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Best Mahale Safari tours

Best Mahale Safari tours

In Mahale, chimpanzees are the star attraction. There are roughly 800 chimps in the park, of which about 60 individuals of the Mimikere group are very habituated to people. The research and habituation in Mahale is a Japanese project that goes back as long as Jane Goodall’s research in neighboring Gombe NP.

Mahale’s chimps are the main attraction, but the park supports a diverse forest fauna, including readily observed troops of red colobus, red-tailed and blue monkey, and many colorful forest birds and butterflies. Warthog can sometimes be seen around the camp.

Best Mahale Mountains Safari Tours

4 Days Mahale Chimpanzee Trekking
5 Days Mahale Chimpanzee Trekking
6 Days Katavi and Mahale
6 Days Gombe and Mahale
7 Days Mahale Mountaind and Gombe Stream
9 Days Katavi - Mahale and Gombe

How to get to Mahale Mountains National Park

Mahale is not the easiest or cheapest place to get to. Depending on your itinerary, your entry point to the country will be either Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) in Arusha town, or Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) in Dar es Salaam. In most cases, your tour operator will pick you up from the airport and make ongoing arrangements.

The best way to get to Katavi is by a flight from Arusha. The only public, scheduled flight is the twice-weekly service between Ruaha, Katavi and Mahale operated by Safari Air Link.

Zantasair works with its sister company Mbali Mbali lodges, to offer twice-weekly shared charter flights between northern Tanzania and western Tanzania, incorporating Katavi and Mahale National Parks.

Tanzania National Parks on Map

Wildliefe and Scenery

Mahale’s chimps are the main attraction, but the park supports a diverse forest fauna, including readily observed troops of red colobus, red-tailed and blue monkey, and many colorful forest birds and butterflies. Warthog can sometimes be seen around the camp.

The park is a chain of wild, jungle-draped peaks towering almost 2km above the shore of the azure water of Lake Tanganyika. 

The geography of this classic Rift Valley lake with its steep escarpment and white sandy beaches, is best appreciated on a dhow trip. 

A hike to a beautiful waterfall in the rainforest is another activity on offer.

Western Circuit Safari

Bordering four countries, Lake Tanganyika is the longest freshwater lake in the world.When standing on the lake’s sandy beaches – staring across the glassy blue waters to the horizon – this great expanse of water appears more like an ocean than a freshwater lake. Perfect for a beach holiday after trekking through the forest, as Gombe Stream only has one accommodation option, you will likely stay in Lake Tanganyika. Katavi National Park is just over 4,000-sq-km of pristine wilderness and is known for its high density of large mammals, including hippo, elephant, and lion. Bordering Lake Tanganyika, the Mahale Mountains National Park is a primate paradise. The park is home to just under 1,000 chimpanzees, the rare Red and Angola colobuses, and the red and blue-tailed monkeys. They are the main attractions while you trek through the forest. 

Things to do in Mahale Mountains National Park

Chimpanzee trekking features as the major of things to do in Mahale Mountains National Park, the focal point for visitors doing chimpanzee trekking is the 60-strong Mimikere, or ‘M’ group, that has been habituated and thus tourists can have close encounters with these close human relatives in the dense forests in the park. 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 any chimpanzees, The experience of chimpanzee viewing in their the habitat itself is captivating as a chimpanzee brush past you on the trail almost without warning and several other chimpanzees are visible in a clearing just ahead or high above in the treetops.

Mahale Mountains National Park is a wild frontier that offers brilliant hiking adventures and the opportunity to climb the imposing Mount Nkungwe which is the park’s brooding peak and a place of the spiritual significance of the Tongwe people who once lived in the mountain, rewards intrepid hiking lovers with a wealth of animals and birdlife with amazing scenic views. Nkungwe is eminently climbable and makes a fine adventure of 2 – 3 days hike as you hack your way through high grass and brush to the top is accompanied by an armed park ranger with enroute camping that adds a mind-blowing experience to the whole adventure.

Other Tourist Activities in Mahale Mountains National Park are water sport activities along lake Tanganyika and its shores, taking a stroll on the shoreline of Lake Tanganyika is spectacular, you can go kayaking, snorkeling or fish out on the lake as well as soak yourself in the white sand on the amazingly clean and undisturbed beaches along with this shoreline while enjoying the fresh breath as you relax from your great trek/hike. You will also enjoy clear spectacular views of Congo Mountains from a distance in the evenings.

Tourists also, participate in taking walks in the majestic forested rich slopes of the Mahale Mountains National park which is always much rewarding with incredible attractions following the hooting calls of chimpanzees and melodic voices of abundant bird species.

The forested Mahale Mountains and lake shorelines attribute to opportunities for bird watching which is also among the attractive Tourist Activities in the Mahale Mountains National Park. Bird watching is done especially in the forests nearby the main lodge area which are usually full of birds such as guinea fowl, hornbills, kingfishers on the shores and many more all readily seen on short walks in the other forests within the park boundaries.

3 Days Gombe - Chimpanzee

Where to Stay in Mahale Mountains National Park

Greystoke Mahale

With access to the chimps getting more and more restricted (they are considering restricting access to just an hour per visitor in a 3 day stay…still definitely worth it, but worth bearing in mind)…which, for their conservation is a good thing….it is more and more important to choose the right lodge to stay in, and Greystoke is definitely that lodge.

They have really managed to get it right, using local dhow wood for all of the rooms that seem to melt into the rainforest. 

Mbali Mbali Mahale

The lodge is sat on a secluded beach on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. With the green forest behind and the blue lake ahead, guests will feel completely surrounded by the beautiful wilderness. Getting to Mahale is a little trickier than other parks, but with scheduled flights operating on Mondays and Thursdays and circuit discounts offered, it is a great park to combine with other western and southern parks, such as Katavi or Ruaha National Park.

When to go

The best time for an unforgettable trip to Mahale is in the dry season, which lasts from June to September. In June, July and August, it scarcely ever rains with aquatic dust offs ending by end of May and sprinkles starting around early October. 

Temperatures are between lows of 64 F (18 C) and highs of 86 F (30 C) degrees. The chimpanzees can usually be found in mid to large groups on the lower mountain slopes during the dry period, and have been known to wander amidst the foliage close to the shores of Greystoke and Mbali Mbali Mahale Lodge.

Hotel in Mahale Mountains National Park

Mahale Mountains Safari tours FAQ's

A Gombe safari costs roughly $900 per person per day (including a $100 entrance fee), and also taking into account extra expenses like transportation, accommodation, activities and meals.

Gombe Stream National Park is only 52 km² (roughly 20 square miles), so most tourists tend to spend 1-2 days there before visiting some of the other notable parks further north. 

The best time to visit Mahale Mountain National Park (like with most Tanzanian national parks) is during the dry season (June-October). This is because Mahale is more easily accessed during this season (unlike the wet season when the roads become flooded) and it’s easier to spot and follow chimpanzee troops. 

With that said, the wet season (November-April) is the best time to visit Mahale when it comes to seeing butterflies and birds. Scores of migratory birds from Africa and Europe settle in Mahale for the season. Set against the backdrop of lush rainforests and flora, birdwatching in Mahale is quite the aesthetic treat. 


With its proximity to the equator, the park is mostly hot and humid all year round with temperatures of around 17°C (63°F) at night and around 27°C (81°) during the day. The most notable change in the park’s climate takes place during the wet and dry seasons. 

Below is a complete breakdown of the dry and wet seasons and weather you can expect while visiting Mahale Mountain National Park: 

The dry season – ideal weather and best time to spot chimps

The best time of year to visit the Mahale Mountains is during the dry season, from June-October. The sunshine provides the ideal snorkelling and swimming conditions, and the climate isn’t as humid. Another major plus is the reduced chance of catching malaria with fewer mosquitoes during this time. 

Expeditions to see the chimps are also most fruitful during this time, especially towards the back end of the dry season (August-October). The chimps are normally closer to shore and forest paths, which makes looking for them easier to negotiate.

The month of May usually signifies the end of the rainy season with occasional showers. From June onwards rain is very rare. The temperature at night dips slightly (especially in June-August), but only to about 14°C (57°F). October marks the gradual return of humidity and occasional rainfall can start to be expected again.  

The wet season – lush vegetation, butterflies, and best time for birdwatching

This season is renowned for its high humidity. It generally doesn’t rain throughout the day, but thundershowers can be expected most days. 

A visit in the rainy season (November-April) can also be memorable as the forest abounds with everything from excess fruit to electrifying blue butterflies and forest birds. Migratory birds make the Mahale Mountains their seasonal home during this time as they arrive from Europe and Northern Africa. 

Afternoon thunderstorms often light up the lake during this season and make for excellent photographs. 

A downside of the wet season is that foliage in the forest becomes slippery and harder to navigate. The chimps also become harder to spot as they move to higher ground. The humidity of this season may be unpleasant for some travellers and careful malaria precautions should be taken.


A safari to Mahale Mountain National Park typically costs $500 per person to $2000 per person. These expenses often include entrance fees to the park, accommodation, meals and specialised tours like game drives or chimpanzee trekking. 

Because Mahale is a small national park and in a remote location, most tourists like to combine tours with neighbouring national parks like Katavi and Ugalla. It would be a good idea to read up more on the average cost of Tanzanian safari tours before planning a safari trip to Tanzania. 

Absolutely. Mahale Mountain National Park offers some of the best and most exclusive safari tours where you can specifically track chimpanzees and observe them in their natural habitat. 

The chimpanzees in Tanzania make up a large proportion of the world’s wild chimps. This species can only be found in Africa, with most chimps living along the equatorial belt in the rainforest areas.

It is an utterly enthralling opportunity to get to be able to get up close with a family of chimpanzees and watch them go about their daily routine. Visitors will look on entranced as they tumble over each other, forage for food, and swing lithely between the tree branches.

Any chimp social group is made up of a dominant male, adult females and subservient younger males and females. The most famous group of chimps in the park is the Mimikire clan, which has been studied by various groups of researchers since the 1960s. There are approximately 56 chimps in the group. 

Chimp families follow a fission-fusion social organisation, which means that the groups periodically break into smaller subgroups and then reunite as they wish – so don’t bank on seeing all 56 together at the same time. The clan has become increasingly relaxed around humans over the years, making it an absolute treat to spend time with the chimps in close quarters.

Although it is not a guarantee to have exquisite chimp sightings, it would be extremely unlucky to not at least encounter a few on a trip to Mahale. Chimp safaris range between half an hour leisurely strolls to more gruelling multi-hour treks to try to find the primates. If you’re lucky, some chimps can be seen from the comfort of the lodges. 

The best ways to get to Mahale Mountain National Park are by air or by boat. You can travel to Mahale by car, but Mahale (and Katavi) are notoriously difficult to reach because there aren’t any official roads servicing the area. This means that driving to Mahale will be an incredibly arduous and daunting 4×4 mission through the heart of Tanzania. So, the more viable options are to either catch one of the many boats leaving from the towns along the lake (north of Mahale) or to travel by air. 

Below is more info on how to book a flight or boat trip to reach Mahale: 

Weekly Flights

Flights on small aircraft take place twice a week for the duration of four to five hours from Arusha or Dar Es Salaam, and land on an airstrip just outside the park. Flights from Arusha in the north leave on Mondays and Thursdays, and while this is the most economical way to reach Katavi and Mahale, the price is still high. Flights can also be chartered from Dar Es Salaam, Selous and Ruaha to and from the parks in the far west, also on Mondays and Thursdays.

All flights go via Katavi National Park, making the neighbouring reserve part of many combination packages. 

The expedition to reach lodgings doesn’t end with the flight – guests that have pre-booked at the lodges will be met by a traditional dhow and make their way to their accommodation via the lake. Otherwise, transport from the airstrip can be organised via the park headquarters. 


An alternative way to enter Mahale is by catching a boat from Kigoma or one of the other settlements in the north. Multiple options are available, with charter boats (speedboats), lake taxis, ferries and the Tanapa boat (or park boat). 

Charter boats take around 4-5 hours each way. Lake taxis are extremely cheap but slightly rickety and unpredictable. Most leave from Ujiji, but one would need to get in contact with the park headquarters or the tourism warden to get a better understanding of where and when they depart. 

An incredibly scenic and relaxing way of getting into Mahale is via the ferry. While it is affordable, it is not fast – but going slow in this part of the world is never a bad thing. Lastly, the park boat can be arranged with the Gombe-Mahale Visitor Information Centre and the park headquarters. 

There are a few places where you can stay in Mahale Mountain National Park. Due to the remoteness of its location and the scarcity of Tanzanian accommodation options (only three places are available), you might end up spending more money on finding a place to rest your head. With that said, there are still a few options, ranging from budget Tanzanian safari accommodation to luxury safari accommodation in Tanzania around Mahale that suits every kind of tourist. 

Nomad Greystoke Mahale

The world-famous Nomad Greystoke Mahale, sprawled along the banks of the lake, has an enchanting Robinson Crusoe atmosphere about it. With the six units surreptitiously tucked into the treeline, Greystoke is tailormade accommodation for an intimate, romantic getaway. A stay at Greystoke will require guests to dig deep in their pockets but comes with the benefit of all the tricky logistics being taken care of.

Mbali Mbali Mahale

The other luxury option is Mbali Mbali Mahale. Consisting of nine permanent beach tents set on a wooden veranda overlooking Lake Tanganyika, Mbali is a dream come true. With rates being all-inclusive and slightly cheaper than Greystoke, this is a genuine contender to Greystoke’s status as number one.

Lastly, the government-run Mahale Mango Tree Bandas offer five well-equipped units. These self-catering units are a much cheaper alternative and while they would not be described as luxurious, they are well-appointed and comfortable. The friendly and highly knowledgeable park guides also offer excellent tours to see all Mahale has to offer.

Visit Mahale Mountain National Park and I guarantee that you’ll have a unique safari experience worth writing home about.