Perched on the eastern shores of pristine Lake Tanganyika, Mahale Mountains National Park is the place to experience a distinct and magical charm of African safari vacation. Home to endangered African Chimpanzee, the barefoot wilderness beholds many anthropological secrets. Explore the fascinating land of apes and enjoy the scenic beauty of jungle-covered mountains.
The ecology of the Mahale Mountains National Park has three discrete elements – sandy shores of Lake Tanganyika, a 2-km strip of land bordering the lake, and the hilly terrain that culminates at 2,462-meter high Mount Nkungwe. Spread over 1,613 sq km, this is the only place where chimpanzees coexist with lions and certainly enough to seek the attention of tourists on Tanzania safari tours. The volcanic peaks of Mahale are considered sacred by the Watongwe and Waholoholo tribes living in the periphery of the park.
The low-land dominated by miombo woodland is home to common savannah wildlife while bamboo and mountainous forest hosts various types of primates.
About 900 African wild chimpanzees live in the park making it one of their two last strongholds. The most famous of these apes are the “M” Group – a collection of 60 chimps – who exhibit behavior, ecology, and social structure strikingly similar to humans. Mahal tours, part of Africa holiday packages, focus on watching these exotic chimps. Researchers studying the group find a close resemblance between their way of fishing, use of tools, and medicinal plants and that of human beings. No other animal is so close to the man in its behavior.
Another interesting behavior of these chimps to notice during African safari vacation in Mahale is the healing habits of chimpanzees at the park. They select and use specific plants, just like humans use medicines, to get rid of health disorders. They use a plant in multiple ways to reap its healing properties. They remove leaves and even outer skin to eat various herbs. In some cases, they extract juices and drink. It is amazing to see a chimp folding a leave in accordion-style and placing it on a particular part of his mouth.
Apart from these exotic chimps, Mahale has many other apes, such as red colobus, yellow baboons, blue monkeys, and eight other types of primates.
The park is home to about 82 big and small mammals, including lions, giraffes, and Grant’s zebras. Hartebeest, different types of antelopes, warthogs, greater kudu, and mountain reedbuck too can be seen. Many tourists on Tanzania safari tours include Mahale in their itinerary for its large variety of birds, about 355 types, including many vulnerable ones. The Kabezi area of the park is one of the best birding destinations to visit during Africa safari vacation.
It is also home to the largest variety of reptiles numbering 26. Lake Tanganyika, a part of the Rift Valley of Africa, hosts hippos, crocodiles, and over 250 endemics of fish species.
Mahale is best suited for walking safaris. Guided Africa holiday package tours take visitors on a wilderness exploration trip. The rugged landscape and peaks offer a challenge for adventure lovers. Trekking safaris amid forest is a testing yet exhilarating experience. Boating in the least unpolluted lake of the world is another thrilling sojourn. Fishing, medicinal plant exploration, camping, and cultural tours of Kigoma and Ujiji are also on the cards.
Getting There: The Mahale National Park is located in the western Tanzania and its remoteness is a blessing in disguise. Tanzania safari tour operators usually flights, car, and boat to take tourists to Mahale. From Arusha, direct flights are available from June through March.
Kigoma, the regional capital, is the nearest town and a preferred base to explore Mahale. Speedboats run between the town and the national park using the Lake Tanganyika route that takes about 4 hours. Official park boats also arrange tourist transfers from Kigoma itself.
Alternatively, tourists travel by road to Herembe or Sigunga, about 2 to 3-hour drive from Kigoma and then transferred by boat to the Mahale Mountains National Park.
Things to know:
Location: Kigoma Region, Tanzania
The Fame: Africa’s last home of chimpanzees, M-Group apes
Things To Do: Chimpanzee safari, trekking, camping, birding safaris, mountain climbing, walking safaris, camping safaris, nature tour
Best Time To Visit: July to October is the best though the park is open to tourists throughout the years.