Mbeya City Guide in Tanzania
Mbeya is a city located in southwest Tanzania, Africa. The region urban population was 280,000 in 2005. Mbeya is the capital of the surrounding rural region (population, with Mbeya, totals approx. 2 million).Mbeya is situated at an altitude of 1,700 metres (5,500 ft), and sprawls through a narrow highland valley surrounded by a bowl of high mountains. The main language is colloquial Swahili, and the English language is extensively taught in schools.
Located at a high altitude, the weather and climate of this region is fantastic. With lots of mist and drizzle, the place seems like paradise on earth. There are many areas in close proximity of this region, which have such beautiful climatic conditions. They are called ‘Scotland of Africa’ and truly so.
This region is one of the important cities of Tanzania located in the southwest of the country. Serving as the capital of the rural Mbeya Region, Mbeya is the first town one comes to, if one travels from Zambia in Africa.The city is surrounded by splendid natural beauty and exceptional scenic splendor. There is a narrow valley, which is again encompassed by lofty mountains.
Mbeya came into notice because of the gold mining industry in the city and gradually, this became a trade for Mbeya. There are few industries related to corrugated iron roofing in Mbeya, though agriculture remains the primary activity of the city. Both food crops and cash crops are grown in the city. Animal husbandry is also practiced on a large scale in Mbeya.
There are schools, health care centers, markets, restaurants, internet cafes, churches and a police headquarter in Mbeya. Mbeya acts as a preferred destination for many tourists with a number of natural mountain reserves and wildlife reserve forests. Tourism activities are constantly increasing in Mbeya with improved facilities and amenities. There are various kinds of hotels to accommodate visitors and tourists in Mbeya.
Mbeya can be reached by bus services along tarmac roads, or via the TAZARA railway line from the capital (approx. 600-miles, two overnight passenger trains per week).An airport is marked on maps, this grass strip handles quite a number of aircraft weekly including Missionary Aviation Fellowship Flights, AMREF air ambulance and various charter and government planes.
To get to this area in particular, you have to start from Dar es Salaam , which is the hub of public transport. It is often easier to go to one region and then return to Dar es Salaam to find transportation to another area. However depending on what part of the country you are in, there are some local hubs you can travel to get to another city in that same region.Remember the majority of Tanzanians do not own cars. Therefore, public transportation is quite good and you can get buses to almost any part of the country.
Remote or small towns may be served by only one bus a day, but you can get there. Keep in mind that even though these buses may seem to run on a relaxed schedule they do leave on time to the minute and they will leave you behind even if you bought a ticket in advance.
Mbeya Car rental is popular because a car can get you places you can’t get to by public transportation. It also gives you the freedom to travel when you want and to stop wherever you like. Because buses to remote areas are not very frequent, you can cover more ground in a shorter time with a car.
The other alternative is flying. This is a great time saver if you have the extra money and don’t necessarily need a car to this area. Some of the internal carriers do offer packages where you can have unlimited flights for one or two weeks for one flat price.
There are many airstrips that these airlines fly to and traveling to a remote part of the area and it is much better to fly than to drive or endure the 8 – 12 hour bus ride. Depending on where you are staying you can arrange for a private chartered flight to other more remote airstrips, check with the lodge you are going to stay at for more info.
Airports in Mbeya:
Mbeya Airport (IATA: MBI, ICAO: HTMB) is an airport in southern Tanzania serving the city of Mbeya. It is within the southern section of the city.The Mbeya non-directional beacon (Ident: MB) is located on the field.
Songwe International Airport:
Located about 20 km from Mbeya city, Songwe International airport offers all the comforts expected of a modern facility. Songwe Airport (ICAO: HTGW), usually referred to in flight schedules as Mbeya (using the “MBI” IATA code from the unpaved Mbeya Airport), is an airport in the southern highland region of Tanzania, serving the city of Mbeya and the surrounding Mbeya Region. It is 20 kilometres (12 mi) west of the city, off the A104 trunk road, and is able to accommodate commercial jet traffic, whereas the unpaved Mbeya Airport is not.
Health care in Mbeya:
Like any other city in Tanzania, Mbeya has some health care Centers which can be accessed in the city and other regions surrounding Mbeya City. There are big Hospitals, Small Hospitals and some dispensary in most areas. It is very easy to spot some pharmacies in almost every area of the town.
Below are some of the List of Healthcare in Mbeya:
|Aga Khan Hospital
Post way North Street
P.O. Box 292
MbeyaTel: +255 (0)25 250 2043
|Baptist Hospital Laffon R.g. (Dr.)
Tell: 255 25 2502291
Below are some of the Pharmacy in Mbeya:
Maranatha Pharmacy Pharmacy
0653 771 400
Opens 8AM everyday
Babito Pharmacy Pharmacy
0787 376 808
Opens 8AM everyday
Kissa Pharmacy Ltd
0754 819 431
Opens 8AM everyday
For those with plenty of time, train travel offers a fine view of the countryside and local life. There are two lines: Tazara (www.tazarasite.com), linking Dar es Salaam with New Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia via Mbeya and Tunduma; and the Tanzania Railways Limited Central Line linking Dar es Salaam with Kigoma and Mwanza via Tabora. A Central Line branch also links Tabora with Mpanda, and Tazara runs the Udzungwa shuttle twice weekly between the Kilombero/Udzungwa area and Makambako.
In general, Tazara is more comfortable and efficient than the Central Line. However, both lines are currently in the process of upgrading, and there have already been notable improvements. Central Line now has a comfortable weekly deluxe service. If you want to try the train, consider shorter stretches, such as from Dar es Salaam into Selous Game Reserve, or between Tabora and Kigoma. For longer stretches, bring extra food and drinks to supplement the basic meals that are available on board.
Tazara runs two trains weekly between Dar es Salaam and Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia via Mbeya, departing Dar es Salaam at 3.50pm Friday (Mukuba, express) and 11 am Tuesday (Kilimanjaro, ordinary). Departures from Mbeya to Dar are at 2.30pm Wednesday (express) and 8.20pm Saturday (ordinary). Travel time between Dar and Mbeya is approximately 21/26 hours for express/ordinary. Express-train fares between Dar es Salaam and Mbeya are Tsh 47,200/39,200/36,300/33,300 for 1st-class sleeping/2nd-class sleeping/super seater/economy class (slightly less for ordinary trains). Linens are provided for sleeper cars.
Restaurant in Mbeya:
Maua Café & Tours
A brick homestead turned cafe serving big breakfasts, including granola and fresh coffee (Tsh 10,000); wraps, burgers and toasties for lunch (from Tsh5000); and pizza, fish and salads for dinner. Sit outside by the hibiscus bush on benches with bright fabric cushions. It has an excellent ethical craft shop and a small backyard campground (US$10), and owner Amelia organises a range of tours.
If you have your own transport, this spot, 20 km west of Mbeya, is the place to go for fine dining, with both a daily set menu and à la carte, and a bar. Speciality coffees (including to take home) are a feature. It also has a swimming pool and a pool table, meaning you can spend a good chunk of your day here.
If you’re missing Western culture, stop by this sleek place, stylishly hung with local fabrics, for smoothies, fresh juices, locally sourced gourmet coffees, great baking and other delicacies. It also sells a few crafts and Mbeya coffee beans. It’s a good place to connect with travellers and volunteers.
This popular hotel restaurant has a large menu featuring good Indian cuisine, including vegetarian selections and naan bread, plus Chinese and continental fare. Non-Indian meals tend to be on the heavy side (lots of extra oil), but portions are large and it remains one of the better dining options in the town centre.
This hotel restaurant serves a small selection of local-style dishes. It’s nothing special, but the food is decent, service is efficient and it offers a quiet place to sit in the town centre.
Attractions in Mbeya City:
Ngozi Crater Lake:
Ngozi Crater Lake is approx 38 kms South of Mbeya towards Tukuyu. At around 2.5km long x 1.5km wide and up to 300m deep it is the second largest caldera lake in Africa. It is situated in the Mporoto Ridge Forest Reserve, which extends to about 9200 hectares and is overlooked by the 2600m high Ngozi Peak.
We drive to the edge of the forest and then walk for approx two hours through dense montane forest to the crater rim, around 200 metres above the lake.Monkeys and many bird species can be seen in the forest which is also home to an endemic species of chameleon.
It is also said to be home to a giant serpent which lives deep in the caldera so have your cameras ready.
Local Village and home Stays:
Homestays are an ideal and unique way to experience rural Tanzanian life. We arrange for you to stay with a local family so you can at see at first hand a little glimpse of how the people in Mbeya region live their everyday lives.
We are currently reviewing the homestay opportunities we offer. Historically our homestays have been based around the Sisi Kwa Sisi farm which is currently not being worked. (We are hoping that the farm will be operating again in the next few months).
If you would like more information about homestays in Mbeya region please e-mail and we will be happy to send you more up-to-date information.
Around 75 kms East of Mbeya you turn off the Tanzam Highway and take the dirt road to Matamba, gateway to the Kitulo National Park. Kitulo was the first area in East Africa to be given National Park status because of its flora. It reaches elevations of around 8,500 feet and is surrounded by the rugged peaks of the Kipengere, Poroto and Livingstone Mountains. It is one of the most important montane grassland areas in Tanzania.
December and April are the best time to view the Park’s botanical splendour when you will see orchids, yellow-orange red hot poker and a variety of aloes, proteas, geraniums, giant lobelias, lilies and aster daisies, many unique to this part of Tanzania
Big game is scarce but visitors interested in birdlife will not be disappointed.
The sunnier months of September to November are the best time for hiking but less rewarding for botanists. It is also possible to hike from the plateau, across the Livingstone Mountains and down to Matema Beach on the shores of Lake Nyssa.
Ruaha National Park:
Quiet solitude in the African bush
Ruaha is several hours drive North from Mbeya but well worth the trip. It covers over 13,000 square kilometers and is Tanzania’s second largest park. The life-blood of the park is the Great Ruaha River which follows the eastern boundary of the park, whilst the seasonal Mwagusi River also provides excellent game viewing during the wetter months.
The Park’s elephant population is reckoned to be around 10,000 – the largest of any East African National Park. Ruaha also supports healthy populations of water buffalo, zebra, kudu, hippo and crocodile, plus around 450 species of birds.
Predators including leopard, cheetah, lion and hyena are commonly spotted on the open savannah. Few parks in African can combine such rich game viewing opportunities with the sense of peace and solitude that can be experienced in Ruaha.
Mbeya Peak and Rungwe Volcano:
We offer guided walks to the top of Mbeya Pea which is 2835m high. It usually takes about 3 hours to get to the summit.
Rungwe is an volcano which last erupted about a century ago and, at 2960m, is the highest peak in Southern Tanzania. It dominates the skyline around Tukuyu. It is a full day trip from Mbeya to reach the summit and back
A pleasant half day hike from Mbeya to the 2656m peak and back.
Mbeya (Songwe) Bat Caves
The bat caves are approximately 30 kms from Mbeya and extend deep into the limestone rocks – bring a torch. Seasonal bat colonies, incorporating six different bat species can be seen streaming out of the cave at dusk. There are also several natural hot springs lower down the valley and several lime kilns dotted around the area.
Located 65 kms South East of Mbeya, towards the Zambian border. It is the seventh largest meteorite in the world and weight approx 15 tonnes.
Kiwira natural bridge and Kijungu waterfalls
The “Bridge of God” (Daraja la Mungu) is just outside the town of Tukuyu, South of Mbeya. Nearby is the Kijungu waterfall.
Other attractions include Kaporogwe falls, the World’s End viewpoint looking out across the Usungu Flats, Loleza Peak, the market village of Masoko. The quite wilderness areas around Lake Rukwa to the North (the largest lake to lie entirely within Tanzania’s borders) have large concentrations of hippo, crocodile and bird life.
A beautiful spot on Lake Malawi
Matema Beach is approx 130 kms from Mbeya on the Northern tip of Lake Malawi, overlooked by the Livingstone mountains. The road from Mbeya takes you through high mountains, small villages, banana plantations and tea estates.
This is the closest thing to a resort on the Tanzanian shore of the Lake but not one that gets over-run by tourists. There are several choices of good clean accommodation. You can hire dugout canoes or kayaks, explore Pango Cave and see the wildlife around the swampy Lufirio River Mouth to the West of the town. Hiking in the Livingstone Mountains. The region is well known for its distinctive Kisi pottery which is sold throughout the area.
Heading further South
For the more intrepid traveler we can head down the Eastern side of Lake Malawi towards the Mozambique border to the quiet area around the village of Mbamba Bay. We can take the slow overland route to get here or the ferry down from the North. For those heading further South, the ferry travels onwards to Nkhata Bay in Malawi.
ONWARD TRAVEL FROM MBEYA:
Travel to Malawi
The Malawi border is approx 60 kms from Mbeya town. There are no scheduled bus services to the border and the Tazara train does not run to Malawi.
Sisi Kwa Sisi can provide you with a car and driver to take you directly to the Malawi border any day of the week.
Travel to Zambia
We can arrange a car and driver to take you to the Zambian border. Or we can book tickets for you on the Tazara train which leaves Mbeya for Kapiri Mposhi twice a week.
Travel to Mozambique
The Mozambique border is 180 kms from Mbeya. It is a long but rewarding journey. We can provide a car and driver for anyone wanting to travel on to Mozambique.
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