Udzungwa Mountains National Park
Udzugwa mountains national park is a wildlife sanctuary that is located in central Tanzania between Iringa and Morogoro regions within the eastern arc mountains, 60km south of Mikumi national park along the Mikumi Ifakara road. The national park was declared a national park in 1992 by prince Bernhard of Netherlands the founder of world wide fund and covers a total area of 1,990 square kilometers which is comprised of vegetation types such as Miombo woodland, grassland, tropical rainforest and mountain forest which act as habitats for abundant wildlife including animals like elephants, bushbucks, palm civets, leopards, duikers, Miombo genets, hyenas, six primates, over 400 bird species, 2500 plant species with 25% endemic to only Udzugwa mountains national park among others. Udzugwa mountains national park was named after Wasungwa a Kihehe word which means the people who live on the sides of the mountains.
Attractions in Udzugwa Mountains National Park
Wildlife, the national park is known as a wildlife sanctuary because it harbors abundant wildlife species including animals like elephants, hunting dogs, leopards, duikers, buffaloes, bushbucks, six primate species like Iringa red colobus and Sanje mangabey which are endemic to only Udzungwe mountains national park.
Birds, Udzugwa Mountains national park is a home of over 400 bird species including eastern arc endemic and forest bird species which make the park one of the birding paradise in Tanzania. Bird species that can be spotted include green headed oriole, marabou stork, crowned eagle, woodland kingfisher, ruppells vultures, silvery checked hornbill among others.
Top Things to do in Udzungwa Mountains National Park
Bird watching, Udzungwa mountains national park is one of the top bird watching destinations in Tanzania in that it harbors over 400 bird species including forest, water and endemic species. Bird watching in the park can be carried out early in the morning or in the evening with an experienced bird guide who will help you to spot different bird species such as rufous winged sunbird, African marabou, crowned eagle, kilombero weaver, white tailed cisticola, uluguru violet backed sunbird, retzs helmet shrike, black and white shrike flycatcher, livingstones flycatcher, livingstones turaco, palm nut vulture, trumpeter hornbill, green backed woodpecker, grey cuckoo shrike, fork tailed drongo, dark baked weaver among others.
Hiking, this is one of the major activities in Udzungwa mountains national park because there are no roads for game drives. Hiking safaris in the park start with a briefing at the park headquarters where after you will be allocated an armed park ranger to protect you from any danger and to show you various trails to use. There are a number of hiking trails in the park ranging from short 20 minutes strolls to 5 days hiking trails to Lumemo trail, the most popular is the Sonje waterfalls trail which takes about 4 hours and allows you to view the stunning 170m waterfall, views of monkeys and participate in swimming in the waterfall plunge pools.
- Hidden valleys trail, this is the longest hike in the park that takes about one day. During hiking you will pass through Njokamoni River, Moyer Rivers, grassy valleys with views of elephants and buffalo tracks which takes about 6 to 7 hours.
- Sonjo waterfall trail, this is a good hiking trail for the less keen hikers because the trail is short and the path is not steep. Hiking to Sonjo waterfall takes about 35minutes passing through pristine rainforest to the second falls and while hiking you will have views of some bird species, primates, plant species among others.
- Prince Berhards waterfall, this is a waterfall in the park that was named after prince Bernhard of Netherlands. He was about 84 years of age when he opened Udzunghwa mountains national park therefore he was unable to ascend to Sanje waterfalls so he hiked the short distance trail that is 500m from the park headquarters.
- Mwanihana peak trail, this trail starts from Sonjo village and passes through Miombo woodland, grassy plateaus, montane forest, bamboo forest, various habitants, Sonjo trail among others. While hiking the Mwanihana peak trail you will be able to view elephants, different plant species, colorful bird species, beautiful scenery among others.
- Njonkamoni waterfalls trail, this is another trail that is similar to the Sonje waterfalls trail in length and altitude because it’s around 6.5km. The trail is less used therefore you will be able to have views of monkeys on the way.
Cycling, Udzungwa mountains national park is one of the destinations in Tanzania that offer the exciting cycling activity where you will be able to explore the part by a bicycle. Cycling starts with a briefing at the park headquarters where you will be allocated an experienced park guide who is well conversant with wildlife in the park and routes to follow. During the cycling activity you will be able to view beautiful scenery, view wildlife species like elephants, duikers, bushbucks, colorful bird species, experience African village life where you will see and interact with the local people, their schools, markets, farmlands, visit rubber and sugarcane plantations among others which give you lifetime memories. Bicycles for cycling can be rented from Udzungwa forest camp or Hondo Hondo.
Best time to visit Udzungwa Mountains National Park
Udzungwa mountains national park can be visited all year round though the best period is during the dry season in the months of June to October because during this period there is less rainfall in the forest which means that walking trails will be dry and passable compared to the wet season when the trails are muddy and slippery.
Where to stay on during your safari in Udzungwa national park
There are a number of accommodations in Udzungwa mountains national park where you can stay during your safari. The accommodations range from luxury, midrange and budget including Hondo Hondo Udzungwa Forest tented camp, Udzungwa Forest tented camp, Udzungwa Falls lodge, Udzungwa Mountain View camp, Angalia tented camp among others.
How to get to Udzungwa Mountains National Park
The national park is located about 60km from Mikumi national park, 360km west of Dar es Salaam and can be accessed by road, train and air transport means.
Road transport, when using road transport there are different ways to travel to the park by private, public or self drive. You will therefore drive from Dar es Salaam through Chalinze, Morongoro, Mikumi national park and Mikumi town to the park headquarters which takes about 4 hours drive.
Train, Udzungwa national park can also be accessed by train whereby the TAZARA railway departs on Tuesdays and Fridays from Dar es Salaam to Zambia. The journey from Dar es Salaam to the park headquarters takes about 6 to 7 hours drive passing through Selous game reserve where you will get an opportunity to view different wildlife species.
Air transport, Udzungwa national park can also be accessed by air transport means where you will book scheduled or charter flights from Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar to Udzungwa or Kilombero. You can also fly from Dar es Salaam to Mikumi airport and then drive to Udzungwa national park.
Udzungwa mountains national park is an interesting and outstanding wilderness areas in Tanzania though it has not gained a lot of popularity with tourists. A visit to Udzungwa mountains national park can be combined with a game drive in Mikumi national park, Ruaha national park and Selous game reserve where you will be able to view abundant wild animals, for more information about Udzungwa mountains national park you can contact Focus East Africa Tours.