MAGAMBA Nature Forest Reserve (MNFR), is the only nature forest reserve in West Usambara Mountains with high biodiversity of endemic flora and fauna, besides being rich as a water catchment area.
Situated in Lushoto District, Tanga Region, the nature reserve has been attracting some local and foreign tourists due to its distinctive scenery, which is unique in the country.
Its uniqueness comprises some rare tree species and birds such as Usambara weaver, banded sunbird and sharpe’s starling, just to mention a few, which attract tourists.
Ranked the second out of 17 natural forest reserves in the country, MNFR plays a big role in attracting a big number of both local and foreign tourists after Amani Nature Forest Reserve.
According to Tanzania Forestry Services (TFS), there are 17 nature forest reserves in the country, which are renowned tourist hotspots endowed with a variety of flora and fauna.
Besides Magamba, the list includes Amani and Nilo in Tanga Region, Chome in Kilimanjaro, Uluguru, Kilombero, Udzungwa and Mkingu in Morogoro, Kilombero West in Iringa, Rondo in Lindi and Minziro in Bukoba, just to mention a few.
For quite a long time Tanzania’s tourism has been focusing on wildlife and some historical sites. However, in recent years the government encouraged tourism in forest nature reserves, which host a diversity of flora and fauna.
In the course, TFS has been taking various initiatives to woo local tourists and explore their stunning range of flora and fauna, Tanzania is endowed with.
Recently, at the just ended 43rd Dar es Salaam International Trade Fair (DITF), TFS organised a trip to MNFR as part of the initiative to encourage local tourists to visit the area.
According to TFS statistics, in the fiscal year that ended in June this year, the number of tourists, who visited the nature reserve shot to 3,000, local tourists being 370 of them.
MNFR Chief Conservator, Gertruda Nganyagwa noted that eco-tourism had started gaining popularity, not only to foreign visitors, but also to natives as another form of alternative attraction alongside traditional wildlife tourism.
“We are happy to receive local tourists...it is an indication that Tanzanians have started being familiar with nature reserve tourism, besides visiting national parks and game reserves,” Ms Nganyagwa said.
She said the government through TFS had been emphasizing nature reserve tourism because natural forests comprised a variety of flora and fauna, some of which were not found anywhere in the world except in Tanzania.
The chief conservator said MNFR with the total area of 9,283.9 hectares was one of the nature forest reserves in West Usambara Mountains Block of Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania surrounded by 21 villages.
Expounding on this she said it had also waterfalls, which were beneficial not only to surrounding communities, but also to the government and the world at large.
Ms Nganyagwa said communities near the nature reserve had been fully involved in programmes of conserving the forest, which had helped a lot to curb destructive human activities in the reserve.
“Villagers now understand the importance of environmental conservation because it had been the main source of their water and the entire district,” she pointed out.
Commenting on this, MNFR Forest Protection and Development Officer Mensieur Elly said the nature reserve had unique features such as Kiguluhakwewa View that had been toured by some local and foreign tourists for its uniqueness.
Mr Elly noted that the area also comprised an old cave used by Germans for safety during the colonial era, adding: “When you reach at the nature reserve you will only see the entrance and it goes all the way to the Lushoto District Commissioner’s Office,” he said.
He said besides that, there were also some other attractions, such as Mvueni Waterfalls which many visitors liked to go for camping as well as swimming.
Mr Elly said the nature reserve was endowed with a natural water flow dam known as Grewal. He explained that before Magamba was upgraded to a nature reserve.
There was an investor named Grewal, who was processing timber in the forest and used it as a natural dam to cool his machines.
“In MNFR there is also an old skyline which was constructed during the colonial era to ferry logs from Sungwi Village to Mkumbara in Korogwe District,” he added.
He further said visitors touring MNFR would have an opportunity to see a stone at Sungwi Village that had a footprint known as “Jiwe la Mungu”. He said from Jiwe la Mungu visitors could view lowlands and ridges of Mombo and Mkumbara towns of Korogwe District.
Mr Elly said apart from unique birds, the nature reserve was a sanctuary and home to black and white colobus monkeys, chameleons, snakes, warthogs and bush pigs.
For his part, TFS Forest Officer Kiula Feruzi said his agency had been promoting eco-tourism through its 17 nature forest reserves.
“In these nature reserves there are unique species like a grasshopper with national flag colours, while in others you will find horned chameleons,” Mr Feruzi noted.
However, he called upon members of the public to visit nature reserves to explore more tourist attractions found in the reserves.
He said villagers surrounding the nature reserves had been benefiting from the forests that provided them with reliable sources of water for domestic, agriculture and power generation.
Mr Feruzi also noted that last year TFS organised a trip to Amani Nature Forest Reserve to encourage local tourists to visit the nature reserve.
A local tourist, Ms Faustina Shuma said she was excited to see the beautiful scenery of MNFR with a variety of animals, plants, a natural dam and a skyline which she believed could only be found in Lushoto District.
She called upon Tanzanians to visit the nature reserve and see various attractions that Lushoto District was endowed with. Lushoto District Commissioner (DC), January Lugangika said the tourism sector in Lushoto District had been growing compared to other areas in the country.
“In 2018 the district received 1,450 tourists and the number has been going up until July this year, when it reached 2,300 tourists,” she said.
The DC, however, noted that MNFR had not only been beneficial to surrounding communities, but also to the nation at large.
He said the forest had been the main source of water to his residents, who were also relying on it for various activities, including agriculture and for others it was a source of traditional medicine and a habitat for bees they kept for commercial purposes.
Mr Lugangika said his office in collaboration with TFS had been marketing various attractions and the district had a strategy of planting 20 million trees every year.
Speaking after he toured various pavilions at the justended Saba Saba Exhibition, Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Constantine Kanyasu said Tanzania was endowed with many tourist attractions, including natural reserves, which should be marketed to both local and foreign visitors.