Tanzania’s Usambara Mountains are a beautiful series of mountain ranges between Moshi in the west and Tanga in the east.
They are home to an unspoiled tropical forest that is very rare in eastern Africa and of great ecological interest.
The valuable ecology of the Usambaras is increasingly protected by nature reserves, courtesy of contributions from the Tanzanian government as well as some from donor countries, like Norway. The tropical forests are home to endemic bird species, including the Naduk eagle owl, the Usambara alethe (pronounced “ah-leet”) and the Usambara weaver.
The Usambaras are often split into two ranges: the Eastern Usambaras (smaller, wetter, and closer to the coast) and the Western Usambaras. Although they’re divided by the deep Lwengera river valley, they are really one ecological and geological entity. The highlight of the Usambaras is the Amani Nature Reserve in the Eastern range.
The Usambaras run for 100km from west to east and range from 20km to 40km in width from north to south, reaching altitudes of 2,440m. There are some glorious hikes to be done here, which provide stunning viewpoints over the forested mountains.
Traipsing around the Usambaras is a good way to prepare for the much more challenging hike up Kilimanjaro. It’s easy on the wallet, too, since very few travelers ever make it so far northeast in Tanzania. Lushoto is the most popular base for backpackers.