Mahale mountains national park
Mahale mountains national park is situated in the western region of Tanzania south of Kigoma town at the shores of Lake Tanganyika. The national park was named after Mahale mountain ranges which inhabited the Batongwe and Holoholo people many years ago and these people were resettled outside the park when it was gazetted into a national park. Mahale mountains national park covers an area of 1613 square kilometers and was first established as a research camp in 1965 and later gazetted as a national park in 1985.
The park is a home of about 1,000 chimpanzees which makes it the second destination harboring the endangered chimpanzee species apart from Gombe national park. Apart from chimpanzees, Mahale mountains national park harbors other primates including red colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, red tailed monkeys, vervet monkeys, yellow baboons and some animals species which are found in the eastern slopes of Mahale ranges including elephants, lions, roam antelopes, buffaloes, giraffes, bushbucks, wild dogs, waterbucks which are rarely seen and bird species like the African fish eagle, giant kingfisher, crested guinea fowl, bamboo warbler among others.
Top things to see and do in Mahale mountains national park
Chimpanzee trekking is the major activity in the park where you are given an opportunity to move on foot in the forest in search of the habituated chimpanzees in their natural habitat. Chimpanzee trekking in Mahale mountains national park starts in the morning and it’s done in company of a park guide who will be sharing information about the chimpanzees during trekking. trekking of the chimpanzees in the park takes about 30 minutes to 3 hours depending on their location and once the chimpanzees have been found, you will spend one hour with them in their natural habitat learning about their behaviors, habits, watching them feeding, playing among others. Chimpanzees in the park are vulnerable to human diseases therefore visitors who interested in chimpanzee trekking are required to wear surgical masks.
Mahale mountains national park is one of the listed birding destinations in Tanzania in that it’s a habitat of over 350 bird species including forest birds and migratory birds which are seen from November to April. Bird species in the park include crowned eagle, scaly francolin, bamboo warbler, crested malimbe, giant kingfisher, stuhlmanns starling, Ross’s turaco, blue checked bee0eater, palm-nut vulture, vieillots black weaver, trumpeter hornbill, crested Guinea fowl among others. Birding in Mahale national park can be done during the guided nature walk because visitors are not permitted to move within the forest without a guide.
The national park has the highest peak in the Mahale mountain range Mount Nkungwe which is 2462 m high. Visitors on a safari in the park can engage in mountain climbing which is an adventurous activity that gives you an opportunity to hike the mountain which takes about 2 to 3 days to reach the summit of the Mt Nkungwe where you will do camping at night and view spectacle fishing fire when the kerosene lamps that are carried by the fishing boats light up across the lake. Climbing Mount Nkungwe requires you to be physically fit and visitors should also carry their own camping gear and food.
This is an incredible activity that is carried out on the fresh waters of Lake Tanganyika. Fish anglers will have to first acquire a fishing permit which allows them to participate in the activity. Sport fishing is done in designated areas between 7:00am and 5:00pm with the help of an experienced guide and visitors will use catch and release method.
On your safari in Mahale mountains national park you can also engage in other activities such as snorkeling where you dive into the water with a diving mask in cool waters and the activity takes about 3 hours, boat cruise where you ride in a boat on lake Tanganyika enjoying great views of the landscape, wildlife, kayaking and cultural tours where you get an opportunity to visit the local people such as the Batongwe and Holoholo people who used to stay in the forest before it was gazetted into a national park. During the cultural tours you can also visit Ujiji historical town among others.
Where to stay in Mahale national park
There are luxury, midrange and budget accommodations where you can stay on your safari in Mahale mountains national park Tanzania including Kungwe Beach Lodge, Mahale Mango Bandas, Greystoke Mahale Camp, Mbali Mbali Mahale Lodge among others. The lodges offer comfortable rooms with facilities like en-suite bathrooms, lounge area, balcony, complimentary laundry services and other facilities like bar, library, restaurant, complimentary internet access, battery charging facilities among others to make your stay comfortable.
Best time to visit Mahale national park
Mahale national park can be visited all year round though the best time to visit is during the dry season in the months of July to October because during this time there is less rainfall or even no rainfall at all therefore chimpanzee trekking and nature walk trails in the forest will be passable compared to the rainy season when they are muddy and slippery. during the dry season the chimpanzees move to the lower mountain slopes hence they will easily be found, the risk of getting malaria is less since there are few mosquitos in the park and the dry season is the best time to relax at the beach.
How to get to Mahale mountains national park
Mahale national park can either be accessed by air, water or road transport means therefore
When using road transport you will fly to either Kilimanjaro international airport in Arusha town or Julius Nyerere international airport in Dar es Salaam where you will later connect to the park headquarters by road which are usually inaccessible especially during the rainy season.
You can also use domestic airlines which operate scheduled flights during the peak season in the months of June to October which operate from Arusha and Dar es Salaam to Mahale airstrip and chartered flights can also be arranged during the low season in the months of March, April and May because there are no scheduled flights. Domestic airline companies which operate chartered flights to Mahale mountains national park include air excel, regional air, northern air among others.
You can also access Mahale mountains national park from Kigoma town where you will fly to Kilimanjaro international airport in Arusha town or Julius Nyerere international airport in Dar es Salaam and then connect to Kigoma town which takes about 2 to 3 days by road and 3 hours when you use air transport through Precision Air. From Kigoma you can use water transport by use of speedboats which take about 6 hours ride or timber boats which take about 15 hours ride. The boats can be arranged with private operators in Kigoma or the park.
You can also book chartered flights from Kigoma to Mahale mountains national park which takes about 45 minutes or a large steamship MV Liemba which leaves Kigoma on a Wednesday afternoon with passengers and cargo taking about 10 hours to Mahale where it will meet a boat from the park that will transfer visitors to the park headquarters.