Plans are under way to renovate tourist facilities in Amani Nature Reserve in East Usambara mountains, which is popular for hosting eco-tourism in the Africa’s tropical forests.
The idea aims to boost the number of tourists visiting the reserve, which is very rich in biodiversity as well as a potential in medical research.
The nature reserve is shared between Muheza and Korogwe districts in Tanga region and is well known for bird watching, nature watching, walking and hiking.
“We’re currently working on the challenges facing the nature reserve…our task is to ensure that trails are improved to make tourists and researchers reach their desired sites in the reserve,” ANR officer in charge of tourism Godfrey Msumari told journalists who visited the nature reserve recently.
The reserve is currently generating an average of 19m/- per annum as collections from tourists visiting the nature reserve covering about 8,380 hectares.
“Currently, we are receiving an average of 650 tourists per year. To us this is a very good start as previously the situation was very bad,” he said, adding that the move had been possible through support from different stakeholders, including the Eastern Arc Mountains Conservation Endowment Fund (EAMCEF), which has been supporting the reserve since 2009.
“Through EAMCEF support we have managed to clear nine tourist trails, which is about 23kms. The idea is meant to ease access of tourists to reach desired destinations within the nature reserve,” Msumari stressed.
The ANR authority is determined to ensure that it increases the number of tourists who wish to see the thrilling wonders of flora and fauna.
The nature reserve is home to more than 300 bird species, which cannot be seen elsewhere in the world.
“There are also endangered species of dragon flies which are only found in the East Usambara Mountains …” he said.
ANR conservator Mwanaidi Kijazi said the current housing facilities were dilapidated and so needed to be renovated.
“We have already submitted a bill of quantities to Tanzania Forestry Services (TFS), whose cost amounts to 180m/- and their response has been good. It’s our hope that the amount will be released soon so rehabilitation can start,” Kijazi said.
Among facilities to be renovated are a building formerly used as the German stationmaster’s house, an information centre building as well as some buildings at the ANR headquarters.
ANR has already submitted the request to TFS, which is responsible for the development of the forest policy, laws and regulations governing the Forestry and Beekeeping Division (FBD).
Kijazi is optimistic that by improving infrastructure in the nature reserve the number of tourists will double from the current average of 650 tourists per annum.
According to the conservator, the road heading into the reserve also needs to be uplifted for the nature reserve to be easily accessible all the year round.
The nature reserve is one of the latest to be established by the government. It was established in 1997 to protect the flora and fauna in East Usambara and is the second largest botanical garden in the world after Padua, in Italy.
The reserve is also home to the African violet flower and more than 340 bird species.