Towering steeply over the Kilombero Plains 350km southwest of Dar es Salaam are the wild, lushly forested slopes of the Udzungwa Mountains, portions of which are protected as part of the 1900-sqkm Udzungwa Mountains National Park (www.tanzaniaparks.com/uzdungwa.html; adult/child US$30/10) – an intriguing offbeat destination for anyone botanically inclined or interested in hiking away from the crowds. In addition to an abundance of unique plants, the park is home to an important population of primates (10 species – more than in any of Tanzania’s other parks) as well as the grey-faced sengi (a
species of elephant shrew). There are also elephants, buffaloes, leopards, hippos and crocodiles, although these – particularly hippos and crocodiles – are primarily in the park’s southwest and seldom seen. Birding is excellent, especially on the surrounding Kilombero floodplains. A good place to start is in the wetlands bordering the main road about 2km north of Mang’ula town, just below Hondo Hondo camp. Behind here, at the forest’s edge, colobus and other primates are frequently spotted
The best time to visit Udzungwa Mountains is late June through January; avoid the March through May rainy season as many trails are not cleared (and hence not hike-able) Practicalities Drive or bus from the Tanzam highway to Mang’ula town or take the ordinary train from Dar es Salaam to Mang’ula. Bring in all equipment (including trail snacks and waterproof gear). For now, park fees must be paid at Mang’ula headquarters (currently cash only) unless you make advance arrangements with headquarters for fees to be processed elsewhere.
You’ll pay entry and guide fees per 24 hours, whether you take a short stroll or an eight-hour hike. It’s best to arrive in Mang’ula, use the afternoon to plan, then set out early the next morning for a full day of hiking. The Udzungwa mountain day trips offered by Mikumi town hotels aren’t worth it. One overnight or multi-night hike in the park is probably enough. Save on fees and spend the rest of your stay exploring the surrounding area. Activities outside park boundaries include village cycling from Hondo Hondo orhiking from Msosa Campsite or Crocodile Camp.