Mahale Mountains National Park Safari Guide

safarigo   Tanzania  

In Mahale, chimpanzees are the star attraction. There are roughly 800 chimps in the park, of which about 60 individuals of the Mimikere group are very habituated to people. The research and habituation in Mahale is a Japanese project that goes back as long as Jane Goodall's research in neighboring Gombe NP.



Pros & Cons


A chance to come face-to-face with chimps
The park is much bigger than 
Gombe NP
Pristine forest at the shore of Lake Tanganyika
Watching wildlife on a hike is a nice change from vehicle safaris
Very exclusive and doesn't get crowded
Difficult to get to and accommodation options are limited
Only very expensive packages available


Wildlife & Animals

The main attraction in Mahale Mountains is its population of chimpanzees. There are roughly 800 chimps in the park, and about 60 of them are very habituated to people. Your guide will take you, on foot, along the forest trails to find them.

Wildlife Highlights


Chimps aside, eight other primate species have been recorded and at least five are likely to be encountered on a visit. These are yellow baboon, red colobus, blue monkey, red-tailed monkey and vervet monkey. The nocturnal lesser and greater galago are more likely to be heard than seen. The eastern slopes of Mahale support populations of elephant, lion, wild dog, roan antelope, buffalo and giraffe, but they are rarely seen by visitors.


Birds

More than 350 bird species have been recorded in Mahale Mountains so far, but this is expected to only be 80% of all species present. Most of them are forest birds, which are quite difficult to spot. Some of the more conspicuous birds to look out for are giant kingfisher, crested guineafowl and Ross’s turaco. Migratory birds are present from November to April.

Best Time to Visit

It is possible to track chimpanzees all year in Mahale Mountains. However, the chances of finding them improve towards the end of the Dry season (from July to October) when the chimps favor the lower slopes. If you have two or three days, your chance of seeing them is reasonable at any time of the year.

May to October – Dry Season


Chimpanzees can be found easily on the low mountain slopes from July to October
Sunshine with little chance for rain
Malaria is less of a concern since few mosquitoes are present
You might see other tourists while tracking chimps, but the park is never crowded


November to April – Wet Season


The air is clean and clear
Waterfalls are in full flow
Migratory birds are present, so birding is at its peak
Butterflies are plentiful
Forest trails may be slippery and hard to travel
As chimpanzees move to higher ground, they become harder to track
It gets hot and humid


Weather & Climate

Due to its location close to the equator, the climate in Mahale ranges from warm to hot and humid. This doesn’t change much throughout the year. Average temperatures are about 27°C/81°F during the day. Evenings cool down to about 17°C/63°F.

Mahale’s Dry season is from May to October. The Wet season is from November to April. The rains come in the form of afternoon thunderstorms and seldom last the whole day.

Dry Season – May to October


May – Although occasional rain is still possible, this is the end of the Wet season.
June, July, August & September – Clear and sunny skies with common afternoon temperatures of 27°C/81°F. This is a time of little, if any, rain. The coldest nights are in June through August with temperatures of about 14°C/57°F.
October – The Dry season comes to an end. It will likely rain some of the time.


Wet Season – November to April


November, December, January, February, March & April – Although it is slightly cooler in the Wet season, the heat can be oppressive due to the high humidity. Rainfall all day long is very uncommon, but on most days there will be some rain in the form of afternoon thunderstorms.


Getting There

Mahale is not the easiest or cheapest place to get to. Depending on your itinerary, your entry point to the country will be either Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) in Arusha town, or Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) in Dar es Salaam. In most cases, your tour operator will pick you up from the airport and make ongoing arrangements.

The best way to get to 
Katavi is by a flight from Arusha. The only public, scheduled flight is the twice-weekly service between Ruaha, Katavi and Mahale operated by Safari Air Link.

Zantasair works with its sister company Mbali Mbali lodges, to offer twice-weekly shared charter flights between northern 
Tanzania and western Tanzania, incorporating Katavi and Mahale National Parks.