Kitulo Plateau National Park
Locals refer to the Kitulo Plateau as Bustani ya Mungu – The Garden of God – while botanists have dubbed it the “Serengeti of Flowers”. The Park is host to ‘one of the great floral spectacles of the world’ and Kitulo is indeed a rare botanical marvel, home to a full 350 species of vascular plants, including 45 varieties of terrestrial orchid, which erupt into a riotous wildflower display of breathtaking scale and diversity during the main rainy season of late November to April.
Perched at around 2,600 metres between the rugged peaks of the Kipengere, Poroto, and Livingstone Mountains, the well-watered volcanic soils of Kitulo support the largest and most important montane grassland community in Tanzania. One of the most important watersheds for the Great Ruaha River, Kitulo is well known for its floral significance – not only a multitude of orchids, but also the stunning yellow-orange red-hot poker and a variety of aloes, proteas, geraniums, giant lobelias, lilies and aster daisies, of which more than 30 species are endemic to southern Tanzania.
Big game is sparsely represented, though a few hardy mountain reedbuck and eland still roam the open grassland.
But Kitulo – a botanist and hiker’s paradise – is also highly alluring to birdwatchers. Tanzania’s only population of the rare Denham’s bustard is resident, alongside a breeding colony of the endangered blue swallow and such range-restricted species as mountain marsh widow, Njombe cisticola and Kipengere seedeater. Endemic species of butterfly, chameleon, lizard and frog further enhance the biological wealth of God’s Garden.
Protection of the Kitulo Plateau’s unique flora was first proposed by the Wildlife Conservation Society in response to the growing international trade in orchid tubers and increased hunting and logging activities in the surrounding forests. In 2002, President Benjamin Mkapa announced the establishment of the park. The park was formally gazetted in 2005, becoming Tanzania’s fourteenth national park and may in the future incorporate the neighbouring Mount Rungwe forest.
Walking and hiking via Chimala to Matamba: a 9 km road up the mountain consisting of 52 hairpin bends.
Good hiking trails exist and will soon be developed into a formal trail system.
Walking across the grasslands to watch birds and wildflowers.
A half-day hike from the park across the Livingstone Mountains leads to the sumptuous Matema Beach on Lake Nyasa.
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Kitulo Plateau National Park Flora & Fauna
Kitulo Plateau National Park is uniquely known for its flora rather than fauna. It is one of the first protected areas in tropical Africa to be preserved primarily on its floral significance, which boats a spectacular range of wildflowers that create an amazing carpet of colour between October and April consisting of over 350 vascular plants, especially ground orchids.
The Kitulo Plateau National Park does host important animal species also including important bird species such as the Blue Swallow colonies and Denham’s Bustard, as well as the lesser kestrel, pallid harrier, njombe cisticola, and Kipengere seedeater. The Park also contains the only remaining viable population of Ardeotis denhami in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania.
In 2005, field scientists from the WCS discovered a new species of primate on and around Mount Rungwe and in the Livingstone Forest area of the park. Initially known as the Highland Mangabey, later changed to its Tanzanian name of Kipunji, it is one of the 25 most endangered primates in the world
Kitulo Plateau National Park Location & Map
Kitulo Plateau National Park is a protected area of montane grassland on the Kitulo Plateau in the southern highlands of Tanzania. The park lies at an elevation of 2,600 meters between the Kipengere and Poroto mountain peaks, covering an area of 412.9 square km.
The park headquarters at Matamba are situated approximately 100km from Mbeya town, which is easily accessible via the Mbeya Airport that is served by regular flights from Dar es Salaam’s Julius Nyerere International Airport, other Tanzanian regional airports, and by charter flight. Mbeya town is not far from the airport and can be reached via taxi or Dala Dala (bus) from the airport.
However, the road to Kitulo Plateau National Park from Mbeya is traversed by 4X4 vehicle only and can get complicated. From Chimala,78km East of Mbeya along the surfaced main road to Dar es Salaam, head south along the rough but spectacular dirt road – called Hamsini na Saba (57 bends) to the temporary park headquarters at Matamba. From there, another hour of dricing will get you to the Plateau.
Some Trip Advisor reports suggest you drive yourself, and the Head Warden will guide you by phone and meet you at Chimala before pointing you toward the Park. However, it is advised you pay for an operator who can meet you at the airport or elsewhere and take you from there.
Kitulo Plateau National Park is known for its extraordinary wild flowers and botany. The best flower deisplays are to be seen between December and April. However, the between September and November hiking is made easier with sunnier climate, but botany is less visible. Conditions are cold and foggy from June to August.
Fast Facts On Kitulo Plateau National Park
Total Land Area
412 sq km About the same size as Barbados
Elevation above sea level
About 300 stacked giraffes
Nearest Major City & Airport
About 76 km West
When To Visit Kitulo Plateau National Park
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun
Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
Gombe Stream National Park
Kitulo Plateau National Park
Mahale Mountains National Park
Katavi National Park
Rubundo Island National Park
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Infographic & Map of Kitulo National Park
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