Western Circuit

Mahale Mountains National Park

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Mahale Mountains National Park


The park is Tanzania’s most remote and most alluring park. It is first and foremost a chimpanzee sanctuary with about 1,700 chimpanzees within its 1,513 sq km (940 sq mile) area, but the focal point for visitors is the 60 strong Mimikere, or ‘M’ group, which has been the subject of research for more than four decades.

Prepare yourself for some sweaty, steep climbing through often dense vegetation. You may not spot any chimps on your first try, but it is rare to spend two or three days in the park without seeing one.

During the wet season, November to May, chimpanzees spend much of their time in the trees and can be difficult to find. During the rains from March through May, the trails become unpleasantly muddy. In the dry season, June to October, the undergrowth is less dense and the chimps frequently come down near the main lodge area to feed.

When not chimp tracking, Lake Tanganyika beckons you for snorkeling, kayaking, and hippo and crocodile spotting expeditions. The forest around the main lodge area is full of birds, with guinea fowl, hornbills, kingfishers, and many other species all waiting to be seen on short walks. In the evening you’ll want to watch the magical setting of the sun over the Congo Mountains in the distance and the tiny lights flickering from fishing boats across the lake.

For anyone with more time and energy, the brooding peak of 2,462 m high Mount Nkungwe awaits for a fine adventure. Depending on the time of year, you may need to hack your way through high grass and brush for part of the climb, but you will be rewarded with a marvelous sensation of remoteness and tranquility.

Elephants, giraffes, and even lions wander around the slopes of the mountain, and although these encounters are rare, it is essential to be accompanied by an armed guide. More common are roan and sable antelopes, porcupines, and the ubiquitous warthog. Allow two days to climb up and one day to return.

Tourist attractions

  • The Chimpanzees
  • Mahale Mountain Range
  • Forest fauna and flora
  • Lake Tanganyika Beach
  • Local fishermen
  • Sun set on the Lake horizon

What to do

  • Chimp tracking
  • Hiking to Mt. Nkungwe
  • Camping safaris
  • Snorkeling
  • Sports fishing
  • Water sports activities

Best time to visit the park

The dry season; May to October. Of course, if you are coming to visit the chimps, the best time to visit the park is from July to October, the dry season. It is when the chimps favor the lower slopes of the mountains. You do, however, have a reasonable chance of seeing these marvelous creatures any time of the year if you have two to three days available to spend in the park.

Bird watchers, on the other hand, will want to visit the park between November and April, when more than 355 indigenous and migrant bird’s names have been recorded, however, it is thought that there may be more than 500 species in MaHale’s many environments. At this time, you can also appreciate over 300 butterfly species, over a thousand plants, over 400 varied species of tropical fishes, and other colorful sea life.