Saturday, May 23, 2009

Visiting southern highlands’ tourist attraction centres including Matema beach

DESPITE of the infrastructural hurdles facing Southern Highlands Regions of Tanzania, more efforts are needed to improve infrastructural development to rescue tourism potentials found within the region. These are the valuable treasures which to a greater extent contributes to the national economic development as a whole. The vast Southern Highland region is known by the big four regions that is composed of Iringa, Mbeya, Rukwa and Ruvuma, apart from being famous for agricultural production, however, the regions depends to a certain extent for tourism. Transport problems facing these four regions is a hitch to visitors wishing to explore nature and historical sites, says an expert in tourism industry based in Iringa town. According to him, if the dilapidated roads that leads to most tourist destination centres are repaired, more tourists would come to view sites found within the region.

Most roads leading to national parks in Southern Highland regions are still in bad state.

This is a typical example of a road that leads to Ruaha National park, the largest in the country. Such corrugated roads becomes impassable during rainy seasons.

A lion crosses a road in his search for a prey at Katavi National park

Many travelers pass through the region on their way to neighbouring countries such as Zambia and Malawi while few give a second thought to stop along the way. It’s a pity since this region offers numerous attractions but lacks reliable infrastructural facilities to enable promote the region. Among the attraction sites includes lake Nyasa and Matema beach where three countries meet. Africa’s third largest body of waters, Lake Nyasa is 550Km long and 75Km wide at its widest point. However, according to Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB), the government should look into a possibility of introducing beach tourism along the shores of lake Nyasa which have ever since remained untapped. Its shores borders three countries of Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique, set against the stunning backdrop of the Livingstone mountains, the Tanzania shores are not short of interest including Matema and its fabulous beach. Quite and attractive, Matema is a small town that caters to visitors wishing to experience an unpretentious local nature. Although tourist infrastructure is limited, but excursions are available onto the lake or down the coast while the nearby waterfalls and caves are delight.

Fishing is the main economic activity of the people living in Matema village whose geographical location is close to the lake Nyasa, in Mbeya region.

Two Europeans, nationals of Belgium standing in the waterfront of lake Nyasa viewing a spectacular view of Matema beach during their recent visit. Tanzania Tourist Board is underway to modernize the area as a tourist holiday centre.

Little traditional huts built along the beach line at Matema village.
One can spend the day engage in any number of activities or simply sunbathe on the beach in the year around warm sunshine. Mbozi meteorite is a must for visitors with time for exploration. Seldom seen by travelers, the Mbozi meteorite was only discovered by outsiders in 1930s, despite the fact that it had been known to locals for centuries. Seemingly its existence has never been reported because of taboos surrounding its region and purpose. Currently available information from Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) says that, Mbeya city and the Livingstone mountains including other areas surrounding it are among the most precious tourism sites in the Southern Highland region. Formerly a gold rush town, Mbeya is currently the region’s commercial and administrative centre and has of late become a busy cross-border trading centre of the two neighbouring landlocked countries of Zambia and Malawi. Going down at Mbarari junction, visitors can find the start of the hiking trail to the Mbeya peak, at 2,818m the highest peak in the range. Also of the interest is the remote Lake Rukwa, a real out in the middle of nowhere paradise that can only be accessed with a range vehicles such as 4WD.

A monkey on top of Mbeya peak

This is how Mbeya city can be viewed from its peak in eastern direction

Because of the economic importance of Mbeya city in southern regions, it has a new airport since 2006 that provides air-links with other airports in the country such as in Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Mwanza and Dodoma. The Kitulo plateau is a botanic delight situated between the Livingstone mountains and Uporoto ranges. The high Kitulo plateau is a unique experience of academic plant life for lovers of nature and botany. This combined with the breathtaking scenery of the Livingstone mountains backdrop has earned it the local name of “Bustani ya Mungu” which literally means God’s garden.
Kitulo plateau is one of the greatest floral spectacles in the world and a must in any southern highlands itinery. Once believed to be less visited area, the natural parts of the southern highlands tourist circuit is now picking up despite of the fact that there are some tourist destination centers which have remained untapped.

Two different signboards showing Kitulo National Park, on the roadside to Mbeya region.

Tourists taking photos of the natural flowers at Kitulo national park

According to the National Parks’ Directorate of Tourism, the pattern is gradually changing because of the publicity and promotional campaigns the authorities concerned have been conducting. TANAPA has taken deliberate efforts to promote the southern circuit because of geographical locations and infrastructural systems. Most national parks in this region are located far away from the main road coming from Dar es Salaam and moreover are not in good condition. Unlike the northern circuit of Arusha which has ample space, the southern circuit if improved would soon become popular to both foreign and local tourists.

In disbelief…?, a tourist is looking at a 4WD car in which he was traveling after its windscreen had been splashed with muddy water while at Kitulo National park. Most roads leading to National parks in Southern Highlands of Tanzania are impassable during rainy seasons.

A remote and seldom rarely visited national park such as Katavi in Rukwa region affords the modern day explorer an experience of untouched African wilderness. The valley grasslands supports impressive herds of buffalo, topi and zebra. The higher elevation and Miombo woodlands are homes to sable, roan and other antelopes.

Who told you tourists are only Europeans? Tourism is not meant for a particular group of people, I was lucky the other day to visit Ruaha National park, the largest in Tanzania and ranks the leading in Africa. Tanzania Tourist Board is trying to encourage local tourism so as to enable every Tanzanian to visit their national heritage by reducing entry fees for local people visiting national parks.

Lions and elephants are common, and waterways are homes of populations of hippos and crocs. Lakes Chada and Katavi host extra-ordinary concentrations of water birds and the Rukwa valley in the south of the park is home to Puku (an impala-sized antelope related to the waterbuck) and southern reedbuck as well as large numbers of other wildlife. Katavi has accessible road but most visitors fly in by private charter aircraft. A small classic tented camp provides the only suitable guest accommodation in the park.

Two lions rests close to the bank of river Ruaha as this is their target point to easy get hold of their prey once they come down to drink water.

The growth of tourism sub sector in Tanzania is encouraging going by the available data. The revenue collected in Tanzania from tourism business has increased, and the number of tourists, who visited Tanzania has increased from 501,669 in 2003 to 925,122 in 2008. During the trading period, big tourist hotels in Tanzania played the most crucial role in promoting the industry by providing accommodation to the visitors. The revenue collected from the tourism business also increased by far. The only part of tourism which enlisted a higher growth rate was cultural tourism, archives and antiquities. Tanzania’s National Assembly (Bunge) was recently told that the government had collected a total of Tsh. 61.2 billion during 2007/08 fiscal year as tourism revenues that were collected from the country’s national parks. This represents an overall increase of 6.1 percent from the previous fiscal year. According to the Minister for Tourism and Natural Resources, Ms. Shamsa Mwangunga, in 2006/07 the revenue collected from the national parks was Tsh. 58.3 billion from 557,370 tourists who visited them. According to her, this is a good improvement which has been brought about by the Ministry in its efforts to promote the country’s tourism in and outside the country. According to her, between last July and March 2009, Tanzania received 617,776 tourists in the country who visited various national parks. Because of the need of improved infrastructure, many tourists who had intended to visit the national parks in the country landed in Kenya and spent the majority of their time there before coming to Tanzania.

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