Overview

Mahale Mountains National Park is very similar to Gombe National Park, in that it is the home of wild chimpanzees (among the last few in Africa). There are an estimated 900 of them, and they have been accustomed to regular visitors thanks to a project started in the 1960s. Thanks to it, you can now track the chimps around Mahale Mountains National Park in order to see, study and observe them and their behavior. In addition, you can also see hundreds of species of birds, as well as blue monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, red colobus, Angola colobus and others.

Big mountain gorilla family with silverback and multiple baby gorillas chilling out between the vegetation during a gorilla trekking in Volcanoes shutterstock_53702113

Highlights

  • +Seeing the sunset on the Lake
  • +Camping safari
  • +Snorkeling
  • +Snorkeling
  • +Tracking chimps
Interested in visiting the Mahale Mountains National Park?
Take a look to our hand-picked tours that go there!

About Mahale Mountains National Park

Just like Katavi National Park, Mahale Mountains is not exactly easily accessible. Found in a remote location and characterized by wilderness, this park is lesser known than its more developed counterparts, but it also offers an atmosphere that is unlike any other. Only here can you feel what wildlife is truly like, untouched by human hand and left alone in its beauty and natural magic.

The biggest attraction and the thing people travel around these remote parts for is undoubtedly its chimpanzee population. Mahale Mountains National Park hosts some of the last wild chimpanzees that can be found in Africa and it even offers the option of tracking the chimps around the park.

Of course, sightings of the chimpanzees cannot be guaranteed, but with around 900 individuals left, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re going to get to see some of them. Getting to the location of the chimps can require a hike, however, so be prepared.

The ideal time for chimpanzee tracking is at the very end of the dry season, for the animals are closer to the shore, and the paths are significantly drier, which makes the hike quicker, easier and less dangerous.

But even if the chimps are what usually brings people to the park, there are various other amazing sights to see, including other primates, such as vervet monkeys, yellow baboons, red-tailed monkeys, red colobus monkeys and blue monkeys.

Moving away from the wildlife, for an unforgettable view and a bit of lazy relaxation, the beach along Lake Tanganyika is gorgeous and the perfect spot for some peace and quiet in the sun. Also, the sunset is incredible here, so be sure not to miss it.

Lake Tanganyika is also great for water sports and snorkeling, to get a closer look at its hundreds of species of fish, including 250 that are exclusive to this lake and cannot be found anywhere else.

Angola colobus shutterstock_181099862
Superb starling. Tanzania. Africa. Beautiful Birds. An excellent illustration. shutterstock_306166916
Africa Sunset shutterstock_123544153
Superb starling. Tanzania. Africa. Beautiful Birds. An excellent illustration. shutterstock_306166922

Getting There

Mahale Mountains National Park is in a fairly remote location, but it can be reaches by boat, road or air. By far, the easiest and most convenient is to catch a flight from Arusha, which operates twice a week from October to March, while in the March-May period, there are no flights. Charter flights are available, however, from Mwanza, Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam or Arusha.

Alternatively, you can arrive to Mahale Mountains National Park from Kigoma, which can be accessed by rail, road or air. The journey from Kigoma to Mahale can be made by car (around 2 hours), aircraft (45 minutes) or boat.

When to Go & Weather

  •   Best
  •   Good
  •   Fair
  •   Poor
  • May-October: this time of year is the dry season, which is ideal of chimpanzee tracking around Mahale Mountains National Park. They travel in groups and can be easily spotted. In addition, you can take full advantage of the beach at Lake Tankanyika.
  • November-April: the wet season is not conductive of chimp viewing, but it can be the best for bird watching, as well as admiring flourishing flora. The rains and storms themselves are spectacular as well, so they are a sight worth seeing.

Mahale Mountains National Park is accessible and open for visitation all year round, even though in order to take full advantage of its main attraction, chimpanzee tracking, it is recommended to travel during dry season (May-October). Temperatures are fairly consistent throughout the year, maintain themselves at around 25 °C-26°C during daytime and about 15°C for nighttime.

Two chairs with the sunset view in safari camp in Tanzania shutterstock_167584826

Additional Information

Safari FAQ

Safari experts provide answers to your queries. Everything you wanted to know as you plan that memorable vacation.

Packing List

Packing for Mahale Mountains National Park is akin to packing for any other safari trip. Check our posting on latest recommendations.

Safari Blog

One place to learn more about all things Safari travel. Check out Top Lists, read experiences, get tips.

History

The land of the present Mahale Mountains National Park was the home of the Watongwe and Waholoholo tribes. A significant part of the Mahale Mountains National Park was, in the past, dwelt by the members of these tribes and used for cultivating means. In fact, the present forest was previously the ground to cultivations, as there are still visible past cultivation mounds in some areas of the forest. Additionally, the forest still holds a couple of exotic plants including oil palm, guava, mango, lemon.

In the present, the majority of community members who still live in the proximity of Mahale Mountains National Park cultivate small-sized farms. Another important activity in the region is fishing, which is a means of gaining a living.

Wildlife & Flora

The fauna sheltered in Mahale Mountains National Park can be easily separated into three categories, taking into account their preferred habitat. The fact that the National Park holds three types of mammals counts for the uniqueness and charm of the region. The first category encompasses chimpanzees, blue duiker, red-legged sun squirrel, brush-tailed porcupine, banded mongoose. The second category surprisingly includes Savannah animals – lions, giraffes, zebras, and warthogs. And the last category embodies roan and sable antelopes and Lichtenstein hartebeest.

In more exact terms, appreciatively 82 different species of mammals have been discovered in the Mahale Mountains National Park. You should also know that other mammals are yet to be recorded; their presence in the park is suspected, but it is yet to be uncovered.

The Mahale Mountains are believed to hold the last populations of wild chimpanzees in Africa. For this reason, this National Park is assumed to be one of the best destinations in Africa to track primates.

Concerning bird diversity, Mahale Mountains National Park holds at least 355 birds. It was indicated that the north of the National Park presents the greatest abundance of bird diversity. These birds include migratory and prey species mostly. The National Park has the sole purpose of preserving the species diversity of the area and guards them against extinction.

Concerning reptiles and amphibians that can be found on the premises of the National Park there is, sadly, little information. Given the fact that the area was not subject to extended research, there are still numerous practical facts that are yet to be discovered. At the moment, 26 species of reptiles have been officially recorded.

Lake Tanganyika, which is interwoven with the mountain slopes, is believed to be one of the oldest lakes in the region. An appreciative number of 250 fish species have their habitat inside the lake – most of them cannot be found in other places on earth.

As the mountain gets reunited with the lake, there is a clear region of low forest that allows you to get a spectacular view. The slopes of the mountains are mainly covered in luxurious vegetation that consists of bamboo bushland and high trees. The incredible combination that is specific to Mahale Mountains National Park is granted by the presence of Lake Tanganyika, which alters the climatic conditions of the area, offering it genuinely one-of-a-kind vegetation. More exactly, the total amount of plant species on the premises of the National Park is no less than 1174.

Ecology

Given the amazing potential the area obviously held, in 1965, Kyoto University Africa Primatological Expedition started their research concerning wildlife and vegetation. In 1967, T. Nishida and his colleagues sent a petition to Wildlife Division that supported the establishment of a National Park in the area. Afterward, in 1975, the government requested the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to send specialists to pursue studies concerning chimpanzee habitat.

Only in 1979, the establishment of the Mahale Mountains Wildlife Research Center was established. One year later, the houses that were located on the premises of today’s National Park were demolished, and the residents were no longer allowed to live in the proposed territory. In 1994, the formation Mahale Wildlife Conservation Society was successful.

In 2003, a new project was initiated, entitled Mahale Ecosystem Management Project. For this project, some organizations collaborated for the sole purpose to conserve the beautiful landscapes that are homes for numerous wildlife species, and they received financing from the European Commission’s Program on Tropical Forests in Developing Countries.

Interesting Facts

  • The depth of Lake Tanganyika prevents the oxygenation of the water. This is why, at the bottom of the lake, the water is assumed to be fossil water, which means that it lacks oxygen.
  • It is probably the only place in Africa that holds chimpanzees and lions in the same habitat.
  • The unique combination of wildlife species is determined by the mixture of forests, lake and peak mountains. Mahale Mountains National Park will surely offer you a lifetime, unparalleled experience.
Interested in visiting the Mahale Mountains National Park?
Take a look to our hand-picked tours that go there!

Get safari advice & special deals!