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Travelling North of Dar es Salaam a number of interesting stop off points are apparent. You may wish to take time to visit Bagamayo, home of Tanzania's contemporary art scene, Tanga, the third largest town in the country or the Shirazi Tombs at Tongoni. North Eastern Tanzania boasts a large number of cultural tourism programmes which offer tourists the opportunity to interact directly with local villagers. These programmes offer great local guides which run walking, hiking and biking trails as well as insights into the history and culture of their regions. Successful cultural tourism projects can be found across the region including at Pangani, Lushoto and the Pare and Usambara Mountains.
Situated around 50km outside of the port town of Bagamayo and 100km from Dar es Salaam lies the Saadani National Park. Saadani National Park offers safari travellers to East Africa a unique experience – a chance to experience a wildlife sanctuary with a beachfront setting!
The Saadani Wildlife Research Centre, based at the Park is currently in the early stages of an elephant monitoring programme which in addition to building up more of an understanding or range, corridors, diet and physiology is also looking to work on human/elephant conflict. It is hoped that by providing increased education to local stakeholders some of the threats to the species can be mitigated. The Wildlife Research Centre is also researching into the endangered green turtles which breed on the parks beaches.
The park is home to a variety of species including giraffe, buffalo, kudu, eland, sable antelope, yellow baboon, vervet monkey, elephant, lion, leopard and jackal to name but a few. The Wami river which flows through the park give visitors a high chance of hippo and crocodile sightings. Bird lovers will adore the marine and riverine birds that can offer be seen in the park sky.
As well as game drives, it’s also possible to undertake guided walks in the park as well as boat safaris and of course, snorkeling and swimming.
The limestone caves of Amboni offer visitors the chance to explore one of the most extensive known cave complexes in East Africa. In addition to the stalactities and stalagmites, the caves are also home to a huge number of bats. If you visit at sunset it’s often possible to see clouds of bats coming out to feed.
A dip in the murky green water of the Galanos Sulphur Springs is believed to help cure ailments, that is if you can stand the smell!
Part of the Eastern Arc chain, the Usambara Mountains are rich in biodiversity. The isolation of the mountain chain along with the regions climatological stability has helped create an incredibly rich ecological system which offers visitors a chance to experience thousands of plant and animal species that are not found anywhere else in the world.
Covering an area of over 80km² the Amani Nature Reserve, one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, was created in 1997. Set in the Usamabara Moutains, it is a forest reserve that is ranked as a biodiversity hotspot and a centre for plant diversity. Home to a number of endemic species the reserve is a delight for visitors. Thirteen threatened bird species have been seen within the Amani Nature Reserve including the Usambara eagle owl, Swynnertons robin and Amani sunbird. Colobus monkeys, tree hyrax, collared fruit bats and bushy-tailed mongoose are among the mammal species that may be found in the reserve.
The reserve is great for both novice and experienced hikers alike, with well marked routes offering short walks in the nature forest for the less experienced and longer overnight hikes for the more experienced. Night walks are also a great way to see the parks flora and fauna.
The Pare Mountains are also part of the Eastern Arc. The Pare people are one of northeastern Tanzanias most traditional tribes and are famed throughout the country as great healers. Their knowledge of medicinal plants is second to none and their belief that forests are sacred areas has helped to maintain the natural habitat and biodiversity in this area.
The cultural tourism programmes that run within the area offer great opportunities for visitors to hike around the mountains or take short walks to visit cultural attractions in the area and understand more about the local history.
Set below the Uzamabara and Pare Mountains, the Mkomazi National Park is a great location for both birdwatchers and animal lovers.
The park reintroduced black rhino and African wild dog here in 1990 and since then both species have flourished. The park is also home to species not often found elsewhere in Tanzania including the fringe eared oryx and the gerenuk. The more common species such as elephant, lion, leopard, impala, cheetah and zebra are also found with the park. The colbalt chested vulturine guineafowl, kori buzzard and ground hornbill are amongst more than 450 bird species that have been sighted here.
Mkomazi National Park is committed to ensuring that local communities and stakeholders are benefiting from the reserve and begin to appreciate the benefits that can be had from retaining the wildlife. One such project organizes trips for local children into the park so that they can start to develop an appreciation of the flora and fauna that surrounds them.
The park is also home to the Mkomazi Rhino Project Sanctury which is looking to build numbers of the black rhino in Tanzania.
© ecoTravel Africa 2011