Mahale Mountains National Park is famous for its large chimpanzee population © Ariadne Van Zandbergen, Africa Image Library
Set on the lush shores of the beautiful Lake Tanganyika, this is perhaps the best place in Africa to track habituated chimpanzees in the wild.
Scenically reminiscent of Gombe Stream but on a far grander scale, the 1,613km² Mahale Mountains is quite simply one of the most beautiful national parks anywhere in Africa, and it also ranks as arguably the top chimpanzee-tracking destination anywhere on the continent. Some 30 times larger than Gombe, the park occupies a mountainous knuckle that juts into Lake Tanganyika some 150km south of Kigoma. It is dominated topographically by the Mahale Range, a stretch of the Rift Valley Escarpment that rises sharply from the lakeshore to the 2,462m Nkungwe Peak, and six other peaks that exceed 2,000m in elevation. Even without the forested peaks, the crystal-clear waters and deserted sandy beaches that characterise this part of Lake Tanganyika would be thoroughly alluring, but as it is, the setting is scenically reminiscent of a volcanic island beach resort somewhere deep in the Indian Ocean – with the added bonus that these forests are inhabited by a rich variety of birds and primates, including an estimated 1,000 chimpanzees divided across a dozen communities including the habituated Mimikere group of around 60 individuals.