I recently went on my second trip to Udzungwa National Park after my first visit about 20 years ago. I was not able to trek the mountain park then.
Last weekend, I took a two-day tour of the park to see its attractions, especially its rare monkey species, birds, thick green forests with lush grass and wild flowers. The park is made up entirely of Udzungwa Mountains. It is among the most beautiful wildlife parks in the southern highlands of Tanzania.
The park is located about 350 kilometres from the busy, commercial city of Dar es Salaam and about 150 kilometres from Morogoro Municipality. It takes some five hours from Dar es Salaam to the park.
Udzungwa National Park is different from other tourist parks in Tanzania because it is a protected area, with green tropical trees, lush grass, wild flowers and tall trees measuring over 30 metres high — regarded among the tallest in the world.
After paying the Tsh5,000 ($2.20) entry fee, my guide took me through various sites within the park, but most attractive was the platoon of monkeys jumping from one tree to another while gazing at our movement.
This park is among the smallest wildlife sanctuaries in Tanzania with an area of 1,990 kilometres, dominated by Udzungwa Mountains, which are part of the Eastern Arc Mountains, spanning from Taita Hills in Kenya to Southern Highlands of Tanzania.
The Eastern Arc Mountains in Tanzania and Kenya have been identified as important areas for the conservation of biological diversity in the world.
Udzungwa Mountains are among the ancient ranges of the Eastern Arc Mountains rising from 250 metres to 2,000 metres above sea level and which are covered with canopy forests that provide good habitats to endemic plant and animal species.
Four bird species are peculiar to this park. They are the forest partridge that was discovered in 1991 and more closely related to an Asian genus than other African fowl.
The park was established in 1992 and opened by the former president and founder of WWF (World Wildlife Fund for Nature) Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands in the same year.
My guide told me that more than 400 bird species, 2,500 plant species and six primate species are found in the park, making it among the high ranking parks with large biodiversity in Africa.
The six primate species have been recorded in the park, five of which are endemic. The Iringa red colobus and Sanje crested mangabeys are only found in the park. Mangabey species were discovered living inside the park for the first time 42 years ago, my guide informed me.
Activities within the park are mostly mountain hiking and trekking since the park has no roads, and is only accessible on foot. It is free from lions and other fierce animals like elephants, buffaloes and rhinos, so walking safaris are safe within the park.
Sanje Waterfalls is a natural and stunning 170-metre-high feature that draws in many visitors.
Udzungwa National Park is easily accessible by public transport. There are several public buses plying between Dar es Salaam, Morogoro and other parts of Tanzania passing at the park gates to Ifakara and Mahenge townships.
There are no lodges and hotels inside the park and so accommodation within the park is in camp sites.
Local guest houses have been established at Mang’ula village outside the park to provide affordable accommodation for visitors.