Udzungwa National Park

The dark, ancient forests of Udzungwa are genuinely enchanting; they are a lush haven of sun-dappled glades surrounded by trees that are 30 meters (100 feet) tall, with mushrooms, lichens, mosses, and ferns covering their buttresses.

East Tanzania’s flat coastal scrub rises dramatically from a chain of twelve massive, forested mountains, the greatest and most biodiverse of which is Udzungwa. These isolated massifs, collectively known as the Eastern Arc Mountains, have also been referred to as the African Galapagos because of their abundance of rare plants and animals, most notably the delicate African violet. Among the historic ranges of the Eastern Arc, Udzungwa is the only one to have received national park status. It is also distinct from other areas of Tanzania in that its closed-MASL forest extends uninterruptedly from an altitude of 250 meters (820 feet) to more than 2,000 meters (6,560 feet).

Udzungwa is a popular hiking destination despite not being a typical place to see game. The well-known half-day hike to Sanje Waterfall, which plunges 170 meters (550 feet) in a misty spray into the forested valley below, is part of an excellent network of forest paths. Before climbing to Mwanihana peak, the second-highest point in the range, the more difficult two-night Mwanihana Trail takes hikers to the high plateau, which offers expansive views of the surrounding sugar cane fields.

Ornithologists are drawn to Udzungwa because it is home to more than 400 kinds of birds, including the lovely and easily spotted green-headed oriole and more than a dozen elusive Eastern Arc endemics. Four distinct bird species may be found in Udzungwa, one of which is a forest partridge that was first discovered in 1991 and has a closer relationship with an Asian genus than any other African bird. Only the Sanje Crested Mangabey and the Iringa Red Colobus are found elsewhere in the world of the six documented primate species. Surprisingly, scientists were unaware of the latter until 1979. The list of diverse endemics that call this enormous forest home will definitely grow as a result of ongoing scientific research because it still contains many undiscovered treasures.

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