Usambara Mountains

The Usambara’s were formed nearly two million years ago by faulting and uplifting, and are composed of Precambrian metamorphic rocks. They are split into two sub-ranges; the West Usambaras being higher than the East Usambaras, which are nearer the coast and receive more rainfall.

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. The ranges of approximately 90 kilometers long and about half that wide. Usambara Mountains are situated in the Lushoto District of the Tanga Region.

The mountains are clad in virgin tropical rainforest which has been isolated for a long period and they are a centre of endemism.

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 genus Saintpaulia or African violet as it is commonly known originates from North-East Tanzania. 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 relax and enjoy its nature, beautiful view points and fertile slopes. The main centre for visitors in the Western Usambaras is Lushoto town. In Lushoto, you can walk through the arboretum, hike in the forest, and look for old buildings from the German and British colonial eras. Other excursions are to visits Wasambaa villages, where visitors may have a glimpse of daily life of the local people.

Interested point to visit:

  • Irente viewpoint

    Hike up the Irente viewpoint to get a panoramic view of Mazinde village almost 1000 below and the vast Maasai plains beyond and visit the Irente Farm cheese factory and the royal village of Kwembago.

  • Magamba Forest

    Walk up hill from Lushoto to the royal village of Kwembago, where you learn about the cultural history of the Kilindi ruling clan. From Kwembago you have a beautiful view of Lushoto and the Maasai plains. Proceed to the Magamba rainforests, home to black and white colobus monkeys. Return via an old German Middle School, a German trench dug during the First World War and the village of Magamba.

  • Growing Rock

    The “Growing Rock” tour starts from Soni. Walk to the top of the Kwamongo mountain, famous for its butterflies, enjoy views of Soni, Lushoto and the Handeni plains from the peak. Visit the villages of Shashui and Kwemula on the way. Descend to the village of Magila at the foot of the “Growing Rock” to visit a soil conservation project and learn the mystery about the rock.

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