Mahale Mountains National Park (and Gombe Stream)
The Mahale Mountains rise to some 8000 ft above sea-level on the western edge of Tanzania along the shores of Lake Tanganyika. The predominant habitat in one of sub-tropical forest, which tumbles down the mountains to meet the lake. The forests are home to around 1000 chimpanzees – the main reason to visit – and nine other species of primate, including red colobus, red-tailed and blue monkeys. A family of around 60 chimpanzees have now been habituated by Japanese scientists who have researched the area for some 30 years. Walking through the forest (sometimes this can be difficult), you should get the opportunity to view these great apes as they go about their daily routine. Mahale is arguably the best place in Africa to view chimpanzees in the wild.
The lake provides an inland sea of tropical delight with over a fifth of the 1000 or so species of cyclid fish endemic. Snorkelling and swimming (though limited for safety reasons), fishing or simply relaxing on the beach are all part of a day in Mahale.
Access to the park is by boat (1 hour) from a small airstrip just outside the northern edge of the park, with scheduled air transfers from Arusha and Ruaha flying in twice a week.
Much further north on the lakeshore, north of the town of Kigoma, Gombe Stream also offers chimpanzee viewing in a similar, if a little less dramatic, setting. Gombe is reached by boat from Kigoma, which is serviced by scheduled flights. Gombe Stream has been made famous by researcher Jane Goodall, whose research centre continues today.