Nestled at the base of the central Usambara Mountains, the Amani Nature Reserve is well off the beaten path of the usual safari circuit, but makes a perfect stopover on longer trips and while driving to the Swahili Coast. It’s quiet, tranquil setting offers the perfect opportunity to relax from the rigorous schedule of vehicle-based safaris.
Amani Nature Reserve (ANR), located in the East Usambara Mountains, is a paradise of nature with unique flora and fauna. It has been termed as the “Last Paradise.” The flora species composition is diverse; trees of over 60 meters tall exist throughout the reserve while below, many different types of plant species are supported by them.
Amani situated in the pockets in the East Usambara Mountains, is part of the huge natural entity that makes up the Eastern Arc Mountains. It was Gazetted in 1997 with the main objective to involve the local community to take part in the management of the reserve and forest conservation to increase income generating opportunities.
The ANR has a total area of 8380 hectares divided into ecological zones that is home to a collection of medicinal plants, Biodiversity preservation, restoration and Botanical garden.
The reserve has endemical and endangered plants, more than 340 bird species, including a few endemic; there are also 74 genuses of animals, which include reptiles, mammals, amphibians and mollusks. Tourists are likely to see the endemic chameleons, snakes such as cobra, amphibian’s particularly legless frog, Butterfly and other insects.
ANR is registered with the Tropical Biology association as one of the reputable research institutions, to learn first hand about tropical ecology and conservation. Many research works are conducted yearly by renowned universities in the world such as UK’s Leeds University. Others include Tanzanian universities and research institutions (UDSM, SUA and NIMR) and others from Uganda and Madagascar.
The ANR is one of the most important water catchment’s areas that through the Zigi River provide domestic water to Tanga town, associated industries, estates and adjacent local communities. In addition, it provides water to the Hale and Pangani hydropower stations in Pangani River, among other benefits.
The ANR is suitable for site seeing, hiking, camping, butterfly, farming visit, trekking in the nature forest, night walks, bird watching, picnics, boating, fishing and learning. (website: http://www.amani-nature.org/).
Land pattern and land use:
Amani Nature Reserve extends from lowland to the upper plateau. The upper plateau allows visitors to observe the land pattern of the East Usambara, and these are one of the must-see attractions in the ANR. The land use in the upper plateau, including the local agricultural farming and tea estates adds the portfolio of attractions to the tourists.
There 3 views point namely Kiganga Hill, Ngua and Mbomole Hill viewpoints.
There are three waterfalls namely Derema, Ndola and Pacha in the ANR. Many visitors here choose to hike to the waterfalls.
Tea farming is under the East Usambara Tea Company that has a few acres of cultivated tea plantations that offer a good sighting to visitors.
Nine visitors trail, (nature trails): Labeled, mapped and well documented in the leaflets and trail guide books are available (Mbomole Hill, Monga trail, Ndola trail, Turaco Bird trail, Kwamkoro Nature trail, Derema trail, Zigi trail, etc.)
Butterfly & Spices project:
The villagers run a butterfly project in which a substantial quantity of live butterfly or larva or purple is exported to German, the UK and Switzerland. Locals through groups and individual arrangements produce different spices sold in the Tanga region and beyond.
About 35 kms from Muheza, a town located on highway to Tanga.
There are public transports from Muheza, 35 kms away.
Two moderate rest houses provide accommodation in ANR boundaries; one at the Headquarters and Sigi Rest house at Sigi gate; campsites (Sigi, Kwamkoro and Mbomole Peak). Guest houses are available in the village at the Sigi gate.
The picnic sites are available for visitors fully supplied with sanitary equipment. These are: River’s site (Zigi), hill pick (Mbomole Hill) and in-situ forest site (Kiganga).Two campsites: One with fixed water closet (ANR HQ), second one (Kiganga) allowing a mobile sanitary system.
Muheza town has NMB branch and Post Bank, including a CRDB (ATM) to cater for financial services. For large supplies, visitors are advised to buy supplies at Muheza where a big market has a good stock of both dry food and other groceries.
Amani Nature Reserve is a centre for biological diversity. The floristic composition is very diverse and there are 2012 vascular plants species per hector. Thus a large proposition of the endemic species are found within Amani Natural Reserve. The Reserve have been likened to the African equivalent of the Galápagos Islands in terms of their endemism and biodiversity. Therefore it is considered one of the most important forest blocks in Africa.
Approximately 3450 species of vascular plants recorded in the Usambara Mountains, over one quarter are likely to be endemic or near-endemic. In addition to the variety of plants, the mountains host a number of endemic or rare fauna species, including the Usambara eagle owl and a viviparous frog species.
There are eight trails which have been established within ANR as follows: AMANI BOTANICAL
Research centre tour: This takes 1-3 hours walk around the plantation of ABG and in the immediate surroundings of the National Institute for medical Research Amani centre.
MBOMALE HILL TRAIL: (T.2)
This is 4 km walk for a round trip for about 1-3 hours. This includes a climb of about 150m through a natural forest and plantations of ABG to a fine view of the surrounding country side.
KWAMKORO FOREST HILL TRAIL (T.3)
This is a drive route of about 9 km (25 minutes) However the Tourists or visitors can enjoy a some 3 km walk through the plantations with some indigenous species like cephalosphaela Usambarensis to the African Violets (Saintpaulia Species) sites. There is also a 1.5 km circular walk around Kwamkoro Arboretum and a 1 km extension to views from the escarpments. In total it may take about 2-4 hours covering distance of about 6 – 10 km.
THE MONGA TRAIL: (T.4)
Is a drive route covering about 6.5 km which takes about 15 minutes. There is also 3.2 km walk through the forest and tea which provides spectacular views to the visitor / Tourists and some species like cinchona Ledgeriana, Impatiens Usambarense 1 ( which is endemic) or Allamblackia stuhlmannii can be seen. Also some forest birds like Terpsiphone rufiventris which has red and grey colours and has an enormously long tail can be seen.
THE NDOLA TRAIL: (T.5)
This is about 18 km of drive route through the forest and tea plantations. There is a fairly easy walk of 4.5 km through the village cultivation and open grassland with some fine views across Lwengera valley to the west Usambara mountains.
THE DEREMA TRAIL (T.6)
Covers about 1.2 km walk passing through the forest, tea and villages farms with some steep climb. The Derema water falls, Derema Tea Factory and the German Grave yard since 1895.
THE SIGI SPICE GARDEN TOUR (T.7)
This can last for 1 – 3 hours walk around the palmettun spice and fruit Garden which is part of the ABG.
THE AMANI SIG MOUNTAIN TRAIL: (T.8)
This is a steep walk of 4 – 6 km round trip, climbing 450m through primary and secondary low land and submontane forest, to the top of the ridge. It is fairly a tough walk but good for the muscles. It starts at ANR information centre at Sigi and lasts for about 3-5 hours. Tourist enjoy a good scenery including water falls of the Sigi River which is the main source of demostic and Industrial water for the adjacent local communities and residents in the City of Tanga.
About six camping sites have been indentified and have been developed. These Include the Sigi, Amani Centre, Kwamkoro forest station and at Kiganga area near the old forest rest house. Other camping sites are at Monga and Ndola. Marikitanda is also a good camping site. The camping sites have been selected considering that visitors/Tourists can use them as observation points and already some basic facilities like water supply and toilets are in place.
Camping fees are to be paid in Advance at a rate of 10 USD per day for the foreigners and T.Shs: 2,500/= for residents.
These are drive routes through which the Tourists /Visitors can enjoy the natural Scenery and landscape in the area as they drive along.
Once the visitors enter the ANR at Sigi they drive to Amani Centre (about 3 km) from the Amani centre four hour drive route could be used as follows:-
AMANI:- Kwamkoro (taking a right turn at the Tea Factory) Sangarawe – Ubiri – Manga Mbomole and back to Amani (about 20 Km). The visitors drive passing the Kwamkoro Tea Factory and Tea plantations West Wards of Amani.
AMANI:- Kwamkoro (via left side of the Tea Factory) - Mikwinini – Ubiri – Monga – Mbomole and back to Amani (about 25 km)
Amani – Bulwa – Mgambo – Monga and back to Amani (about 15 km anticlockwise) Through this route visitors can see some tea plantations on the Eastern side of the enclave and such beautiful trees like the Nandi Flame (spathdea nilotica) with nice flowers.
Amani – Mbomole – Monga – Mgambo – Bulwa and back to Amani (about 15 km and clockwise)
It is emphasized that the main objective of the ANR is Nature conservation Eco-tourism is introduced as a means of enhancing economic benefits and therefore help to sustain conservation work. In that context the number of cars in the drive routes will be kept low in order to maintain natural environment. Long hiking routes should be developed and promoted instead of drive routes.
Such potential hiking routes include:-
Kwamkoro – Potwe – Gereza – Kwagunda – Ubiri to Amani / with a camping site possibly at Kwagunda) A hiking trail from the ANR to West Usambara (Lushoto) is also ideal. It can begin at Amani then to Zirai – Kizara – Kwemkole – Mzia -Mashewa to West Usambara.
Two to three camping sites could be established one at Denmark (at Kizara) one each at Magoma and Mashewa Points.