Facts about Mahale Mountains National Park: Mahale Mountains national park is one of the remote protected areas located in western Tanzania and lies on the shores of Lake Tanganyika near Kigoma town. The national park was gazetted in 1985 and covers an area of 1,613 square kilometers which is comprised of the Mahale range, the rift valley escarpment, vegetation types like grasslands, woodland, rainforest and alpine bamboo which act as habitants for wildlife including large population of chimpanzees, animals like elephants, lions, roan antelopes, buffaloes, wild dogs, giraffes, bushbucks, bird species like crested guinea fowl, giant kingfisher among others. Mahale mountains national park was named after Mahale Mountain which were first inhabited by the Batongwe and Holoholo people until 1979 when the Mahale mountains wildlife research center was established.
Attractions in Mahale mountains national park
Wildlife, the national park is famously known for harboring more than 1000 chimpanzees, other primates like red colobus monkeys, red tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, yellow baboons, animals like waterbucks, bushbucks, elephants, buffaloes, roan antelopes, lions, wild dogs among others.
Birds, Mahale Mountains national park is a home of over 350 bird species including forest birds, endemic and near endemic species which makes the park one of the birders paradise. Bird species in the park include Ross’s turaco,
Mahale mountain ranges, the Mahale ranges have steep slopes and several peaks such as nkungwe which is the highest and rises at an elevation of 2462 meters above the sea level, other peaks like Sisaga, Mhesabantu, Sibindi, Mfitwa, Pasagulu and Humo.
Lake Tanganyika, the national park lies on the shores of Lake Tanganyika which is the deepest fresh water lake in Africa and the second deepest in the world. The lake offers activities like boat safaris, kayaking, sport fishing, swimming, snorkeling among others.
Activities in Mahale mountains national park
Chimpanzee trekking, this is the most popular activity carried out in the park where visitors move deep into the forest in search habituated chimpanzee families. Chimpanzee trekking in Mahale mountains national park starts with a briefing about the rules and regulations at the park headquarters. After the briefing you will be allocated a chimpanzee family to trek, a park guide who is well conversant with trails in forest and then start trekking which takes about 20 minutes to 3 hours. During trekking you will have great views of bird species, other primates like yellow baboons, red tailed monkeys, plant and tree species, animals like antelopes, warthogs among others and once the chimpanzees are found you will be allowed to spend one hour with them in their natural habitat which gives you an opportunity to learn more about their behaviors, habits, watch them feed, breastfeed, play, hunt among others.
Guided nature walks, this is an amazing activity that gives you an opportunity to explore the park on foot. Nature walks in Mahale mountains national park are carried out with the company of an armed park ranger to protect you from any danger. During the nature walks you will be able to get close and personal with animals in their natural habitats, view colorful butterflies, different plant and tree species, listen to birds singing in the trees, relax your mind in a cool and quiet environment, watch primates playing in tree branches, take photos among others.
Bird watching, Mahale mountains national park harbors more than 350 bird species which makes it one of the best birding destinations in Tanzania with bird species including forest birds, water birds, migratory birds, endemic species and near endemic species. During bird watching you will be able to spot different species of birds such as malachite kingfisher, livingstons turaco, crested guinea fowl, blue cheeked bee-eater, African fish eagle, bamboo warbler, crowned eagle, trumpeter hornbill, giant kingfisher, palm nut vulture, crested malimbe among others.
Snorkeling, during your safari in Mahale mountains national park you can engage in snorkeling activity on Lake Tanganyika where you will swim in the lake with a diving mask, wetsuit and fins. Snorkeling takes about 3 hours and during the activity you will have views of fish types because Lake Tanganyika harbors about 90 fish types.
Boat cruise, this is an adventurous and exciting activity that shouldn’t be missed during your safari in Mahale mountains national park. During the boat cruise you will ride along the lake where you will have great views of hippos and crocodiles in water, water birds, enjoy beautiful scenery, sunset among others.
Sport fishing, this is an interesting activity that is carried on designated areas with an experienced fishing guide. Sport fishing on Lake Tanganyika is done when the weather is calm and during the activity fish anglers will use a catch and release method to catch different types of fish.
Cultural tours, this is an exciting activity where you will be able to interact with the local people in the neighboring villages. During the cultural tour you will visit the Batongwe people where you will learn about their culture, tradition, way of living, taste their food, enjoy entertainment through music, dance and drama, listen to ancient stories among others.
When to visit Mahale mountains national park
Mahale mountains national park can be visited all year round though the best time is during the dry season in the months of June to October. During this period there is less rainfall in the park therefore vegetation will be less hence allowing you to clearly view animals and the walking/ hiking trails will be dry and passable compared to the rainy season when the trails are muddy and slippery.
The national park can also be visited in the rainy season in the months of March to May because that’s the best period for bird watching where you will be able to view migratory birds. During the rainy season you will enjoy thunderstorms over the lake and there will be plenty of food in the forest therefore chimpanzee trekking will be easy.
Getting to Mahale Mountains National Park
Mahale mountains national park is located in the remote area in the western part of Tanzania and its best accessed by boat and air transport means.
Air transport, when using air transport means you can book charter or scheduled flights from Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Mwanza or Kigoma to Mahale airstrip and flights to the park can be booked by your tour operator.
Boat, when using boat the Mv Liemba ferry moves twice per month from Kigoma to Lagosa point taking about 8 to 10 hours and a boat from the park will pick you. You can also use a speed motorboat from Kigoma to the park which takes about 3 to 4 hours ride.
Road transport, Mahale mountains national park can also be accessed by road transport though the roads are rough and inaccessible especially during the rainy season hence taking about 2 to 3 days drive therefore when using road, you will drive from Arusha to Kigoma town and then arrange for a boat or plane to the park.