Mahale Mountains National Park
Mahale Mountains National Park
Set among the spectacular, forested slopes of the Mahale Mountains, the Mahale Mountains National Park was originally created to protect the thousands of chimpanzees that inhabit the region. It is renowned for its fantastic sunsets over Lake Tanganyika, which makes it an essential stop for keen photographers and safari enthusiasts.
The park’s breathtaking array of habitats include rainforest, grasslands, alpine bamboo and woodlands; where some 50 species of animals have been recorded, predominant among these being representatives from various monkey and ape families, and over 90 unique species of fish swim in the clear waters of the lake.
I booked my safari holiday through Serengeti trips. They were the most helpful company I have ever dealt with and I work within the travel industry. I had the most amazing time. The holiday went as clockwork with no hitches anywhere.
Daear William, Just to let you know we had a great adventure at Mahale Mountain National Park. All went well. Saw chimps every day and lots of them on first and last day.
When to Visit Mahale Mountains National Park
The best time for an unforgettable trip to Serengeti Trips 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.
The sequential wet season runs from November until April, and is hotter and more humid, necessitating precautions against both mosquitoes and tsetse flies. You may wish to bring anti-insect sprays and malaria prophylactics. Avoid dark colored or blue clothes which attract the tsetse fly. Temperatures range from 68 F (20 C) to 82 F (28 C) degrees in the wet. Humidity can often be over 80%.
Getting 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.
Activities on your Mahale Mountains Safari
Guided Forest Walk
Not only are the forested slopes of the Mahale Mountains home to the playful chimpanzee but many other animals inhabit this flourishing eco-system too. Enjoy a guided forest walk, which will unveil the fantastic fauna and flora of the region; from other primates to bush pigs, a kaleidoscope of butterflies, bushbuck and a plethora of bird species.
One of the most phenomenal places in the world to get up-close and personal with chimpanzees, Mahale Mountains National Park is really incredible. Ensconced on the Lake Tanganyikan shoreline an abundance of lush, verdant forested mountains tumble to the water’s edge. Adding to the sublime picture the ethereal mist-covered peak of Mount Nkungwe loftily rises as a backdrop.
Abundant, dense and vividly green the Parks tapestry is created from miombo woodland, with Kasoge forest, riverine forest, montane forest and montane grassland in some areas. This diverse terrain provides the ideal habitat for the myriad of creatures who call Mahale ‘home’.
Most famous for its beautiful chimpanzees, walking safaris in the Park are a stunning way to delve into the lives of these incredible animals, and to quietly observe them in their natural habitat. Many other animals inhabit the forests of Mahale including cheeky colobus monkeys, quizzical squirrels, spiky porcupines and curious mongoose.
Water Activities in Mahale Mountains National Park
Lake Tanganyika plays host to an array of water activities for you to enjoy during your stay. Avid fisherman will delight in tranquil days spent casting their rods in these pristine waters. Not-to-be-missed is the opportunity to explore the wonders of the lake by boat. Embark on an exclusive dhow sundowner cruise, lazily following the shoreline and stopping to fish along the way. Alternatively, grab a kayak and explore the waters at your leisure or head inland on foot and take a plunge in a crystal clear mountain pool, fed by a beautiful waterfall.
If you are into water-based activities then this lake is ideal for you. Snorkelling and even scuba diving are perfect here as the alluring water is summery, and as you float above or immerse yourself, there is a magnificently kaleidoscopic aqua world to unfold. Be aware though that chunky hippos, shifty crocodiles and the venomous Tanganyika water cobra also inhabit this liquid haven so, always check with the locals about which areas are considered safe to swim and what is lurking nearby.
The second deepest and by volume, the second largest lake in the world Lake Tanganyika sprawls over four countries’ territories: Burundi and Zambia get a little liquid rush, and more than 40 percent in each of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania.
Incredibly ancient with many an aquatic story to tell, it is said that the lake dates back 9 to 20 million years. Home to over 280 varieties of colorful fish, this is one of the richest aqueous environments on the globe.
Chimpanzee Trekking in Mahale National Park
Spend an adventure-filled morning searching the forested slopes of the Mahale Mountain National Park, ideally placed on the banks of Lake Tanganyika in the Kigoma Region of Tanzania, in search of the elusive chimpanzee. The park stands as one of only two chimpanzee protected areas in the country, as well as boasting the largest chimpanzee population, and the only park where chimpanzees and lions exist side by side.
The topography illustrates mostly craggy and rolling hills, running across the towering Mahale Mountains chain that dominates the northwest and southeast sectors of the park. Mount Nkungwe boasts a grand elevation of 2 462 m above sea level.
Walking safaris across the stunning lowland woodlands awards guests the rare opportunity to tread the very paths of myriad wildlife and birdlife that call the park. 82 species of mammals are peppered throughout Mahale National Park, including a group of habituated chimpanzees.
Whilst sightings are never guaranteed, your chances of viewing this charismatic animal is increased with daily walking treks, which are hosted by knowledgeable and experienced guides. Once you have found the resident troop you will have an hour to witness the chimpanzees’ playful antics and how they interact with one another before heading back to the lodge.
Where to Stay in Mahale Mountains National Park?
Greystoke is one of the best lodges in Africa, there is really nowhere else like it and the game experience is very different – trekking in the Mahale Mountains for Chimpanzees! Lake Tanganyika is an ancient lake and the second largest by volume in the world. The main thatched building sits on the white beach and the 6 bandas are hidden into the edge of the undergrowth with incredible views out onto the water. It’s not cheap but if you have travelled all this way then you simply must stay at this lodge.
Nkungwe Tented Camp
Nkungwe, sometimes known as Kungwe, is our second choice lodge in Mahale Mountain National Park after the famous Mahale Greystoke just next door; but we like Nkungwe for its simplicity, location on the shore of Lake Tanganyika and value. The main attraction of Mahale is the chimpanzees in the hills and clients visit the same clan of chimps as the Greystoke guests, although they stagger the visit times. When you actually arrive at the Mahale airstrip you will then need to take the boat down the lake to arrive at the lodge. There are no roads or vehicles inside the national park.
How much does a Mahale Mountain National Park safari cost?
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.
Tarangire National Park FAQ
There’s a lot you should know about Mahale Mountain National Park. For starters, it’s one of the largest chimpanzee sanctuaries on the African continent and in the world. Secondly, it boasts a unique landscape of lush rainforests filled with the most fascinating creatures and ecosystems.
Adding to its exceptional beauty is the fact that Mahale is incredibly remote. Along with the neighbouring Katavi National Park, the two are the least frequented national parks in Tanzania. As difficult as it may be to reach the park, the lack of distractions creates a truly immerse wilderness experience in this unspoiled terrain.
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.
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.
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:
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.
It is renowned for its fantastic sunsets over Lake Tanganyika, which makes it an essential stop for keen photographers and safari enthusiasts.
The eastern slopes of Mahale support populations of elephant, lion, wild dog, roan antelope, buffalo and giraffe, but they are rarely seen by visitors.
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.