Mount Rungwe Nature Forest Reserve has a long history that dates back to 1949 when it was first gazetted as a Catchment Forest with an area of 13,652.1 ha. It is a tropical montane forest with unique species composition, structure and biodiversity. The reserve is an important conservation area in Tanzania as well as having great value at regional and global levels. In 2009 the reserve was upgraded to a nature forest reserve so as to improve its conservation. The main vegetation types of the reserve are lower montane forest, upper montane forest, bushed grassland, bamboo belt, and heath.
Mount Rungwe Nature Forest Reserve is in Rungwe district, Mbeya region, Southwest Tanzania covering most of Mount Rungwe located between 90 03’ – 90 12’S and 330 35’ – 330 45’E. Regionally Rungwe district borders Kyela district in the South, Ileje district in the West, Makete district in the East and Mbeya district in the North. The reserve is 25 km southeast of the regional centre, Mbeya town, and 7 km north of Tukuyu. The reserve can be accessed in the north and east via the Isongole-Ndala road which runs between the reserve boundary and Kiwira Forest Plantation. In the West, the area is serviced by the Rungwe Mission road which runs along the reserve boundary in several places. In the South, access to the reserve is by the Katumba-Kandete road. Some 10 km to the northwest is the Poroto Ridge Forest Reserve with impressive Crater of Lake Ngosi.
Songwe International Airport is approximately 80 km from Mount Rungwe Nature Forest Reserve. This eases accessibility from people outside Mbeya region and foreigners. The airport is not yet receiving international flights, thus passengers always have to come and go through Dar es Salaam. However the daily flights are proving to be popular among the growing business sectors in the region.
Mount Rungwe offers a diverse of unique scenery featuring Rungwe Peak (2,981 m.a.s.l), a barren mountain top from which one can view Poroto Ridge, Mbeya Peak, Loleza (Kaluwe) Peak and areas stretching down into Malawi. These attract an array of mountain hikers and climbers. Another feature of interest is a Crater Lake Lusiba found at 2,400 m a.s.l. below the bamboo belt. Lusiba-lukafu is an evergreen creek which dries during the dry season and flows in the rainy season. The area is also host to special sites of traditional importance to the surrounding communities, one such is Masieto for the Nyakyusa to conduct traditional rituals or ceremonies.
Mount Rungwe Nature Forest Reserve is key in conservation of residual tropical montane forest as well as rare, endemic and endangered biodiversity. It is a reservoir of species heritage in Tanzania and the world at large. The area demands greater sensitivity in management interventions as well as abating threats as it is host to rare, endemic and endangered flora and fauna. The Reserve is host to two of the world’s twenty five rarest primates, the Kipunji (Rungwecebus kipunji) and the Rungwe galago. Important antelopes including the very rare Abbott’s duicker are harbored in this reserve. The Reserve is a key water tower in the region providing water to countless villages and towns for domestic, agriculture and industrial use in Mbeya, Rungwe and Kyela Districts. The mountain is the catchment for key rivers in the landscape including Kiwira, Suma, Mbaka, Kilasi, Marogala, Mrombo, Mulagala, Sinini and Mwatisi Rivers, which flow into Lake Nyasa shared by Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique.
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