Perched at about 8,530 feet (2,600 m) above sea level between the rugged peaks of the Kipengere, Poroto and Livingstone mountains, the well-watered volcanic soils of Kitulo support the largest and most important montane grassland community in Tanzania. Referred by locals as “The Garden of God”, Kitulo National Park is “one of the greatest floral spectacles of the world”, a rare botanical marvel and home to 350 species of vascular plants, including 45 varieties of terrestrial orchid, which erupt into a riotous wildflower display of breathtaking scale and diversity during the main rainy season of late November to April.
One of the most important watersheds for the Great Ruaha River, Kitulo is also the first national park in tropical Africa to be protected largely for its floral significance. Not only for its multitude of orchids, but also the stunning yellow-orange red-hot poker and a variety of aloes, proteas, geraniums, giant lobelias, lilies and aster daisies, of which more than 30 species are endemic to southern Tanzania. But Kitulo is also attractive for bird watching, home to rare bird species. Big game is sparsely represented, with only a few hardy mountain reedbuck and eland still roaming the open grassland. Kitulo National Park is a botanist and hiker’s paradise. Wild flowers display their peak during the rainy season making between December and April an excellent time for botanists to visit, while the sunnier months of September to November are more comfortable for hiking, but less rewarding to botanists. Conditions are cold and foggy from June to August.