Kitulo Plateau National Park

Proposed Kitulo Plateau National Park

Kitulo National Park covers 412.9 sq km (159 sq miles). Locals refer to the Kitulo Plateau as Bustani ya Mungu – The Garden of God – while botanists have dubbed it the Serengeti of Flowers, host to ‘one of the great floral spectacles of the world’. Kitulo is indeed a rare botanical marvel, home to a full 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.

Perched at around 2,600 metres (8,500 ft) 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.

One of the most important watersheds for the Great Ruaha River, Kitulo is well known for its floral significance – not only a 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. Big game is sparsely represented, though a few hardy mountain reedbuck and eland still roam the open grassland.

But Kitulo – a botanist and hiker’s paradise – is also highly alluring to birdwatchers. Tanzania’s only population of the rare Denham’s bustard is resident, alongside a breeding colony of the endangered blue swallow and such range-restricted species as mountain marsh widow, Njombe Cisticolas and Kipengere seedeater. Endemic species of butterfly, chameleon, lizard and frog further enhance the biological wealth of God’s Garden.

Getting there

Kitulo is accessible by road from Arusha or Dar es Salaam. A fleet of Classic Tours & Safaris 4×4 will take you to this very flower park in Tanzania – ‘Garden of God’. From Chimala, 78km east of Mbeya along the surfaced main road to Dar es Salaam, head south along the rough but spectacular dirt road – called Hamsini na Saba (57) after the number of hairpin bends along its length – to the temporary park headquarters at Matamba situated approximately 100km (60 miles) from Mbeya town from where it’s another hour’s drive to the plateau.

What to do-ActivitiesGood hiking trails exist and will soon be developed into a formal trail system. Open walking across the grasslands to watch birds and wildflowers.  Hill climbing on the neighbouring ranges. A half-day hike from the park across the Livingstone Mountains leads to the sumptuous Matema Beach on Lake Nyasa.

When to goWildflower displays peak between December and April. 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.

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