Mahale Mountains National Park Chimpanzee Trekking Safari : Mahale Mountains National Park in western Tanzania is an exceptional African wilderness safari destination in many ways. It is inaccessible by road and can only be accessed by boat along the Lake Tanganyika coastline, Africa’s longest, deepest, oldest, and second largest freshwater lake. The park encompasses 623 square miles (1613 square kilometres) and begins with an idyllic coastal strip of silver sand that is approached through a shallow lagoon where the 100-year-old lake ferry, MV Liemba, cannot navigate and must transition passengers and cargo to smaller boats in order to reach land.

Behind the shoreline, the Mahale Mountains rise almost 2500 metres above sea level to a dramatic peak at Mount Nkungwe. Above the cliffs are flower-covered, high-altitude plains that appear after the first seasonal rains. At the summit, cold air collides with warm, humid air ascending from the lake.

Stunning waterfalls cascade from the heights, carving deep ravines teeming with verdant vegetation, beautiful butterflies, and abundant birdlife. This results in a diverse array of ecozones, which contributes to the vast diversity of mammalian life. These include gigantic forest squirrels, scaly giant pangolins, red and white Colobus monkeys, brush-tailed porcupines, and Sharpe’s grysboks.

The park has more chimpanzees in the wild than any other East or Southern African park, including its famous sibling Gombe. Since the 1960s, Japanese researchers led by the late Dr. Toshisada Nishida have observed the M group of 60 or more chimpanzees who are accustomed to human presence.

These are frequently observed on a Mahale chimpanzee tour with Focus East Africa Tours, but because they are susceptible to many human diseases, Tanzania has stringent regulations regarding the safe conduct of primate safaris.

Current research relies on observing the behavior of these chimpanzees in their natural habitats. Self-medication by swallowing folded leaves with small spines to remove intestinal parasites and consuming medicinal botanicals to combat infections have been identified as activities that were previously observed only in humans.

Chimpanzees use tools like grass stalks to probe termite mounds for edible insects, enhance their tools by stripping straight twigs for the same purpose, and pass on their specialized knowledge to other chimpanzees. In a second isolated habitat, a vast Miombo woodland with brachystegia and acacia, highly elusive mountain leopards pursue magnificent chestnut sable and stocky roan antelopes with heavily banded horns.

Mahale Mountains National Park Chimpanzee Trekking Safari
Chimpanzee Trekking Safari

In a rare and inaccessible third region of flat savannah grasslands, prides of lordly but extremely rare lions hunt rotund zebra, impudent warthogs, and supercilious giraffe. In the deep waters outside the offshore lake conservation area and away from the Mahale park lake boundary, fishing is permitted. When viewed from a distance, lamp-lit flotillas of sardine fishing dhows create a romantic scene at night.

Best time to visit Mahale for a western Tanzania safari.

The best opportunity for an unforgettable trip to Mahale with Focus East Africa Tours is between June and September, during the dry season. In June, July, and August, it rarely rains, with aquatic dust offs concluding by the end of May and light showers commencing around the beginning of October. Temperatures range from a low of 64 F (18 C) to a high of 86 F (30 C). During the dry season, the chimpanzees are typically found in medium to large groups on the lower mountain slopes, and have been observed wandering through the vegetation near the shores of Greystoke and Mbali Mbali Mahale Lodge.

From November to April, the sequential rainy season is hotter and more humid, necessitating precautions against mosquitoes and tsetse flies. You may wish to carry insect repellent and malaria prevention medication. Avoid wearing dark or blue clothing, which attracts tsetse flies. Wet temperatures range between 68 F (20 C) and 82 F (28 C) degrees. Humidity can frequently exceed 80%.

In these conditions, chimpanzees keep to the upper slopes where they can find food, even hunting their cousins, the red colobus, to satisfy their omnivorous cravings. Extremely heavy precipitation makes the lower slopes slick and boggy. The chimpanzees find it simpler to ascend in the rain. The Mbali Mbali Mahale Lodge is closed from late February until mid-May, while Greystoke closes a month later and reopens in June, as the treacherous terrain of Mahale makes logistics extremely challenging during these months. At this time of year, it is extremely difficult to locate a place to stay because these twin accommodations are closed. There is a small financial advantage to mid-season travel, as accommodation costs are marginally lower; however, travel logistics are prohibitively expensive and time-consuming.

Even during peak season, there are rarely more than 50 visitors in Mahale National Park’s 1613 square kilometres (627 square miles) of land at any given time. Less than 100 square kilometres (38 square miles) of the park are water. The peak season for birdwatchers is from November to April, when fearless twitchers attempt to identify new species.

The recorded list includes more than 355 native and migratory bird species, but it is believed that more than 500 species inhabit the region’s diverse environments, the majority of which are inaccessible. Numerous are endangered endemic subspecies to the region. In northern Kabezi, where the woodland is open, visibility is greater than in forested areas, where it is more difficult to detect birds that can only be identified by their calls.

This authentic Tanzanian exploration vacation is a genuine voyage of discover. This is also the time of year to observe over 300 species of butterflies and some of over a thousand plant species, with a good possibility of discovering as many previously unrecorded species. Many of them are on the verge of extinction and must be located, identified, and protected; however, it is rigorously prohibited to remove anything from the site, with the exception of photographs.

Also accessible during both the dry and wet seasons is the opportunity to see over 400 species of tropical fishes and other colourful sea life during your snorkeling excursion; however, take advice from your safari accommodation and use common sense as hippos and crocodiles do exist in certain areas of the largest, deepest, and oldest lake in Africa – the mighty Tanganyika.

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