Botanists have dubbed the Kitulo Plateau the Serengeti of Flowers, hosting “one of the great floral spectacles of the world,” while locals refer to it as Bustani ya Mungu, The Garden of God. And Tanzania’s newest national park is in fact a rare botanical marvel; it is home to 350 species of vascular plants, including 45 varieties of terrestrial orchids, and during the main rainy season, which lasts from late November to April, these plants explode into a riotous wildflower display of breathtaking scale and diversity.
The largest and most significant montane grassland ecosystem in Tanzania is supported by the well-watered volcanic soils of Kitulo, which are situated at a height of around 2,600 meters (8,500 feet) between the rough peaks of the Kipengere, Poroto, and Livingstone Mountains. The first national park in tropical Africa to be gazetted primarily for its floral significance, Kitulo is one of the Great Ruaha River’s most significant watersheds and is also known for its abundance of orchids, as well as a variety of aloes, proteas, geraniums, giant lobelias, lilies, and aster daisies, of which more than 30 species are endemic to southern Tanzania.
Although there are few large game species, a few hardy mountain reedbuck still traverse the wide open grasslands. But Kitulo, a haven for hikers and botanists, also holds great appeal for birdwatchers. Along with a breeding colony of the threatened blue swallow and such range-restricted species as mountain marsh widow, Njombe cisticola, and Kipengere seedeater, residents include the only population of the uncommon Denham’s bustard in Tanzania. The biological diversity of God’s Garden is further enhanced by endemic species of frog, chameleon, butterfly, and lizard.