Mahale Mountains National Park is wonderful. It is difficult to write this description without filling it completely with superlatives.
Located right on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, an expensive and relatively long flight from Arusha (operated only twice weekly), followed by a relaxing dhow cruise, takes you to the lush and stunningly beautiful Mahale Mountain range, which slopes right down to the water's edge.
In the distance, across the water you can see the hills of the DRC as the horizon, confirming that you are now deep in the African continent, in one of the most remarkable locations.
The major drawcard of Mahale is the chimpanzee trekking, which is a heart-racing, dream fulfilling excursion, which takes you through the jungle of Mahale, and within touching distance of wild chimpanzees.
Besides the chimp trekking though, Mahale can be enjoyed for its serenity, beauty, water activities, fishing, the amazing locals, and the relaxation of the sandy beach. While it is a costly exercise, if funds allow, Mahale Mountains must be visited at least once in a lifetime. Combining Mahale with Katavi National Park, which lies just to the east can create an unbeatable Tanzanian safari itinerary.
With the location on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, fishing is obviously one of the favourite past times, and necessary occupations of the local tribes. Your guides will be more than happy to take you out on the lake to try some traditional techniques.
Enjoy cruising along the lake, looking out for hippos in the crystal clear water, and watching the jungle pass by, while half expecting Tarzan to start his whooping and chest-beating!
Home to some of Africa's last remaining wild chimpanzees, Mahale Mountains has a population of roughly 800 chimps, of which only 60 have been habituated for trekking purposes.
The treks start right from your accommodation, as you leave your lodge and embark on foot up into the mountains on dense walking tracks. Streams and waterfalls flow past you as you navigate your way through the jungle, listening for the shrieks of the chimpanzees as they feed through the foliage.
Once located, you will beat your way through the bush to access the group, and have 1 hour to spend sitting and watching. The thrill of sitting amongst these creatures needs to be experienced to be understood.
Even when not out searching for chimps, the Mahale Mountains offer some beautiful walks and you can enthrall yourself with the bright butterflies and brilliant birdlife which make their home in the thick forest.
The atmosphere of Mahale is totally relaxed, and you can wander through the paths enjoying the scenery and taking in the heart of Africa.
For the more active, it is possible to take a kayak out onto the lake, and enjoy paddling on one of Africa's great lakes. There are many coves and small beaches along the lake shore to explore, and a great afternoon can be spent out on the water.
Positioned in the far, inaccessible west of Tanzania, the Mahale Mountain range runs parallel to Lake Tanganyika, which acts as the border between Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The national park has no roads, and access is only via light aircraft, followed by a boat transfer along the lake. The scenery provided by both the mountains and the lake's waters is nothing short of spectacular, and Mahale Mountains will always be a highlight of any journey.