UDZUNGWA MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
Harbouring one of East Africa’s great forests, Udzungwa Mountain National Park has an area of 1900 sq km, bordered by the Great Ruaha River to the north, with Mikumi National Park and Selous Game Reserve located further to the north and east. Protected as a national forest reserve until 1992 when it was commissioned as National Park, Udzungwa Mountains is undoubtedly one of the few true virgin and unique forested lands remaining in the world.
Mwanihana peak at 2150m is one of the highest peaks in the Eastern Arc and the second highest peak in the Udzungwa Mountains. The 38km hike takes 3 days and 2 nights at a leisurely pace, although for the very fit it can be completed in 2 days. For those who want to make the most of the hike we recommend that you take your time and enjoy the trek, as the trail passes through Miombo woodland, low-land forest, sub-montane forest, highland plateau and pristine montane forest. Just before the bare rock and grass of the summit, eerie glades of bamboo rustle in the wind. This is, in terms of habitat and associated wildlife, a very diverse journey. Much of the trek is alongside sparkling mountain streams with butterflies dancing through the dappled forest light. This is also the most successful route for spotting the elusive Sanje Mangebey.
The major attractions include its biologically diverse forest, harbouring some plant species found nowhere else in the world, from a tiny African violet to 30-metre high trees. One of the most interesting sights is the presence of two indigenous species of primates, the Iringa red colobus monkey and the Sanje Crested Mangabey, not known until 1979. Apart from providing habitat to about six species of primates, its plateau contains populations of elephants, buffalos, lions, leopards, African hunting dogs and several forest bird species.
To have a real feel of the place, you will need to consider spending the night in the forest. Instead of taking half a day to complete the Sanje trail, head up and make camp in the forest overnight with the help of our skilled Hondo Hondo campsite team. Spend the afternoon in the forest and then a magical evening under the forest canopy, eating by firelight and sleeping under canvas to the sounds of the forest. Awake early to breakfast looking out over the Kilombero Valley from the top of the waterfall, and then spend the morning wandering down through the forest, spotting wildlife and splashing in waterfall pools on the way down. Hondo Hondo can provide everything you need for this trip – all you bring is yourselves, and a camera!
The Lumeno Trail is the longest, and most arduous trail in Udzungwa. You are transferred to the start of the trail, beyond Ifakara on the Lumeno River, and hike up into the hills for 4 nights, returning along the same trail as Mwanihana to the road not far from Hondo Hondo. This trail leads deep into the heart of the Udzungwas, to areas where few people have ever been and the wildlife there has had virtually no contact with humans.
USAMBARA MOUNTAINS LUSHOTO
Usambara Mountains comprise of the easternmost ranges of the Eastern Arc Mountains. The ranges are approximately 90 kilometres long and about 45 kilometers wide, are situated in the Lushoto District of the Tanga Region. The tropical rainforest on the mountains have been isolated for a long period and they are a centre of endemism. Historically they were inhabited by Bantu, Shambaa, and Maasai people but in the eighteenth century, a Shambaa kingdom was founded by Mbegha. The kingdom eventually fell apart after a succession struggle in 1862. The Usambara’s are a part of the ancient Eastern Arc chain which mountains stretch in a broken crescent from the Taita hills in Southern Kenya down to Morogoro and the Southern highlands. They are estimated to be at least 100 million years old and the rocks forming them may be as much as 600 million years old. The mountains are home to an exceptional assortment of plants and animals and represent one of the highest degrees of biodiversity on the continent. The habitation of the Usambara´s goes back to at least 1.5 million years.
The Usambaras are commonly split into two sub-ranges, the West Usambara Mountains and the East Usambara Mountains. The East Usambara are closer to the coast and therefore receive more rainfall, and are significantly smaller than the West Usambara.
NGOZI CRATER LAKE
The Ngozi Crater Lake is located in the east of Mporoto Ridge Forest Reserve. The forest reserve has an area of about 9332 hectares, with altitudes ranging from 1750-2620 meters above sea level. The crater is roughly 15km southeast of the city of Mbeya. It is accessible by a dirt road in the dry season; in the wet it can be difficult. The lake is reached by a one hour hike through the forest. This stunning lake is located in a caldera, which is 2.5 km long and 1.6 km wide. The water is slightly brackish, contains some fish, and is up to 75 m deep. The slopes of the crater wall are covered by Upper Montane Forest, grassland and bamboo.
As you hike to the crater, you will expect to various features and wildlife around the forest like; Kiwira natural bridge nicknamed the “Bridge of God” in Swahili language which was naturally. The bridge was formed by powers of a fast flowing river down along the rocky valley creating a hole through a hard surface hence leaving behind a rocky span that cuts across two sides of the river in the shape that exactly looks like a single lane bridge, big and strong enough to allow more than a hundred tons of heavy load across. Local people call this miracle “Daraja La Mungu” for its providential existence and for the traditional beliefs attached to it. You shall also get to see Kijungu Waterfalls not more than ten meters from this bridge.
The Empakai crater is located in the Ngorongoro crater, part of the fun of hiking down into the Empakai Crater is the journey. You will drive from the lodge to the start of the start of the hike to the crater.as you hike, you will expect to see plenty of zebra, antelope, wildebeest, and birdlife, as well as local people guiding animals across remote, wild landscapes.
The view from Empakai’s 9,000ft-high rim can sometimes be blocked by cloud, but, on a clear day, it’s an impressive sight, with Empakai Lake set far below, framed by the crater walls.
The quick, steep descent to the lake takes around 25 minutes through a forest, that has a pleasant soundtrack of birdsong. Occasionally, in the sandy path, you might see the footprints of some of the big cats who live around here. Around the salt-crusted edges of the lake, you have a good chance of seeing flamingos, blacksmith lapwings, and other birds.
The hike back up to the crater rim is tougher, especially at hot times of the day, and can take up to an hour.
OL DOINYO LENGAI VOLCANO
Ol Doinyo Lengai which means “Mountain Of God” in Masai is an active volcano which is part of the east African rift. It is located south of Lake Natron with in the Arusha region.
Climbing Lengai Volcano is not for the fainthearted. Check the cloud and weather conditions with your guide the evening before to make sure there’s a good chance of clear skies in the morning. The hike usually starts around midnight, with a plan to climb with head torches and be at the summit in time to watch an epic sunrise. The five to six-hour hike is heavy going and is almost solidly uphill, climbing on a path of sometimes deep sand, and other times loose rock.
Mount Meru is the second-highest peak in Tanzania and stands at a height of 4566 meters above sea level. It’s a fine trekking experience in its own right, as well as a good way to acclimatize before conquering Mount Kilimanjaro.
Mt Meru is a challenging ascent that’s best completed over 3 to 4 days. Lower down, on the surrounding slopes, you have a good chance of seeing giraffes, elephants, buffalo, and warthogs, with the volcanic landscapes becoming more dramatic as you climb higher. Accommodation comes in the form of mountain huts along the trail. Hitting the summit for sunrise is rewarded with unforgettable views of Mount Kilimanjaro and the Mount Meru Crater.