Mbeya, Tanzania Travel Guide
in the southwest of Tanzania we find the very beautiful and lush city of Mbeya. Here is ample opportunity for hiking, trekking and to experience natural treasures. The city, which has about 700,000 inhabitants, houses several ancient agricultural tribes such as Safwa, Nyakyusa and Nyiha. Especially the lush nature of the city is worth a visit. The subtropical climate that meets you in Mbeya creates a somewhat different landscape than what is typically seen in Tanzania. The subtropical climate provides a humid summer and a dry winter, with the rainy season lasting between March and May.
According to philosophynearby, the city of Mbeya is the largest city in the region with even the same name. The region is located in the southwestern part of Tanzania, where in the city of Mbeya is relatively centrally located. Mbeya is also known as “The Green City” due to its lush terrain. The area around Mbeya has also been nicknamed “Scotland of Africa”, as the hills here are densely covered with heather and ferns.
Experiences in Mbeya
Daraja-La-Mungu (The bridge of God)
South of Ngozi peak you will find the naturally created bridge Daraja-La-Mungu. The long name of the bridge means “Bridge of God”, as it is considered to have been created by God. The bridge is traced back 180 million years as the river water cooled the bubbling lava from the nearby Rungwe volcano. The trip out to Daraja-La-Mungu takes about an hour and a half from the center of Mbeya.
North of Mbeya is Mount Loleza, also known as Mount Kaluwe. Loleza is no more than 2,656 meters high, and can therefore be climbed in half a day. Although the trip up to the highest point is not as long or hard as to the other Tanzanian mountain peaks, the view over Mbeya is still incredibly breathtaking.
If you want a little more challenge during your mountaineering, you can search to the west. Here is Mbeyya’s highest point, Mbeya Peak, which can also be climbed. To reach this peak you have to hike 2,820 meters uphill and the trip will take about a day.
Between Rukwa and Mbeya lies the giant Rukwa Lake. The lake, which unfolds on 2,600 km2, has a rich wildlife. Here you can meet crocodiles and hippos in abundance, as well as admire the total of 250 species of birds that live by the lake. In swamp areas, you may even be lucky enough to experience the rare bird, the woodpecker.
The length of the lake varies greatly, depending on how violent an approach is to the lake. Before, it has shrunk to 50 kilometers long, and later it has been extended to 135 kilometers in length. Part of the lake is located in Katawi National Park, so a visit here is obvious.
Ngozi crater lake
Africa’s second largest crater lake is located in Mbeya. The lake is formed in an open volcanic crater, where precipitation has formed the lake as it is known today. It can be traced several millions back in time, to the geological period neogen. The large crater lake is 2.5 kilometers long and 1.6 kilometers wide.
The lake’s many fish attract the locals to the lake. Along steep paths, they move down to the lake shore, to fish. The fishermen can tell stories about how the soldiers during the German colonization, threw coffins with coins in the water, and thus threw connections across the lake. Residents are equally convinced that a twelve-headed snake guards the coffers.
The hike up to the top of the crater from which the lake can be seen is also an experience in itself. The lush beautiful forest is packed with bananas and bamboo. Good hiking boots are a good idea on this trip, as the trails are somewhat narrow and overgrown.
With a little luck, your path to the tops will be accompanied by colubus monkeys, which look out from the overgrown areas. The forest is also home to many different bird and lizard species, including the three-horned chameleon.
Ruaha National Park
Like most of the rest of Tanzania, Ruaha National Park also has a history of takeover by German and British powers. The park was created in 1910 by the Germans, who gave it the name Saba Game Reserve. In 1946, the British took over the national park, where it was renamed the Rungwa Game Reserve. After Tanganyika’s independence, the park was renamed once again. In 1964, the area was named the Ruaha National Park, after the nearby Ruaha River.
Ruaha’s nature makes the park more inaccessible than Tanzania’s other national parks. In return, the landscape is worth exploring as many small treasures are hidden. Among them are the many baobab trees that adorn the park. These are also called the “tree of life”, as it can take the tree 1,000 years before it reaches its full size. On the knotted branches hang fruits that taste of candy, and in the cavities of the tree one can often find water.
In total, 1,650 different plant species have been discovered in the national park, but that is not all the park has to offer. Ruaha park also has quite a few rivers including Ruaha, Mzombe and Jongomero. Here you can see the many elephants spraying with water and zebras marching along the water’s edge. Also lions, leopards, giraffes and many other animals can be experienced in the park.
Bonus info: Ruaha National Park is known for having the largest concentration of elephants in East Africa.
Kitulo National Park
An hour’s drive from the town of Mbeya, lies the 412 km2 Kitulo National Park. The park, which is a botanical protected area, spreads partly in the Mbeya region and partly in the Iringa region. Among the locals, Kitulo Park is also referred to as “Bustani ya Mungo”, which means Garden of God.
The charming park is also a sight for gods. Especially the park’s flowering terrains, which include 350 vascular plants and 45 different kinds of orchids, is a beautiful experience. The beautiful flowering areas are also the primary reason why the park is managed and protected by Tanzania National Parks.
Kitulo National Park is not the obvious choice for safaris, as Africa’s wildlife has no place here. However, the park boasts of having housed a new species of monkey, which was discovered back in 2005. However, the Kipunji monkey, which is the Tanzanian name of the species, is a rare sight as it is among the 25 most endangered monkey species in world. The park can in turn provide the setting for a beautiful hike, trek in the surrounding mountains, or a fresh swim in Lake Malawi.
From gold mining town to agricultural producer
Mbeya was founded in the 1920s and was originally intended as a gold mining town. After the founding of the Tazara Railway in the 1970s, many farmers and small entrepreneurs sought out the city. The city is therefore today most of all known for its enormous agricultural production.
Due to the huge amount of average rainfall in the area, the fertile soil is a fantastic breeding ground for several different crops. Mbeya is therefore the largest producer of maize, rice, bananas, beans, potatoes, soy, nuts and wheat.
The bread basket of Tanzania
The city is also one of the regions that form “The bread basket of Tanzania”. This means that the city is one of the largest suppliers of agricultural products to other cities in the country. Mbeya is also the largest producer in the country of higher value crops – including coffee, cocoa, tea and spices.