Chimpanzee, Mahale Mountains, Tanzania.
africa, chimpanzee, mahale, pan, pan troglodytes, primate, safari, tanzania, troglodytes

©Andrew Molinaro/Shutterstock

Mahale Mountains National Park

Top choice in Western Tanzania

It’s difficult to imagine a more idyllic combination: clear, blue waters and white-sand beaches backed by lushly forested mountains soaring straight out of Lake Tanganyika, and some of the continent’s most intriguing wildlife watching. Mahale Mountains park (1613 sq km) is most notable as a chimpanzee sanctuary – there are about 700 of our primate relatives split into 14 groups residing in and around the park – with leopards, blue duikers, red-tailed monkeys and red colobus monkeys keeping them company.

The downside to this idyllic preserve is how challenging it is to get there. Unless you fly, plan on spending at least a day trying to arrive and another when you leave. Entry to Mahale Mountains National Park is at Bilenge in the park’s northwestern corner, about 10 minutes by boat south of the airstrip and 20 minutes north of Kasiha, site of the park’s bandas (thatched-roof huts) and guides’ residences. Another park office, next to the airstrip and where fly-in guests can pay their entry fees, is open to coincide with flight arrivals.

There are no roads in Mahale; walking and boating along the shoreline are the only ways to get around.

Chimpanzee trekking is limited to those 12 years of age and older.