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BEST FOR

CHIMPANZEES
Chimpanzee & sandy beaches, while hidden in the mountains - what a combination!
Our Rating of Mahale Mountains National Park
  • Remoteness 85% 85%
  • Family 25% 25%
  • Animal Viewing 80% 80%
  • Landscape 25% 25%
  • Flora 70% 70%
  • Birding 65% 65%
Sheltered from the Storm
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Mahale Mountains National Park

Two distinct features make Mahale Mountains National Park unique on the safari circuit. Firstly, it is, alongside Gombe National Park, home to heavily researched and habituated troops of chimpanzees. Second, it is the only place where chimpanzees and lions coexist.


Another unusual feature of the park is that it is one of the very few in Africa that must be experienced by foot.  Within the park there are no roads and the only access is via boat. As you can imagine the whole park is hilly and the main dominating feature is the Mahale Mountains. This mountain chain runs SE to NW through the park with it’s highest peak at 2,500 above sea level on mount Nkungwe. As the mountains fall into the lake they are surrounded by beautiful beaches of white sand.

The number one draw of the Mahale Mountains National park is to track the native chimpanzees. There are an estimated 800 chimpanzees roaming these parklands and whilst sometimes it can be difficult to trek these enchanting creatures, every step in the right direction is a fascinating reward. As you push through the canopies of fragrant trees with bright butterfly wings flitting past your face suddenly you are upon a family of chimpanzees. The little ones tumble around the ground whilst the adults sit back to back grooming each other, unaware of the human eyes watching. It truly is a stunning experience and one that will feed your memory forever and a day.

Yet despite the chimpanzees, the Mahale Mountains National Park has so much more to give. The rich slops are simply teeming with beautiful birds, exotic flora and decadent fauna. Blue monkeys swing through the low lying branches and red Columbus chatter to each other from the tree tops. Hippos and crocodiles wallow in the banks and schools of fish dance through the cool streams.

Sightings of the chimps in the Mahale Mountains National Park cannot be guaranteed, but it is  normal to see them on most days and you would be unlucky not spot them over the course of a few days. More usually, you’ll be able to sit and watch them foraging, grooming, tussling, bickering and taking care of their young. Sitting in the forest, watching chimpanzees getting on with their daily lives is an unforgettable animal encounter that makes the safaris in Mahale Mountains National Park one of the most unique and spectacular in Tanzania.

Our Top Tips For Mahale Mountains National Park
  • The Chimpanzees are the main attraction.
  • Chain of Mountains across the Mahale range offer exceptional hiking.
  • The park is much bigger than Gombe; the more famous chimp park next door.
  • Sandy beaches along Lake Tanganyika
  • Sun set on the Lake horizon
  • Very exclusive and doesn’t get crowdedThose seeking to embrace a high altitude adventure can climb the summit of Mount Nkungwe, along the slopes you can trek through the magnificent bush lands and step in the oversized footprints of elephants. 

Mahale Mountains National Park Flora & Fauna

The main attraction in Mahale Mountains National Park is its population of chimps. There are roughly 800 to 1, 000 chimps in the park, and about 60 of them are very habituated to people. Your guide will take you, on foot, along the forest trails to find them. Chimps aside, eight other primate species have been recorded and at least five are likely to be encountered on a visit. These are yellow baboon, red colobus, blue monkey, red-tailed monkey and vervet monkey.
However, the Eastern slopes of Mahale support savannah and woodland species such as elephant, lion, wild dog, roan antelope, buffalo and giraffe, but they are rarely seen by visitors. Warthogs also often walk around the camp area.
While no real study of Mahale Mountains National Park’s birdlife has been completed, around 230 species have been recorded. Most of them are forest birds, which are quite difficult to spot. This is especially true since walking in the forest unguided is not allowed and the guided walks are focused on chimpanzees, but migratory birds are present from November to April and native species can be seen along the way.

Mahale Mountains National Park Location

The Mahale Mountains National Park lies on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in the Kigoma Region of Tanzania. Named after the Mahale Mountain range within its borders, the park has several unusual characteristics.
Getting to Mahale Mountains National Park can be complex but it is well worth the travel. During the peak tourist season between June and October the three tour operators with camps in Mahale schedule regular flights between the park and Arusha town, where there is a very well service airport. Between October and March flights arrive and leave twice each week. Between March, April and the first half of May these camps close, meaning there are no scheduled flights.
However it is also possible for visitors to arrange their own charter flights. Tanzania has a large number of charter flight companies such as Air Excel, Northern Air and Regional Air. Private charters can be arranged from the major cities of Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, or Zanzibar to Kigoma and on toward Mahale’s airstrip.
From Arusha it takes 2 or 3 days to reach Kigoma by car, a 4X4 drive vehicle is required.
Trains from Dar es salaam leave 2-3 times a week for a three day and two nights journey.
From Kigoma, transport to Mahale by speedboats or timber boats from can be arranged with the Park or private operators in Kigoma. The speedboats take between 4 and 5 hours to reach the park while timber boats can take up to 15 hours or more. A large steamship – MV Liemba – leaves Kigoma twice a month [on Wednesday afternoon], carrying passengers and cargo the length of the Lake to Zambia. It makes numerous stops along the way, including one for Mahale, which is referred to as Lagosa (the old name) or famously known as Mgambo. MV Liemba takes around 10 hours to reach Lagosa-Mgambo from Kigoma, and it passes Mahale again on its return journey [either Sunday or Monday morning]
The dry season from May to October is the best time for tracking chimpanzees at Mahale Mountains National Park. At this time, the chimps tend to stay close to the lakeshore and are easier to find. The park stays open throughout the year but, in heavy rain, the trails might be difficult to walk
Mahale Mountains National Park Map

Mahale Mountains National Park

Primate's Playground
Chimpanzee & sandy beaches, while hidden in the mountains - what a combination!

BEST FOR

CHIMPANZEES

Our Rating of Mahale Mountains National Park
  • Remoteness 35% 35%
  • Family 75% 75%
  • Animal Viewing 75% 75%
  • Landscape 80% 80%
  • Flora 85% 85%
  • Birding 75% 75%

Our Rating Of Mahale Mountains National Park

%

Chimpanzee & sandy beaches, while hidden in the mountains - what a combination!

Mahale Mountains National Park

Chimpanzee & sandy beaches, while hidden in the mountains - what a combination!

BEST FOR

CHIMPANZEES

Primate’s Playground

  • Remoteness 35% 35%
  • Family 75% 75%
  • Animal Viewing 75% 75%
  • Landscape 80% 80%
  • Flora 85% 85%
  • Birding 75% 75%

Our Rating Of Mahale Mountains National Park

%

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Mahale Mountains National Park

Settled in the shadow of the mountains and with fertile greenery sprawling in every direction you can walk in awe through the tiny strip of the Gombe Stream National Park. The landscape is a condensed version of the Mahale Mountains National Park and this pristine little stretch is simply bursting with beauty. The grainy northern shores of Lake Tanganyika are a truly welcoming sight to soothe tired eyes and a beloved hot spot for those seeking to catch sight of chimpanzees. 

The terrain of Gombe Stream National Park is distinguished by steep valleys with forest vegetation ranging from grassland to alpine bamboo to tropical rainforest. This was the setting for the ground breaking research of Jane Goodall. With the support of renowned anthropologist Louis Leakey, Goodall set up a small research station in Gombe Stream National Park in hopes of learning more about the behaviour of our closest relative: the chimpanzee .In Gombe, she spent months tracking the elusive chimpanzee troops, particularly the Kasakela chimpanzee community, and observing their daily habits until she was slowly accepted by one troop and was allowed rare and intimate glimpses into chimpanzee society. Today Goodall uses the publicity from her research to advocate for chimpanzee welfare, the conservation of biodiversity, and general stewardship of the Earth. However, The matriarch Fifi, the last surviving member of the original community, only three-years old when Goodall first set foot in Gombe, is still regularly seen by visitors.

Indeed, walking through the ancient forests of Gombe Stream National Park, contact with your closest animal relative (the chimpanzee) is heralded by the ‘pant-hoot’ call that starts with one and then reigns in up to a dozen chimps calls, rising in volume, tempo, and pitch to a frenzied shrieking crescendo.

However, Gombe Stream’s high levels of diversity, other than chimps, make it an increasingly popular tourist destination. The most visible of Gombe’s other mammals are also primates. A troop of beachcomber olive baboons, under study since the 1960s, is exceptionally habituated, while red-tailed and red colobus monkeys – the latter regularly hunted by chimps – stick to the forest canopy.

A nice ornithological experience can be had as well with the park’s over 200 bird species ranging from the iconic fish eagle to the jewel-like Peter’s twinspots that hop tamely around the visitors’ centre.

After dusk, a dazzling night sky is complemented by the lanterns of hundreds of small wooden boats, bobbing on the lake like a sprawling city… a majestic sight that just about sums up the amazing Gombe Stream national Park.
However, the biodiversity of Gombe Stream National Park is primarily threatened by human encroachment as regional populations and farmlands grow. This makes the importance of income from safari tourism ever more important and also helps to provide infrastructure and space to the on-going research into our closest relatives that live in Gombe Stream National Park. The famous research carried out in Gombe led Jane Goodall to found the Jane Goodall Institute in 1977, as well as the youth-focused environmental group Roots & Shoots in 1991 which now has over 800 groups in nearly 90 countries around the world.

 

Our Top Tips For Mahale Mountains National Park
  • Close to Dar es Salaam and easily accessible.
  • A chance to come face to face with chimps, one of Africa’s big apes, including the last surviving member of Jane Goodall’s troop.
  • Pristine forest at the shore of Lake Tanganyika.
  • Watching wildlife on a hike is a nice change from vehicle safaris
  • Visit the site of Henry Stanley’s famous “Dr Livingstone I presume” at Ujiji near Kigoma.
  • Swim and snorkel in Lake Tanganyika with almost 100 kinds of colorful cichlid fish
  • The Gombe Stream National Park, whilst not as awe inspiring as the magnificent Mahale Mountains National Park, is still a spectacular sight to behold and will bring you closer to nature than you ever dreamed possible.
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Accommodation In Mahale Mountains National Park

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Accommodation In Mahale Mountains National Park

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Flora & Fauna In Mahale Mountains National Park
The main attraction in Gombe Stream National Park is its population of habituated chimps. There are about 100 chimps in the small park. Your guide will take you, on foot, along the forest trails to find them. Once found, you can observe them for one hour. If you are lucky, they’ll be feeding in the canopy, but often they are on the move and you will have to walk through the undergrowth at a remarkable speed to follow them. But they are a sight to behold.
Aside from the chimps, other primates are often encountered. A troop of olive baboons, under study since the 1960s, is exceptionally habituated, while red-tailed and red colobus monkeys – the latter regularly hunted by chimps – stick to the forest canopy.

For ornithologists and keen bird watchers, Gombe Stream National Park has about 200 bird species listed. Most of them are forest birds, which are quite difficult to spot. Particularly since walking in the forest unguided is not allowed and the guided walks are focused on chimpanzees. The lake shore is a good place to see fish eagles and palmnut vultures perched on the palm trees. Peter’s twinspot, a normally elusive forest bird, is quite tame and easily spotted in the camp. Migratory birds are present from November to April.

DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENTS YOU WILL EXPERIENCE

RAINFOREST

LAKE

 

Location Of Mahale Mountains National Park
Gombe Stream National Park is located in the Western Kigoma Region of Tanzania 20 km North of Kigoma City. Established in 1968, Gombe is the smallest national park in Tanzania, with only 52 square kilometers of forest running along the hills of the Eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika.

Gombe Stream National Park is not the easiest or cheapest place to get to. The only way to get there is by boat from Kigoma town. Depending on your itinerary, you might book your international flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) in Arusha town or Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) in Dar es Salaam. In most cases your tour operator will pick you up from the airport or, if not, you can take a taxi. Your tour operator will also book your ongoing domestic flight to Kigoma Airport (TKQ) and will charter a private motorboat to Gombe. The boat trip takes less than an hour.

Kigoma is also connected to Dar and Mwanza by a slow rail service, to Mwanza, Dar and Mbeya by rough dirt roads, and to Mpulungu in Zambia by a weekly ferry. From Kigoma itself, local lake-taxis take up to three hours to reach Gombe, or motorboats can be chartered, taking less than one hour.
The best time of year for getting to Gombe Stream National Park is between February and June, and November to mid-December when as the famous chimps do not roam as far in the wet season. In the wet season it might take 3 or 4 hours to locate the chimps. However, there are better photographic opportunities in the dry season between July and October and in late December.

Fun Facts About Mahale Mountains National Park

 Total Land Area

Elevation above sea level

Nearest Major City & Airport

When To Visit

25 sq km
About the same size as Bermuda

 
750 -1500m
About 300 stacked giraffes
KIGOMA About 20 km East By Boat Jan Feb March Apr May Jun
Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec

 

Fun Facts About Mahale Mountains National Park

 Total Land Area

52 sq km
About the same size as Bermuda

Elevation above sea level

7 -1500m
About 300 stacked giraffes

Nearest Major City & Airport

KIGOMA
About 20 km East By Boat

When To Visit

Jan Feb March Apr May Jun
Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec

 

Safaris In Mahale Mountains National Park

This is usually in a large vehicle with space for up to 8 guests.

  • Can decrease prices a lot especially for groups less than 3.
  • Great opportunity to meet other people from around the world.
  • You have separate rooms but the benefit of good company during transfers and meals.

View Shared Safaris

This is a private vehicle allowing you complete freedom.

  • You can decide on when you want to start & end your safari day.
  • Complete freedom – stop when & for how long you want.
  • Recommended for specialist photographers, honeymooners and families

View Private Safaris

Safaris In Mahale Mountains National Park

This is usually in a large vehicle with space for up to 8 guests.

  • Can decrease prices a lot especially for groups less than 3.
  • Great opportunity to meet other people from around the world.
  • You have separate rooms but the benefit of good company during transfers and meals.

View Shared Safaris

This is a private vehicle allowing you complete freedom.

  • You can decide on when you want to start & end your safari day.
  • Complete freedom – stop when & for how long you want.
  • Recommended for specialist photographers, honeymooners and families

View Private Safaris

Be Inspired To Visit Mahale Mountains National Park
What To Do In Mahale Mountains National Park

CHIMPANZEE TREKKING

HIKING

WATERSPORTS

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Chimps Of Mahale and Gombe

Chimps Of Mahale and Gombe

  These are some rules if visiting the chimps of Tanzania: When near the chimps, please remember to keep your voices low. This will also help...

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