Do you want a safari with a difference, a little spice, some adventure; you don’t like merely to sit and passively bounce and bump your way across the National Parks? Then a hiking adventure in Udzungwa Rainforests of Tanzania is probably the place to start. Forgive me my excitement as these forests gets me fired up and excited. It is a place where true adventure begins, this is a place that is off the beaten track; it is not I should add for the faint hearted. There are no lodges in this park so it will be basic camping. This is Tanzania incarnate.
Your adventure, if it heads deep into the mountain rainforest should take place in the dry season as when it rains the rivers become almost impassable, swollen, fast and the increased crocodile activity at this time exasperating the dangers. You must be accompanied by a guide and an armed ranger; this addition to your group is a welcome encounter of the third kind with the Tanzania culture. Although many people feel they could do without the cultural addition, once the expedition gets going you will find that it is a dimension of the adventure you would not want left out.
Udzungwa Mountains is important ecologically and one of the top forests for bird conservation in Africa. I love the Horn Bill and its haunting call through the forests – in Swahili it is known as the Honda Honda – as this is the sound of its call. The park has in recent years been elevated to National Park status and although there are animals in this park it was created to primarily protect the plant species.
The magical forest keeps changing its shapes and sizes from mid-sized trees, to bigger trees that can be tightly packed together in some areas and the rampant verdant greenery making your passage difficult. These enchanted forests of fertile glades dappled with sunshine, where fungus, lichen, moss and ferns invade every damp crevice. The wonderful smells of the forest almost overwhelm all other senses.
Not long ago a new variety of the African violet was discovered here, in the shelter of 30 meter high trees. The Udzungwa is a hothouse nurturing species ‘a secret bank account of precious genetic stock’. At all levels, the bird and plant life is exciting and new. The smells, the sights, walking in a primeval forest with no one else from hundreds of miles, this is an African safari that you have to work at but the rewards are truly sublime.
Walking and hiking through dense forest on the steep slope is hard work, however Colobus Monkeys will watch you and the barking calls will echo through the forest as they call to one another and encourage you along the trails. The Iringa red colobus monkey and wonderfully named Sanje Mangabey are found only here.
It is not all hard work and there are some more relaxing walks lasting for a day or two days. Walking to the Ruiper Ranger Post along the Ruiper River is a nice walk, with plenty of buffalos, hippos and birds to see en-route.
Udzungwa is made for hiking and climbing with long or short trails through the rainforest and escarpment. The plateau offers views of sugar plantations against a patchwork of grassland and mountain forest extending over 100 kilometers. But the centerpiece is the Sanje River where it transforms itself as a spectacular waterfall, plunging 170 meters through the forest to land in a spray of mist in the valley below. Udzungwa Mountain National Park is, bordered by the Great Ruaha River to the north, with Mikumi National Park and Selous Game Reserve located further to the north-east. The now protected Udzungwa Mountains is undoubtedly one of the few true virgin forested lands remaining in the world. Apart from providing habitat to about six species of primates, its plateau contains populations of elephants, buffalos, lions, leopards, African hunting dogs and several forest bird species.