Mahale Mountains National Park is located in one of the most remote locations in Tanzania, on the western border with the Congo, against the shores of Lake Tanganyika.
The park covers an area of 1,613 sq kms (615 sq miles) and can only be reached by boat or small aircraft and is home to a large chimpanzee population that is well acclimatized to human contact.
To reach Mahale, fly by private charter from Dar es Salaam or Arusha (4 hours) or take a boat from Kigoma.
Observing the chimpanzees in their natural habitat has to be one of the greatest wildlife experiences and because of the remote location of the park only a few tourists are lucky enough to have this experience. Allow at least two days for tracking the chimpanzees – though habituated, they are wild animals which means sightings are not guaranteed and finding them can take a gentle twenty minute hike if you are lucky or a strenuous climb to the upper reaches of the mountain and hiking through thick bush without success. There are no roads in the park, only tracks and trails. While hiking through the forest is a fantastic experience you must be prepared for a tough hike and a reasonal level of fitness is required.
In addition to the chimpanzees there are several species of monkey including red colobus and a notable array of colourful forest birds.
The mountains rise from the shores of the lake to over 2,460 metres (8,000 feet) above sea level and encompass seven vegetation zones ranging from grass steppe, acacia savanna and baobabs to montane forest and bamboo bushland.
Lake Tanganyika is the world’s longest, second-deepest and least polluted fresh water lake – with an estimated 1,000 fish species. Swim, snorkel and fish in the lake.
Accommodation is in small lakeside camps and lodges and the best time to visit is May to October although forest walks are no problem in the light rain of October/November.
The park was originally habited by the local Tongwe people who hold the highest peak, Nkungwe, sacred.