Review of Udzungwa National Park, Tanzania

Driving around Tanzania, you regularly come across tiny remnants of rainforest that still exist high up in hills and mountains. East Africa used to have more rainforest, but the area has dried out over the last few thousand years (East Africa has an extremely long cycle of drying out and the retreat of rainforest and then its return). However with extra altitude you get more rain. That means that driving around areas that are largely dry savannah you can find small pockets of forest if the road rises significantly. As such driving between protected areas you can suddenly find that you are in a forest remnant and that there are monkeys above your head. One of the largest protected remnants is the Udzungwa National Park. This park protects a part of the eastern arc mountains that run across eastern Tanzania. The park protects around 770 square miles. Much of this is rainforest, with six species of primate, four of which are endemic. One of these the highland mangabay  (also called kipunji) was only discovered in 2005.

We stopped off for 4 days after leaving the Selous ecosystem. This is a park that I would highly recommend to anyone. After visiting the park headquarters, you are free to explore. Compared to the surrounding rainforest the prices were extremely cheap. We paid around £200 for two of us for 4 day guided walk in the forest and camping each night.

It does require a reasonably high level of fitness as you spend your days scrambling up and down steep hills and mountains. We went to stay in an encampment a significant distance inside the forest. There are few roads so everything is done on foot. The park is particularly popular for birds but also has a large number of reptiles. We did not see anyone inside the park, we had the paths we were on completely to ourselves. What is particularly odd that due to its size, many of the usual forest animals are not there such as chimpanzees, though they did live here at one time. Also missing is the forest elephant. However as this reserve is close to savanah parks there are elephants from there- forest elephants have developed smaller tusks to help them get around within a crowded forest, but these ones manage fine. While we did not encounter one we did see dung in many places.

With more time, you can go for a longer hike (4 days in each direction) to the furthest part of the reserve. In this part of the reserve you have an area of Savanah. This is particularly exciting as there are lions among other animals, but there are no vehicles so if you wish to see the elephants you have to walk.

There are no guesthouses or hotels within the park, though the local village does have some. There are however, a few campsites. Many of these are deep in the forest and are not going to be used except within the middle of a hike. We stayed in one of these campsites deep within the park. This was just stunning, and we found this park to be one of the most relaxing parts of our tanzanian holiday. However we also camped within a separate campsite across the road from the park, with beautiful view. It was only just being set up but the plans included large amounts of wild land and a lake which is likely to attract animals to watch during the evening.

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