The Udzungwa Mountains National Park is definitely one of the lesser-known parks in Tanzania, which is unfortunate as the Udzungwa Mountains are among the main biodiversity hotspots in the world. The Udzungwas boast some 2500 plant species of which 25% are endemic, over 400 species of birds and 6 primate species. Two primates, the Iringa red colobus and Sanje Crested Mangabey do not occur anywhere else in the world.
This particular chain of mountains belongs to the oldest mountain range in Africa; the Eastern Arc mountains stretching across Kenya and Tanzania. One of the highlights of this park is a visit to the spectacular Sanje waterfalls. The falls are split in three parts – 30m, 70m and the highest being 170m! The park has many different routes and circuits but most of it is done on foot and not with a car.
On a visit to the Udzungwa Mountains Park in September 2015 we visited the Sanje waterfalls. Starting early in the morning from the Hondo Hondo campsite, we headed to the park’s main gate. While our driver was sorting out formalities we got a briefing from our trekking guide. Before even starting we had learnt a lot. We headed to the starting point at Sanje village, loaded up our gear and started the walk.
It was about 30°C, overcast and humid. After some huffing and puffing we made it to the park boundary where a sign told us of the distances to the different points of interest. Our guide was very experienced and he stopped regularly to show and explain to us about the different plants and trees.
Walking through the forests we kept our eyes and ears open for primates, but we saw only butterflies and a few geckos. Reaching the first viewpoint, we were rewarded by a spectacular view of the waterfalls. “Look very carefully at the waterfalls, what do you see?” After a few moments we realised what our guide meant. Imbedded around the waterfall is an almost perfect map of the African continent! After a few oohs and aahs we continued.
The trail was very slippery in some parts due to leaves on the ground, but we pushed forward and after a few hours we were at the top of the highest waterfall. The rock pool at the 70m waterfalls is great for swimming and is a refreshing way to cool down from the heat. We also saw the smaller 30m waterfall before heading back to the viewpoint at the main waterfall.
Here on the rocks we had the most scenic lunch anyone could imagine. With breath-taking views of the Kilombero valley below, I realised how beautiful Tanzania is. I could have sat there all day but we had to continue to the base of the 170m Sanje waterfalls.
After some steep patches we finally reached the base of the waterfall. Wow! What an incredible view. We were in awe, taking lots of pictures before returning back. On the way back we were lucky to get a glimpse of a group of Iringa red colobus monkeys, as they playfully went about their business. These particular primates are endemic to the Udzungwa area.
In total we covered some 8km during the day and it was definitely a memorable trip. I highly recommend it for anyone who likes to walk or trek. Tanzania-Experience can book these hikes. Spending at least two nights in Udzungwana will allow a full day in the forest and enough time to do a hike to the waterfalls. A visit to Udzungwa can easily combined with the nearby Mikumi National Park.