Mount Meru is one of Africa's highest and most beautiful volcanoes. The route to the summit passes through parkland, montane forest, a giant heather zone and moorland. Finally, the summit is reached by a narrow, barren ridge which provides stunning views of the Ash Cone lying several thousand feet below in the crater and Kilimanjaro in the background. Over 400 species of birds, rhino, elephant, buffalo, baboon, warthog, black and white Colobus monkey and duiker are all found in this delightful 'gem amongst parks'. The visit to the Ngurdoto crater and Momella lakes, with their superb scenery, flamingoes and other wildlife, is an unforgettable experience.
Mount Kilimanjaro lies on the border of Tanzania and Kenya, just south of the Equator. To the west lies the Great African Rift Valley, created by tremendous tectonic forces which also gave birth to a string of other volcanoes. One of these, Mount Kenya, was originally much higher than Kilimanjaro.
The three summits of Mount Kilimanjaro, Shira, Kibo and Mawenzi are all of very recent origin. Shira and Mawenzi both have suffered considerable erosion and only jagged peaks remain. Kibo, the central, youngest and highest peak has survived as an almost perfect cone.
Although East Africa and nearby Olduvai Gorge is thought to be the cradle of mankind it is unlikely that early man would have been attracted to the steep and cold slopes of Kilimanjaro at a time when it was probably very active and dangerous. A Wachagga legend talks of Mawenzi receiving fire for its pipe from his younger brother Kibo. The Wachagga who live on the fertile volcanic soils around the base of the mountain probably only came to the area about 300 years ago thus this legend suggests very recent activity. Another of their legends talks of demons and evil spirits living on the mountain and guarding immense treasures. Stories are told of a king who decided to go to the top, few of his party survived and those who did had damaged arms and legs.
Arab and Chinese traders and historians make mention of a giant mountain lying inland from Mombasa or Zanzibar but few early traders ventured into the interior of the continent. Slave traders passed below it and sometimes raided the villages of the Wachagga but it was not till the middle of the 19th century that a more serious interest was taken in the mountain and attempts were made to scale it.
In 1848 Johann Rebmann a missionary from Gerlingen in Germany while crossing the plains of Tsavo saw Mount Kilimanjaro. His guide talked of baridi - cold, and of tales how a group of porters were sent up the mountain to bring back the silver or other treasures from the summit.They came back only with water. Rebmann's report stimulated great interest in Germany and in the following years several expeditions were organised; first by Baron von Decken then later by Dr. Hans Meyer who finally stood on the highest point on the 5th of October 1889.
Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, now attracts many thousands of walkers each year. On the 1st of January 2000 over 1000 people reached the summit to see the sun rise over a new Millennium.
Brooding and primeval, the forests of Udzungwa seem positively enchanted: a verdant refuge of sunshine-dappled glades enclosed by 30-metre (100 foot) high trees, their buttresses layered with fungi, lichens, mosses and ferns.
Udzungwa is the largest and most biodiverse of a chain of a dozen large forest-swathed mountains that rise majestically from the flat coastal scrub of eastern Tanzania. Known collectively as the Eastern Arc Mountains, this archipelago of isolated massifs has also been dubbed the African Galapagos for its treasure-trove of endemic plants and animals, most familiarly the delicate African violet.
Udzungwa alone among the ancient ranges of the Eastern Arc has been accorded national park status. It is also unique within Tanzania in that its closed-canopy forest spans altitudes of 250 metres (820 feet) to above 2,000 metres (6,560 ft) without interruption.
Not a conventional game viewing destination, Udzungwa is a magnet for hikers. An excellent network of forest trails includes the popular half-day ramble to Sanje Waterfall, which plunges 170 metres (550 feet) through a misty spray into the forested valley below.
The more challenging two-night Mwanihana Trail leads to the high plateau, with its panoramic views over surrounding sugar plantations, before ascending to Mwanihana peak, the second-highest point in the range.
Ornithologists are attracted to Udzungwa for an avian wealth embracing more than 400 species, from the lovely and readily-located green-headed oriole to more than a dozen secretive Eastern Arc endemics.
Four bird species are peculiar to Udzungwa, including a forest partridge first discovered in 1991 and more closely related to an Asian genus than to any other African fowl.
Of six primate species recorded, the Iringa red colobus and Sanje Crested Mangabey both occur nowhere else in the world – the latter, remarkably, remained undetected by biologists prior to 1979.
Undoubtedly, this great forest has yet to reveal all its treasures: ongoing scientific exploration will surely add to its diverse catalogue of endemics.
Facts about Udzungwa Mountains National Park
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