Pugu Reserve Explored
Pugu hills… situated only a few miles out of town the hills have claim to being one of the most peaceful natural environments in Dar region. The hills near Kisarawe are covered with one of the oldest forests in the world. The biodiversity is unique and part of the vegetation is said to have medicinal importance. That’s why one can find amateur botanists and scientists from the University of Dar es Salaam in the hills. The area is a habitat of more than 80 species of birds, some of them can only be found here. Monkeys,
snakes, bush pigs and elephant-shrews also feel at home in the dense forest.
The main lounge of Pugu Hills Restaurant
If you are lucky you can even find more. Unfortunately, but as often in these cases, it has been much better then now.
More of the unique vegetation formed the scenery for a much more varying wildlife. In 1954 already however, one realised that preservation was of importance and the forest was declared Forest Reserve. It helped a bit, but still now the forest suffers from illegal cutting for building material and charcoal and once in a while acres get lost because
farmers carelessly burn their shamba’s bare, including some of the exceptional vegetation.
You can also contribute to preservation of this area, not by just putting some money in an envelope, but by enjoying it yourself; you can use the hills for an escape out of polluted and busy Dar es Salaam by hiking through the Reserve.
The Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania and the Kisarawe District Authorities have established a Nature Trail and there are more to follow. If you are interested in the Nature Trail, you can contact the Wildlife Conservation Society (Garden Avenue, off Ohio Street, tel. 112496) for a brochure with a map and a full description of the hike. The currently organised hike starts from Kisarawe.
Another and somewhat more luxurious possibility is to use the Pugu Hills restaurant as a base. The restaurant, magnificently located on the south-eastern slopes of the hills, is set up to gain interest for the forest, hopefully resulting in preservation for the future. From the restaurant a few hikes can be done. Through narrow stretches, sometimes only passable by pushing twigs and high grass aside, the visitor can find a Water Reservoir, explore a Holy Cave or reach a view point, from where the Dar es Salaam city centre and the tall ships waiting for access to the harbour can be seen. The management of the restaurant will explain you how to reach the various goals.
But, to be honest, it is not so easy to decide to leave the restaurant for a hike. It must be one of the most relaxing places in Tanzania. Although the menu does not give you much choice, the food is usually delicious. Purposely there is no variety given on the menu, to give the one and only meal a lot of attention. Fresh juices made out of the fruit from
the valley below extend the usual provision of beer, soda’s, coffee and wine. Under an impressive structure of enormous bamboo poles everyone finds his own place to relax, chat, read, drink, eat or play a game. No need to say that the place is actually much more than a restaurant, it is a place to feel at home and do what you want. In the hot and humid climate we all know so well, there will hardly be another non air-conditioned space which feels cooler than here. And if it is still too much, or if you come back from one of the hikes which will definitely heat you up, you can cool down in the swimming pool, a few steps down the terrace overlooking the valley. This extraordinary view is not only reserved for the terrace, the welcoming water will absolutely be in the top of the list for the Pool with the Best View of East Africa. For while you lounge in the water you can look down into the peaceful green valley dotted here and there with farmsteads amongst the abundant coconut and banana groves.
If you find it difficult to leave, there are also facilities to camp around the restaurant. A few carefully chosen spots have been made clear, each with privacy and an attractive view. On the bottom of the hills a playground is provided where football and other sporty activities can be exercised.
Visiting the restaurant will not be a rip-off, but you can conclude that it is mainly reserved for the somewhat better situated between us. A small entry fee of 1000 Tsh. is asked per person, the drinks are modestly priced, a plate of chips costs you also 1000 Tsh., but for the meal will be charged 5000 Tsh. If you want to camp you have to bring your own equipment and camping will not be cheap either. It is understandable that you can’t make it cheaper by bringing your own food, this will not be allowed.
This little paradise might be close to Dar, it is not very easy to find. Coming from the city centre it is no surprise that you have to follow Nyerere Road, formerly known as Pugu Road. Past the International Airport you have to turn right.
This road, passing Majumbasita, Banana and Pugu Secondary School, leads you over a very nice road to the Agip Station. From there you can go straight over the dirt road to Kisarawe. For the Pugu Hills restaurant however, turn left and follow the tarmac road for about 1 km. Turn to the right onto a narrow and sandy stretch, if you missed this you will come to the railway track of TAZARA, you have to turn around and try again. A few 100 meters further you again have to turn right. Via this dirt road over steep slopes and through a little settlement you will finally reach the restaurant. A dalladalla can drop you at the turnoff from the tarmac, the restaurant is 20 minutes walking distance from that point.
If you want to have more information on the Nature Trail you can contact the Wildlife Conservation Society (Garden Avenue, off Ohio Street, tel. 112496). For Puguu Hill restaurant you can contact 0812 - 780 735 or fax to 051 - 112 434. The restaurant is only open at weekends and public holidays. On other days arrangements can be made but you need to contact the management in advance.
Save you some long and tiresome trips, just nip over to Pugu for complete relaxation!