Hiking in Udzungwa National Park
Udzungwa Forest Lodge’s main attraction is Udzungwa Mountains National Park, which is well known for excellent hiking, trekking, mountain climbing and forest walks. With no road access and the only way in being on foot along one of the many trails, the mountains keep their secrets from all but the most adventurous. Once you’ve gained a little altitude, the forest canopy shields you from the heat of the sun and you can enjoy the forest along with the monkeys, elephants, birds, duikers and elephant shrews.
There are several trails ranging from short 20min strolls, to 5 day expeditions. The most popular hike is up to Sanje Waterfalls, looking for monkeys, swimming in plunge pools, and enjoying the spectacular view. This is the prime attraction for this area and if you are a keen walker then taking at least one of these hiking opportunities is strongly recommended. Bear in mind, however, that it is very hot, particularly at midday, and this can have a considerable effect on even the fittest of walkers. We offer pack lunches, so make a day of it!
Hondo Hondo has everything needed for overnight hiking in the forest.. We offer a package deal which includes tents, mattresses and bedding, porters, a cook and cooking equipment, food and if required, transport to and from the start of the trails – in short, everything you need for a successful trek. We even provide tarpaulin shelter for hikers using our services so you’re not confined to your tent in case of rain.
Here is a brief summary of the trails in the Udzungwa National Park accessible from Hondo Hondo. For further detailed information see each individual page.
Day HikesSanje Waterfall
The most popular trail in Udzungwa is Sanje Waterfall. This 180m waterfall is very impressive, surrounded by rainforest with excellent views over the Kilombero floodplain and out to the Selous Game Reserve. At the top, there are two more waterfalls, both beautiful, and another half-way up, and you can take a well deserved break from your hike to swim in the cool waters of their plunge pools.
This trek can be done by an enthusiastic hiker in half a day, heading quickly up the escarpment and back down again. We usually recommend a more leisurely approach, heading up the mountain in the morning, taking lunch on the top of the waterfall with its breath-taking views of the valley, and taking time out to swim during the heat of the day. Then you can follow the trail around the side of the escarpment and head back down the mountainside, making more of a day of your hike.
The 2nd most popular day hike is Njokamoni Waterfalls, which is very similar to the Sanje trail except less well-known and therefore less used. As a result, it is common to see many troupes of monkeys and in particular you stand a better chance of seeing the endemic Sanje Crested Mangebey. You may also see red duiker, squirrels and other rare forest mammals.
This hike will usually take you between 2 and 3 hours with a rewarding waterfall at the top, and a short scramble over the rocks to the start of the path down. The trail passes behind Hondo Hondo Tented Camp, and Njokamoni waterfall is on the same stream as that which provides water to Hondo Hondo. You can start and end the walk from Udzungwa Forest Tented Camp without needing vehicular transport.
Sonjo is one of the shorter trails in Udzungwa and suitable for children and those who are not accustomed to hiking. With very little altitude climb, it is a good opportunity to get into the forest and see some beautiful waterfalls without having to handle a steep climb or too long a trail. The waterfalls on the Sonjo Trail are smaller but very pretty and there is opportunity to paddle and splash int he rock pools and enjoy every aspect of this remarkable rainforest. There is ample birdlife in the forest canopy and you may well spot some primates such as black and white or Udzungwa red colobus in the trees.
Hidden Valleys Trail
The longest, and arguably the best of the day hikes, the Hidden Valleys trail (known to TANAPA as the unromantic Campsite 3 Trail) takes you up to 1300m to explore the grassy valleys of the Njokamoni and Moyer rivers. This trail follows a big loop around the large peak rising behind Hondo Hondo Tented Camp. It starts from Campsite 3, just after the turning for the park HQ, and arrives back on the decent trail from Njokamoni Waterfall, right back into Hondo Hondo.
It’s a long, steep walk that climbs to over 1000m, so you should plan to leave early. It is necessary to take a ranger on this hike as there are large mammals deep in the forest. You will certainly see plenty of wildlife and flora on this hike. Once you’ve climbed the sometimes steep trail to the ridge, you walk through the flat grassy bottoms of some beautiful hidden valleys (hence our name for the trail) often frequented by elephants.
Prince Bernhards Waterfall
This is the shortest and easiest trail,and can be done while waiting for park fees to be paid. Circling out from the TANAPA Park HQ and back again, the trail passes by the Prince Bernhard Waterfalls, named by the man himself on a visit to Udzungwa in the 1980s. It is accessible to young children and the less mobile and makes a nice add on to any day in the park.
This is a brand new trail, approximately 1.5km round trip through the forest. The falls are nice, and this is a good trail to do on the way back from Udzungwa.
A great initiative of the park is conditioning a troupe of habituated Mangebys. You can take a hike “off-piste” into the forest just above Hondo Hondo and walk via radio direction straight to a troupe of Mangebys and observe them from very close quarters, undisturbed. It’s an excellent way to observe this endemic species/genus close up without disruption to their natural habits.
Overnight HikesSanje Waterfall Camping
To get a true feel of the forest, spend a night under the canopy. Instead of taking half a day to complete the Sanje trail, head up and make camp in the forest overnight with the help of our skilled Hondo Hondo campsite team. Spend the afternoon in the forest and then a magical evening under the forest canopy, eating by firelight and sleeping under canvas to the sounds of the forest. Awake early to breakfast looking out over the Kilombero Valley from the top of the waterfall, and then spend the morning wandering down through the forest, spotting wildlife and splashing in waterfall pools on the way down. Hondo Hondo can provide everything you need for this trip – all you bring is yourselves, and a camera!
For the keen hiker, Mwanihana peak at 2150m is one of the highest peaks in the Eastern Arc and the second highest peak in the Udzungwa Mountains. The 38km hike takes 3 days and 2 nights at a leisurely pace, although for the very fit it can be completed in 2 days. For those who want to make the most of the hike we recommend that you take your time and enjoy the trek, as the trail passes through Miombo woodland, low-land forest, sub-montane forest, highland plateau and pristine montane forest. Just before the bare rock and grass of the summit, eerie glades of bamboo rustle in the wind. This is, in terms of habitat and associated wildlife, a very diverse journey. Much of the trek is alongside sparkling mountain streams with butterflies dancing through the dappled forest light. This is also the most successful route for spotting the elusive Sanje Mangebey. Although rarely encountered there are also elephant and buffalo up on the plateau so your trek will be accompanied by an armed ranger.
The Lumeno Trail is the longest, and most arduous trail in Udzungwa. You are transferred to the start of the trail, beyond Ifakara on the Lumeno river, and hike up into the hills for 4 nights, returning along the same trail as Mwanihana to the road not far from Hondo Hondo. This trail leads deep into the heart of the Udzungwas, to areas where few people have ever been and the wildlife there has had virtually no contact with humans.