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A few days in Udzungwa Mountains National Park Feb 2012


inyathi
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A few days in Udzungwa Mountains National Park

 

On the way

 

Udzungwa Mountains View

 

 

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Edited by inyathi
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More?

 

Just beautiful photos of a stunning landscape.

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Super LEEDS

This is like one of those trailers you watch and think "wow, can't wait to watch that film!".

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The drive down to Mang’ula (UMNP main gate/park HQ) from Mikumi is fairly short only taking about an hour but is incredibly scenic as the previous photos show.

 

Information on Udzungwa Mountains National Park

 

The first time I visited UMNP back in the 90s I camped in the park which at that time was pretty much the only option, this time I stayed at Udzungwa Forest Camp known as Hondo-Hondo.

 

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View from the entrance to Hondo Hondo - Udzungwa Forest Camp

 

View from the drive in to Hondo-Hondo Camp

View from the drive in to Hondo-Hondo Camp

 

Hondo-Hondo is a tented camp positioned on the edge of the forest right on the park boundary just a few minutes’ drive from the park HQ at Mang’ula. The tents while not as big as some are spacious enough and unusually have not only electric lights but also sockets for recharging. The best thing about the camp though is the bar/dining room which faces the forest and being completely open at the front gives you not only a beautiful view, but the chance to watch a variety of monkeys and birds while you sit enjoying a cold beer. Hondo-Hondo means hornbill and trumpeters in particular are very common often flying over to and from the forest, silvery-cheeked can also often be seen over the forest.

 

On my first evening in camp there were Angolan pied colobus up in the treetops and a long way further back in the forest some Udzungwa red colobus were moving around.

 

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Angola Pied Colobus

 

Angola Colobus

 

 

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The following morning around breakfast time several red colobus could be seen much closer in a large tree directly opposite the dining room along with more pied colobus nearby.

 

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Udzungwa red colobus

 

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View of the rainforest from Hondo-Hondo

 

After trying not very successfully to find some birds around camp we had breakfast and then headed over to the HQ at Mang’ula to meet our guide. You’re unlikely to meet any dangerous game on the shorter trails so you don’t need an armed ranger but you must still have a guide. Entering the park a little late at around 09.30 we managed to spot some of the more common birds

 

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Grey cuckooshrike

 

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Retz's helmet-shrike

 

Before deciding to go and have a look at Prince Bernhard Falls, although the falls are not particularly impressive the trail proved to be good for spotting colobus monkeys and there were also lots of beautiful butterflies at the bottom.

 

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Udzungwa red colobus with infant

 

Red colobus with baby

 

 

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Red colobus

 

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Angola pied colobus

 

Day flying moth

I believe this is a day flying moth of some kind

 

Prince Bernhard Falls

Prince Bernhard Falls

 

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Gold-banded forester Eupaedra neophon

 

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Catuna sikorana

 

Forest Glade Nymph

Forest glade nymph (Aterica galena) female

 

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Forest glade nymph (Aterica galena) male

 

Udzungwa Rainforest View

Rainforest View

 

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Female mocker swallowtail

Edited by inyathi
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The trail to Prince Bernhard Falls is the shortest in the park so we were soon back and off up the Njokamoni Trail to try our luck. As anyone who’s been forest birding will know, it isn’t easy, it really depends so much on luck, quite a lot of the time you see nothing at all, but then just occasionally a feeding party passes through, providing a good selection of birds, though actually getting a good look at them, can be quite tricky. Unfortunately, as far as the birds were concerned the trail proved rather unproductive, though it did produce more red colobus, an Eastern tree hyrax, some clear leopard pugmarks and a quite small but very fast moving black snake, not knowing enough about snakes I was unable to identify it.

 

Red colobus

Red colobus

 

Njokamoni Trail in need of maintenance

Wooden ladders put in to make it easier to get up some of the steeper bits, don't last very long what with the climate and the termites.

 

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Eastern tree hyrax

 

The trail took us steadily uphill on a mostly fairly gentle winding track with just the occasional steep section, so it wasn’t a major hike. However, while our guide whose name unfortunately I can’t remember, was pretty good at identifying the birds, he didn’t really seem quite sure, how long it would take to get to end of the trail and since it had passed one o clock and we hadn’t brought packed lunches, we decided it would be best to return to Hondo-Hondo. The Njokamoni trail that we’d been walking is one of the better trails for seeing the Sanje mangabey, as it passes through the territory of one of the habituated troops, and perhaps if we’d gone further we might have seen some, but we didn’t. However our guide informed us that it might be possible to get the researchers to come in and take us to them in the morning, even though it would actually be their day off being Saturday.

 

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Rainforest View

 

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Dark-backed weaver a fairly common and widespread forest weaver

 

Normally I would have preferred to stay inside the park, but returning to Hondo-Hondo wasn’t a great hardship as I was able to spend a happy afternoon looking out from the dining room, watching monkeys and circling crowned eagles.

 

The view from the bar/dining room Hondo-Hondo

 

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Angola Colobus Hondo-Hondo

Angola colobus

 

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Tanzania Sykes’s monkey

 

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Yellow baboon

 

Yellow Baboons Hondo-Hondo

Yellow baboons

 

Yellow Baboon Hondo-Hondo

Yellow baboon

 

In the late afternoon sometime after five, when things had cooled down somewhat, we returned to the park, of course, entering the park so late, meant we couldn’t really go anywhere much, this is the obvious disadvantage of returning to camp for lunch. After passing some Sykes’s monkeys on the way in, we decided just to go and have a look at one of the campsites, while this didn’t produce a lot of birds, I enjoyed another great view of some red colobus monkeys, looking beautiful with the afternoon sun catching them.

 

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Red colobus

 

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Edited by inyathi
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Rainforest

 

The following morning everything was arranged to go and see the Sanje mangabeys. After breakfast we headed over to Mang’ula to meet our guide who then informed us that the trail we would take actually starts from Hondo-Hondo, so we returned to camp. Walked past the bar and then uphill to the camp kitchen from there the path disappeared into what turned out to be Miombo woodland. The path then carried on pretty well straight uphill, it wasn’t an actual trail as such, in fact it was really just a baboon path, being February it was punishingly hot and humid and as the climb was pretty steep, progress was a little slow.

 

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This Common citrus swallowtail (Papilio demodocus) provided a brief but welcome distraction

 

After what seems like a long time, but almost certainly wasn’t, the vegetation started to change subtly from woodland in to rainforest, a few moments later to my considerable relief, one of the researchers appeared coming down the hill. I was beginning to wonder why I was sweating up the side of this mountain, just to find some monkeys. Realising it couldn’t be much further, we pushed on uphill and soon found the other researcher sitting on a fallen tree, just in front of us, at first I didn’t register, but after a few moments, I started to notice more and more movement. It quickly became apparent, that he was in fact sitting in the middle of a large troop of monkeys, which were slowly moving along the ground, I could hardly believe my eyes, everywhere I looked, there seemed to be more of them. The mangabeys were clearly on the move, once the last of them had past, we started to follow them as they headed slowly downhill. Before setting off that morning, I hadn’t really known what to expect, and certainly hadn’t considered that the mangabeys would almost all be down on the ground (or just above it), so to be honest, I was more than a little bit astonished, to find myself right in amongst a whole troop of them, the nearest just a few feet away.

 

Sanje Mangabey

 

 

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This is a typical mangabey posture other mangabeys also stand with their tails like this

 

Unlike Sykes’s and colobus, Sanje mangabeys are very much a monkey of the lower understorey, happy to spend much of their lives on the forest floor. Every so often some of the monkeys would sit down for a few moments, either just on the ground or sometimes in amongst low hanging lianas or on fallen logs to chew on some leaves or maybe some fallen fruit before moving on again. Trying to photograph the mangabeys, in the gloom of the forest, was a bit of a challenge, to cope with the lack of light, I’d set my camera (Canon Eos 50D) to automatic ISO. Even with an ISO of 1600 getting steady shots handheld was difficult, but a tripod if I’d had one, would have been much too awkward use in the confines of the forest and I don’t suppose a monopod would have been much better either. Aside from the low light, there was plenty of vegetation to get in the way, while generally not at all bothered by our presence, if I moved closer to a sitting monkey to avoid a stem or bunch of leaves it would get up and move a little further away.

 

Sanje Mangabey

 

Getting good photos was not easy, most of them were more like these two shots

 

Sanje Mangabey

 

They may not be as impressive as mountain gorillas or chimps, but being able to follow these wild and very rare monkeys, was still a wonderful wildlife experience, the sort of thing I expect to see David Attenborough or Charlotte Uhlenbroek doing on television, not an experience I’d really imagined having myself. Following the monkeys downhill, I could hear the sound of rushing water, after having sat or walked with them for about 25 minutes they emerged out of the forest and proceeded to cross the Njokamoni River/Falls, easily jumping the narrow stream.

 

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Sanje Mangabey

 

 

Sanje Mangabeys

 

 

Sanje Mangabey with infant

 

 

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Njokamoni Falls and Sanje mangabeys in Udzungwa Mountains National Park in Tanzania

 

Sanje mangabeys beside the Njokamoni River/Falls

 

Sanje Mangabeys beside the Njokamoni River

 

While some of the monkeys stayed on the ground, foraging under the trees, a few of them climbed up in to a fig tree to feast on the fruits, inevitably dropping some of them to their relatives down below.

 

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Sanje Mangabey

 

 

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Palmnut Vulture

While we were sat on the rocks, the eagle-eyed guide spotted a palmnut vulture, high up in a tree above the river.

 

After a while the Sanje mangabeys, started to move off through the forest over the other side and within about half an hour of reaching the river, the last one had disappeared from view. Sitting on the rocks beside the waterfall was very relaxing, but after a little while with the monkeys gone, we decided the show was over and we should really return to camp.

 

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Njokamoni River/Falls

 

Mangabey Researchers & Guide

Mangabey researchers and guide

Edited by inyathi
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I can't imagine what it would feel like, sitting with these rare monkeys in the depths of the forest. I think your photos were really good, given the circumstances, and some by the waterfall excellent by any standards. I'm really enjoying this, but feel quite exhausted thinking of the heat, humidity and uphill hiking.

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Thanks Twaffle

 

I’m certainly very pleased with the photos I got although I did take nearly 200, that I got some good shots was more to do with technology, than any skill on my part, had I not had a fairly new digital camera (Canon Eos 50D) and an image stabilised 100-400mm lens. I think I would have been lucky to get any shots at all.

 

When I visited the Udzungwas back in 1995, just hearing mangabey calls in the distance was about the most you could expect, certainly I never even glimpsed one, despite going on several hikes into the forest including up to Sanje Falls and back, so I was particularly keen to see them on this visit. Sitting with the monkeys watching them peacefully going about their business, knowing that they were not only very rare, but had also, only been discovered (by science) in my lifetime, elevated the experience to make it something extraordinary. Of course, the beautiful setting provided by the Njokamoni Falls also helped.

 

Close encounters with rare animals in the wild, are usually pretty special, but I think the reward is that much greater, if you have to put in a bit of effort and expend a bit of sweat.

Edited by inyathi
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Dipping my hat in the cool water of the stream, before setting of back down the mountain, made the return journey somewhat more pleasant, although I found going down rather easier, we still took it quite slowly due to the steepness of the path. I’m not entirely sure what time it was when we started our hike, perhaps around half eight, but when I got back to the bar, I was surprised to discover that it was only about 11:15. It may only have been a short hike up to the monkeys and back, but thanks to the heat and humidity, it had extracted a good deal of sweat, so it seemed only prudent to spend a relaxing afternoon, rehydrating by the bar watching the Skyes’s and red colobus monkeys.

 

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My kind of view

 

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Tanzania Sykes's monkey

 

Falling red colobus

Red colobus dropping from a tree, the prodigious leaps these monkeys make are amazing to watch

 

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Crowned eagle

 

While these birds are one of the rainforests top predators preying on duikers and other small antelopes and often monkeys, they don’t always have it their own way at least in the Udzungwas.

 

Sanje mangabey kills an African crowned eagle

 

Quote
We present the first ever reported observations of a hunting African crowned eagle Stephanoaetus coronatus being killed by a primate, in the Udzungwa Mountains of south-central Tanzania. An adult female eagle launched an attack on a young Sanje mangabey Cercocebus sanjei who was feeding in a tree, but was intercepted and bitten by an adult mangabey who was feeding nearby. The adult mangabey and the eagle then fell together 25 m to the forest floor below. The eagle subsequently died from her injuries, while the mangabey escaped and is thought to have survived. This rare event is briefly discussed in the context of previous accounts of primate-crowned eagle interactions.

 

Copyright © 2006 S. Karger AG, Basel

 

Silvery-cheeked hornbill

Silvery-cheeked hornbill

 

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Evening light

 

Hondo-Hondo

Hondo-Hondo tents

 

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Bar/Dining Room Hondo-Hondo

The Bar/Dining room (the white sheet is a moth trap)

 

Having not done too well with the birds, it was quite tempting to make one last trip in to the forest, as we would be leaving the next morning, however, the chances of finding anything new around Mang’ula was pretty slim, since almost all of the endemic birds are found over on the west side of the mountains. Waiting until it had cooled down a bit, wouldn’t leave much time to really go anywhere and since the view from Hondo-Hondo is good, it seemed better just to stay put. After all, watching crowned eagles circling over head, silver-cheeked hornbills flying past and Udzungwa red colobus leaping from the trees, while enjoying a cold beer, is not a bad way to pass the time. Besides, having such a wonderful time with the Sanje mangabeys, more than made up for made up for missing a few birds. Sitting on the forest floor surrounded by some of the rarest monkeys in Africa, is an experience I will treasure forever.

Edited by inyathi
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Stunning scenery, I really like the shot of Njokamoni River/Falls.

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The view from Hondo Hondo looks good to me too. Enjoyed this a lot.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Atravelynn

You outdid yourself with the red colobus, even with babies. Your "my kind of view" photo makes me want to start drinking beer. Were you also in Mikumi? How convenient, just an hour away.

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What a beguiling trip report, inyathi. Thank you for sharing this with us. I can only imagine how special that mangabey experience must have been for a primate lover like you.

 

Also, thanks to your having pointed it out in an old TR of mine, even I can see the difference between the Angola black & white colobus and the Arusha kind now (your b&w thread helped too)! The red caps on the red colobus looks a lot like the red caps on those Gabonese (?) gorillas?

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fantastic read there - my kind of report and my kind of view ! :-)....wild forests, few people, rare animals..what more can one ask ! thanks for sharing this with us !

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Thanks everyone,

 

I only really passed through Mikumi which was a bit of a shame; despite the main road through the middle of it it’s a great place with plenty of wildlife. As you’re not likely to see the mountain climbing elephants or other big game in the Udzungwas at least on a short visit, spending time in Mikumi makes a lot of sense. You can also go on to Ruaha, but it’s about a 6hr drive from Mang’ula part of the drive through the Ruaha Gorge is quite spectacular, however, the road on from Iringa is with good reason known as “The Never-ending Road”, It’s very long, mostly very straight and pretty boring. An hour’s hop from Mikumi by air is perhaps a better bet. It’s great to be able to combine Udzungwa NP with its beautiful scenery, rainforest and monkeys with the classic big game viewing of Mikumi and Ruaha. It makes for a good contrast and you don’t have to miss out on the elephants, big cats and other big game, notably both kudu species if you go to Ruaha.

 

 

On 5/19/2012 at 2:48 AM, Sangeeta said:

Also, thanks to your having pointed it out in an old TR of mine, even I can see the difference between the Angola black & white colobus and the Arusha kind now (your b&w thread helped too)! The red caps on the red colobus looks a lot like the red caps on those Gabonese (?) gorillas?

 

Thanks it was your TR that gave me the idea to start a thread on b & w colobus, it just took me a while to finally get round to starting it. :) I might eventually start one on red colobus, though I don’t have so many photos; the Udzungwa red colobus has a fairly similar colouration to the red-capped mangabeys in Gabon, but while western gorillas do have very brown fur on their foreheads which can appear quite reddish it is not nearly as bright red as these colobus. Perhaps there should also be a thread on gorillas, but I think I’ll leave that for now unless someone else wants to start one. :)

Edited by inyathi
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Really nice to see this report! It's a fantastic area to visit and I agree it makes a perfect combination with the southern circuit. It might add to it's appeal to know that Udzungwa is one of the most reliable (if not easiest!) parks to find Sable in too - there are some good herds on the high grasslands. Plus the endemic birds (though actually they're mostly accessible not in the NP, but in the forest reserves on the western end, and quite hard work.) If you want to keep having adventures from there, then the back road (from Morogoro) to Selous is also quite fun - and if you like forests like this you'll also love the forest at the base of the Ulugurus:

Selous+003.jpg

Unfortunately, when I went this way I didn't realise this is the only home to the completely psychadelic Turquoise Dwarf-gecko - apparently common and easy to see if you stop for a bit (Unfortunately I had to get to the Selous gate in time on my trip and just drove like a mad thing...). There are camp sites there too, and it should be quite possible to hit the avian Uluguru endemics from here too.

 

Great to see some butterfly pictures too!

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  • 1 year later...

Thanks @@FlyTraveler

 

I’ve noticed that the link to the Udzungwa park thread I put in at the beginning of this report no longer works so I thought I'd add it again, so for anyone looking for more info on UMNP here’s a new link

 

Udzungwa Mountains National Park

 

The big problem for UMNP as far as tourism is concerned is that most visitors to Tanzania doing the southern circuit tend just to fly in to Selous and then on over to Ruaha then straight back to Dar and on to Zanzibar. However it is now possible to fly to an airstrip at Kilombero just 25mins from Hondo-Hondo & Mang’ula so tourists flying from Selous to Ruaha can now stop at the Udzungwas on the way rather than always just passing over the top.

 

I can’t see huge numbers of people doing this but I hope that it might at least bring a few more tourists to UMNP.

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Thanks for bringing this "off the beaten path" trip report back up to top :)

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