Udzungwa National Park

Not to burst your bubble, but this is probably not the most exciting park Tanzania has to offer you.
But it is a nice place to spend a day or two on your way to Mbeya.

My 2 travelbuddies and I got in late night after catching a train from Dar-es-Salaam (read more about that below). The owner of the lovely camping/luxury cabins Hondo Hondo came to pick us up, because it was 11pm and very dark. He does charge you $ 5,- pp for this pick up, but the alternative is walking there (half an hour) or jump on the back of a motorbike.

This was our first night camping and we were sharing a tiny mountaintent with 3 people. Nice and cozy for sure. After a not-so-comfortable night we woke up from a sound right outside our tent.
When I peeked through a little hole in the tent I could only see a grey ear.
I wispered to the others: “girls, there is a hyena outside of our tent..”. Luckily it was the crazy donkey Bella, Hondo Hondo’s pet, that was nibbling on our home for the night.

Camping at Hondo Hondo was $ 8,50 pp, no breakfast and no hot showers. But it is beautifully located on the bottom of the Udzungwa mountains and in walking distance from the entrance of the park. Besides that they have a restaurant where drinks are very affordable and the view is epic. You get a free baboon show aswell! There are heaps of them walking around on the Hondo Hondo territory.

HondoHondoview

Udzungwa National Park
We started our hike with the sweet tourguide Agaton who took us to the small waterfalls named “The Prince Bernardt Falls”. This used to be the husband of a previous Dutch queen and has a reputation that is up for discussion.
The falls are lovely and very easy to reach, you’re there within 15 minutes from the entrance.

The 3 day hike is supposed to be beautiful, with mountaintop views and lushly waterfalls. But because we were on a tight backpackersbudget we’ve only done the Sanja waterfall hike of 3 hours.
It’s 170 meters high and has 3 little lakes where you can go for a swim – if you love really cold water.

You can either book a lift of $ 15,- through the park or pay 2000 Tsh and take the Dala-Dala (local bus), it’s a 10 minute ride.

I personally think that this park is extremely overpriced, and a guide is obligated. Entrance fee is $ 30,- pp and a guide for the entire group is $ 20,- for the whole day. We haven’t been checked anywhere on the trek, so you could give it a go without getting the permits.
So the trek starts a 10 minute ride from Mang’ula B, passing Hondo Hondo on the way. It’s is a safe path up to the waterfalls. Ask the locals on the way for the exact location.

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Rosy (Kiwi) and I enjoying the Sanja Falls

Mang’ula
Mang’ula is great, I absolutely loved it there. It’s very very local and if you’re thinking you’re there to have a look at the people, you’re wrong. You are the attraction there. Kids will wave at you calling you “Muzungu” (white person, unless you are not white obviously..). And almost nobody speaks english, so it’s a great help if you can pick up a few words of Swahili.

You can book a tour through the village from Hondo Hondo, but save that money and just go for a walk yourself. Buy a chapati and one of the ladies with a fire pit on the ground and a $ 0,20 avocado on the street. You’ll have contact in no time. Most of the children speak a good word of English! So they can help you out if necessary.

If you arrive at a decent time you can book a room in the city itself, there are a few budget options (just ask at the station or a local), From Hondo Hondo it’s a 5 minute walk to the center of Mang’ula B (small town) and a half an hour walk to Mang’ula A (bigger town where the station is).

Getting from Dar-es-Salaam to Udzungwa
If you’re relying on public transport to get to Udzungwa National park, the train is a good option.
It leaves every tuesday and friday afternoon from Tazara train station in Dar to Mang’ula, the town closest to the park.

The Tazara trainstation is located a few kilometers out of town, so it’s best to catch a bus there, all the busses on the Julius K. Nyerere Road stop there.

Tazara-station

I believe it’s a smart move to buy tickets in advance. I went there a day early to get second class seating tickets and when I returned the next day to catch the train, it was fully packed with locals heading south. My secondclass seaters cost 11.700 Tsh per ticket, which is about 5$.

Ask your hotel to reserve you tickets or contact them yourself if you want to book ahead.
Check this website for latest info and contactdetails, online booking is not possible.

You can also take this exact same train to Mbeya to get to Malawi, if you do this I strongly recommend getting first (or second) class sleepers – so you’ll have a bed. Drinks and (not so great) food are available in the train.

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