Kitulo National Park
Locals refer to the Kitulo Plateau as ‘Bustani ya Mungu’ – The Garden of God – botanists have dubbed in the Serengeti of Flowers, host to ‘one of the great floral spectacles of the world’. And Kitulo is indeed a rare botanical marvel, home to a full 350 species of vascular plants, including 45 varieties of terrestrial orchid, which erupt into a riotous wildflower display of breathtaking scale and diversity during the main rainy season of late November to April.
Size: 412,9 sq km.
Location: Southern Tanzania. The temporary park headquarters at Matamba are situated approximately 100 km from Mbeya town.
Getting there: 4×4 only. From Chimala, 78km east of Mbeya along the surfaced main road to Dar es Salaam, head south along the rough but spectacular dirt road – called Hamisini na Saba (57) after the number of hairpin bends along its length – to the temporary park headquarters at Matamba, from where it’s another hour’s drive to the plateau. Basic and erratic public transport is available.
What to do: Good hiking trails exist and will soon be developed into a formal trail system. Open walking across the grasslands to watch birds and wildflowers. Hill climbing on the neighbouring ranges. A half-day hike from the park across the Livingstone Mountains leads to the sumptuous Matema Beach on Lake Nyasa.
When to go: Wildflower displays peak between December and April. The sunnier months of September to November are more comfortable for hiking but less rewarding to botanists. Conditions are cold and foggy from June to August.
Accommodation: Mbeya is serviced by everything from luxury hotels to simple guest houses, while two simple guesthouses also exist in Matamba. There is no accomodstion in the park as yet, but very basic accommodation and meals are available at the adjacent Kitulo Farm. Three special campsites are planned within the park, catering for fully equipped campers. Two moderately priced church-run hostels are situated on Matemba Beach.