Jerry Mchechu, a Tanzanian photographer and content creator, took a leap of faith in 2017 and relocated from Dar es Salaam with his wife to the Magoroto Forest Estate, his mission was to create an eco-tourism project after he was impressed by the remoteness of the area, weather and the scenery.
“For a person coming from the city, the experience is truly different and amazing. Firstly, the calmness of the area and the deep nature is one thing one would immediately notice, suddenly the air is so fresh and weather is cooler than the city,” Jerry says.
Four years down the line, Magoroto Forest boasts a renovated farmhouse built in the 1940s, a lakeside campsite, several mountain hiking and biking trails, picnic sites, several horses and regular farm tours to the spice fields where cardamom, black pepper, vanilla and cloves flourish.
The tropical rain forest is shrouded in fog in the morning giving it a mystical feel while the sunsets are exceptional, which has led guests to dubbing it the “Bali” of Africa. The views and landscapes of surrounding areas, the hospitality of the local community and the uniqueness of the whole Magoroto experience make it a must-visit location in Tanzania.
History and Location of the Magoroto Forest
The 591-hectare Magoroto Forest Estate was opened in 1896 by German settlers as one of the first commercial plantations in Eastern Africa after failed attempts to grow tea and coffee. The region then became a palm oil producer in 1921.
After the end of World War 1 in 1918, the farm was seized from the German owners as ‘enemy property’ and the property was taken over by the Amboni Group in the 1940s. Palm oil production had to be stopped due to competition from Malaysia and Indonesia in the 90s.
Along with the neighbouring Milinga Forests, Magoroto forms part of the East Usambara Mountains which are known for their high species endemism and rich flora and fauna diversity. They have been recognized as part of a biodiversity hotspot by WWF and IUCN and an important bird area by the Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania.
The Magoroto Experience
Magoroto Forest has consistently pulled in travellers from across East Africa – fun-loving campers to drifters, bucketlisters, families wanting to connect with nature and social media aficionados in pursuit of the perfect Instagram photo.
In 2020, they had more than 6,000 guests. Jerry Mchechu attributes this rapid popularity to the guest experience offered, the location and social media.
“We offer nature and outdoor activities and we’re one of the most unique campsites located by the lakeside, in a deep forest and at the very top of the East Usambara Mountains. The lake is a man-made lake and was built in 1956 – that adds so much to the history and uniqueness of the destination.
“Our outdoor activities are curated in a way that doesn’t tire you so much but connects you deeply with nature. A hike to the viewpoint, waterfalls and evening sunset adds to an experience that is forever memorable. The entire experience leaves you connected to nature and your colleagues while disconnecting you from the digital world,” explains Jerry.
Social media, especially Instagram has played a key role in raising the profile of the location in the travel scene in Tanzania. Jerry and his team have been quite active in generating their own content and using the guest’s content to keep the conversations going on.
Osse Greca Sinare, a much-sought-after Tanzanian photographer with 10 years’ experience, transitioned from events to the tourism and travel genre four years ago. He’s a big fan of Magoroto Forest and has been blown away each time he visits.
“I am an introvert and prefer working around nature-based projects, being outdoors is my kind of thing and Magoroto Forest is such a fit for me. The location is surreal, unique and the drive up the mountain to the lake is one of the most amazing things you can experience. The location feels isolated and you basically go there to disconnect and be one with nature.
“The tents are right by the water and they have a lot of activities to keep you busy all day. Magoroto Forest’s focus was on the local market from the start and I applaud them because other people have been forced by the pandemic to recalibrate their business models and look inward,” says Osse.
Kenyan fashionista and content creator Silvia Njoki – who has captivated her audience with epic travels across the world – was drawn to Magoroto Forest after seeing her friend’s beautiful images.
“What drew me to Magoroto Forest was its unique campaign concept that integrates itself with nature and there are also many fun activities for children and my daughter enjoyed exploring the area. Falling in love with the foggy hills is easy and we will definitely be back,” says Sylvia Njoki.
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