Mahale Mountains National Park

Mahale Mountains National Park is far west off the heavily trafficked touristic routes. This fascinating park is situated along the shores of Lake Tanganyika and attracts visitors with white, sandy beaches and azure-blue water to swim in. Mahale is best characterized by its dramatic chain of lush forest mountains. Just as its neighboring park Gombe, Mahale offers up-close encounters with chimpanzees and balance between relaxation at the lake shore and wildlife viewing!

Main Facts

established in 1985 with a size of 1,613 km²

Best Time

all year around – best during dry season: June to October

Main Species of Primates

chimpanzee
angola and red colobus
blue, red-tailed, vervet monkey
anubis and olive baboon

Activities

bird watching
chimpanzee trekking
walking safari

Expectations

encounters with wild chimpanzees
incredible scenery with lush forest at the shores of Lake Tanganyika
a unique safari experience outside the vehicle
exclusive destination far away from the crowds

Further Details – Mahale Mountains National Park

Location and how to reach Mahale Mountains National Park…

Mahale Mountains National Park is remotely located in western Tanzania along the lake shores of Lake Tanganyika. The closest major town is Kigoma just 130 km north of the park. This national park can only be reached by boat. Scheduled flights from Dar es Salaam or Arusha operate twice a week to Mahale airstrip. The lodges within the park will arrange a boat transfer for their guests (boat ride of 2 hours). It is also possible to take an adventurous boat ride with the MV Liemba from Kigoma to the small village of Lagossa and from here another boat transfer to the park.

Chimpanzee trekking is Mahale’s main activity…

Mahale Mountains National Park, just as its neighbor Gombe, provides a refuge for the last free-living chimpanzees in Tanzania. The first research camp to study their behavior has been set up in 1965. It is estimated that today about 1000 chimpanzees in 20 families are living within the mountains and dense lush forest of Mahale. Further primates include yellow baboons, Angola and red colobus, blue monkeys and red-tailed meerkats.

The lodges within the park will arrange guided hikes through the park to track down the chimpanzees. These hikes vary between 30 minutes up to 3 hours. On some day’s you won’t have to walk far to see a group of chimpanzees, on other days the chimpanzees might be hiding deep in the forest and a demanding hike through the steep and slippery forest is necessary. A good walking condition is therefore a must! A sighting of the chimpanzees can not be guaranteed and chimpanzee trekking requires patience – a minimum stay of three nights is therefore recommended. The best time to visit is the dry season.

Local guides will head out in the morning to search for the chimpanzees. In order to determine their location, the guides will search for the chimpanzee’s dwellings of the previous night and follow fresh feces and eaten fruits left behind. Chimpanzee trekking is a magical and wild adventure and an impressive experience! Once found they usually sit tightly together cleaning each other; others will argue loud; and others will swing from tree to tree. Allowed is one trek per day and each stay with the chimpanzees is limited to one hour.

The chimpanzees of Mahale have been studied for the past fifty years. They are well used to human beings. Nevertheless, they are wild animals and it is important to avoid anything that antagonizes, challenges or threatens them. In order to protect the chimpanzees from diseases, all visitors must wear a surgical mask provided by the lodges.

Which travelers will particularly enjoy Mahale Mountains National Park?

  • travelers who want to spot free-living chimpanzees in the wilderness
  • travelers who want to experience an untouched flora and fauna with little human intervention
  • travelers who prefer an exclusive and luxury camp experience
  • travelers with a high traveler budget

Important considerations for a Mahale visit…

  • not for low-budget travelers as flights, park entrance fees and accommodations are expensive with no budget alternatives
  • not for physical fit travelers as the chimpanzee trekking through the dense forest requires a good hiking condition
  • not for sick travelers as you will be prohibited to join the chimpanzee trekking in order to protect the chimpanzee population