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Mahale really is one of the most unique safari destinations in Africa. Located in the far west of the country Mahale lies on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and would stake its claim as one of the most exceptional destinations on the continent. Mahale is home to the best chimpanzee viewing in Africa and a host of activities that make this a destination in it own right.
This remote national park also has one of the most beautiful camps anywhere in Africa and a Tanzania safari experience to take your breath away.
When you have been in the industry for as long as we have there are a few places in Africa which are talked about as the very best places on the continent. The Schoeman's Skeleton Coast Safaris, Serra Cafema, Chiawa and Old Mondoro in the Lower Zambezi, Mwaleshi and Kutandala in North Luangwa and Greystoke, Mahale. Mahale is not just a chimpanzee destination, Mahale has an absurdly good beach with gin clear waters; and the park itself would stake its claim as one of the most interesting destinations in Africa.
Mahale: What Game
We have never had a client not see the chimps at Mahale. Depending on the time of year that you travel however, trekking for the chimps can take between one hour, and the majority of a strenuous day! The later you go in the season the easier the viewing gets as the chimps move down the mountains in search of food. August to October is the best and easiest time of year to see them. Clearly though chimps have a mind of their own and estimates for how long the walks take are just that. What is certain is that you are only permitted one hour with the chimps when you find them. Chimps are the main attraction however there are plenty of other smaller primate species, birding is very good and the hippos and crocodiles are always close! Leopard often come and visit but you need to be very lucky to get a sighting.
The main attraction of Mahale is visiting the chimpanzees in the national park but we really feel Mahale offers so much more as well. As it’s such a truly beautiful and incredibly remote location just being here and taking a stroll on the shoreline of Tanganyika is spectacular. You can take a kayak out on the lake, or spend hours walking through the forest spotting other smaller primate and plenty of birds as well as climbing through narrow tracks to discover hidden water falls. There is also fishing out on the lake.
Mahale: When to go
The best season for visiting Mahale is in the long dry season from July time through to late October. Chimpanzee can be viewed all year around, however at other times in the year the chimps can be seen but it may just require a little bit more walking.
Mahale: Where to stay
If you travel the long and expensive flight to Mahale we think you may as well stay at the very best which is Nomad’s Greystoke Mahale, this is a world famous lodge for its barefoot luxury and location. The other option which we occasionally sell is the Nkungwe lodge which is just further up the coast line. A cheaper option and it certainly lacks the wow factor but over the last few years has improved. A good option second option if you can’t afford Greystoke.
Recommended lodges in this area:
Greystoke is one of the best lodges in Africa, there is really nowhere else like it and the game experience is very different – trekking in the Mahale Mountains for Chimpanzees! Lake Tanganyika is an ancient lake and the second largest by volume in the world. The main thatched building sits on the white beach and the 6 bandas are hidden into the edge of the undergrowth with incredible views out onto the water. It’s not cheap but if you have travelled all this way then you simply must stay at this lodge.
Nkungwe is our second choice lodge in Mahale Mountain National Park after the famous Mahale Greystoke just next door; but we like Nkungwe for its simplicity, location on the shore of Lake Tanganyika and value. The main attraction of Mahale is the chimpanzees in the hills and clients visit the same clan of chimps as the Greystoke guests, although they stagger the visit times. When you actually arrive at the Mahale airstrip you will then need to take the boat down the lake to arrive at the lodge. There are no roads or vehicles inside the national park.