Mahale national park
The Mahale national park is one of the national parks in Tanzania that is situated in the distant Western part of the country. The Mahale national park is also known as Mahale mountains national park. It’s lies along the shores of the African deepest lake that is Lake Tanganyika in the Kigoma region. This is one of the two national parks in Tanzania with Chimpanzees the other is its neighboring Gombe Stream national park. The chimpanzees were habituated by the great researcher Jane Goodall. This is one of the parks in Tanzania that can be explored by foot as you hike on the slopes of the mountains.
One of the unusual things about Mahale is the wide variety of habitat types that it contains. The park is a mosaic of overlapping rainforest, woodland, bamboo forest, Montane forest, and mountain grasslands, meaning that Mahale can support a unique mix of flora and fauna that rely on the various different habitats.
Wildlife in Mahale National Park
Mahale contains at least the world’s largest protected population (approx. 700-1000) of the eastern subspecies of Chimpanzee. There are also over 337 species of birds, many of which are rare and endemic to the Albertine Rift. Eg Pel’s fishing owl.
Mahale contains 8 (Possibly 9) primates in addition to chimps; these are yellow baboons, blue monkeys, red colobus, pied colobus, and vervet monkeys two or three species of Galago. The freshwater fish fauna of Lake Tanganyika is one of the most diverse in the world. The Lake is home to at least 400 species of fish, about 250 of which are cichlids, and 98% of which are endemic (they occur nowhere else on earth)
The best time to visit Mahale National park
The best time of year to visit the Mahale Mountains is, depends to a degree on what your objectives are. If your primary concern is to see the chimpanzees, then while the obvious time to be there is during the dry season (June to October), there are good reasons for thinking about visiting Mahale in the low season, which means the time between November to March. The reason for this is that the season is low because it doesn’t suit humans quite so well as the high season. The same isn’t true of the chimps who don’t give a fig about the weather.
What to do in Mahale national park
Tracking chimpanzee, Snorkeling at Lake Tanganyika, Camping safaris, Forest walks, Kayaking, Fishing, Hiking up Mount Nkungwe and Birdwatching
The climate in Mahale national park
Due to its location close to the equator, the climate of the Mahale Mountains is warm and hot with high humidity. For most of the year, the weather remains the same. The evenings are usually warm, unlike the national parks found in the northern part of Tanzania, while the low temperatures drop to around 15°C or 59°F. The average temperatures are around 25°C or 77°F in the day. Because of the altitude ranges (between 757 meters and 2474 meters / 2484 to 8117 feet), there are common Climactic variations. For every 100 meters, you climb, the temps drop by approximately 6.5°C 3.5°F or every 1000 feet by 1000ft).
Mahale experiences a dry season starting in May to the end of October. Then the wet season continues in November up to April. In the afternoon they get some rains in the form of thunderstorms and these hardly ever rain for the entire day.
Getting to Mahale national park
Mahale is remote which makes it uncrowded. The easiest and quickest way to get there is by air.
By air – During the season from June to October, regularly scheduled flights from Arusha and Dar es Salaam (three to five hours) to the Mahale Airstrip are available. Out of season, flights are less regular. Charter flights can also be arranged.
By road – The roads are rough and can be inaccessible, especially during rains. From Arusha to Kigoma (from where you’ll need to take a boat or plane), it takes about two to three days by car.
By boat – From Kigoma, there are speedboats (four to six hours) and timber boats (up to 15 hours) to Mahale. Twice a week, the MV Liemba, a large steamship, travels from Kigoma (10 hours).