The First Largest Waterfalls in Tanzania
Harboring one of East Africa’s great forests, Udzungwa Mountain National Park has an area of 1990 sq km, bordered by the Great Ruaha River to the north, with Mikumi National Park and Selous Game Reserve located further to the north and east. Protected as a national forest reserve until 1992 when it was commissioned as National Park, Udzungwa Mountains is undoubtedly one of the few true virgin and unique forested lands remaining in the world. The major attractions include its biologically diverse forest, harbouring some plant species found nowhere else in the world, from a tiny African violet to 30-metre high trees.
Apart from the forest, which acts as a water catchment area and having a large number of endemic species of both animals and plants, the park has spectacular mountains scenery, grasslands, rocks, rivers and waterfalls. One of the most interesting sights is the presence of two indigenous species of primates, the Iringa red colobus monkey and the Sanje Crested Mangabey, not known until 1979. Apart from providing habitat to about six species of primates, its plateau contains populations of elephants, buffalos, lions, leopards, African hunting dogs and several forest bird species.
Walking safaris to the Sanje River waterfalls (170 metres) is one of the popular activities in this park. Udzungwa Mountains can conveniently be combined with game drives in nearby Mikumi National Park, an hour·s drive to the north, or be included in the Ruaha National Park (4-5 hours drive) and Selous Game Reserve itineraries. The park can be visited throughout the year although it is a bit slippery during the wet rainy season. The dry season extends from June to October.
Sanje is the most popular hike in Udzungwa
Sanje Short Route
Usually people go up and down the short route – its the most straightforward and easiest route to the top. It is still quite a steep climb though, especially in the heat, so be prepared and take plenty of water with you. Put plenty of salt on your breakfast. The trail starts at the (no so) Grand Sanje Hotel and leas past a few houses and smallholdings to the park border and start of the forest. The well trodden and well maintained trail zigzags its way up a ridge until half way up you reach a picnic bench and view point with spectacular views of the falls. A short dip follows to the junction of the path to the base of the falls (see below) and then the path then ascends slightly steeper to the top.
At the top, you can follow a short path to the rocks on top of the falls, and have lunch, or maybe first continue up the path to enjoy a dip in the upper falls while you’re still hot and sweaty. Its only a short walk to the upper falls, the 2nd being the best for swimming. Beware in April/May if there has been a lot of rain – it wall be obvious if its not safe to swim.
An alternative and less used path either up or down is from the Sanje Ranger Post. When added to the usual route this forms a circuit. Don’t forget to let your transport know where you will be coming out if you plan to take this route down! (Although its not far to walk back to the start of the Sanje Trail). From the top, cross the river and ascend up to the camp-site following the trail round to the right and then descending with a few ups and downs to the ranger post. This path is also good for Mangeby.
Sanje Base Detour
Return down the short route until the junction in the dip before the half way view point signposted to the base of the waterfalls. A short decent gets you to the base of the majestic falls with spectacular views up, and excellent swimming/diving. You can cross the river here and continue down The Sanje Base Trail to the ranger post and meet your vehicle, or walk along the road back to the start of the Sanje Short Trail
Sanje Base Trail
A new trail has been established leading direct to the base of the main falls, where there is a great swimming and diving pool. its about 3km and only gains an altitude of 190m . However there is a lot of up and down, and in our view you are best off reaching this waterfall from the main trail and using this path as a alternative decent route.