Sumbawanga is small and scruffy and not much of a tourist destination in itself, but it provides a great hub for beautiful day trips and overnights around the region, so it's well worth spending a couple of days here. It's large enough to have a solid variety of hotels, restaurants and shops, and is the last stocking-up spot for those headed north to Katavi National Park.
The surrounding Ufipa Plateau, which lies at an invigorating 2000m, is home to many important endemic plants. It has also been declared an 'Important Bird Area' by BirdLife International. The Mbizi Forest Reserve (US$10), a couple of hours’ walk from Sumbawanga, is a closer place to meet feathered friends.
Also nearby is the shallow Lake Rukwa, a birding paradise, which is accessed from many villages near its meandering shoreline. Ilanga, served by frequent 4WDs (Tsh5000, two hours) throughout the day, provides the easiest access.