The History of Kitulo National Park : Kitulo National park is a protected area under the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA).It is located in the Montane grassland and the Montane forest found on the Kitulo Plateau which is within the southern Highlands of Tanzania. The park has an elevation of 2,600 metres, equivalent to 8,500 ft between the peaks of Kipengere and Poroti mountains. The park covers an area of 412.9 km² ,lying in Mbeya Region and Njombe Region. Kitulo National park is the first National park in tropic Africa to be established solely for the primary purpose of protecting its flora.
Kitulo National Park is found in Njombe Tanzania, its nearest city is Mbeya which is approximately 69 kilometres distance by road. It was established in 2005 covering an area of 413km². The locals refer to the Kitulo Plateau as “ Bustani ya Mungu” a swahili word which means “The Garden of God” while the botanist refer it to as the “Serengeti of flowers”.
The Kitulo National park first conservation efforts were proposed by the Wildlife Conservation society (WCS). This was due to the growing international trade of orchid tuber ,increased hunting and logging activities in the surrounding forests. President Benjamin Mkapa in 2002 announced the establishment of the park ,which was later formally gazetted in the year 2005 becoming Tanzania’s fourteenth National park. Tanzania National Parks Authority has stated its future plans to expand the park to include the Mount Rungwe forest regions. Kitulo National Park is the first National park in the entire tropical Africa to be established just for its florists importance. It hosts One of the greatest floral composition seen anywhere in the world with its 350 species of Vascular plants which includes at least 45 varieties of terrestrial orchid.
The Kitulo Plateau which the locals refer it to the Garden of God (Bustani ya Mungu ) lies between two parallel ridges with its montane grassland is home to over 350 species of plants which includes a number of ground orchids ,geophytes and other Afro alpine plants. During the rainy season which is between the months of November to April, the Montane grasslands are carpeted with displays of flowers .Many flowers species are limited to the Kipengere Range and the nearby Highlands with only three species being limited to Kitulo Plateau.
This is an evergreen montane forest which descends southwest and facing the slopes of the park. Livingstone forest is the largest block of forest in the park and the largest in the entire kipengere Range . Between the upper montane forests and the high altitude grasslands there is a thicket of Bamboo trees. The Livingstone forest is within the former Livingstone Reserve which was incorporated into the Kitulo National park in 2005. There is also a narrow corridor of farms and some tree plantations ,the Bujingijila gap . This gap separates the Livingstone forest and the Mount Rungwe forest.
Livingstone Forest together with the nearby forest of Mount Rungwe is home to three limited range species of mammals which are the endangered Kipunji ,Rungwe dwarf galago and the Abbott’s duiker.
The wildlife conservation society discovered a new species of Primate in 2005 at the region around Mount Rungwe and the nearby Livingstone forest of Kitulo National park. It was initially known as Mangabey but later its name was changed to Tanzanian name Kipunji. The Primate is one of the twenty five most endangered primates in the world.
The Ndumbi forest which lies in the eastern end of Kitulo National park is made up of the evergreen montane forest and the forest of East African Cedar. The forest which was established in 1956 was initially known as Ndumbi valley Forest Reserve which had an approximate area of 27.71 km²,it was then incorporated into Kitulo National Reserve in 2005 when it was created. Ndumbi forest is a home to a 100 meter waterfall.
Wildlife of Kitulo National park
Kitulo National park is small according to its park capacity and therefore it cannot host big animals such as the big five. The park was mainly established to preserve its floral nature . The park can only accommodate limited Wildlife and birds . Some of the common animals in Kitulo National park are; mountain reedbuck, Elands, Blue swallow ,chalk hawk, njembe stalksinger, Kipengere seed eater, Steppe harrier, Zebra, Kipunji monkey, Butterflies, Chameleon, Lizards, chimpanzee, Frog and other natural orchids and Birds. Some of the birds include; the rare Denham’s Bustard, the endangered blue swallow, mountain Marsh widow,Njombe Cisticola among others
The best time to visit Kitulo National park
The best time to visit Kitulo National park is between the months of December to April. This is the time when the flowers have blossom and the park is lively. During this period also is when it is the rainy season in most parts of Tanzania. The park Headquarters is located at Matamba in Mbeya Region of Tanzania. The park can also be visited during the dry months between May and October.
Activities to do at Kitulo National park
Hiking is one of the major activity to do at Kitulo National park. Here there are specifically made trail systems that the tourist visiting the park can follow when Hiking. These open trails leads the tourist across the grasslands, up the hills to the nearby neighboring ranges. It takes tourists on average a half a day to hike from the park starting point across the Livingstone mountains and leads to the scenic Matema beach on Lake Nyasa, The History of Kitulo National Park
Kitulo National Park being a Park with many flowers is not a surprise that it is one of the major bird watchers haven in Tanzania. Bird watching in Kitulo National park is done with the help of experienced birding guides, who helps in spotting different bird species such as lesser krestel, endangered blue swallow, mountain marsh widow, kipengere seedeater, rare Denham’s Bustard, European white stork, Njombe Cisticola, pallid harrier among others. The best time for Bird watching in the Kitulo National Reserve is from the Months of November all through to the month of April. It is in this period that migratory birds from Europe arrive which coincides with the rainy season in Tanzania, the food is abundant and it is the breeding season for many birds.
The scenery of Kitulo National park are spectacular from the forests, the flowers to the mountains gives the park its unique identity. Apart from bird watching and hiking ,one can also summit to the peak of Mount Rungwe. While the summit at the peak of the mountain offers breath-taking views, the way up the peak offers a wonderful opportunity to see diverse Primate species in the forest area of the park such as black and while colobus monkeys, Kipunji monkeys, vervet monkeys and other wildlife which are found in the park such as reedbucks, Zebras, elands, among others.