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds , butterfly, and insects of which some of species are found nowhere else in the world. Udzungwa Mountains National Park is the only known National Park in Tanzania with a culturally important natural cave and has survived destruction before gazettement due to traditional taboos and beliefs.
Culture and History
“Udzungwa” which is the name of the area is probably a linguistic corruption possibly by the Germans of the word “wadsungwa” one of the tribe who live on the slopes of the Mountains.
The park has Cultural and Historical sites such as Bokela (mountain God), Mwanaruvele cave, Magombereka cave, Nyumbanitu and Ndundulu mountains.
When to go
Possible year round although slippery in the rains.
The dry season is June-October before the short rains but be prepared for rain anytime.
More info: About Udzungwa …