27 - 30 July 2021
This National Park, located on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, is rather difficult to access. It takes a minimum of five hours by track from Kigoma, the nearest town in the region, and then two and a half hours by boat from the end of the track on a lake whose currents and waves are similar to a rough sea. Mahale National Park is home to the largest colony of Chimpanzees in the country. There are about 800 individuals and they have been studied by Japanese scientists since the 1960s. They are the last Chimpanzees in the country with those in Gombe National Park further north.
We stayed at the lakefront, in one of the Ranger stations. As always, it was simple, but clean and in the middle of nature! It should be noted that all the logistics (water and food) must be planned from Kigoma. Tourists can cook for themselves or hire a cook who was top of his game! There is even a good wifi network on site.
The target species was of course the Chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes, and we were not in the most favourable season. In the dry season, food is scarce and our cousins scatter to find it.
The park is very large and its dense forests are located on steep slopes, the top of which reaches 2462m! Nevertheless, we were lucky. After 30 minutes of easy walking, we came across an old male feeding in a tree. We stayed almost an hour to observe him! Then, down a hill a bit higher in the forest, we saw 3 females with their young. Finally, after a delicious lunch break by a river, a male honoured us with his visit. He walks along the bank in front of us looking for salt and obviously not scared in the least by our company! We were accompanied during our hikes by an excellent naturalist guide, Raymond Lusoma (WA:+255 686 033 061 ) whom we can only recommend!
For the birds, it was less productive. They are generally very difficult to see in the dense tropical forests and the target species of this mountain require to camp much higher in altitude, which would require much more time, logistics and money. For another time!
Note that like the great majority of Tanzania's National Parks, Mahale seems extremely well preserved and protected, which is unfortunately quite exceptional in East Africa....
The other visited regions: