Mahale National Park

The ultimate location for chimpanzee trekking

ABOUT MAHALE NATIONAL PARK

Mahale is one of the most remote and scenically breathtaking areas in East Africa with mountains, forest and the crystal clear waters of Lake Tanganyika combining to give this part of Tanzania a feeling unlike any other part of the country

The Mahale Mountains in Western Tanzania are the ultimate location for chimpanzee trekking. The park is home to a large group of chimps habituated and studied since the 60s by the University of Kyoto.  

The Mahale Mountains lie on the edge of Lake Tanganyika, about 100 miles south of Kigoma. The forested mountains rise from the crystal waters of the lake to over eight thousand feet above sea level. Mahale National Park is over five hundred miles from Arusha, a flight of around 4 hours, but it's so breathtaking and unique that it's worth every minute to get there.

There are absolutely no roads or cars in Mahale and all access to the forest is by boat or on foot. From Greystoke Camp, which was the first camp in Mahale and the one we'd recommend, you're lead into the forest each morning by a local Tongwe guide who knows the forest and the chimpanzee group as well as anyone alive. The walks can be an easy half hour stroll on days when the chimps come down to the lake shore, but up to eight hours when they remain high on the ridges (like the aptly named "skyway" path). Some days the animals are simply beyond reach of slow-moving humans; these are animals that are effortlessly capable of travelling thousands of feet vertically in an hour. That said there is a very high success rate and in a three day stay, most people get some superb sightings. It's unusual for people to return without seeing a chimpanzee at all.

But it's not just about chimps; the forest of the Mahale Mountains is a magical place to explore. Interlaced with rivers and waterfalls, it's home to eight other species of primate, including black and white colobus, red colobus and red-tailed monkeys. Numerous other mammal species have been sighted in Mahale, some such as bushpig are relatively common. Leopard, though not uncommon are rarely seen, but often heard. There are over 300 species of butterfly recorded and the western slopes of the Mahale Mountains are unique because they contain savanna adapted species of east or south Africa and forest adapted species of western and central Africa or the Congo Basin.

TOP EXPERIENCES IN MAHALE NATIONAL PARK

CHIMPANZEE TREKKING IN THE MAHALE MOUNTAINS

SPEND TIME IN SEARCH OF OUR CLOSEST PRIMATE COUSINS

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BEST TIME TO VISIT MAHALE NATIONAL PARK

The best time to visit Mahale really depends on what your main objectives are; if your heading west to see the chimps then the obvious time to visit is during the dry season of June to October. However, don't rule out the green season in Mahale - anytime from November to March - although the weather may not suit us humans, this isn't true of the chimps and you have the added bonus of it costing less with far few people in the park.  

Read more on the best time to visit Mahale

WITHOUT DOUBT MUCH OF THE FASCINATION IN SPENDING TIME WITH CHIMPANZEES IS IN OBSERVING JUST HOW SIMILAR TO US THEY ARE - CHIMPS ARE IN FACT MORE CLOSELY RELATED TO HUMANS THAN THEY ARE TO GORILLAS - AND THE STRIKING SIMILARITIES IN PHYSICAL FEATURES, GRIMACING, POSTURING AND, POSSIBLY MOST UNNERVINGLY, THE ENDLESS POLITICAL MANOEUVRING WHICH CAN BE BRUTAL AND TERRIFYINGLY FAMILIAR.”

TOP CAMPS & LODGES IN MAHALE NATIONAL PARK

Greystoke Mahale

A CAMP LIKE NO OTHER ON THE SHORES OF LAKE TANGANYIKA

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Our experienced travellers include:

Olly Williams
Olly Williams
Alex Edwards
Alex Edwards
Catherine Ronan
Catherine Ronan

It takes genuine local knowledge to craft trips that go beyond the ordinary.

All of us at Natural High have over 20 years’ experience in the countries we offer. We’ve lived there, worked there and arranged countless one-off journeys for clients. We live to travel – and love to share our tips on what’s really worth doing. For expert advice (and a traveller’s tale or two), speak to one of our team. They’ll be happy to let you in on their travel secrets, and help you plan a tailor-made trip that’s truly unforgettable.

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