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Mahale Mountains & Gombe Stream

Why visit Mahale Mountains or Gombe Stream National Parks?

The focus of both Mahale and Gombe on Lake Tanganyika are wild chimpanzees. This incredible experience comes at a price, but it is definitely worth it for primate lovers. Gombe was Jane Goodall’s base, and the pricier Mahale can offer quirky luxury.
The reasons you should visit are:

  • Both reserves protect some of Africa’s last remaining wild chimpanzees, and other primates and wildlife.
  • Both have a great position in hilly rainforest on the edge of Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania.
  • Chimps can sometimes be seen close to camps or on the shore, but the walking can be strenuous at times due to the hilly rainforest terrain.
  • Mahale has about 1000 individual chimps and 8 other primate species such as red colobus monkeys.
  • Staying at Mahale feels like you’re in a remote jungle-clad paradise - which you are!
  • Greystoke Mahale is one of Africa’s most amazing places to stay. Expensive, certainly. Worth it? Definitely.
  • Gombe Stream is where Jane Goodall began her study of chimps under Dr Leakey in 1960. The research is the longest running study of any wild animal population in the world.
  • Accommodation at Gombe is less luxurious, so it’s cheaper but the chimp experience is just as good as Mahale. Both areas are also good for birding.

When to go to Mahale Mountains or Gombe Stream National Parks

Both parks can be visited year round, though in the rainier months of April and May some of the lodges close and it’s often too wet for most people’s liking.

November to April is classed as the wet season here. It is hotter and more humid, and of course wetter. The chimps tend to go higher up the mountains in these months, so you will possibly have to walk further to see them.

May to October is the dry season, and for most it is the better time to go. July to October is the very best of the dry season months. In the drier months the chimps are usually lower down the mountains, and so easier to see.

Mahale and Gombe are never busy, so you’re never going to be jostling for space here!

How to do it?

It is neither easy nor cheap to get to and stay at either park, particularly Mahale. This means that both parks get very few visitors and it is a very special and exclusive experience which is, frankly, all the more magical for the lack of people.

There are various ways to get to the parks:
Gombe: The most common way to get to Gombe Stream is to firstly fly to Kigoma (usually from Arusha or Kilimanjaro Airport). From Kigoma, visitors to Gombe take a private motorboat on Lake Tanganyika which takes roughly an hour.

Mahale: Most people take flights directly into the airstrip at Mahale from Arusha. Greystoke Mahale run flights on Mondays and Thursdays from Arusha, which take about 3 hours. It’s then 1½ hours in a dhow on the lake to get to the camp – what a great way to arrive.

Consider linking a trip to Mahale with another reserve nearby which get very few visitors, Katavi National Park. Mahale, Katavi, and also Ruaha are three of the best reserves in Africa, so a combined trip would be utterly unforgettable.

Accommodation at Mahale and Gombe

In Gombe, Gombe Forest Lodge is the place to stay. In Mahale, choose Greystoke Mahale if you can as it’s such an amazing place. However Kungwe Bush Camp offers a very good, cheaper alternative.

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Mahale Mountains & Gombe Stream accommodation

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facts and information

Time: GMT +3 hours

Flight time:

Flights from UK to Tanzania take about 9 hours direct or 10-11 with a brief stopover en route if from Europe.

Language: Kiswahili and English are Tanzania's official languages. Although most people in the cities speak some English, a few phrases of Kiswahili are useful in more rural areas.

Visas:

Most nationalities require a Tanzania visa, obtainable from the High Commission in London (or on arrival into International Airport.

Health:

Most nationalities require a Tanzania visa, obtainable from the High Commission in London (or on arrival into International Airport.

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