Mahale Mountains National Park

"Chimpanzees trekking paradise"


Region: Kigoma

Category: National Park

To-do activities:

Chimpanzee trekking, bird-watching and hiking

Best time to visit:

The dry season of May - October when the chimpanzee trek on lower slopes


The only option is the cottages available inside the national park.

About Mahale Mountains National Park

Found deep in the Kigoma region, Mahale Mountains National Park is home to around 1,000 chimpanzees, making it one of the best places in the world to observe these fascinating primates in their natural habitat. Of particular interest is the Mimikire clan, a group of Mahale chimps that have been monitored by researchers since 1965. Known as the M-group, this clan consists of approximately 60 chimps that roam freely throughout the park. Despite their wild nature, the M-group is relaxed around humans, allowing visitors to track and observe them up close. To ensure the health and safety of the chimps, all visitors trekking the chimpanzees are required to wear face masks and stand at least a certain distance away from the chimpanzees. There is also an hour timeout for seeing the chimpanzees up close.

Although the major draw is chimps, there are plenty of other smaller ape species to see as well. Also, hippos and crocodiles are always nearby, especially in the evenings and near the coast. By the rules set by TANAPA, the minimum participant age for chimp trekking is 12 years old.

Mahale National Park was started as a wildlife research centre by the Japanese. It wasn't until June 14 1985 when Mahale became a national park under Government Notice No. 262. The park consists of an inland area, mostly mountainous, and the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika, which makes up about a 1.6km strip of coastal waters. Together they cover 1,613 square kilometers, offering breathtaking landscapes and captivating wildlife. On the mountainside, the highest peak in the park is called Nkungwe, rising up about 2,470 meters above sea level.

Views from the lake
Views from the mountains
Caution! Crocodiles on the lake. No swimming is allowed

We were unlucky to see the chimps. Had we planned better and stayed a few more days we would have been lucky. Albeit all that, if you're an adventurer at heart and have a yearning for unspoiled nature and incredible wildlife encounters, Mahale National Park in Tanzania should be at the top of your travel bucket list. The park's remote and secluded location ensures a pristine environment, making it an ideal destination for an authentic nature experience. The park is famously renowned for its rich history of chimpanzee research, dating back to the 1960s by the Japanese (about the same time Dr. Jane Goodall was doing the same at Gombe National Park).

Interesting facts about Mahale Mountains National Park

  • Home to the largest community of eastern chimpanzees. The park's vast expanse and seclusion provide an ideal environment for the thriving of these primates.

  • It is one of the only two areas in the country that are protected for chimpanzees. The other one is Gombe National Park, also found in Kigoma

  • Mahale is one of the few parks in Africa that you can only explore on foot and the only way to get in and out is by boat on Lake Tanganyika

  • The park was originally inhabited by the Holoholo and Batongwe tribes before they were evacuated in order to establish the park in 1985

Getting to Mahale Mountains National Park

The Mahale Mountains are found in Kigoma region, about 200km from Kigoma town. It's worth noting that before you start your journey make sure you check them for arrangements for accommodation and meals. This is because the park is so secluded that accommodation is only provided by the park and one has to have their meal plans sorted by carrying foodstuffs for cooking at the park (you can hire a chef at the park for that). The food items may be purchased at the nearest 'town' about 35 km away called Rukoma. Albeit all that, the journey is worth every bit.

As of June 2023, one can get to Mahale Park headquarters by using two major means - flight or by road. Irrespective of the means though, there is no way you can get to the park without crossing Lake Tanganyika by using the park boats.

Flight: The quickest and most convenient option is to take a chartered flight from Kigoma to the park. The airstrip at the park is just 5km away from the park headquarters. The flight takes less than one hour from Kigoma to the park and gives you the room to get some aerial stunning views of the park

Road: the part is 200km away from Kigoma town. Don't be fooled though, this journey may take you at least 8 hours or a full day to complete. 190km of the 200km are rough roads, and although the condition is great you can't drive that fast. Also, after about 30 km after diverging towards the park, there is a ferry to help you cross the Malagarasi river. Depending on the time, you may spend an hour or so on the ferry. After the ferry the road is clear until you reach the park headquarters

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