Mahale Mountains National Park

The Mahale Mountains National Park is situated on the eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika in remote western Tanzania. It’s spectacularly beautiful, with the backdrop of the Mahale Mountains and lush, tropical flora. The main attraction is walking safaris to observe the chimpanzees who live here. They share their forest paradise with a range of other primates, mammals and beautiful birds.

Gazetted as the Mahale Mountains National Park in 1985, the park covers over 1,500 km² of fertile land on the eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika, the world’s longest and second-deepest freshwater lake, in remote western Tanzania. Overlooked by the Mahale Mountains which run across the park, it is lush, green and hilly. Most of the park is miombo woodland, with Kasoge forest, riverine forest, montane forest and montane grassland in some areas. This provides ample habitat for the array of creatures who call Mahale home.

Mahale’s chimpanzees

Mahale is most famous for its chimpanzees, which number close to a thousand. One group, in particular, is highly habituated to humans after being studied since the 1960s by Japanese researchers.

Walking safaris to see these fascinating animals and observe them in their natural habitat is a magical experience. These interactions are strictly regulated, to protect both the environment and the chimpanzees but it is almost unheard of for people to visit Mahale and not see them.

Other wildlife

There are many other animals that live in the forests of Mahale. These include Colobus monkey, squirrel, porcupine and mongoose. On the more open savannahs, African favourites such as lion, giraffe and zebra roam amongst a wide range of antelope.

In the lake an array of fish swim, including a number of species that are unique to Tanganyika, making for fabulous snorkelling.

Things to see and do in Mahale Mountain National Park

  • Tracking chimpanzee
  • Snorkelling
  • Camping safaris
  • Forest walks
  • Kayaking
  • Fishing
  • Hiking up Mount Nkungwe
  • Birdwatching

Best time to visit

Mahale Mountains National Park can be visited throughout the year. The best time to visit is in the long dry season from July to October when the chimpanzees tend to gather in bigger groups, closer to shore. You should still be able to see them in the wet season, it may just require a little more walking.

During the wet season, spectacular thunderstorms over the lake delight visitors! Some camps, however, close during the big rains.

Getting there

Mahale is remote which makes it uncrowded. The easiest and quickest way to get there is by air.

  • By air – During peak season from June to October, regularly scheduled flights from Arusha and Dar es Salaam (three to five hours) to the Mahale Airstrip are available. Out of season, flights are less regular. Charter flights can also be arranged.
  • By road – The roads are rough and can be inaccessible, especially during rain. From Arusha to Kigoma (from where you’ll need to take a boat or plane), it takes about two to three days by car.
  • By boat – From Kigoma, there are speedboats (four to six hours) and timber boats (up to 15 hours) to Mahale. Twice a week, the MV Liemba, a large steamship, travels from Kigoma (10 hours).
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