Mahale Mountains National Park is on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Southern Kigoma Region of western Tanzania. Lake Tanganyika is known as the longest and second deepest freshwater lake in the world with over 250 fish species. Mahale Mountains National Park was named after the Mahale Mountains range which is located within its borders. The occupants of Mahale Mountains were the Holoholo and Batongwe people who were evicted in 1979 and the area gazetted as a National park in 1985.
Mahale Mountains National Park is one of the only two protected areas for Chimpanzees in Tanzania and has the largest number of these primates due to its remoteness. This has kept them safe from humans and enabled them flourish. It is also the only park in Tanzania where Chimpanzees and lions co-exist. The only way to enter and exit Mahale National Park is by a boat on the lake and there are no roads within the park, which makes it one of the few parks in Africa that are explored on foot.
The largest part of the park is covered by Miombo woodland with montane and riverine forest. Apart from the Chimpanzees that have been habituated, there are other animals like porcupines, colobus monkeys, mongoose. lions, giraffes, and zebras that can be spotted on the more open savannah grasslands. The Park also boasts of over 230 species of birds which include the fish eagle, palm-nut vulture, vieillot’s black weaver, living stone’s turaco, ross’s turaco, and others.
Size and accessibility:
Mahale Mountains National Park covers an area of over 1,613 square Kilometres that is mainly green and hilly.
The roads are rough and can be impassable mainly during the wet season, so a 4WD vehicle is a must have. You will need about 2 to 3 days to travel from Arusha to Kigoma. From Kigoma to Mahale, you can use a speed boat which takes about 4 to 5 hours to Mahale Mountain National Park from Kigoma.
The easiest and quickest way to access Mahale is from Arusha to Kigoma which takes around 7 to 8 hours and then a speed boat to Mahale. During the high tourist seasons of June to October, regular scheduled flights are arranged by tour operators from Arusha or Dar es Salaam to Mahale Airstrip and take between 3 to 5 hours. In low tourist seasons, less regular flights are organised. However, Charter flights can be arranged.