There’s nowhere else in Tanzania like Mahale Mountains. Rising from the shores of Lake Tanganyika, this remote and fabulously scenic park protects a forest-swathed mountain range whose highest point towers more than a mile above the sandy lakeshore beaches. Only explorable on foot, Mahale supports a population of around 1,000 chimpanzees, and it ranks among the top three places anywhere in Africa to visit our closest kin in their natural habitat.
Discover Mahale Mountains National Park
Chimpanzee tracking here is superb. The 60-strong Mimikere Community has been studied by Japanese researchers since the 1960s and is so relaxed that individual chimps sometimes brush right past human visitors on the forest paths.
Lake Tanganyika is truly gorgeous. Hemmed in by the sheer forested walls of the Rift Valley, the world’s second-longest freshwater body stretches serpentine for 420 miles from north to south. Swimming in the clear water is utterly blissful, and it is possible to explore further afield by boat.
Chimps aside, eight primate species have been recorded in Mahale; red colobus, blue monkey and yellow baboon are all likely to be seen in the lakeshore forests.
A checklist of 350 species makes Mahale highly attractive to birders. Among the more exciting regulars around the lakeshore lodges are Ross’s turaco, giant kingfisher and crested malimbe.
For active travelers, a guided day hike to the 8,077ft Nkungwe Peak involves a daunting altitudinal ascent of around 5,500ft but rewards with stunning views. The ascent passes through pristine bamboo and montane forest that hosts plenty of wildlife, notably an endemic subspecies of Angola colobus monkey.
Accessible only by boat or light aircraft and serviced by a handful of small exclusive lakeshore camps, Mahale is a safari destination that offers a unique combination of off-the-beaten-track isolation and barefoot luxury