Trip of the week: hiking in Tanzania’s Uluguru Mountains

Colourful wildlife and ancient forests are just a four-hour drive from the capital

Scenic View Of Uluguru Mountains Against Sky
The Uluguru Mountains are within easy reach of the capital, Dar es Salaam
(Image credit: Rodger Shija/EyeEm/Getty Images)

They’re not Tanzania’s highest or most spectacular peaks, but the Uluguru Mountains make for an interesting hiking trip within easy reach of the capital, Dar es Salaam, says Sophy Roberts in the FT.

A four-hour drive west of the city, this fertile and densely populated range is part of Africa’s Eastern Arc mountain chain, which stretches from the Taita Hills in Kenya to the Udzungwas, a little further south. It is home to the Waluguru, a people with a unique matrilineal culture, and, in its remotest reaches, there are remnants of ancient forests that have “the feeling of a lost world”. Numerous rare plants and animals inhabit these sylvan heights, including two spectacular bird species found only here – the “bottle-green” and red Loveridge’s sunbird, and the yellow-breasted Uluguru bush-shrike.

The regional capital, Morogoro, was a critical staging post for 19th century caravans travelling inland from the coast. It still feels like a “crossroads” and a “melting pot” – albeit a charmingly laid-back one, with wide avenues flanked by mango trees, and slot machines that “trill in the front of the streetside bars where boda boda drivers hang out waiting for trade”.

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You might stay at the Mbuyuni Farm Retreat, a 20-minute drive away. It has four cottages with glass doors that open onto a lawn where weaver birds dart to and from nests that hang “like baubles” from the acacias. There’s a pretty pool, and a good restaurant that sources ingredients from the owners’ organic farm.

Local tour operator Charles Masunzu is a good guide to the mountains, which rise to 2,630 metres. He is a knowledgeable naturalist who can help you spot some of the 135 plant species unique to this range; he will take you to visit caves – labyrinths of “cool corridors” where bats nest – and on bivouac trips deep in the forest, where there will be only a mosquito net between you and the stars.

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