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Mahale Mountains

Tanzania Safaris - Mahale Mountains
Tanzania Safaris - Mahale Chimpanzees

Mahale Mountains National Park is located in one of the most remote locations visited by Authentic Tanzania Safaris, on the western border with the Congo, against the dramatic shores of Lake Tanganyika. Accessible only by small aircraft, the park is the home of a large chimpanzee population that is habituated to human contact for Tanzania Safaris.

The chimpanzees that inhabit the forest directly behind the two permanent tented camps in the park are used to people although they are not tame. This means that finding them can take a gentle twenty minute hike on a good day but could also involve a climb to the upper reaches of the mountain and hiking through thick bush. Whilst this kind of walking safari through the forest is a fantastic experience in itself, Tanzania Safari visitors should be prepared for a challenging hike and a reasonable level of fitness is required.

However knowing this adds to the excitement of the whole walking safari and once the screeching of the chimps is heard, adrenaline pumps through your veins and if you are privileged enough to be able to spend time with these amazing primates in their natural habitat then you will have one of the most rewarding Tanzania safari experiences of your lifetime.

Tanzania Safaris - Mahale Mountains
Tanzania Safaris - Mahale Sunset

The location of the park makes the travel time from Dar or Arusha more than worthwhile. The mountains reach up from white sand beaches and clear blue waters of Lake Tanganyika which are home to a myriad of cyclids, and even hippo and crocodile. Watching the sunset over the distant shore of the Congo, sitting on the beach with the mountain backdrop you have the real sense of being in the heart of Africa on a real Tanzania Safari.

Set deep in the heart of the African interior, inaccessible by road and only 100km (60 miles) south of where Stanley uttered that immortal greeting "Doctor Livingstone, I presume", is a scene reminiscent of an Indian Ocean island beach idyll.

Silky white coves hem in the azure waters of Lake Tanganyika, overshadowed by a chain of wild, jungle-draped peaks towering almost 2km above the shore: the remote and mysterious Mahale Mountains. The area is also known as Nkungwe, after the park's largest mountain, held sacred by the local Tongwe people, and at 2,460 metres (8,069 ft) the highest of the six prominent points that make up the Mahale Range.  A stunning Tanzania Safari backdrop.

And while chimpanzees are the star attraction, the slopes support a diverse forest fauna, including readily observed troops of red colobus, red-tailed and blue monkeys, and a kaleidoscopic array of colourful forest birds that are a must for any intrepid walking safari enthusiast. You can trace the Tongwe people's ancient pilgrimage to the mountain spirits, hiking through the montane rainforest belt – home to an endemic race of Angola colobus monkey - to high grassy ridges chequered with alpine bamboo. Then bathe in the impossibly clear waters of the world’s longest, second-deepest and least-polluted freshwater lake – harbouring an estimated 1,000 fish species - before the Authentic Tanzania Safaris team return you to camp, as you came, by boat, on this Tanzania Safari.

Tanzania Safaris - Mahale Mountains
Tanzania Safaris - Mahale Mountains

Fast Facts - Mahale Mountains National Park

About Mahale Mountains National Park

Size: 1,613 sq km (623 sq miles).
Location: Western Tanzania, bordering Lake Tanganyika.

Getting there

Charter flight from Arusha, Dar or Kigoma.
Charter private or national park motorboat from Kigoma, three to four hours.
Weekly steamer from Kigoma, seven hours, then hire a local fishing boat or arrange with park HQ for pickup in park boat, another one or two hours.

What to do

Chimp tracking (allow two days); walking safaris; camping safaris; snorkelling; fish for your dinner.

When to go

Dry season (May to October) best for forest walks although no problem in the light rains of October and November.