Udzungwa Mountains National Park
Together Mikumi National Park and Udzungwa Mountains National Park are two small gems of the Southern safari circuit. They’re currently visited by very few people, although Udzungwa, in particular, is of considerable scientific importance. Part of an ancient group of mountain ranges which stretch across Tanzania and Kenya, known as ‘The Eastern Arc’, the Udzungwa are the most extensive mountain range in Tanzania. They were formed at least 100 million years ago and many endemic species have evolved here, making them something of ‘an African Galapagos’. Local taboos have helped to preserve the wildlife, and now this national park protects almost 20% of the Udzungwa Mountains.
Trails around the Udzungwa Mountains National Park vary in length from a few hours to three days, and do have steep sections, but are always taken at your own pace. Streams and waterfalls cut through the thick forest vegetation. Brooding and primeval, the forests of Udzungwa seem positively enchanted: a verdant refuge of sunshine-dappled glades enclosed by 30-metre high trees, their buttresses layered with fungi, lichens, mosses and ferns.
Udzungwa is the largest and most biodiverse of the “African Galapagos” mountains that rise majestically from the flat coastal scrub of eastern Tanzania. While being unique as the only range with park status in the area, it is also unique within Tanzania in that its closed-canopy forest spans altitudes of 250 metres to above 2,000 metres without interruption.
The Udzungwa Mountains are not a conventional game viewing destinations but are an obvious favourite for hikers, while safaris can be combined with the luscious Mikumi National Park. An excellent network of forest trails includes the popular half-day ramble to Sanje Waterfall, which plunges 170 metres 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.
The intriguing aspect of The Udzungwa Mountains National Park is that the great forest has yet to reveal all its treasures: ongoing scientific exploration is expected to reveal further flora and fauna to be explored by avid hikers.
Sanje Waterfall short half day trail.
Mwanihana Trail: a challenging two night hike to spectacular viewpoints.
Combine with nearby Mikumi or en route to Ruaha National Parks.
Closed-canopy forest spans altitudes of 250 metres to above 2,000 metres without interruption
Spot the Sanje crested Mangabey, one of the world’s endangered primates.
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Udzungwa Mountains National Park Flora & Fauna
Amongst the larger attractions at Udzungwa Mountains National Park are 10 species of primate, three of which are endemic: the Uhehe (aka Iringa) red colobus, the Matunda galago, and the Sanje crested Mangabey. The Angabey is amongst the world’s 25 most threatened primates. With a day to explore slowly, you’ll usually see the red colobus, along with the black and white Angola colobus. Blue and vervet monkeys and yellow baboons are also common.
More than 400 species of birds live in the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, including many regional endemics like the Udzungwa forest partridge, which was new to science in 1991. Common species include the readily-located green-headed oriole to more than a dozen secretive Eastern Arc endemics.
A quarter of the plants here are endemic, including some Saitpaulia species, closely related to African violets. There are also endemic amphibians, reptiles, and butterflies. With more scientific research, further new species are bound to be discovered.
Udzungwa Mountains National Park Location & Map
The Udzungwa Mountains lie in the midst of the Tanzanian Southern safari circuit and are very accessible by surfaced road from Dar es Salaam. The Mountains are located just East of the city alongside the Mikumi National Park and the Selous Game Reserve to the South. A trip to the Udzungwa Mountains are often done in tandem with a weekend safari to the Mikumi National Park which straddles the mountain slopes.
Safaris to Mikumi and the Udzungwa Mountains usually start from Dar es Salaam and your point of entry for the country is Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR). In most cases, your tour operator will pick you up from the airport and handle all further ground operations or domestic flights.
Mikumi and the Udzungwa Mountains are about a 4 hour drive away from Dar es Salaam and can easily be visited in solitude, especially as a weekend get-away. It is also possible to book a chartered flight from Arusha, Dar es Salaam or Selous and fly directly to the Mikumi National Park airstrip. Charter flights are usually booked by tour operators as part of the tour package. Domestic flights can be booked with various domestic carriers.
The best time of year for getting to Udzungwa Mountains is from late June to October (the dry season). At this time vegetation is thinner and animals gather around predictable water resources at Mikumi National Park, and the mountains are more easily accessed as they can be slippery in the rains. However, rain can be expected at any time in the mountains.
Fast Facts On Udzungwa Mountains National Park
Total Land Area
1900 sq km About the same size as Mauritius
Elevation above sea level
About 310 stacked giraffes
Nearest Major City & Airport
About 367 km East
When To Visit Udzungwa Mountains National Park
Jul Aug Sept
Oct Nov Dec
Mikumi National Park
Ruaha National Park
Selous National Park
Udzungwa Mountains National Park
Saadani National Park
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