|There are many forest reserves and one nature reserve in the Usambaras, which are under the control of the Department of Forestry and Beekeeping. A few names are Ndelemai, near Soni, Shagayu near Mtae, and Mkuzu near Magamba.|
These reserves are well worth visiting, and the experience for the tourist is made more memorable if he or she is accompanied by a guide who is knowledgeable in the ecology of these forests. Registered guides can be hired at Friends of Usambara or Tayodea in Lushoto (contact details at the end of this article).
Some of the reserves are small, planted with alien species such as pines, and others are being encroached by villagers; but there are many which are well conserved and worth visiting.
In the East Usambaras tourists usually head for the Amani Nature Reserve, which has accommodation on site, and a botanical garden. To enter a nature reserve is more expensive than to enter a forest reserve. The entry fee for a forest reserve is 10 000/=.
However, in a nature reserve there is better protection – for example nobody is allowed to collect dead wood or to herd livestock in a nature reserve.
The good news is that in 2010 the Shume-Magamba forest reserve, which is the biggest in the West Usambaras, will be upgraded to the status of a nature reserve. This will mean better protection from arsonists and wood thieves, and there will be a bigger operational budget. Hopefully this is just the first forest reserve to be upgraded to a nature reserve, and there will be more to follow.
Lastly, the jewel in the crown of the West Usambaras is, in my opinion, Mazumbai, a private reserve. This is quite remote; about 2 hours drive from Lushoto, but well worth the effort to get there. It was owned by a Swiss family for a long time and is now owned by Sokoine University, who use it for student practicals. The sheer size of the trees here is breathtaking. Camping is allowed, and campers can relax in the old Swiss-style farmhouse.
Friends of Usambara tel. 027 264 0132
Amani Nature Reserve tel.027-264 0313
Peter Murless (BSc)
Ned ELCT Irente Biodiversity Reserve, Lushoto