Hidden on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, about 80 miles from the nearest major town, is the Mahale Mountains National Park. When visiting this park, which covers over 600 square miles, people can enjoy active hikes through the mountains and admire beautiful, picturesque sunsets. Although the nature surrounding this national park is also amazing, visitors travel here primarily for the wildlife.
According to Expert Africa, the national park is home to “Tanzania’s densest population of primates: yellow baboon, red colobus, blue, red-tailed and vervet monkeys are never far away – and then, of course, there are the chimpanzees.” The chimpanzees are perhaps Mahale’s most popular attraction.
According to the national park’s website, the Mahale Mountains National Park is “famous for containing some of the last remaining wild chimpanzees in Africa.” Most people usually get the chance to catch a peek of these primates on a day’s hike through the national park, especially during the dry season.
“In the dry season months of June to October the undergrowth is less dense and the chimps frequently come down near the main lodge area to feed,” according to Lonely Planet. Although it is possible to not see any chimps on one visit to the park, it is pretty rare to spend two to three days there without seeing any.
According to Expert Africa, there are about 1,000 chimpanzees living in the park, but one group of chimps, known as the Mimikire clan, is especially friendly to visitors. “Currently led by an impressive alpha male, Alofu, the M-group, as they are commonly known, has around 56 chimps. They go where they want and when they want but are relaxed near people, so it’s possible to track and observe them from very close quarters.”
NYMM intern Elissa Title describes her time chimpanzee trekking as unpredictable. “The guides go up the mountain in the morning to see where the chimps are, but by the time you eat breakfast and start hiking, the chimps could move. I hiked for almost 2 hours without seeing chimpanzees and as we returned down the mountain, the chimps were less than 5 minutes away from the camp.”
Primates are not the only animals to be observed in the Mahale Mountains National Park. Lonely Planet suggests that lions, giraffes, and elephants can also be seen on a visit as well, and people should be accompanied by armed guides at all times in case of these rare instances. However, “more common are roan and sable antelopes, porcupines and the ubiquitous warthog.”
Beyond admiring the wildlife, visitors can also make use of the park’s lake. According to Lonely Planet, “In between chimp tracking expeditions, Lake Tanganyika beckons for snorkelling, kayaking and hippo- and crocodile-spotting forays.” At the end of the day, after hours of hiking for a chance to spot some amazing wildlife in their natural habitat, visitors can enjoy the beautiful sunsets over the lake.
Though it can be difficult to access this secluded national park, it seems well worth it for a spectacular opportunity to interact up close with amazing wildlife and to enjoy scenic sunsets in the Mahale Mountains National Park.
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