Tanzania Southern Highlands – Ecology, Climate and More

Tanzania Southern Highlands – Ecology, Climate and More

The Southern Highlands is located in the southwestern part of Tanzania, to the north end of Lake Malawi. The Southern Highlands consist of Ruvuma, Njombe, Rukwa, Mbeya, and Songwe regions, which shears its borders with Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia. Mbeya is the biggest Urban city in the highlands.

Southern Highlands Tanzania Geography

The Southern Highlands consist of volcanic mountains and plateaus groups, such as Kitulo Plateau, Poroto Mountains, Umalila Mountains, Mount Rungwe, Mbeya Mountains, Kipengere Range, and Matengo Highlands. From the Northwest, you can find the Ufipa Plateau, between Lake Rukwa and Lake Tanganyika. The two limbs of the East African Rift Valley meet in the highlands, and the westward extension of the Rift continues in the valley of Lake Malawi. Separating the Southern Highlands from the Eastern Arc Mountains is the Makambako Gap, located to the northeast.

Mt. Orwe (2961 meters high) and Mt. Rungwe (2,960 meters high) in the Kipengere Range are the most heightened climax in the highlands. Other highest points in the region include the Poroto Mountains, and Mbeya (2826 m) in the Kipengere Range, Ngozi (2621 m), Loloza (2656 m), Ishinga (2688 m), Chaluhangi (2933 m), and Pungulomo (2273 m) in the Mbeya Mountains.

Both north and east slant of the Mbeya mountains and a portion east of the Ufipa plateau all empty their water into the lake Rukwa Basin. The Great Ruaha waterway is a bloodline of the Rufiji River, drains in the eastern slope of the Kipengere and Mbeya mountains. Streams flowing into Lake Malawi empties out the southern segment of the Southern Highlands. The Songwe Stream empty’s out in the south and west of the Umalila Mountains and separates Malawi and Tanzania.

The Kiwira Stream empties out the east slant of the Umalila Mountains, the western angle of Mount Rungwe, and the south slope of the Poroto Mountains. The Lufilyo Stream empties out the east slant of Mount Rungwe and the Livingstone Woodland in Kitulo National Park. With a small number of rivers descending the sharp western ridge of the Kipengere Range and the Matengo highlands to the west. The Ruhuhu Stream empty’s out both the south and north portions of the Kipengere Range and Matengo Highlands. The eastern slope of the Matengo Highlands empty’s out into the Ruvuma Stream.

Lake Ngozi in the Poroto Mountains
Lake Ngozi in the Poroto Mountains


At Ufipa Plateau, rainfall averages 823 mm, while on the Livingstone and Poroto mountains adjacent to Lake Malawi, the precipitation reaches 2,850 mm.

During the moist period, which runs from November to April, most rain falls, but the higher volume with experience of mists and light rainfall is seen in May and August, which are the dry seasons. The rainfall emerges from cumulative thunderstorms that builds over Lake Malawi, and the general wetness of the slopes facing the lake. The yearly temperatures range from 13 °C and 19 °C, making the Southern Highlands more chilled than the neighboring lowlands. With a regular increase in nighttime frosts felt between June and August.


The Southern Highlands are centered with more vegetation, such as the savannas, woodlands, grasslands, and forests. Miombo woodland and savanna prevail at a lower altitude. The mountains are a base for the Afromontane evergreen woodlands, shrublands, and forests at higher altitudes, which constitute part of the Southern Split montane, forest-grassland variegation, a large piece of land that extends into the hills of Malawi and Zambia nearby.

The Southern Highlands are host to several protected areas, such as Mpanga-Kipengere Game Reserve, Mount Rungwe Nature Forest Reserve, Kitulo National Park, and forest reserves.


In Tanzania, the A104 highway connects Mbeya with Dodoma, the capital of Tanzania, and reaches Tunduma on the Zambian border. Along the A104, the TAZARA railway runs parallel.

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