Mahale is probably the loveliest national park in Tanzania. On one side are the high mountains with thick forest and on the other side you have the beautiful crystal clear waters of Lake Tanganyika. And in the middle there are the deserted beautiful white sandy beaches. Simply paradise.
Like Gombe, Mahale is also famous for chimpanzees. However, Mahale is relatively bigger, wilder and houses more chimpanzees. Statistics indicate that there are more than 700 wild chimpanzees in different communities at Mahale. There is only one habituated group open for tourism and that is the Mimikere group. In size mahale is about 30 times bigger than Gombe occupying about 1,613sqkm.
Topographically the park is dominated by the Mahale range, which is a part of the rift valley escarpment that rises sharply from the lakeshore up to the highest peak in the range. There are 4 main vegetation zones characterizing Mahale; these are Miombo woodland, rainforest, savannah and montane grassland.
Concentration of Game
Chimpanzees and other species of primates such as yellow baboons, vervet monkeys, red tailed monkeys red and black/ white colobus, and blue monkeys are the main inhabitants of the forest. Other species include bushbaby, porcupine, giant squirrel, bush pigs and warthog. Leopards are also there but rarely seen. By boat one can also view Hippos and crocodiles found on the southern side of the park’s lakeshore along the lubulumbu river.
The eastern slopes of Mahale mountains support savannah and woodland species such as elephant, lion, African hunting dog, roan antelope, buffalo and giraffe, but this area is inaccessible.
There is also an interesting birdlife in Mahale with over 230 species recorded so far. Most prominent of these include: crowned eagle, scaly francolin, crested guinea-fowl, ross’s turaco, giant kingfisher, blue cheeked bee-eater, trumpeter hornbill, crested malimbe, and viellot’s black weaver. The forests of Mahale are the only place in Tanzania where the rare bamboo warbler and stuhlman’s starling have been recorded. The forests also support an endemic race of the globally threatened kungwe apalis.
Best time to visit
Mahale is open for tourists throughout the year but the dry season from May to October is the best period to visit.
Chimpanzees being the priority for most visitors, mornings start with an early track up the hills to the places where the chimpanzees last nested. Depending on the time of the year, tracking chimpanzees can take anything from an hour to 3 hours. And sometimes, especially during the rainy season, this tracking can be quite difficult due to the thick bush, rugged terrain and slippery paths.
Besides tracking chimpanzees and other primates in the park, one can also do some other worthwhile activities such as swimming, snorkeling, fishing, walking on the lakeshore, boating and visiting the nearby fishing villages.
The most convenient way to get to Mahale would be by flying. This can be done from Arusha or Kigoma. There is a small airstrip at the northern end of the park where light aircrafts can land. The other options include boat and ferry transfers from Kigoma.
Mahale being much bigger more expensive to reach than Gombe we would recommend at least 3 nights for optimum viewing.
Our Recommendations on Mahale Mountains National Park
Mahale is a worthwhile and enjoyable destination even without the chimpanzees. The beauty of the lake, the beaches and the thick, wild forest with the high peaks offer a rare retreat on the shores of the second deepest lake in the world. We would anytime recommend this beautiful park to those who have ample days in Tanzania and are looking for an off the beaten track place in the country. The chimpanzee is an extra bonus !
We would suggest you start with your normal northern or southern safari then come down to Mahale before ending with Zanzibar. This would work out well logistically.
Customized Itineraries are also available upon request.
Please contact us for a perfect, well-organized and affordable tour of this beautiful park.