Hiking, Trails and Routes

ID #3257

Jozani Forest Nature Trails, Zanzibar, Tanzania, Central Africa.

Jozani is the largest area of mature forest left on the island.  It lies in a shallow trough in the fossil coral bedrock between Chwaka and Uzi Bays.  Seasonal flooding and a high water table have given rise to a unique “swamp forest”.   On the high ground on either side is dry “coral forest” and grassland.   With mangrove forests and salt marshes in the north and south, the area is a rich mosaic of Zanzibar’s diverse natural habitats and a haven for much wildlife, including many rare, endangered and endemic species.  Jozani is the core of Zanzibar’s premier terrestrial protected area, the Jozani-Chwaka Bay Conservation Area that is now under development.

Formerly utilised by villagers according to customary patterns of land use, tree felling started on a large scale in the 1930's when a sawmill was established. The government purchased the land in 1948 and initiated a replanting programme that lasted until the 1980’s.  Felling was stopped in 1965 and more land has gradually become part of the reserve.  Despite the harvesting, Jozani retains much of its original character.  The objective is to protect the wildlife by conserving the forest and by restoring impacted areas to their original state.

The trail takes about one hour to complete at a leisurely pace, and includes the following noteworthy features:

o    Red Mahogany Trees: Called Mitondoo in Swahili. The immature fruit is eaten by Red Colobus monkeys, which are unable to digest sugary foods.  Syke’s monkeys eat the ripe fruits.   The trees are highly valued for the construction of dhows.  Some believe the red mahogany was introduced in the recent past.  Others however point out that the trees are found on other islands in the Indian Ocean and that the seeds float in seawater.
o    Undisturbed Area of Forest: It is marked by permanently wet soil and low light intensity.  Large leaves capture what little light does filter through the canopy.  The Oil Palm (Elaeis guineensis known locally as Mchikichi) is one of the most economically-important trees in Africa.  The seeds yield cooking oil and the leaf fibres are woven into the ropes used in fishing and antelope hunting nets. Syke’s monkeys, Red Colobus, bushpig and African civet eat its seeds. 
o    Pandanus Tree: (Pandanus rabaiensis known locally as the Mkadi Tree) produces prop roots that support the heavy plants and allow the roots to obtain oxygen when the are is flooded.  The distinctive roots give its tree the other English name – the Walking Palm.  There are two types – one on the seashore and one in the forest. The forest variety is very rare.
o    Red Mahogany Tree: The tree has fallen over. The soil of the forest is shallow and the roots cannot penetrate deeply.  During Msika, the long rainy season, the forest floods and many of the larger trees fall over.  This creates small pools that play a vital role in the reproductive cycles of insects and frogs.   The forest also has few large trees and there are many gaps in the canopy, allowing new trees to get the light they need to grow.
o    Fig Trees: What may appear to be a single tree is in fact two type of fig locked in a life and death struggle.  Strangler figs start out as minuscule seeds dropped into the crotch of a Sycamore fig by a passing bird or monkey.  This is one example of how crucial animals are to the dispersal of seed from some types of tree.  The Strangler fig always wins the battle, its aerial roots merging together to form a fluted trunk that envelops its host.  The Sycamore eventually wastes away. Cut open the fruit of the Sycamore –notice its similarity to the fruit of the well-known Mediterranean fig, a relative of both the Sycamore and the Strangler.
o    Raffia Palm:  (Raphia farinfera or Mwale). It is one of five in the forest, along with the areca, coconut, wild date and oil palm.  Its long chains of pinecone-like fruits  -- longer than a person is tall – are the culmination of its life’s work.  Once produced the tree dies.  Boasting the world’ biggest leaf, the fibres are used to make birdcages and the thread that binds together baskets and mats.   The immense midrib is used to make ladders and ice-cream sticks. Lookout for the Wild Date palm (Phoenix reclinata or Ukindu) nearby.  The tough fibres are woven into mats, baskets and sunhats.  The fruits are edible.
o    Sycamore Fig: Notice the Sycamore fig with its finlike roots.  Like the buttresses on some European cathedrals, they support the long trunk in the shallow soil.
o    Woody Lianas (Todalia sp.) twist around a fig tree as they climb to reach the light.  They are typical of tropical forest but have been little studied.  They are often economically important (e.g. Asian rattan).  They illustrate how ignorant we are about these complex forests.
o    Red Mahogany: Known affectionately as Mama Mtondoo, it is thought to be over 200 years old.  Such huge trees are rare in the forest. Ferns and fig saplings have taken up residence but they are not parasites.  Nestled around its broad base are Bracket fungi.
o    Whistling Pine (Casuarina equisetifolia or Mvinje) planted in the 1980’s when a fire cleared the area.  They are not indigenous but have been introduced because they are fast growing and produce useful wood.   Walk through the coral scrub thicket, characterised by small trees, hardy scrub and dry soil.
o    Ferns (Pteridium spp) thrive along the sides of the logging track where the trees are sufficiently sparse to allow some light through the canopy.  The umbrella-like fronds are so effective at capturing the light that no other plants can grow in areas where ferns predominate.

There are several observations worth mentioning:

o    Look for small angled holes in the ground.  These are the homes of freshwater crabs, among the more unusual of the forest floor’s denizens.
o    Jozani is a wetland as well as a forest.   It is transformed into a vast wooded freshwater lake during the rains, which merges into a brackish swamp close to the sea.  Brave the water and wade through this magical forest of reflections.  Dragonflies, water beetles, water boatmen, pond skaters, snails and schools of fat tadpoles take over as the terrestrial animals evacuate to higher ground.
o    Often tiny black and gold speckled frogs leap across the path. Small black snakes, which prey on the young frogs, conceal themselves under the leaves.  Be careful, some of the snakes in the forest are poisonous.
o    Lookout for piles of African civet dung.  The droppings may contain mouse fur or orange-coloured Oil palm seeds, which eventually germinate to form small clumps of seedlings.  The civet is a relative of the mongoose, and both are distant kin to dogs, cats, hyena (hyaena)s, bears and other carnivores.
o    The birds usually skulk in the undergrowth, flit through the shade or lose themselves in the canopy.  Listen carefully, you may hear the chattering of the Little Greenbul, the melodic song of the Olive sunbird, or the calls of the Crowned hornbill.  43 species have been spotted. Some are migratory while others are endemic.  The East Coast Alcalat is a rare forest robin only recently discovered.  Fisher’s Tuaraco, cryptically-coloured but with bright red underwings, is an endemic subspecies. 
o    Watch out for bushpig trails that cross the track. In agricultural areas they damage crops and are hunted for this reason. Being Muslims, native Zanzibaris do not eat pigs.
o    Along with bacteria, toadstools, beetles and other decomposers, enormous millipedes and giant land snails break down the fallen leaves, transforming them into rich black humus.
o    Wild Cardamon (Afromomom augustifolia) grows along the path. Break off a small piece of this relative of the ginger plant and small it.
o    There are over 50 species of butterflies in Jozani, two of which are new discoveries.  Other creatures include sun squirrels, hyraxes, bushbabies, Adler’s duiker, giant elephant shrews, mongoose, geckos, skinks and chameleons.  The endangered Zanzibar leopard also makes use of the reserve, but their numbers are dwindling.
o    Both red colobus and Syke’s monkeys inhabit the forest. They share some food preferences and are often seen foraging together. BBJozani

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Last update: 2009-06-19 03:20
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.1

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