The Udzungwa Mountains National Park is completely different from the open, dry savannah of other parks. Part of the Eastern Arc Mountains which are found in Kenya and Tanzania, this range was formed some 200 million years ago. Today they hold a unique collection of flora and fauna and cover only 2% of Tanzania’s area but hold between 30-40% of the countries plant species. The park officially established in 1992, the biodiversity of this park is by far one of Tanzania’s most special features. Here travellers will be enveloped by mountain forests, tropical rainforests, Miombo woodlands, grasslands and steppe.
Tourism in the Udzungwa Mountains national Park revolves around hiking and trekking, as the park has no roads and is accessible only on foot. But exploring this mountainous paradise is incredibly rewarding and a fantastic contrasting add on to a traditional safari elsewhere. The trails range from easy 4 hour walks to waterfalls to more technically challenging 6-day hikes with camping in the park.
The vertical height of the Udzungwa forests ranges from 250 m to 2,576 m and with numerous forest trails, the park is a true hikers paradise. Dotted with waterfalls and natural pools, bird and primate species found nowhere else, it is easy to understand why it has also been dubbed as the African Galapagos. A veritable treasure-trove of endemic plants and animals encased in 30 metre high trees.
Although not a conventional game viewing destination, its proximity to Dar es Salaam and Mikumi National Park, make it very accessible. Five hours (350 km/215 miles) from Dar es Salaam and 65 kms (40 miles) southwest of Mikumi, it is an easy weekend destination. The main entry into Tanzania is at Dar es Salaam and at Julius Nyerere International Airport.
Due to is botanical diversity and that it is still largely unexplored and scientifically documented, many wilderness enthusiasts make the trip to the park for just those reasons.
Udzungwa Mountains National Park is five hours (350 km/215 miles) from Dar es Salaam and 65 kms (40 miles) southwest of Mikumi. It is often done as combined trip with Mikumi National Park.
Travellers tend to self-drive from these locations or if booked by a tour company, all transport will be taken care of. The starting point will be Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s Capital.
While tourism is centred around hiking and exploring of the mountain and forests, there is still good variety of wildlife to see. In fact, they are well worth making the trip for as many are rare or endemic to this specific area.
There are more than 400 bird species, 2500 plant species (25% of which are endemics) and 6 primate species. It has the second largest biodiversity of a national park in Africa.
Of the six primate species recorded, five of are endemic. The Iringa red colobus and Sanje crested mangabey, in fact, are only found in the Udzungwa Mountains National Park. The mangabey species, in particular, was undetected by biologists prior to 1979.
Bird watchers are also in for a treat as the park boasts with over 400 species of birds. Some of them are endemic to the Eastern Arc Mountains and four of them are found only in Udzungwa. Other common birds include ruppells vultures, marabous, crowned eagles, malachite kingfishers, woodland kingfishers, silvery cheeked hornbills and trumpeter hornbills.
There a few elusive larger animals that have been spotted in the forests. Elephants and hyenas have been seen but on the forest floor, unable to negotiate the sloping mountain terrain. The shy leopards, bush bucks, duikers, palm civets, Miombo genets and elephant shrews roam in the higher places.
Recently a new species of snake was found in the park and it is claimed to be endemic. In general, research is still ongoing and as this park is so secretive it isn’t yet known what else can be found. An exciting future for the park awaits!
As visits to Udzungwa are for hikers and not centred around best time for wildlife, it is possible year round.
There are no roads within the park that one would need to worry about becoming impassable in wet weather. Though the rains to make the walking/hiking trails very slippery and camping quite miserable.
The dry season is then the best time to visit (June-October). As with all tropical forests, be prepared for rain anytime
Tourism in the Udzungwa Mountains National Park revolves around hiking and trekking. Because of this, the park has no roads and is accessible only on foot.
The hiking trails range in difficulty from the short one-hour Sonjo trek to the extremely challenging 6-day camping trek the Lumemo Trail. The most common walk is the Sanje Waterfalls trail which takes approximately four hours to complete. This trail allows the visitor access to the stunning 170 m waterfall and includes swimming in the waterfall plunge pools as part of the activity.
Here is a list of the hiking trails in The Udzungwa Mountains National Park:
Accommodation for visitors within the park is only possible on a camping basis as there are no lodges within the park borders. Within the nearby village of Mang'ula there are also a couple of local guesthouses providing a budget option.
Those camping need to being all necessary food and supplies.