Mahale Mountains National Park is located in eastern Tanzania, and is one of the smaller parks of this country. Bordered by Lake Tanganyika and diverse with jungles and plains, Mahale Mountains National Park’s main attraction is its chimpanzees. It is the pre-eminent chimp habitats in all of Africa.
Along the water and beaches, there are countless fishing options and snorkeling. Just inland from the water is the Mahale Mountain Range. Its summit at Mt. Nkungwe is a three day trek and worth the trip for its exquisite terrain, adventurous camping, and spectacular views.
Out on the plains, walking safaris can last for days, where giraffes and hippopotamuses can be spotted. Four of the big five are also common—lion, elephant, buffalo and leopard—in Mahale.
Mahale maintains strict regulations on tours to help ensure the survival of its endangered residents. When visiting the chimps, it is forbidden to bring any food, drink or belongings. Backpacks will be left with guides at a safe distance to ensure curious primates are kept safe. The group size is kept small. No more than six people plus a guide are allowed in one group and viewing times are kept to one hour maximum. These rules are very similar to other primate trekking experiences, such as the mountain gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda.
Access to the 1613 km² (623mi²) park is most difficult by car. The recommended route is through Kigoma, and most trips in Tanzania originate in Dar se Salaam. From Kigoma, speedboats can reach the park in about three hours and freight boats can take as long as a day. There are regular flights from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma. A three day cross country train or car ride from Dar es Salaam is the most feasible terrestrial route to and from the park.
May through October dry season is the best time to go. October and November, the start of the rainy season, is not terribly wet.