Mahale Mountains National Park
Mahale Mountains National Park lies on the eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika in the Kigoma Region of western Tanzania. Extremely remote, and somewhat hard to access, this reserve is one of the most magical places in Africa and one of the best places in the world for Chimpanzee Safaris.
Named after the Mahale Mountains range that is within its borders, the Mahale Mountains National Park has several unusual characteristics. Firstly, it is one of only a few protected areas for Chimpanzees in Tanzania. Another is the nearby Gombe Stream National Park made famous by the researcher Jane Goodall. The Chimpanzee population in Mahale Mountains National Park is the largest known, and due to its size and remoteness, the Chimpanzees flourish here. It is also one of the few places where Chimpanzees, Lion and Leopard co-exist, although the latter predators are very rarely seen in the Mahale Mountains National Park. Another unusual feature of the Park is that it is one of the very few in Africa that must be experienced by foot. There are no roads nor other infrastructure within the Park boundaries, and the only way in and out of the Park is via boat from Lake Tanganyika.
Within the Park can be found Tanzania’s densest population of primates: yellow baboon, red colobus, blue and red-tailed monkeys, vervets and over a thousand Chimpanzees. One Chimpanzee troop has been habituated by researchers here since 1965, and the few hundred visitors a year to this Park are almost certainly guaranteed to be able to find and spend time with them under the forest canopy.
The Tanganyika lakefront within the Park offers powdery white sand beaches, boat cruises, fishing and snorkelling, and scuba diving is also available to explore the crystal clear waters of the lake and its spectacular array of unique fish species.
The best time to visit is between July and October when the hiking is easy and the Chimpanzees favour the lower slopes of the Park. During the rainy season, the tracks are more challenging, and the chimps tend to be harder to find, but the explosion of butterflies and thundering waterfalls make the rainy season a worthwhile undertaking for some.
Katavi National Park is often combined with Mahale Mountains National Park due to its proximity and similarly remote and un-crowded exclusive character. Katavi has large numbers of lion, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, hippo, leopard, hyena, zebra and roan antelope amongst other plains game.
Due to the remoteness and exclusive nature of these areas, safari costs are higher than other parts of Tanzania but the upside of being one of only a few hundred people a year to experience these areas cannot be overstated. Accommodation options are fairly limited but tend to the high-end market, in line with the exclusivity of the reserves, maintaining a high cost/low impact form of tourism in the pristine natural environment that this very special part of Africa offers the discerning safari client.