The Usambara Mountains are a part from the Eastern Arc Mountains, which extend from the foothills of Kilimanjaro parallel to the Kenyan border to the shoreline of Tanga. The Usambara Mountains are divided into West and East Usambara Mountains. The mountains rise on average 2000m and with their pleasant cool mountain forests and phenomenal viewpoints they are a strong contrast to the seasonally hot and dusty plains of the Masai steppe. Over the past few decades, the Usambara Mountains have been affected by population growth and associated logging. The natural jungle vegetation was pushed back more and more by the agriculture, which causes also the slipping of fertile hanger earth in the rain. With many years of help from GIZ and other organizations, the erosion problems could be stopped. Nevertheless, today only about 30% of the former primeval forest are available.
Compared to the rather dry plains in the surrounding countryside, the vegetation diversity in and around the forest regions, which are often clouded by cloudy skies, is almost intoxicating.
Over 2800 different plant species are native to the Usambara Mountains and about a quarter of them are endemic. The last Eastern Arcs forest islands are also referred to as "African Galápagos in the Clouds" to symbolically emphasize the need for conservation and protection zones. Wonderful multi-day hikes in forests, to waterfalls as well as visits and overnight stays in remote villages offer a fascinating view of one of the most remarkable regions of Tanzania. A visit to the mountains is also worthwhile for historical and cultural reasons. Due to the early Christianisation by German missionaries up till far into the last mountain regions, there is also a closer relationship to Western ways of life and values. Especially in the Usambara Mountains are the traces from the time of German East Africa still very present. The largest place and heart of the Usambara Mountains is Lushoto, which once served as a health resort "Wilhelmstal" the German colonists as a recreational area. Lushoto is connected to the plain by a winding paved road and is an ideal starting point for hikes today.
A proposal for a multi-day hike in the Usambara Mountains: Lushoto to Mambo - 5 Days Hiking