Kitulo National Park is a protected area of montane grassland and montane forest on the Kitulo Plateau in the southern highlands of Tanzania.
The Park covers an area of approximately 412.9 square kilometers lying in Mbeya Region and Njombe Region of Tanzania. The Park is under the administration of Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) and is the first national park in tropical Africa to be established primarily to protect its flora.
The provisional headquarters of the park found at Matamba are about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the town of Mbeya.
The locals refer the Kitulo Plateau as the ‘Bustani ya Mungu’ loosely meaning ‘The Garden of God’ , and on the other hand botanists call it the ‘Serengeti of Flowers’ for it supports one of the best floral spectacles on the earth.
Kitulo is indubitably an extraordinary botanical spectacle as it supports almost 350 vascular plants species, including 45 types of terrestrial orchid, that erupt into a wildflower display of magnificent scale plus diversity in the major rainy months starting at the end of November to April.
About the Park
Perched high at 2,600 meters (8,500 feet) between the rocky peaks of Livingstone, Kipengere and Poroto Mountains, the properly watered volcanic soils of Kitulo National park support the biggest and most significant montane grassland in the whole of Tanzania.
Among the most significant watersheds River Ruaha, Kitulo is renowned for its floral importance; not just a large amount of orchids, but as well the spectacular yellow-orange red-hot poker plus a diversity of aster daisies, aloes, lilies, proteas, giant lobelias plus geraniums which over 30 species endemic to the southern part of Tanzania.
Large game is hardly seen, though a couple of mountain reedbuck plus eland may be seen roaming the open grassland.
However Kitulo – a botanists’ and hikers’ paradise is highly attractive to birdwatchers. The only population of the rare Denham’s bustard in the whole of Tanzania can only be found here together with a breeding colony of the decreasing in number blue swallow plus such range-limited species like the Kipengere seedeater, mountain marsh widow and the Njombe cisticola.
There is a number of endemic species of lizards, butterflies, frogs plus chameleons to be sighted, further improving the biological richness of this garden.
What to do in the Park
There are various fascinating activities that tourists always engage in when they visit Kitulo National Park, such as; the hiking trails, birding, and nature walks to sight a variety of bird species and wildflowers.
A half-day walk from the Park to the Livingstone Mountains takes you to the astounding Matema Beach located on the beautiful Lake Nyasa.
Accessibility of the Park
The park can only be accessed by a 4WD (wheel drive) vehicle by road connecting from Chimala, 78 kilometers east of Mbeya town on a surfaced main-road to Dar es Salaam, drive south on the rough yet impressive dirt road – known as Hamsini na Saba following the number of thin bends down its length all the way to the provisional park headquarters found at Matamba, and then from here drive on for another hour to the plateau.
Also you can find basic public transport, though it’s more joyous and flexible traveling with a private vehicle.
Best time to visit the Park
December to April is the most ideal time – peak season for wildflower, well as September to November (dry season) is so much comfortable for hiking though less rewarding to botanists and from June to August is cold and misty.