Mahale & Gombe

Deep within the African interior, straddling the eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika, lies a range of mountains that are home to the world’s largest known population of wild chimpanzees. Accessed only by plane and boat, Mahale is over 600 sq km, rising from the lake at 770m to its highest point of 2,463m and encompasses various eco-systems of rainforest, savannah and woodland, (that support a range of diverse wildlife.

But the real focus of Mahale is the chimpanzees and one of the most magical wildlife experiences is tracking and watching them in their natural habitat. With around 800 wild chimpanzees, some of which are habituated and therefore used to the close presence of humans, tracking them is an extraordinary experience. There are no roads, so tracking the chimps along sun-spotted paths can be anywhere from an easy half hour stroll when they are close to the lake shore or up to eight hours when they are up high on the ridges.

But Mahale isn’t just all about chimps; the forest is a magical place to explore on foot. With its rivers and waterfalls, it’s home to eight other species of primate, including black and white colobus, red colobus and red-tailed monkeys. Numerous other mammal species have been sighted in Mahale, and leopard, although rarely seen are often heard. The forests are home to around 355 species of birds and 33 species of butterfly, and the shoreline of Lake Tanganyika is an area of stunning beauty. The lake is one of the oldest in the world with its crystal clear water filled with a unique array of fresh water fish.

Gombe Stream is the smallest of Tanzania’s national parks and is best known as the place where primatologist Jane Goodall conducted her first studies on chimpanzees, beginning in the 1960s and continuing today. The chimpanzees are the main attraction at Gombe as it’s one of the only two places in Tanzania where you can take a chimpanzee safari.

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With 16 major river valleys full of ancient forest, the scenery of Gombe’s mountainous terrain is stunning. This fertile eco-system provides larger mammals with drinking water, which is of great importance in the dry months because some of the local fauna does not leave the forest canopy.
The area is covered by a complex mosaic of eco-systems, from the rolling grasslands on the ridges, steep slopes of open woodlands and thick evergreen forests on the valley floors. Gombe’s unique environment survives because it is isolated by distinct boundaries, with Lake Tanganyika forming the western boundary.

The wildlife found at Gombe is centred on primates but apart from the famous chimpanzees, you may see olive baboons, also under study since the 1960s, and are exceptionally habituated, while red-tailed and red colobus monkeys – the latter regularly hunted by chimps – stick to the forest canopy.

Gombe Stream is the perfect place for a walking safari, allowing you to cool off along the way with a dip in one of the many streams that criss-cross the park. If you are there to see the wild chimpanzees you will be on your feet quite a lot as you track these primates through the forest canopy.

Our properties in Mahale have been picked for their beachfront locations overlooking Lake Tanganyika with forests and Mahale Mountains National Park to the rear.  Gombe Forest Lodge is small and intimate and the only property in the forest.