Off the beaten path, in the extreme west of Tanzania, Mahale National Park is a true once in a lifetime safari experience. The park is incredibly remote, accessible only twice a week or by private charter, and the number of visitors purposefully limited, making a trip to the Mahale Mountains nothing short of magical. Mahale is also arguably the best place in the world for chimp safaris.
Mahale Mountains National Park has been described as “quite simply one of the most beautiful park anywhere in Africa”. Only one exclusive camp calls Mahale home. Greystoke sits on the lake shore on the edge between the powder white beach sand and the verdant jungle-clad mountains. Large, vibrantly colored butterflies float above the streams and the forest is alive with sound. Not only is the scenery some of Africa’s best, but it also harbors Tanzania’s densest population of primates: yellow baboon, red colobus, blue, red-tailed and vervet monkeys are never far away – and, of course, the chimpanzees.
Covering about 1,600 km² of the Mahale Mountains, this national park is home to around 1,000 chimpanzees. Most significantly, one group of Mahale chimps – the Mimikire clan – has been habituated by researchers since 1965. 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 (thanks to a longtime Japanese study), so it’s possible to track and observe them from very close quarters. For the good of the chimps’ health, all human visitors on chimpanzee safaris are required to wear surgical masks, which will be provided for you.
The hike to reach the Mahale chimpanzees can vary from a leisurely wander of 20 minutes to a more strenuous hike of three hours or more. Towards the end of the dry season (August to October) Mahale’s chimp safaris are at their easiest, as the forest paths are at their driest and least slippery, and the chimps are usually closer to the lake’s shore. A trip to Mahale Mountains National Park, the adventure getting there, the 360 degree breathtaking view from the perfect sandy shore and the unforgettable experience of observing the playful and lazy life of the chimpanzees is an African safari must.
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