On the eastern side of Zanzibar island, 20 km away from the capital city of Zanzibar, a large protected area rises between the beaches of Kiwengwa and Uroa. Some call it the “Kiwengwa-Uroa Forest” but its real name is Kiwengwa-Pongwe Forest Reserve. This is a very important place as for biodiversity and the study of flora and fauna of Zanzibar. First of all, the forest rises on coral rag rocks, a very ancient limestone derived from dead corals dating million years ago. These rocks were exploited in order to extract timber, this is why since 1970s they are protected by law. A visit to Kiwengwa-Pongwe Forest is another nice way to experience the island of Zanzibar, its relaxing views and interesting natural history. Do not miss it!
About Kiwengwa Forest
This forest is very important for the geological aspect – because of the coral rag rocks, but also for being a sanctuary for over 45 species of birds. Among them you can find: Zanzibar Sombre Greenbuls, Fischer’s Turaco birds, white-browed coucals and crowned hornbills. As for the local mammals there are many monkeys (blue monkeys, red colobus…), antelopes and Aders’ duikers too. Snakes are also common inhabitants of this forest, so you better be careful as you walk. Always explore the forest with a local guide.
Over 100 species of plants make the forest what it is. A large part of them are medicine plants still in use in the Zanzibar culture, and also in the Tanzanian one. The fertile soil all around the forest is good especially for spices plantations. Zanzibar in fact is famous in the world for spices trading. More to see at Kiwengwa Forest: the beautiful and mysterious caves! They are almost hidden by the vegetation and, inside, show both rocky stalactites and stalagmites shaped by water dropping and time.
Kiwengwa and its territory
There are 15 villages and small towns in the territory around the forest. The local people can – in part – exploit the natural reserve for their living, but respecting strict rules. One of the villages, Mchekeni, hosts a cultural centre where young people learn about alternative ways of cultivate the land, so as not to damage the forest.
The most important places of the reserve are Kiwengwa – a famous tourist beach with hotels and small villages of fishermen along the coast – and the stunning beach of Uroa. This is also a fishermen place, but the bright white sand and sky-blue sea make it the favourite beach for tourists too. A coastal road connects Uroa with Kiwengwa, and both beaches – with the forest as well – are very close to the Zanzibar International Airport (30 minutes drive). So many tourists go directly to this coast, as soon as they land on the island.
Between Kiwengwa and Uroa you can visit the village of Pongwe. It is also famous for the wonderful beaches but you must visit its tropical gardens. You will have the chance to taste some good local food – especially fish! – at the nice restaurants for tourists.