Mahale National Park

Mahale National Park is located on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika. It was named after the Mahale mountain range that borders it.

The Mahale Mountains National Park was established in 1985 to protect the region’s thousands of chimps. Mahale National Park is home to Tanzania’s densest primate population.

Around 1,000 chimps live in the 1,650-square-kilometer national park. Other primates include the yellow baboon, red colobus, blue, red-tailed, and vervet monkeys.

The park’s habitats include rainforest, grasslands, alpine bamboo, and woodlands. Over 50 animal species have been recorded in the park, and over 90 distinct fish species swim in the lake’s clear waters. Within the park’s boundaries, there are no roads or other infrastructure. The only way in and out is by lake boat.

Areas of Interest in Mahale N.P

1. Mahale’s chimpanzees

The chimps in Mahale number in the thousands. Since 1965, researchers have habituated to the Mimikire clan. It currently has 56 chimps. They are relaxed near people so they can be tracked and observed up close.

Walking safaris are conducted to see and observe these animals in their natural environment. To protect both the environment and the chimps, these interactions are strictly regulated.

2. Other wildlife

Many other animals can be found in Mahale’s forests. These include the Colobus monkey, squirrel, porcupine, and mongoose.

The eastern slopes of Mahale habour elephant, lion, wild dog, roan antelope, buffalo, and giraffe populations. A variety of fish swims in the lake, including several species that are endemic to Tanganyika.

3. Lake Tanganyika

Lake Tanganyika is the world’s second-largest lake by volume and the world’s second-deepest lake. More than 80 non-cichlid fish species, 250 cichlid fish species, Nile crocodiles, Zambian hinged terrapins, serrated hinged terrapins, pan hinged terrapins, and Storm’s water cobras live in Lake Tanganyika.

Things to do in Mahale Mountain National Park

1. Chimpanzee trekking

Trekking chimps is a popular activity in Mahale National Park. It requires following forest trails in search of a chimp family. Other primates are seen while trekking includes vervet monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, yellow baboons, plant species, and birds.

You are allowed to spend an hour with the chimps in their natural habitat once they are discovered. You will be able to learn more about their habits and behaviors. You will also observe them as they go about their daily activities like feeding and hunting.

2. Visit Lake Tanganyika

The park is located on the banks of Lake Tanganyika. Lake Tanganyika is the world’s second-largest freshwater lake. Kayaking, scuba diving, boat rides, sport fishing, snorkeling, and swimming are among the activities available at the lake.

3. Forest walks

The Mahale Mountains National Park’s forest walks are quite rewarding, with incredible attractions. Forest walks are accompanied by chimp hooting calls and the melodic voices of many bird species.

4. Hiking

Mahale Mountains National Park offers the opportunity to climb Mount Nkungwe. It is also a spiritual site for the Tongwe people, who once lived on the mountain. Hiking Nkungwe takes 2-3 days, with en route camping and an armed park ranger.

5. Bird watching

Over 350 bird species can be found in the park. These include African fish eagles, giant kingfishers, crested guide fowl, Russ’s Turaco, and many others. Between November and April is the best time to see these birds. This is the time of year when resident birds are in breeding plumage and migratory birds visit the park.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit is during the long dry season. It lasts from July to October when the chimps congregate in larger groups and are closer to the shore. The sun shines on the fish in the lake and the beach is a welcoming place to unwind.

Getting to Mahale N.P

By air- Scheduled flights from Arusha and Dar es Salaam (three to five hours) to the Mahale Airstrip are available. Charter flights are also available.

By car, It takes two to three days to drive from Arusha to Kigoma. The roads are rough and can become impassable during heavy rains.

By boat- There are speedboats (about 5 hours) and timber boats (up to 15 hours) from Kigoma to Mahale. The MV Liemba, a large steamship, travels twice a week from Kigoma (10 hours).

Where to stay

The Mahale Mountains National Park offers a variety of lodging options. They are well-equipped and divided into tented camps, bandas, and lodges.

They are mostly located on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and offer stunning views of the lake.