Why Travel Here?
Like Gombe Stream National Park, Mahale is also home to some of the last remaining strongholds of chimpanzees in Africa. In isolated rainforest some 1 000 of these fascinating primates roam the hills and valleys. A trip to see the chimpanzees is a magical experience as your guide leads you deep in the forest, indicating last night’s nests, scraps of half-eaten fruit and fresh dung. Suddenly you are amongst a family of them – preening each other’s glossy coats in concentrated huddles, squabbling noisily or bounding and swinging effortlessly through the trees and vines.
Mahale Mountains National Park lies 120 kilometres south of Kigoma at Ujiji on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. The Park is halfway up Lake Tanganyika and south of Gombe Stream National Park. Mahale Mountains National Park covers an area of 1,613 square kilometres.
The chimpanzee population of the Park is estimated at a staggering 1,000 and can be seen in groups of five upto thirty. Other primates found in the Park are baboons and Colobus monkeys; and other animal species include elephant, buffalo, lion, giraffe, bushpig, and porcupine. Large numbers of bird species include African snipe, green sand piper, and the crested lark. Lake Tanganyika is home to some 250 species of fish in its clear waters.
The Mahale Mountain chain runs from the northwest across the middle of the Park. The highest peak is Mt Nkungwe at 2,460 m. This is the highest of 6 prominent points that make up the Mahale mountain range which runs along Lake Tanganyika. The vegetation is mainly miombo woodland with narrow strips of riverine forest, some grasslands and some alpine bamboo.
The dry season is from May to October and is the best time to visit and for forest walks. However the short rains in November –December do not impose a problem for visiting. Please note though that the tented camps are only open in the dry season.
For chimpanzee tracking you should allow yourselves at least 2 days, as the chimps are not always easy to locate. Climbing, walking safaris, photography, fishing, bird watching and snorkelling are the other activities on offer.
One can charter aircraft from Dar es Salaam, Arusha or Kigoma - the Park has an airstrip for light aircraft. A recent charter circuit incorporates Mahale, Katavi and Gombe Stream National Parks.
Large boats (such as the MV Liemba and Mwongozo) from Kigoma to Zambia stop at Mugambo, at the north boundary of the Park. This takes about 7 hours form Kigoma. Each ship makes the journey once a week and returns from Zambia after two days. From Mugambo one can hire a small boat to take you to the Park headquarters, about 2 hours further south. Journeys by smaller charter boats from Kigoma can take up to 16 hours so one has to be prepared to eat and sleep on board.