Kilombero Nature Forest Reserve (KNFR) was formed by amalgamating three former forest reserves (Matundu, Iyondo and part of West Kilombero Scarp), now revoked, within the Udzungwa Mountains (Government Notice No. 182). Boundaries are delineated on Map No. JB 2525. It covers an area of 134,511 ha and managed by Tanzania Forest Service, Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. The reserve is surrounded by 21 villages, having a total population of 78,784 whose main source of livelihood is subsistence farming. This is supplement by fishing in Kilombero’s rivers, which generates substantial income for villagers. Annual rainfall is estimated to be 1,500-2,000 mm in the mountainous areas and 1,350 mm in the lowlands. The rainy season is between November and April; the cool season, with high day temperatures and cool nights, lasts from May to August; and the dry season occurs between June and November. Mean annual temperature reaches 200C maximum in December and 150C minimum in July in the mountains; and 270C maximum in December and 190C minimum in July in the lowlands.
In upland areas, the vegetation comprises moist and dry montane, upper montane forest with some patches of bamboo and upland grassland. In the drier, lower-lying areas, there is lowland forest, some of which has been replaced by woodland and grassland. Characteristic species of each forest type are as follows:
Montane Forest: Typical trees include Cassipourea gummifla, Maesa lanceolata, Neoboutonia macrocalyx, Podocarpus sp, Aphloia sp. and Cola sp.
Upper Montane Forest: Typical trees include Aphloia theiformis, Bersama abyssinica, Syzygium guineense, Ocotea usambarensis, Hagenia abyssinica and Tecomaria sp.
Riverine Forest: within woodland/grassland is usually dominated by Syzygium cordatum with varying amounts of Bridelia micrantha, Faurea sp, Khaya anthotheca, Milicia excelsa and Rauvolia caffra.
Woodland: in higher altitudes is dominated by Protea sp, while in lower altitudes it is dominated by Brachyestegia sp. and Albizia gummifera.
Lowland Forest: Typical trees include Khaya anthotheca, and Milicia excelsa
A Cassipoure/Cola/Craterispermum community is the dominant forest type at most altitudes in the former West Kilombero Scarp Forest Reserve. Additionally a Hagenia/Tecomaria community dominates high altitudes (>2,000 m) and at mid altitudes (1,850-2,000 m) a Neoboutonia/Aphloia/Podocarpus community is common
Geographical Location of Kilombero Nature Forest Reserve
Kilombero Nature Reserve is located in the southern part of Tanzania within Iringa and Morogoro region in Kilolo and Kilombero districts respectively. The Nature Reserve occupies the middle portion of the Udzungwa Mountains, lying between Udzungwa Mountains National Park and Uzungwa Scarp Nature Reserve. It comprises a highly undulating chain of mountains that descend to the lowlands and meet the wetlands of Kilombero Valley. Also it lies between Longitude 36017’45”E and Latitude 70 55’00”S within Udzungwa Mountain Block. Rocks , which is part of the Eastern Arc Mountain that stretches from the Taita hill in Kenya through North and South Pare Mountains in Kilimanjaro to West and East Usambaras in Tanga, Kilombero in Morogoro and Udzungwa Mountains in Iringa Regions.
Access to Kilombero Nature Forest Reserve
There are three main means of transport to access the KNFR namely air ways, railway and roads. The first access is from Nduli airport (Iringa) by road through Ipogolo in Iringa town via Kilolo district to Mhanga village via Kimala ward center about 80km. The second access from the main road (DSM to Iringa) is through Ilula (small town) in Kilolo district to Udekwa village which is about 63km. The third access is in Morogoro region through Mikumi town to Ifakara via Mang’ula to Namwawala village all the way to Mbingu village about 160km. Lastly is through Tanzania and Zambia Railway whereby Idete, Mngeta and Ruipa railway stations in Namwawala, Mngeta and Mpofu villages respectively are the nearest station to the reserve (about 1- 3km).
Tourism attractions and services
The KNFR harbors special sites which include Magombelema cave in Nyumbanitu area adjacent to Udekwa and Ifuwa villages. The cave is partitioned into 12 portions with the capacity to accommodate about 80 people at a time and is said to be a home for many bats. The Nyumbanitu area was formally inhabited by people as evidenced by the presence of villages scattered throughout the area following the attack by the Germans on Iringa Kalenga (headquarter of the Hehe tribe by that time). Later, the Wahehe Chief Mkwawa escaped from Kalenga to Nyumbanitu site, which is now part of KNR. Todate Nyumbanitu is of significant cultural importance to Hehe tribe as it is used for worshiping. Other worship sites includes; Mihiti, Ndundulu, Ihambigali and Ruipa Kimenya. Also there are some viewpoints in KNR, these are Ndundulu, Kombagulu, Ukame, Chavemba, Idene, Fikano, Kinanili and Nyumbanitu peaks where you can view the small town of Ilula - Iringa, Mahenge town in Morogoro, Kilombero valley. Other view points are Ndundu, Ichima, Bomamzinga, Ng’ongwa, Nyani, Makerewalo, Mlindimila, Miale, Lupete and Njeketule. Also there are various water sources and waterfalls inside the KNFR.
Also KNFR harbours a wide range of fauna besides of being adjacent to Udzungwa National Park. Most of these fauna species are strictly forest dependent. The Udzungwas host 10 species of primates, including six cercopithecidae. The Sanje mangabey (Cercocebus galeritus sanjei) and the Red colobus monkeys (Procolobus badius gordonorum) are endemic to the Udzungwas. Furthermore, Angolan black-and-white colobus (colobus angolensis palliatus), Sykes’s monkey (Cercopithecus albogularis) green monkey (Cercopithecus aethiops), yellow baboon (Papio cynocephalus) and four galagos: -larger –eared greater galago (Otolemur crassicaudatus), Senegal galago (Galagoides orinus) and Matundu dwarf galago (Galagoides udzungwensis) –occur. On a couple of occasions, mixed groups of about 100 individuals of 4 genera (Cercopithecidae, Cercocebus galeritus sanjei, procolobus badius gorgonoium, colobus angolensis palliatus and cercopithecus albogularis) were seen and interspecific association of colobines reported previously for Magombera and Mwanihana were confirmed. The yellow baboon, green monkey and larger-eared greater galago occur mainly in dry woodland and forest edges in the Udzungwas. Due to high diversity of primates the KNFR as part of Udzungwa Mountain is one of the most important sites for conservation of primates.
In addition to that KNFR is adjacent to Udzungwa Mountain National Park (UMNP). In visiting KNFR you can easily cross and visit UMNP. Also it is easy to visit Mikumi National Park from KNFR in Morogoro side and when in Iringa you can visit Ruaha National Park which is about 150km from KNFR.
Within KNFR we have well maintained Campsite and Nature trail which connect one site to another and outside the reserve in Iringa and Ifakara towns there are various Hotels and Guest houses for accommodation purposes.