Mahale & Gombe
The world-class tourist attraction of Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains offer the best chimpanzee-tracking in Africa. Inevitably it is the chimp community habituated by Jane Goodall’s chimp research that forms the centre of tourist at Gombe. The park is accessible by boat and the easiest way to visit is with Chimpanzee Safaris. Guided forest walks can be arranged and chimp-tracking is available all year, but the late dry season - July to October - has several advantages.
There are few places left on earth that might rightfully be called Eden and the Mahale Mountains, on the edge of Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania, is one of them. On a far-flung beach along the eastern shores of the lake, below a huge story-book tropical forest, is the tiny sanctuary of Greystoke Mahale. The water is as clear as gin, the air scented and the living very easy indeed.
Mahale Mountains National Park is a peninsula of forested mountains and rugged mountain rise sharply from sandy beaches - the scenery is magnificent. Easily seen chimp, red-tailed monkeys and yellow baboon should be encountered by casual visitors. There is no road access to Mahale and can be visited by charter flights. Mahale has better upmarket facilities for tourists and offers a more holistic wilderness experience while Gombe is more accessible. Whenever of wherever you go, it is an experience that will last your lifetime.
Set among the forested slopes of the Mahale Mountains, the Mahale Mountains National Park was originally created to protect thousands of chimpanzees. It is the scene of fantastic sunsets over Lake Tanganyika, which makes it an essential stop for keen photographers and safari enthusiasts.
The habitat combines rain forest, grasslands, alpine bamboo and woodland. Some 50 species of animals have been recorded in the Park, predominant among these being representatives of various monkey and ape families and over 90 unique species of fish swim in the clear waters of the lake. The forest itself is special, with eight other species of primate, shyer forest mammals, birds, butterflies, giant vines and waterfalls. And if a day’s ‘chimping’ isn’t enough, you can take a gentle forest hike, go fishing or kayak along the lake shore.
Running from Burundi in the north to Zambia in the south (675kms) makes Lake Tanganyika the longest fresh water body in the world. It is immensely beautiful and hemmed in by the mountainous Rift Valley Escarpment and the lake shore is lined by long sandy beaches, rustic fishing villages and ancient forest rattling with birds and monkeys. The aquamarine waters is crystal clear and harbour 1000 fish species. Overshadowed by such big guns as Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti, Lake Tanganyika remains resolutely off the beaten track.
An Island sea that is the fabled sourse of the River Nile. The world’s second largest fresh water body lies between a shallow elevated basin shared between Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. Lake Victoria has never featured prominently on tourist itineraries, though the construction of a proper lodge on Rubondo Island National Park and flights from the Serengeti has made day trips, fishing expeditions and bird watching a popular attraction.
With the crystal clear waters of Lake Tanganyika lapping its golden beaches, the park covers around 1,600 sq km of virgin forest. Quite simply, it is one of the most stunning locations in Africa. Chimpanzees are a favourite attraction here. From the lake, the park rises into a spectacular mountain range, with Nkungwe Peak set at 2,462m. With no roads here and only a few places to stay, access is by boat or charter flight, often from Kigoma, 128km to the north. The park is open all year round, but the chimps tend to migrate further into the mountains during the long rains from February to April.