Usambara Mountains


Mombo at the foot of the Usambara Mountains


The Usambara Mountains are located in northeastern Tanzania. They belong to the mountain chain of the Eastern Arc Mountains, which emerged in the late Precambrian. They carry the remains of rain forests that have existed for about 30 million years ago. The Usambara Mountains are among the most biologically diverse regions of the world and are home to numerous endemic species.

The broad valley of the Luengera / Lwengera separates the East Usambara Mountains ( max. 1506 m) and the West Usambara Mountains ( max. 2290 m) from each other.


The Usambara Mountains are located in northeastern Tanzania, near the coast of the Indian Ocean and the border with Kenya in Tanga Region. The valley of the Luengera / Lwengera River separates the smaller East of the much larger West Usambara Mountains. Both sub-regions are still partially covered with forests remnants of very old (> 30 million years) and of paramount importance for nature conservation and species protection.

The East Usambara Mountains have a size of nearly 130,000 ha and are thus among the smaller mountains of Tanzania. You are 150-1506 m high, its main ridge extends from north to south. They are located near the coast (35 km) and receive an average 2000 mm rainfall / year. Its main town, Amani, they are mainly for district Muheza, partly for Korogwe district.

The West Usambara Mountains include altitudes of 800-2290 m (other sources mention Max. From 2200 to 2440 m) and extending from southeast to northwest. Its main town, the district capital of Lushoto (German " Wilhelmstal "), a part of the West Usambara Mountains situated in the district Korogwe.

The highest peak in the West Usambara Mountains is 2290 m (?) Of Sungwi, the eastern Usambara mountains reach the Nilo (4 ° 52 ' S, 38 ° 39' O 4.866666738.651506 ) with 1506 meters its highest point. About 900 km ² of the Eastern Usambara Mountains are a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 2000 on the list of World Commission on Protected Areas ( WCPA ).


The Usambara Mountains are to the ancient mountain chain of the Eastern Arc Mountains, which ( before 600 million years) originated in the Late Precambrian and Carboniferous ( Karoo period ) was unfolded. They consist of crystalline rocks that form steep slopes and tiefgefurchte.

The first evidence of human settlement in the Usambara Mountains are from the Stone to the Iron Age (3000-3500 years ). About 2,000 years ago Bantu migrated from the Congo basin and mixed with the original inhabitants to the people of Shambaa, the inhabitants of today's Usambara Mountains. About the history of Shambaa is to 17./frühen 18th century little is known.

The tradition begins with the king Mbega, a successful hunter who originally came from the Nguru Mountains and settled in Kilinidi. The people asked him for help against a wild boar plague. In gratitude for his support and due to his wisdom Mbega was determined by the people as king, the gender of the Kilindi presented from now on the royal family. The capital city of the location in Bergen Vuga was determined. Mbega merged the ethnic mix of the Usambara mountains to a strong nation. His grandson Kinyashi built on a more viable political and military structures and secured the kingdom despite the increasing conflicts with neighboring tribes. Under his son Kimweri, the " Simba Mwene " ( Lion King ) the Shambaa increased to between Zanzibar and the kingdoms in the Great Lakes to the most powerful people. Major European researchers such as Johann Ludwig Krapf (1848, 1852) and Burton and Speke ( 1857) gathered and described King Kimweri. 1862 Kimweri died without lawful successor, the distant relatives Semboja laid claim to the throne. He successfully resisted all attempts by the Germans to annex the land. Only after the Bushiri Uprising and after payment of a monthly salary this lush Semboja were on their side, after his death in 1895 the Germans occupied the Usambara Mountains.

In the cool mountain climate and malaria free large farms, plantations and numerous mission stations during the German colonial period. For this, and for timber of the forest was cleared on a large scale. Lushoto was developed as " Wilhelmstal " a popular summer resort and was also the capital in the conversation. In Wugiri a height Sanatorium (1904 ) an agricultural research station ( Bio - Agricultural Institute, 1902) with the botanical garden was created in the southern part of the mountains at Amani. 1899-1912 the Usambara from Tanga to Moshi was built.

Under the mandate of Great Britain over Tanganyika ( until 1961 ) the road (Tanga - Moshi ) was applied and set the rail link. To increase the plantations of the forest has been cleared to continue until the 1980s consisted in Eastern Usambara Mountains, co-funded by the Finnish government sawmill. Later, Finland engaged in conservation and the exploration of the habitat, such as in the establishment of the Amani Forest Reserve. Exist both in the Eastern and in the Western Usambara Mountains today initiatives to promote gentle tourism.

Flora and Fauna

The very old (rain) forests of the Usambara mountains have existed for millions of years and are extremely rich in species. Many plant and animal species are endemic (found only here ) or almost endemic (mostly on [ some ] Eastern Arc Mountains or mountain forests generally limited ), some species are also only in the East, or only in the West Usambara Mountains or individual forests before. The most famous endemic species is the African violet, further include at least 16 trees, 55 snails, 14 lizards, and 31 Diplopoda species endemic to the Usambara Mountains.

In particular, the forests of the East Usambara Mountains are of paramount importance for the conservation of the world Artenfalt: at least 7 strictly endemic vertebrates and 28 other vertebrates, which are restricted to forests of the Eastern Arc Mountains live in them. 40 tree species grow only in the Eastern Arc Mountains. Both the mountain and the subsequent low-lying forests are of high biological value. In the West Usambara Mountains at least 5 strictly endemic vertebrate species and a further 19 species that are only found in the Eastern Arc Mountains live.

Some selected species of the Usambara Mountains:

Endemic species:

  • African Violets
  • Usambara Custard (extinct in the 20th century tree)

Almost endemic species ( eg types of mountain forests of East Africa, Eastern Arc Mountains, coastal mountains ):

  • Usambara Eagle Owl ( Bubo vosseleri )
  • Nicoll - Weaver (Ploceus Nicolli )
  • Green Forest Frog Steiger
  • The stubby tail chameleon - type Rieppeleon brevicaudatus

More common species, whose Terra typica is located in the Usambara Mountains:

  • Usambara Red Tarantula ( Pterinochilus murinus )
  • The African yellow wood - type Afrocarpus usambarensis