While you may have already heard about the Serengeti, Ngorongoro crater or Lake Natron, most travellers to Tanzania never hear about the Kitulo National Park. Personally, I think that it is one of the most interesting National Parks in Tanzania by a long way.
While it doesn’t have hordes of Beest hunted by lions, what Kitulo lacks in wildlife it makes up in plant life.
About the Kitulo National Park
The park itself is hidden in the highlands found in the southern corner of Tanzania close to the region of Mbeya and close to Tanzania’s border with Malawi. The landscape of montane grasslands and forests spans 412.9sr km over the Kitulo Plateau which is home to billions of African wildflowers. The name for the Plateau in Kiswahili is ‘Bustani ya Mangu’ which refers to being a ‘Garden of God’, and western botanists have called this area the ‘Serengeti of Flowers’.
The Kitulo National park was first gazetted in 2005, after the initial announcement in 2002, which made it Tanzania’s 14th national park and has since been extended to include Mount Rungwe. Protection of the area started as it became apparent that international trade in Orchids increased the number of hunting and logging in the area, and could damage the unique flora.
While the main attractions are the flora, the Rungwe forests are home to primates. While Kitulo may not be on a Budget Tanzanian Safari, there is plenty of reasons to visit.
The Serengeti of Flowers – Bustani ya Mangu
The Kitulo national park is home to over 350 varieties of terrestrial orchids which erupt from the earth between November and April. What results is miles and miles of stunning, rainbow rolling hills. The vast landscape is one of the most mind-blowing things you can see.
The sea of Orchids, Lilies and 400 other species of wildflowers attract an awe-inspiring collection of birds, Camelions, Lizards, frogs and insects including butterflies.
While many travels to see the animals, there are some who may wish to travel to the Serengeti of Flowers to enjoy the views, or for photography, which is a common reason for tourists to travel here.
The Livingstone Forest & Mount Rungwe
The largest span of forest in the park is the Livingstone forest – which is an evergreen forest that descended the southwest side of the national park. The forest is made up of high altitude grasslands, bamboo and montane vegetation. The forest was previously the Livingstone Forest Reserve and was incorporated into the Kitulo in 2005. It was at thi time that scientists discovered a range of new species of primates here and surrounding Mount Rungwe, including the Kipunji which is one of 25 most endangered primates in the world.
It is quite hard to separate the two main forests in the area and there is a very small corridor of farms and plantations between the Livingstone forest and the forests surrounding Mount Rungwe – this is known as the Bujingijla Gap.
Mount Rungwe is the highest peak in the Rungwe region and can be seen for miles around. The highland areas surrounding the mountain are particularly fascinating – including the famous Lake Ngonzi, the world’s highest crater lake. The volcanic lake is surrounded in myth and legend including an emerald snake that guards gold hidden there by German soldiers.