The Amboni Caves are the most extensive limestone caves in East Africa. They are located 8 km north of Tanga City in Tanzania off the Tanga-Mombasa road. The caves were formed about 150 million years ago during the Jurassic age. It covers an area of 234 km². According to researchers the area was under water some 20 million years ago. There are altogether ten caves but only one is used for guided tours.
Amboni Limited, a company which was then operating sisal plantations in Tanga Region acquired the area in 1892. The company notified the British colonial government about the caves who in turn declared the caves a conservation area in 1922.
It is not known when the caves were exactly discovered but reports indicate that ethnic groups such as the Segeju, Sambaa, Bondei and Digo who lived near the caves used it for prayers. In 1963, the then government of Tanganyika handed over the caves to the Department of Antiquities.
These caves have been subject of local legends and a number of mythical and awe-inspiring stories have been attributed to the caves. To the local people the caves are regarded as supernatural formations where supernatural powers commonly known as “Mizimu” are believed to have been residing since the caves formation. There are chambers treated as sacred chambers for worshiping some spirits. One of them is called “Mzimu wa Mabuvu”. Some believe that there is a powerful deity which can alleviate their sickness, sufferings or increase their fertility.
These limestone caves are formed by a special nature of erosion. According to Mturi (1975:18-19), there are tree theories which explain the formation of the Amboni Caves. The first theory is known as the vedose process. According to this theory, rain water absorbs carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and forms a weak carbonic acid which is capable of dissolving calcium carbonate minerals of which limestone is formed. When this acidulated rain water seeps trough the limestone it is dissolved and cavities and caves are formed.
The second theory is that of phreatic origin. According to this theory, the caves are formed by erosion from the sub water table. The rain water with carbonic acid rapidly seeps through the limestone and reaches the water table before being a saturated solution of calcium bicarbonate. At this stage it is still capable of acting as a dissolving agent for the calcium carbonate.
The Amboni caves are believed to be the most extensive limestone caves in East Africa, located in Kiomoni village. The caves, a one and half kilometer stretch, are a fascinating historical site, which were used as hiding places for the locals.
The Amboni caves are among the area’s most popular attractions that have attracted, over the years, hundred thousands of tourists both local and foreign.
The caves are very dark inside and potentially lethal. Nearly all tunnels or chambers are accessible to tourists via a guided tour.
The Amboni caves are among the area’s most popular attractions and feature vast below-ground halls with towering formations. Visitors are advised to wear comfortable shoes and to bring a pocket-size camera, since it’s cumbersome to bring a camera with a large lens as walking is through tight squeezes. And before entering some of the tight spots, visitors are asked to leave large bags in an area to pick up later.
The views of towering formations in the caves are an admiration. Nearly all its tunnels or chambers are accessible to tourists via guided tour. Walking through squeezes while getting treated to views of incredible formations makes the visit well worth it.
The caves have religious significance to the local people who pray and make offerings in one of the shrines. For a section of locals, the caves have been long-known as the place to worship to pray for different needs. Chamber number one is used for the prayers, in what many people associate with superstitions. Different items are deposited here during players as ‘gifts that the local villagers offer to the spirits.
The caves’ upkeep is under the department of Antiquities in the ministry of natural resources and tourism.
Located nearly 8 kms from Tanga town.
Access is by road from the Tanga – Mombasa road. For access to the main forest block (Msitu wa Mbogo) turn left 5km after Tanga onto the B121 road to Mjessani. Park the vehicle 5.5 km along this road and walk south along paths for 2 km to reach the river. For access to Amboni Caves forest patches take the left turning to Kiomono village 4 km after leaving Tanga on the main road to Mombasa. The road runs through the village and down to the caves. Park and proceed on foot along the river to reach the other forest patches further up-river.
All sites can be reached directly from Tanga by foot within two hours.
Some 75 kilometres to the north of Dar es Salaam lies Bagamoyo, once the embarkation port for slaves from the hinterland, and later the first German colonial capital. It is a place of considerable significance to world history, both as an entry point for Arab and European missionaries, explorers, and traders in East and Central Africa, and in the history of the infamous slave trade.
Fortunately Bagamoyo is now being considered for inclusion as one of the World Heritage sites, to conserve and protect the fascinating Gothic and Afro-Arabic architecture in this coastal settlement steeped in history.
Tourist attractions include the Kaole ruins dating back to the 12th century thought to mark one of the earliest contacts of Islam with Africa; the Old Fort built in 1860 for holding slaves for shipment to Zanzibar; the first Roman Catholic Church in East Africa built around 1868 used as a base to run a camp of about 650 freed slaves; the German colonial administration headquarters, the Boma, in the first capital of German East Africa; the Mission Museum displaying history of Bagamoyo; and the Livingstone Memorial Church among others. Bagamoyo white sand beaches are considered some of the finest on the whole of the East African coast.
Dar es Salaam is the largest city and economic capital of Tanzania. Located in a quiet bay off the Indian Ocean coast, the city has developed into an economic importance to become a prosperous centre of the entire East African region. Its bustling harbour is the main port in Tanzania.
Its industrial area produces products for export and use throughout the country. Government offices all have their main base in Dar es Salaam, and diplomatic missions and non-governmental organizations in the country all have a presence in the bustling urban city.
Restaurants, shops, office buildings, and government buildings are all common features of Tanzania’s urban centre. During German occupation in the early 20th century, Dar es Salaam was the centre of colonial administration and the main contact point between the agricultural mainland and the world of trade and commerce in the Indian Ocean and the Swahili Coast. Remnants of colonial presence, both German and British, can still be seen in the landmarks and architecture around the city. The National Museum, the Village Museum, and many colourful markets are well worth a visit. Numerous historical landmarks, including St. Joseph’s Cathedral, the White Father’s Mission House, the Botanical Gardens, and the old State House make for an interesting walking tour around the waterfront and city centre.
Seven kilometres north of the city, is Bongoyo Island Marine Reserve which offers good snorkelling and diving sites for those who want to explore the water. The reserve boasts of its beautiful beaches, secluded islands and many varieties of marine species. Although the variety and population of coral and fish species are not as numerous as other sites on Zanzibar, Pemba, and Mafia Island, the Bongoyo Island Marine Reserve is well worth a visit and is a great way to spend a day out and see the coast. For other information about Dar-es-Salaam – see Dar-es-Salaam Tour
The Dar es Salaam Marine Reserve System (DMRS) is a group of marine wildlife reserves in Tanzania, situated off the coast of Dar es Salaam Region. The reserve system consists of nine uninhabited islands, four north of Dar es Salaam (Bongoyo, Mbudya, Pangavini and Fungu Yasini) and five south of the city (Inner and Outer Makatumbe, Inner and Outer Sinda and Kendwa Island). It provides protection for several important tropical ecosystems; coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds.
This leafy highland town is nestled in a fertile valley at about 1200m, surrounded by pines and eucalyptus mixed with banana plants and other tropical foliage. It’s the centre of the western Usambaras and makes an ideal base for hikes into the surrounding hills.
Lushoto is also the heartland of the Wasambaa people (the name ‘Usambara’ is a corruption of Wasambaa or Washambala, meaning ‘scattered’). Local culture is strong. In Muheza and parts of the Tanga region closer to the coast, Swahili is used almost exclusively. Here however, Sambaa is the language of choice for most residents.
Lushoto and its people; it would be hard to know where to start. It is a town that exists in a nebulous state of optimistic beauty after being hardened by stunning scenery and a breath of fresh air. Like all places where winter likes to settle in for a good, long stay, the people of Lushoto nearly always embrace every moment of cool weather. When you live, visit or grow up in Switzerland, Lushoto sounds about as close and familiar as Switzerland.
It has sweeping landscapes with their towering peaks with farms, the breathtaking view and endless vistas (green and lush scenery) that interest many visitors.
Lushoto boasts of a rich hinterland ideal for farming, which includes bananas, pears, pumpkins, tomatoes, potatoes, yams, maize, cabbage, carrots, capsicum, plumps or apples and more that find their market within the Tanga region and beyond.
Its rainforest is one of the most popular bio diversity places in Africa. Now, it is a centre of one of the best cultural tourism programmes in Tanzania – The Friends of Usambara (www.usambaratravels.com.).
The cultural tourism enterprise provides various activities for visitors, such as guided hikes and cultural visits to the Irente view point, Irente farm, Usambara farms, Magamba rainforests and more. Most of the incomes go to fund development projects such as drilling well in remote areas, building primary school and funding reforestation efforts.
In Lushoto, people live a more traditional lifestyle, and the locals are genuinely happy to see visitors walk by, greeting everyone with big smiles.
Location and access:
Lushoto is accessed via Mombo town on the Arusha to Dar es Salaam highway. Public transports to Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Moshi and Tanga are available daily.
Lushoto has several up-market facilities which include: Mullers lodge, The executive lodge, Irente Cliff lodge, Lawns hotel, Lushoto White House, Swiss farm Cottage, Irente Biodiversity Reserve, Mkuzi creek Resort and more.
USAMBARA CULTURAL TOURISM
Explore, learn and know how we live in the Usambara Mountain, the community history of the indigenous washambaa, and the immigrant local tribe of pare and mbugu, local royality from the ancient to the Germany and British colonial era.
ONE DAY TRIPS FROM LUSHOTO
Irente Viewpoint (5-6 hours, 15km)
From Lushoto, hike to this outlook for spectacular views of the village of Mazinde and the Maasai plains almost 1000 meters below. Eat lunch at the Irente Biodiversity Farm in their beautiful flower garden.
Magamba Rainforest (5-6 hours)
Walk through villages and farm land to the lush rainforest where you can see black-and-white Colobus monkeys. On the way back, pass by the historic royal village of the Kilindi (the Washambaa ruling clan) and an old German bunker dug during World War I.
Combined Trip—Magamba Rainforest & Irente Viewpoint (7-8 hours, 20km)
For shorter stays in the area, we recommend a combination hike to the Irente Viewpoint and Magamba Rainforest, where you can see Colobus monkeys.
Bangala River (5-6 hours, 15km)
Beginning at Mbuzii, descend slowly down the steep slopes of the Bangala River Valley toward the rising savannah heat. Visit a tree nursery, see traditional irrigation systems, and take in breathtaking views of the Maasai Plains.
Mkuzu Waterfall (5-6 hours, 15km)*
From Muller’s Lodge or Migambo Village, walk through the colorful forest to this local waterfall. Extend your tour by climbing Migambo peak (2400m high!).
Skyline (6-7 hours, 10km)
Jiwe La Mungu (“The footprint of man”)– Visit a famous cable system for transporting logs down the mountain, enjoy wonderful views of Maasai Plains. Learn about the people of the Usambara Mountains, such as the Pare and Shambaa.
Lushoto Town Tour (2-3 hours)
Explore Lushoto and learn about its rich history. View old structures from the town’s German colonial period. On Sunday and Thursday, this tour can be combined with a visit to the colorful Lushoto market.
Usambara Farm (4-5 hours)
Walk through the fertile farmlands of Jaegertal (“Hunter’s Valley”) to a fruit tree nursery. On your request the tour can be extended to include a hike to Vuli peak (2100 meters).
Combined Trip—Lushoto Town Tour and Usambara Farm (4-5 hours)
Tour Lushoto and learn about its German colonial past. Then walk through the fertile farmlands of Jaegertal (“Hunter’s Valley”) to a fruit tree nursery. On your request the tour can be extended to include a hike to Vuli peak (2100 meters).
Montessori Sisters of Ubiri (3-4 hours)
A short walk from Lushoto, visit this beautifully landscaped Catholic mission. Learn about, taste, and buy their locally made cheese, wine, and jams.
Growing Rock (5-6 hours)
From Soni, walk through the villages of Shashui and Kwemula to Kwamongo Peak (“God’s Peak”), famous for its multicolored butterflies and spectacular views of Lushoto and the Handeni plains. Stop by the Soni waterfalls on your way back to Lushoto.
Maweni Spice Tour (5-6 hours)
Hike from Soni to Maweni farm for a picnic in their beautiful garden surrounded by butterflies and a chorus of birds. Along the way, learn about the various spices grown in the Usambara Mountains.
Sakharani Wine Tour (4-5 hours)
Departing from Soni, walk through coffee plantations on the way to Sakarani where Usambara wine is processed. Upon your return, take in the Soni waterfall and visit the local market offering fresh fruits.
Ndelemai Forest (8 hours)
Departing from Soni, wind through coffee plantations and farmland. Explore the dense Ndelemai forest, and on your way back, stop for a visit in Magila Village, known for its traditional irrigation systems. Enjoy this walk through dense lush forests before catching a ride back to Lushoto.
MULTI-DAY TOURS FROM LUSHOTO:
Mtae: The World Viewpoint (2-5 days)
Trek through rainforests, traditional villages, and farmland; visit and sleep in a local home; see local pottery being made; watch the sun set from the top of a village; and experience the traditional life of the Shambaa people. This trip includes many opportunities to visit and learn about the development projects supported by our program. Return to Lushoto by bus, bike, or private transport.
Mazumbai Forest Reserve: The Galapagos of Africa (2-4 days)
From Soni or Bumbuli hike through tea and coffee plantations to the Mazumbai Forest Reserve, home to numerous birds species and black-and-white Colobus monkeys. Return to Lushoto by private transport.
Magamba, Irente, and Carter’s Viewpoint (2-3 days)
Trek through local villages and the Magamba rainforest to Irente viewpoint and then the Irente Biodiversity Farm, famous for their locally made organic food products. After staying overnight at the Farm, hike along the ridges of the mountains to Carter’s viewpoint. The next day, return to Lushoto or continue downhill to Mombo.
Lushoto, Rangwi convent to Mlalo viewpoint (2-3 days)
Trek from Lushoto to the Rangwi Convent for an overnight. Continue with a visit to a village of the Kilindi (the Washambaa ruling clan) and the headquarters of the Shambaa sub-chief to learn about the history of the Usambara chiefdom. This tour can be extended to include a visit to a Shambaa blacksmith at Tewe
Agro Community Cultural tours (2-3 days)
Stay with the local farmers, experiencing the village livelyhood.Visit the royal subchiefs of the mountains,get the chance to see the village festivals and learn how to step and Sing , the Shambaa and Mbugu traditional songs”
(West to East Cultural tour (5-6 days)
Have the general scope of the Usambara Mountains, trekking through the villages from the west to East via the natural forest of Mazumbai, Amani, and Nilo nature reserve to the Estern part of the Mountains.
Usamabara Royal Villages Cultural tour (4-6 days)
Get the chance to learn and experience, the existing culture in the royal villages and the royal families from the ancient time of the Shambaa kingdom to the modern
Kilimanjaro Acclimatization( 3-5 Days)
Lets acclimatize together by walking to the higher altitude villages and have what you deserve to climb the roof of Africa even mount Meru in regard to physical heath of the person.
Usambara bike tours ( 1-7 Days)
The Usambara Mountains is the best place for the mountains bikes, we save both sportsman and others who are in needs to bike and experience the natural and cultural beauty of the Usambaras
Mafia is renowned as an excellent world-class diving destination with some of the richest reefs in the world, The park covers the Southern part of Mafia Island and includes the inhabited islands of Chole, Juani Jibondo and Bwejuu and several uninhabited islets and the associated waters.
Mafia Island and its chain of small islets lie approximately 120 km south of Dar es Salaam and 20 km offshore from the eastern extent of the Rufiji is one of the largest delta systems in Africa. To the east of Mafia Island is the Indian Ocean. The main island of Mafia is about 48 km long and 17 km wide at its widest point. Several smaller islands and islets are scattered to the west and south.
Mafia Island marine Park (MIMP) consists of eight small reserves along the Tanzanian coast under the Fisheries (Marine Reserves) Regulations of 1975, two of these are in what is now the Mafia Island marine Park (MIMP), namely Chole Bay and Kitutia Reef.
The marine park area at Mafia Island extends across some 822km2, more than 75% of it below the high water mark. The area hosts an outstanding mosaic of tropical marine habitats including coral reefs, sea grass beds, mangroves and inter-tidal flats. In addition a remnant block of threatened lowland coastal forest survives along the eastern seaboard of the island, roughly half of it within the marine park boundary. Two species of sea turtle use Mafia’s beaches as nesting grounds and the area has been recognized internationally as a critical site for biodiversity. Several sites of historic ruins lie within the marine park area, some dating back to the C 13th. Mafia Island’s separation from the mainland and its freedom from industrial development have ensured that its surrounding waters are some of the least contaminated in Tanzania. The marine park area has national importance as one of the few remaining reef complexes within Tanzania’s coastal waters in relatively intact condition.
Pangani is a small town in East Africa’s coast that was 50 kms South of Tanga with long history culture the town has Arabic, German, Asian and British Colonial rules influence. This is a place where Swahili, Arab, colonial traditions and modern hospitality blends together.
This town is located at the mouth of Pangani River that collects its water from Mt Kilimanjaro and Meru to the Indian Ocean. Here you will enjoy coastline with clean beaches where endangered Green Turtles breeds, historic sites, coral reefs, Old Port as well as great diversity of tropical marine dwellers.
At the point where the massive Pangani River empties itself into the Indian Ocean, a village has grown. The Pangani River passes through the northern side of the town, separating the old buildings and the present-day market from the farms and small houses on the southern side. The river itself requires a ferry to cross, its dark brown waters filled heavily with alluvial silt as it meanders slowly into the ocean. On either side of the little town, coconut palms and sisal plantations undulate towards the horizon.
Once a centre of Swahili trade with the African mainland; the town of Pangani is now a sleepy backwater with little memories of days of splendor. The old German administrative boma still stands behind a colonnade of tall shade trees and the former prison, painted a fading ochre red, looks over the river’s lazy waters. Old houses along the main road offer lived-in examples of colonial and traditional Swahili architecture, the buildings slowly crumbling against the monsoon winds. Visitors passing through the area would do well to explore what remains of the old town on foot. Even a short walk rewards visitors with a glimpse of quiet life in the old trading towns along the Swahili Coast.
– Historical town tour… Explore Historic buildings of Pangani town, slave market, old port and slave routes
– Pangani River cruising
– A boat trip to Maziwe Marine Park Island for swimming, sun-bathing, snorkeling and watching dolphins
– Village tours.. a welcome to Coast people’s home and stay with a family getting an insight of the Swahili culture. Participate in various activities with the family members
GREEN TURTLE EXPERIENCE:
– An opportunity to explore the life of Endangered Green Turtles. Visits to nesting sites and get to know their breeding behavior
– Cycling tours around the town to the German fort, then proceed to Mwera, sisal plantations Kikokwe the first place where sisal was introduced to Eastern Africa by Dr. Richard Hindrof and adjacent villages. Other cycling tours can take you to Mkoma to see the Pemba channel, Mwanaunguja corals and bombarded German war ship to the beaches of Ushongo
FISHING WITH LOCAL FISHERMEN:
– Evening tour within and around Pangani town. Get an insight of local entertainments available in the area
– Farm tour:- visit local’s farms with coconut, various types of fruits and enjoy fresh fruits and coconut juice while rolling on criss-crossing the dominating coconut trees
SAFARI TO SAADANI NATIONAL PARK
An opportunity to travel or have a safari to Saadani National Park, Where by there will be crossing Pangani river with a ferry (75 km / 3 hours’ drive). then another 35 km to Saadani village.
Saadani National Park: dubbed Where bush meets beach is a a unique shoreline wilderness combining marine, savanna, forest and riverine environments together with the historic village of Saadani. 70km north of Bagamoyo.
Where to stay:
A wide range of guest houses, hotels and lodges are available along the Indian Ocean beach and around the town of Pangani. Camping grounds are available in various places depending on nature of your tour around Pangani and neighbouring places. Tourist information office or tour guides can make arrangements for homestays and overnights in local guest houses, hotels and lodges when making hikes of several days within and around Pangani area.
Facilities for hire: Camping facilities can be hired after providing a one day notice. Mountain bikes and engine boat can be hired in Pangani town at a reasonable price. Pangani Cultural Tourism Enterprise a boat that can be available at any time. For those planning to leave for Zanzibar through Pangani or Saadani National Park, hired boats are available
The guides of the Cultural Tourism Programme are indigenous of Pangani who speaks good English and have experience in tour guiding in the area. The guides are very charming and will accompany you in leisure activities. Boat captains and the divers will guide you in all water related activities. Bookings for various excursions and tours can be made at the Pangani Tourist Information Centre (T.I.C) located at the Main bus stand. Pangani T.I.C has internet facilities. All Pangani registered guides are found at the office. Tanzania Tourist Board Tourist Information offices of Arusha and Dar- es -Salaam can assist on booking your tour in Pangani.
Pangani can be easily accessed by road. There are daily buses leaving Dar- es -Salaam and Arusha to Pangani
via Tanga. It takes 6 hours drive from Arusha and 7 hours from Dar- es Salaam. Pangani is 53km South of Tanga town where several minibuses to Pangani are available. Mini-buses leave once all seats are occupied and it takes an hour to Pangani.
One gets to relish the palm trees as they sway in a cooling oceanic breeze. White sand and blue water sparkle alluringly beneath the tropical sun, brand Saadani is a splendid place to visit. Traditional dhows sail slowly past, propelled by billowing white sails, whilst Swahili fishermen cast their nets below a brilliant red sunrise.
Saadani is where the beach meets the bush. The only wildlife sanctuary in East Africa to boast for an Indian Ocean beachfront, it as well possesses all the attributes that make Tanzania’s tropical coastline and islands very popular with European sun-worshipers. Yet it is also the one place where those idle hours of sunbathing might be interrupted by an elephant strolling past, or a lion coming to drink at the nearby waterhole!
Protected as a game reserve since the 1960s, in 2002 it was expanded to cover twice its former area. The reserve suffered greatly from poaching prior to the late 1990s, but in recent years a marked turnaround has been seen, due to a concerted clampdown on poachers, based on integrating adjacent villages into the conservation drive.
Today, a surprisingly wide range of grazers and primates are seen on game drives and walks, among them include giraffes, buffaloes, warthogs, common waterbucks, reedbucks, hartebeests, wildebeests, red duikers, greater kudus, elands, sable antelopes, yellow baboons and velvet monkeys.
Herds of up to 30 elephants are encountered with increasing frequency, and several lion prides are inhabitants, together with leopards, spotted hyenas and black-backed jackals. Boat trips on the mangrove-lined Wami River come along with a high chance of sighting hippos, crocodiles and a selection of marine and riverine birds, including the mangrove kingfisher and lesser flamingo. The beaches form one of the last major green turtle breeding sites on mainland Tanzania.
Location: On the north coast, roughly 100km (60 miles) northwest of Dar es Salaam, and a similar distance southwest of the port of Tanga.
How to get there
Charter flight from Zanzibar or Dar es Salaam with a possibility of scheduled flights in the future. Thrice-weekly road shuttle from Dar es Salaam, taking four hours in either direction.
No road access from Dar es Salaam along the coast – Follow the surfaced Moshi road for 160km (100 miles), then 60km (36 miles) on dirt.
Road access from Tanga and Pangani except after heavy rains. 4×4 required.
What to do
– Game drives and guided walks.
– Boat trips. Swimming.
Visit Saadani fishing village, which lies within the reserve, where a collection of ruins pays testament to its 19th century heyday as a major trading port.
The Park offers various types of accommodation and their facilities for both Residents and Non-residents visiting the Park.
Rest house near the beach, with a furnished sitting room, master bedroom, three single rooms and a fully equipped kitchen.
Bandaz which are located along the beach, each with two rooms of four beddings and
single rooms for couples with outside dining and kitchen equipped with cooking gas, deep freezer and utensils.
These facilities offer campers an opportunity to sleep at camping sites by pitching
tents at the public camp site which is located along the beach of Saadani,
Special camp sites: Kiwandi campsite located at Zaraninge forest, Kinyonga campsite located along Wami river and Tengwe campsite located in the wilderness zone.
Visitors are advised to come with their own food that they may cook using park facilities.
There are other privately owned accommodation facilities inside and outside the park include Sanctuary Saadani Safari Lodge, Saadani River Lodge, KISAMPA, Saadani Park Hotel, Tembo Kijani Lodge and A Tent with A View Lodge. Please visit their websites for more information.
The Usambara’s are a part of the ancient Eastern Arc chain which mountains stretch in a broken crescent from the Taita hills in southern Kenya down to Morogoro and the southern highlands. They are estimated to be at least 100 million years old and the rocks forming them may be as much as 600 million years old. The mountains are home to an exceptional assortment of plants and animals and represent one of the highest degrees of biodiversity on the continent.
The range is accessible from the towns of Lushoto in the west, and Amani in the east. The Usambaras are commonly split into two sub-ranges, the West Usambara and the East Usambara. The East Usambara is closer to the coast, receives more rainfall, and is significantly smaller than the west.
The East Usambara mountains belong to Eastern Arc Mountains, which is a chain of isolated mountains stretching in a great arc from Southeast Kenya to Southwest Tanzania. Geologically the mountains are very old – at least 100 million years. The total area of African rain forests diminished due to cold and dry periods which started about 2.5 million years ago. The Indian ocean maintained the moist climate required by the rain-forests. The individual Eastern Arc Mountains became isolated from the large African rain-forests and finally from each other.
The Climate of the East Usambaras differs from much of the rest of Tanzania. Rain can and does fall at any time of the year although there is a seasonal pattern. Tanzania has a hot, dry season in December-March, and a cooler, dry season in May to October. The ‘short’ rains occur in November and ‘long’ rains in April-May. The climate on the coast can be hot and humid, however, because of the altitude (800-1400m), the East Usambaras are cooler and wetter than the surrounding lowland. The rainfall averages over 1,500mm a year with an average temperature of 20C.
The East Usambaras are fairly densely populated, and lie within the more densely populated North of Tanzania. The area contains some 18 villages with a total population of about 15,500. An additional 4,000 people live and work on tea plantations in the area. The population is growing rapidly through a combination of natural increase and in-migration.
Different from the classic picture of East Africa – savannah – this is a lush and green area. The natural vegetation of submontane forest supports a wide variety of flora and fauna, much of which is endemic and for which the area is renowned both nationally and internationally. It is considered an international ‘hot spot’ for bio-diversity. The East Usambaras are particularly well known for bird life, with over 350 recorded species. The Usambaras are a bird-watching paradise. Abundant and diverse species can be spotted and according to experts, the Usambaras is one of Africa ’s best bird-watching locations.
There are many endemic plant and animal species in the Eastern Arc Mountains – more than 2000 plant species of which about 25% are endemic. Out of the 276 tree species 50 are endemic! The East Usambara mountains are the closest to the sea (only about 40 km) and due to moist climate the number of endemic species is remarkable. There are 16 tree species which can be found in the East Usambaras only. The forests of the East Usambaras have many rare species in all groups of animals, except mammals. High level of endemism are found amongst molluscs, amphibians and reptiles. The East Usambaras have been compared to Galapagos Islands with regard to diversity of endemic species.
The genus Saintpaulia, or African violet as it is commonly known originates from North-East Tanzania. During the year 1982, Baron Walter von Saint Paul Illaire, then District Commissioner of Tanga Province, found wild plants with small blue flowers. The species was introduced to horticulture and since then it has enjoyed spectacular and ever increasing popularity as indoor plant. Nowadays, the East Usambaras is one of the few places where Saintpaulia still occurs – there are eight species growing in the area.
Visitors come to the Usambaras to enjoy its nature, relax and hike. The main centre for visitors in the Western Usambaras is Lushoto town. In Lushoto, you can walk through the arboretum, hike in the forest, look for old buildings from the German and British colonial eras. A fascinating stop is the herbarium (pressed plant library) in Lushoto, which houses 1000s of pressed plants from Tanzania dating back to German times (1886-1916).
Located in the North-Eastern part of Tanzania, Lushoto is dubbed ‘the hill-station of Tanzania “. With the outlook dominated by the colourful mosaic of the Usambara Mountains, this lush area is welcome retreat from the busy cities and game parks of the country.
Known as the Spice Island, the beautiful island of Zanzibar on Africa’s east coast is bursting with culture and history, seemingly at odds with its idyllic geography of white-sand beaches with palms swaying lazily in the sea breeze. Together this makes Zanzibar a fabulous place to explore as well as a dream to relax and unwind.
Zanzibar is the semi-autonomous part of Tanzania in East Africa. It is composed of the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, 25–50 kilometres (16–31 mi) off the coast of the mainland, and consists of many small islands and two large ones: Unguja (the main island, referred to informally as Zanzibar) and Pemba. The capital is Zanzibar City, located on the island of Unguja. Its historic centre is Stone Town, which is a World Heritage Site.
Portuguese invasion and control of the Swahili Coast in the late 16th century ended the golden age of the archipelago, although the Omani Arabs returned to power less than a century later. Today, many of the winding streets and high townhouses of old Stone Town remain unchanged and visitors can walk between the sultan’s palace, the House of Wonders, the Portuguese fort and gardens, the merchants’ houses, and the Turkish baths of the old city. Day-long spice tours to working plantations offer visitors the chance to observe the cultivation of cloves, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and other spices that have made the island famous.
Zanzibar’s coastline offers some of the best beaches in the world, but sand and surf vary depending on what side of the island you’re on. On the east coast, waves break over coral reefs and sand bars offshore, and low tide reveals small pools of starfish, small minnows, and anemones. Up north, ocean swimming is much less susceptible to the tides, and smooth beaches and white sand make for dazzling days in the sun.
The port city of Stone Town dominates the west coast, and although the beaches of Mangapwani, where slave caves are visible at low tide and nearby Bububu are less than half an hour’s drive away, a night or two spent on the east or north cost is well worth the extra hour it takes to drive there. That said, the Chole Island Marine Park just off Stone Town – and nearby Prison, Grave, and Snake Islands – make a refreshing day-trip and a good break from exploring the winding passageways of the old city.
On the south coast of Zanzibar lies the Menai Bay Conservation Area, a sea turtle protection area for the endangered species that come to breed on the island. Roads to the southeast coast take visitors through the Jozani Forest, home to Zanzibar’s rare Red Colobus monkeys and a number of other primate and small antelope species.