The Usambara Mountains are a part of the ancient Eastern Arc chain of mountains which 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 Usambara Mountains consist of two mountain blocks; the smaller is the East Usambaras lying closer to the coast with slightly higher rainfall. This block is less populated and its primary attraction is the Amani Nature Reserves, approached from Muheza, with its botanical garden, butterfly farming, tea & spice plantations. The West Usambaras are separated from the East by a valley and are approached via the district center of Lushoto.
The mountains boast of over 3,000 plant species in total and over 600 tree species. This exceptional diversity attracts naturalists and nature lovers from all over the world who come to watch birds, study trees and flowers or butterflies. The Usambara Mountains are recognized as one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots.
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. The forests also have many rare species in all groups of animals, except mammals. A high level of endemism is found amongst molluscs, amphibians and reptiles. The East Usambaras have been compared to Galapagos Islands with regard to diversity of endemic species.
Excursions in and around the Usambara Mountain can include…
Wasambaa Villages- Hikes and visits to the Wasambaa villages allow visitors to interact with the local people and give them a glimpse into their daily life
Irente Viewpoint- Hike up to the Irente viewpoint where you will get a panoramic view of the Mazinde village 3,281 feet (1,000m) below and also the vast Maasai plains beyond. As you make your way back, you may stop and visit the Irente Farm Cheese Factory and the royal village of Kwembago.
Usambara Flora and Fauna- You may through the fertile farmlands of Jaegertal to fruit tree nursery where you will learn about all the different varieties of fruit trees as well as their propagation. You can continue uphill to the village of Vuli to see the current projects being worked on for soil conservation, irrigation, and farming methods.
Magamba Forest- Walk from the town of Lushoto to the royal village of Kwembago, where you will learn about the culture and history of the Kilindi Ruling Clan. From the village of Kwembago, you will have beautiful views of the town of Lushoto and the Maasai Plains. You will proceed to the Magamba rainforests which are home to the black and white colobus monkeys. You will return to Lushoto Town via and old German Middle School, a German trench dug during World War 1 and the village of Magamba.
Growing Rock- The “Growing Rock: tour begins in Soni and you will walk to the top of the Kwamongo Mountain which is famous for it butterflies. You will be able to enjoy views of Soni, Lushoto, and The Handeni Plains all from the peak. You will visit the villages of Shashui and Kwemeula on the way. You will descend down to the village of Magila at the foot of “Growing Rock” where you will visit a soil conservation project and learn about the mystery behind “Growing Rock”.