Mahale Mountains National Park
Location and Getting There
Mahale, in western Tanzania, borders Lake Tanganyika and is 623 sq. miles. Visitors can arrive via a charter flight from Arusha, Dar or Kigoma or charter a private or national park motorboat from Kigoma, taking three to four hours. There is also a weekly steamer from Kigoma, taking seven hours, then hire a local fishing boat or arrange with park headquarters for pickup by park boat, taking another 1-2 hours.
1005 sq miles (1,615 Kms²) of which 59 miles (96 Kms²) is part of Lake Tanganyika
Wildlife and Natural Highlights
Set deep in the heart of the African interior and inaccessible by road is a scene reminiscent of an Indian Ocean island beach idyll. Silky white coves hem in the azure waters of Lake Tanganyika. These lakeshores are overshadowed by the Mahale Mountains, a remote and mysterious chain of jungle-draped peaks towering 3,000 feet above.
The Mahale Mountains are home to some of Africa’s last remaining wild chimpanzees (only 60 individuals). Tracking the chimps of Mahale is a magical experience. Guides can pick out the previous nights nests, appearing as shadowy clumps high in the trees. Scraps of half-eaten fruit and fresh dung become valuable clues, leading deeper into the forest. Butterflies flit in the dappled sunlight. Suddenly, in their midst, chimpanzees can be found preening each other’s glossy coats in concentrated huddles, squabbling noisily, or swinging effortlessly between the vines. While chimpanzees are the star attraction, the slopes support a diverse forest fauna, including readily observed troops of red colobus, red-tailed and blue monkeys, and a kaleidoscopic array of colorful forest birds.
Visitors should plan a minimum of two days at Mahale. Favorite activities include chimp hiking through mountain rainforest, home to species of Angola colobus monkey and see high grassy ridges checkered with alpine bamboo. Guests can snorkel and bathe in the clear waters of the world’s longest, second-deepest and least-polluted freshwater lake, Lake Tanganyika that harbors an estimated 1,000 fish species.
The best time to visit Mahale is the dry season (June – October) for forest walks, although there are no problem in the light rains of November-December.