Mountains, like its northerly neighbour Gombe Stream, is home to
some of Africa’s last remaining wild chimpanzees: a population of
roughly 800, habituated to human visitors by a Japanese research
project founded in the 1960s. Tracking the chimps of Mahale is a
magical experience. The guide's eyes pick out last night's nests -
shadowy clumps high in a gallery of trees crowding the sky. Scraps
of half-eaten fruit and fresh dung become valuable clues, leading
deeper into the forest. Butterflies flit in the dappled sunlight.
Then suddenly you are in their midst: preening each other's glossy
coats in concentrated huddles, squabbling noisily, or bounding into
the trees to swing effortlessly between the vines.
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
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.
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 returning as you came, by boat.
About Mahale Mountains National Park
Size: 1,613 sq km (623 sq miles).
Location: Western Tanzania, bordering Lake Tanganyika.
Charter flight from Arusha, Dar or Kigoma.
Charter private or national park motorboat from Kigoma, three to
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
What to do
Chimp tracking (allow two days); hiking; camping safaris;
snorkelling; fish for your dinner.
When to go
Dry season (May-October) best for forest walks although no problem
in the light rains of October/November.
Two seasonal luxury tented camps.
Two small resthouses, large campsite
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