Udzungwa Forest Camp

Udzungwa Forest Camp: Our full report

Rooms
6 tents and 5 thatched huts.
Traveller's rating
Good (75%) From 4 reviews
Children
Best for aged 6+.
Open
All year

Udzungwa Forest Camp, also known as Hondo Hondo, is a small, rustic lodge in the Kilombero Valley, bordering Tanzania’s Udzungwa Mountains National Park. With a combination of tented rooms and traditional thatched huts, it is well situated for exploring the often-overlooked Udzungwa Mountains.

The forested slopes of the Udzungwa Mountains offer a remarkable amount of biodiversity – encompassing more than 50% of Tanzania’s plant and animal species, including 300 endemic animals and 800 endemic plants. Four species of primate can be easily seen from Hondo Hondo: blue monkeys, black-and-white colobus monkeys, Sanje crested mangabey and the Udzungwa red colobus, which is endemic to the area. On a recent short stay we saw three of these species whilst sitting in the restaurant! The name Hondo Hondo (meaning ‘hornbill’ in Swahili) refers to the three hornbill species found here.

Udzungwa Forest Tented Camp was set up by four Britons who, after bringing tourists to Udzungwa for many years, became increasingly frustrated with the lack of decent accommodation in the area. They started with a very simple campsite and have gradually built this up to a higher standard. Although they now employ a manager to take care of the day-to-day running, they're still very actively involved and can be often seen in camp. As we discovered on our last visit in June 2016.

Today, accommodation at Udzungwa Forest Tented Camp comprises en-suite tented rooms, simple thatched huts, and the original campsite.

The newest and most comfortable options are the six en-suite tented rooms, which are decorated using local sustainable materials such as coconut wood and bamboo. All have a double bed and sprung mattress, complete with mosquito nets and a colourful throw made by one of the lodge's community support projects – the Ifakara Women Weavers group. Each tent has solar-powered lighting and a socket for charging phones and camera batteries. At the back of the tent, the open-air bathrooms have flush toilets, and an excellent solar-heated ‘rain shower’ from which you can enjoy the views into the nearby forest. The stone floors and bamboo-walled bathroom feel very natural. These are definitely the rooms to go for if they are available.

The five thatched huts are much more basic, with just a double bed and spring mattress under walk-in mosquito nets, a table and chair, solar lighting, and a wall socket. We’d suggest these only to adventurous travellers on a tight budget.

Nearby is the original campsite, where travellers may either use their own equipment or rent it from the main lodge.

All the rooms and huts are spread out around The Glade, a natural clearing at the edge of the forest where they've placed the Canopy Bar – one of the best spots to sit and watch the troops of monkeys that favour the area. The evening soundtrack is largely one of tropical birds, monkeys playing in the trees and running water from the Kilombero River crashing over the nearby Njokamoni waterfall. That said, Udzungwa Forest Tented Camp is sandwiched between the western border of the national park and the village of Mang’ula. While this is a plus for cultural interaction, music from the village and noise from machinery used at the sugar and rubber plantations does detract slightly from the magical sounds of the rainforest.

There's a great range of activities at Hondo Hondo, focusing not only on the wildlife and vegetation, but also on hiking to beautiful waterfalls, adventure activities and cultural opportunities. The floodplains provide great, flat, mountain-biking terrain, while exploring the Kilombero River in a traditional dugout canoe will give you a glimpse of village life along the river (and even the occasional crocodile or hippo!). Guided village tours and a visit to the nearby rubber and sugar plantations are also possible. The camp, the forest and the Kilombero River are also very good for birders; more than 80 species have been seen in the garden alone and several of these are endemics.

One unmissable highlight for visitors to Udzungwa Forest Lodge is to hike to one of the many waterfalls in the area. Of these, Sanje Falls is the most popular and arguably the most beautiful; you can also swim here, which makes it even more attractive. Sanje is just over 6km from the lodge, and treks can take anywhere between one and four hours, depending on the route and speed you walk. Other waterfalls that can be visited in the national park include Njokamoni, Sonjo and Prince Bernhard’s falls – this last named after the founder of Udzungwa Mountains National Park.

A trip to Udzungwa is most easily combined with a visit to Mikumi National Park ; or the Selous Game Reserve.

Our view

A stop here is primarily to explore the beautiful Udzungwa Mountains and to seek out their wildlife, but will also help visitors to get a feel for rural life. Udzungwa Forest Camp would suit those looking for something a little different from the standard safari experience. Intrepid travellers will love the ‘no frills’ approach, but Hondo Hondo is not for everyone; although there is a degree of comfort, don’t come expecting luxury.

Geographics

Location: Mikumi & Udzungwa Mountains, Tanzania

Ideal length of stay: 2–3 nights

Directions: It is a two and a half hour drive from Mikumi airstrip – the last hour of which is really hard going on an ungraded road.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Richard Wood and Roy Hind

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: On our last stay at Udzungwa Forest Camp, in June 2016, the food was simple but well prepared and filling.

Mealtimes are very flexible at Hondo Hondo. Packed breakfasts are sometimes necessary for anyone going out on an early morning trek, and these can be ordered the night before. There is also a cooked breakfast available at the lodge.

Lunch is also frequently taken on the go and will consist of sandwiches, nuts and fruit, Although salads and sandwiches are also served at the lodge for those who are not out on activities.

Dinner is a plated three-course meal. We enjoyed an avocado salad, followed by beef steak and croquette potatoes and finished with banana fritters.

Dining style: Individual Tables

Dining locations: Indoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: Drinks are not included but they are reasonably priced; beer is around US$3, soft drinks US$1 and a glass of wine about US$4. Bottled drinking water is provided in the rooms.

Further dining info: Not possible.

Special interests

Walking: The accommodation might be simple at Udzungwa Forest Camp, but there are some fantastic walking opportunities in Tanzania’s Udzungwa National Park. These range from short treks of around 45 minutes to those lasting up to seven hours.

See more ideas for Walking in Tanzania

Children

Attitude towards children: All ages are welcome at Hondo Hondo.

Property’s age restrictions: None.

Special activities & services: There are no activities or services specifically set up for children.

Equipment: There are cots and highchairs available.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Solar Power

Power supply notes: There are power sockets in all the tents, so guests are able to charge their batteries.

Communications: There is intermittent mobile reception but no Wifi.

TV & radio: No

Water supply: Borehole

Water supply notes: There is running hot and cold water with plumbed in showers and flush toilets.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: There is a first aid kit in the reception and all of the vehicles.

Dangerous animals: Moderate Risk

Security measures: There are askaris (guards) around the property 24 hours a day.

Fire safety: Every room has a fire extinguisher, waterpipe and sand bucket.

Extras

Disabled access: Not Possible

Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is available but at an extra cost.

Money: There is a lockable trunk in each room and a padlock can be supplied. Only small amounts of currency can be exchanged.

Accepted payment on location: Cash payments are accepted in US dollars, British pounds, Tanzanian shillings and euros. Hondo Hondo also accepts credit cards, albeit with a 5% surcharge.

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