The remote and magnificent Mahale Mountains National Park is situated 300 km down the eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika and is the home to the world's largest known population of chimpanzees; without a doubt one of the most beautiful national parks in Tanzania.
Mahale Mountains National Park is only accessible via fly-in safari or private motor boat. The remoteness of this park is the very reason the chimpanzee population is still so unaffected by human familiarity. Most guests will see the chimpanzees at least once in a 3-4 day stay; however, sightings cannot always be guaranteed. Whilst chimps could be right behind the camp one day, the next they could be high in the mountains.
This is a unique landscape whereby the mountainous land is covered in rainforest right up until the beach front. Accommodations are located on these secluded beaches and are a mere walking distance from the shoreline of Lake Tanganyika.
Mahale Mountains National Park is famous for housing some of the last remaining wild chimpanzees in Africa. Similarly to its northern neighbour, Gombe Stream, Mahale is the location of long-standing primate research.
Walking safaris in the beautiful, lowland forest allow close encounters with a vast array of birds and animals, as well as the habituated chimpanzees. The chimp viewing is unpredictable as they can move quickly, but it is expected that they will be seen at least once in a 3-4 day stay.
Lake Tanganyika, upon which this national park lies, contains more than 250 species of cichlid found nowhere else on earth, many of which can be viewed by snorkelling in the shallows along Mahale’s shoreline.
Accommodation in Mahale is sparse and it is kept a very private location meaning that the experience is exclusive, yet may be expensive.
Greystoke Mahale personifies true paradise with its idyllic location, clear waters and breath-taking scenery hosting the world's largest population of chimpanzees. The Mahale Mountains form the backdrop of the camp and is within hiking distance of a group of 60 chimpanzees. This lodge accommodates in 6 double tents situated under cool thatched roofs shaded by palm groves, these units are called bandas and built of timber and thatch and overlook the beach and waters of Lake Tanganyika
Kungwe Beach Lodge has an epic location on a stretch of secluded beach, bordering the eastern edge of Lake Tanganyika. During a morning walk in the forest it is not unusual to come across signs of wildlife other than the resident chimpanzees Mahale is known for; such as troops of Red colobus, Red-tailed and Blue monkeys, warthog and bushbuck.
Safaris in Tanzania begin at Arusha, which is situated close to the northern safari locations.
Sun Safaris will fly guests to Kilimanjaro International Airport, which is the primary receiving airport in Tanzania. This airport is only a few kilometres away from Arusha airport, which is the safari node of the country and where most light air transfers take off from.
Once guests have landed at Kilimanjaro, they will connect with a road transfer that will take them to Arusha airport. Depending on timing of guests' itinerary, they might spend a night in Arusha before heading off on a scheduled flight to an airstrip or airport nearer their safari destination.
Mahale Mountains, on the eastern border of Lake Tanganyika, is only accessible by boat or plane. Guests visiting the park can either fly from Arusha to Mahale airstrip, or take a 3-4 hour private motor boat.
Over 60 chimps live in the Mahale Mountains and have become habituated to human presence over 2 decades of contact. There is also the opportunity to observe leopard, bushbuck, bush pig and a multitude of birds and butterflies. The forest itself is unique in that is houses 8 other species of primate, shyer forest mammals, birds, butterflies, giant vines and waterfalls.
There is the opportunity to explore the clear waters of Lake Tanganyika, which is said to contain about 1000 different species of fish, including 250 species of cichlid (colourful tropical fish). This enormous lake is suitable for fishing, snorkelling and kayaking, activities which are offered at the various accommodations.
Tracking the primates is the most sought after activity at Mahale, particularly the endangered chimpanzee. A trek through the rainforest takes guests to Mahale's chimpanzees. Guests can sit quietly and watch the chimps go about their daily lives; grooming, wrestling, bickering, foraging and mothering.
Mahale is located close to the equator, making the climate warm and humid throughout the year. Evenings remain warm, unlike parks found in the north, cooling down to a temperature of about 15 degrees Celsius, while average daily temperatures get to be about 25 degrees.
Variations in climate are common due to the wide range in altitudes, and temperatures therefore rise and drop according to height. Areas open to tourists are mainly found where the altitudes are lower, therefore cooler.
The dry season is from May to October, which is when the chimpanzees are likely to be seen in big groups. The wet season continues from November to April, bringing the rains in the form of afternoon thunderstorms that seldom last the whole day.