The Southern Highlands are found in the south west of Makambako in the regions of Mbeya, Rukwa and Iringa. The Southern Highlands is a series of mountain ranges and volcanoes covered in a mosaic of forest, grassland and Miombo Woodland. It includes the two highest peaks in southern Tanzania, Mt Mtorwi at 2,961m and Mt Rungwe 2,960m. Initial biological surveys have revealed high biodiversity and a significant number of rare and restricted-range species. Over 120 animal and plant taxa are found in the area with about 2,000 species of vascular plants. This is roughly representative of a quarter of the total flora of East Africa.
The Southern Highlands unique plateau and dramatic mountains were produced by Rift Valley faulting in the late Cretaceous Period. Subsequent volcanism left abundant lava and ash. Southern Highlands receive all its rainfall from November to April from water evaporated from Lake Nyasa. Temperatures average 22 degrees C (max) and 10 degrees C (min). From May to July frosts are common on higher ground with temperatures sometimes falling to - 7 degrees C on Kitulo Plateau.
Over 40 species of vascular plants are only found in the Southern Highlands and many more restricted to the Highlands and the nearby Nyika Plateau in Malawi. The Kitulo Plateau is an area of significant botanical importance and is the only botanical National Park in Tanzania.
The diversity of birds in the Southern Highlands has been known for some time, and there are 6 Important Bird Areas recognised by Bird Life International with several rare and threatened species present.
Until recently large mammals were commonplace in the Southern Highlands . Advancing human populations have significantly reduced the ranges and numbers of mammal species. Amongst the primates, the isolated Red Dilepis Colobus occurs in Mbisi, and a unique race of Black and White Colobus is found in abundance in forests in and around Mt Rungwe.
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Southern Highlands Locations view all
One of the Great Gardens of the World, with over 40 species of wild orchid alone, Kitulo Plateau is a floral paradise. One of Tanzania's newest National Parks, this is the first in tropical Africa to be gazetted primarily for it's floristic significance. Kitulo is also of interest to ornithologists, being registered as an important bird area.
Lake Nyasa (also known as Lake Malawi) is the third largest African Great Lake (after Lake Victoria and lake Tanganyika), the eighth largest lake in the world and has a total surface area of about 29,600 km?. It is 550 kilometers long and 75 kilometers wide. Lake Nyasa is situated between Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania bordering all three. It is the second deepest lake in Africa and its tropical waters have more fish species than any other lake on Earth.
Mbamba Bay is a small idyllic beach town on the shores of Lake Nyasa (or Lake Malawi). It is rarely visited and tourism has hardly developed here. The beautiful bay has a long sandy beach flanked by granite rocks and numerous rocky islands. Mbamba bay has only a couple of places to stay, both quite basic.
Mbeya is a large town in the southwest of Tanzania, the gateway to the Southern Highlands. It's fairly new town built to service the gold mining in the area (which ceased on the 1950s). This unusually developed town has all grades of accommodation and makes a good stopover to rest on long safaris. There are plenty of walking opportunities in the area including the two climbable mountains of Mbeya and Loleza Peaks, which dominate the Mbeya skyline. Another interesting excursion is the Mbozi Meteorite, weighing in at 12 tonnes is the eigth largest in the world.
Ngozi Crater Lake is a sight of outstanding natural beauty and a superb hiking location. A green shimmering lake walled by the collapsed caldera of the extinct Ngozi Volcano. The peak of Ngozi is 2,620m and is the highest point of the Mporoto Ridge Forest Reserve.
Songea is the capital of the large Ruvuma Region in southeastern Tanzania.The city has a population of approximately 130,000 (census 2002). It is also the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Songea.