South of Gombe and much larger in size, Mahale Mountains National Park provides some of the best chimpanzee tracking in Africa. The crystal-clear waters of Lake Tanganyika lap gently at surprisingly good beaches behind which the 2,462 metre-high Mount Nkungwe rises from dense tropical rainforest.
Habituated chimpanzees are the undoubted wildlife highlight at Mahale, with the apes often allowing for close approach, creating great photo-opportunities. An incredible nine other species of primates also occur in the mountains, including Angola black and white colobus, grivet, blue and red-tailed monkeys and yellow baboons. Other fauna includes hippo, bushbuck, bush pig and a plethora of birds, butterflies and reptiles.
The Mahale seasons are:
June/July: First months of dry season, chimps form large noisy groups to feed on fruit trees high up on the mountains, around a two-hour steep walk from camp.
August/September/October: Groups split up and head for the lower slopes. Much more accessible (approx. one hour from camp) but vocalise less.
November/December/January/February/March: Rainy season months. The chimps tend to keep to the lower slopes but can range quite far as food is scarce at this time. Intermittent fruiting of Ilombo vines and mkibu trees attract large vocal groups making for great sightings. Paths occasionally muddy and slippery.
April/May: Very wet and the camp closes.