Udzungwa National Park

Signature safari Udzungwa is the largest and with most biodiversity and a chain of a dozen large forest-swathed mountains that rise majestically from the flat coastal scrub of eastern Tanzania. The independent group of massifs which are collectively known as the Eastern Arc Mountains is also often dubbed as the African Galapagos because of the endemic plants and animals found inside of the park. The delicate African violet is perhaps the most familiar of them all.

Udzungwa National Park

  • Location: Five hours (350 km/215 miles) from Dar es Salaam; 65 kms (40 miles) southwest of Mikumi.
  • Getting There:
    Drive from Dar es Salaam or Mikumi National Park.
  • What To Do: From a two-hour hike to the waterfall as well as camping safaris.

    Combine with nearby Mikumi or en route to Ruaha.
  • Accommodation:
    Camping inside the park.
    Bring all food and supplies.
    Two modest but comfortable lodges with en-suite rooms within 1km of the park entrance.

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 among the only ranges of the Eastern Arc to have gained the status of a national park. It uniqueness lies in the fact that the canopy of forests continuously run from an elevation of 820 feet to upwards of 6,560 feet.

Not particularly famous for game viewing, people visit the mountains of Udzungwa primarily for hiking purposes that too in solitude. Excellent network of trekking trails run through the forest. One of them is a half day trekking route to the Sanje Waterfall through forested valleys.

The more challenging two-night Mwanihana Trail leads to the high plateau, with its panoramic views over the 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.

But one of the many peculiar bird species found in Udzungwa is the forest partridge which is more closely related to the Asian genus than to the African fowl. It was first discovered in Udzungwa in 1991.

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.