Gombe Stream National Park

It is a narrow strip of land along the shores of Lake Tanzania covering an area of 52 sq km (20 sq miles) and yet a Tanzania's smallest park. Gombe Stream National Park is located 16 km (10 miles) north of Kigoma on the shore of Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania.

The park rises into mountainous folds and valleys full of towering oil nut palms and tall indigenous trees dangling with intertwining vines. There are no roads, no phones and no electricity. This is real jungle and in it the creatures of Africa rule.

An excited whoop erupts from deep in the forest, boosted immediately by a dozen other voices, rising in volume and tempo and pitch to a frenzied shrieking crescendo. It is the famous ‘pant-hoot’ call: a bonding ritual that allows the participants to identify each other through their individual vocal stylisations. To the human listener, walking through the ancient forests of Gombe Stream, this spine-chilling outburst is also an indicator of imminent visual contact with man’s closest genetic relative: the chimpanzee.

Gombe is the smallest of Tanzania's national parks: a fragile strip of chimpanzee habitat straddling the steep slopes and river valleys that hem in the sandy northern shore of Lake Tanganyika. Its chimpanzees – habituated to human visitors – were made famous by the pioneering work of Jane Goodall, who in 1960 founded a behavioural research program that now stands as the longest-running study of its kind in the world. The matriarch Fifi, the last surviving member of the original community, only three-years old when Goodall first set foot in Gombe, is still regularly seen by visitors.

Chimpanzees share about 98% of their genes with humans, and no scientific expertise is required to distinguish between the individual repertoires of pants, hoots and screams that define the celebrities, the powerbrokers, and the supporting characters. Perhaps you will see a flicker of understanding when you look into a chimp's eyes, assessing you in return - a look of apparent recognition across the narrowest of species barriers.

The most visible of Gombe’s other mammals are also primates. A troop of beachcomber olive baboons, under study since the 1960s, is exceptionally habituated, while red-tailed and red colobus monkeys - the latter regularly hunted by chimps – stick to the forest canopy.

The park’s 200-odd bird species range from the iconic fish eagle to the jewel-like Peter’s twinspots that hop tamely around the visitors’ centre. After dusk, a dazzling night sky is complemented by the lanterns of hundreds of small wooden boats, bobbing on the lake like a sprawling city.

Katavi National Park

Katavi National Park lies in Mpanda district in the west of Tanzania. With an area of 4471 km², it is Tanzania’s third largest park. Together with the neighbouring Rukwa, Lukwati and Luafi Game Reserves and numerous forest reserves, this ecosystem of 25 000 km² is the heart of one of the biggest and richest wildlife areas in Tanzania. Katavi National Park got its name from the spirit Katabi (from the Wabende tribe). Katavi is a true wilderness, providing the few intrepid souls who make it there with a thrilling taste of Africa as it must have been a century ago.

Tanzania's third largest national park, it lies in the remote southwest of the country, within a truncated arm of the Rift Valley that terminates in the shallow, brooding expanse of Lake Rukwa.

The bulk of Katavi supports a hypnotically featureless cover of tangled brachystegia woodland, home to substantial but elusive populations of the localised eland, sable and roan antelopes. But the main focus for game viewing within the park is the Katuma River and associated floodplains such as the seasonal Lakes Katavi and Chada. During the rainy season, these lush, marshy lakes are a haven for myriad waterbirds, and they also support Tanzania’s densest concentrations of hippo and crocodile.

It is during the dry season, when the floodwaters retreat, that Katavi truly comes into its own. The Katuma, reduced to a shallow, muddy trickle, forms the only source of drinking water for miles around, and the flanking floodplains support game concentrations that defy belief. An estimated 4,000 elephants might converge on the area, together with several herds of 1,000-plus buffalo, while an abundance of giraffe, zebra, impala and reedbuck provide easy pickings for the numerous lion prides and spotted hyena clans whose territories converge on the floodplains.

Katavi’s most singular wildlife spectacle is provided by its hippos. Towards the end of the dry season, up to 200 individuals might flop together in any riverine pool of sufficient depth. And as more hippos gather in one place, so does male rivalry heat up – bloody territorial fights are an everyday occurrence, with the vanquished male forced to lurk hapless on the open plains until it gathers sufficient confidence to mount another challenge.

Mahale Mountains National Park

Mahale Mountains National Park like its northerly neighbor Gombe is home to some of the Africa’s last remaining wild chimpanzees, a population of roughly 900, they are habituated to human visitors by a Japanese research project founded in the 1960s.Tracking the chimps of Mahale is a magical experience.

The park is located in the Western Tanzania to the South of Kigoma town, it is bordering Lake Tanganyika-the World’s longest, second deepest and least polluted freshwater lake-harbouring an estimated 1000 fish species.

Mahale Mountains National Park was gazetted in 1985, covers an area of 1 613 km² and is located about 128 km south of Kigoma town on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika. The western boundary of the park protects an adjacent 1.6 km wide strip of Lake Tanganyika’s waters.

The land in and around Mahale is the traditional homeland of the Watongwe and Waholoholo tribes. Japanese primate researchers began exploring along the shore of Lake Tanganyika, south of Kigoma as early as 1961. In 1965, the researchers established their first camp, ‘Kansyana’, in Mahale and began habituating chimpanzees.

The terrain is mostly rugged and hilly, and is dominated by the Mahale Mountains chain that runs from the northwest to the southeast across the park. The highest peak (Mount Nkungwe) rises to 2,462 m above sea level.

The dry season (May -October) is the best period. During this period, chimpanzees are likely to be seen in big groups, the sunshine illuminates the fish in the Lake and the beach is an inviting place to relax. However, Mahale Mountains National Park is accessible all year round. A visit in the rainy season can also be a memorable experience, made remarkable by views of the neighbouring country DR Congo across the water and by incredible lightning storms that light up the lake at night.

  • Tropical rain forest animals, which include chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii), giant forest squirrel (Protoxerus stangeri), red-legged sun squirrel (Heliosciurus rufobrachium), brush-tailed porcupine (Atherurus sp.), Angolan black-and-white colobus monkeys (Colobus angolensis), bushy-tailed mongoose (Bdeogale crassicauda), banded mongoose (Mungos mungo), blue duiker (Cephalophus monticola) and Sharpe’s grysbok (Raphicerus sharpei);

  • Savannah animals, such as lions, Grant’s zebras, warthogs, and giraffes;

  • Species found in 'miombo' woodland, such as roan antelopes, sable antelopes, and Lichtenstein hartebeest.

Mahale offers a number of outstanding attractions for visitors, from tracking wild habituated chimpanzees, to mountain climbing, snorkelling, fishing, kayaking and relaxing on deserted, pristine, white, sandy beaches.

  •     Walking safaris in the beautiful, lowland forest allow close encounters with a vast array of birds and animals, including a group of habituated chimpanzees. The opportunity to track chimps in their natural habitat is Mahale's foremost tourist attraction.

  •     An ascent of the highest peak in the Mahale Mountains ridge, Mt. Nkungwe, is one of the most spectacular activities available to tourists. It takes 2-3 days to reach the summit, and the best time for climbing is during the dry season (May – October). Whilst camping on the mountain at night, it is often possible to see the spectacle of 'fishing fire', as the kerosene lamps carried by small fishing boats light up across the Lake.

  •     Lake Tanganyika contains more than 250 species of fish found nowhere else on Earth, many of which can be viewed by snorkelling in the shallows along Mahale’s shoreline.

  •     Long walking trips can be arranged for viewing big game such as lion, elephant, hippo, buffalo, giraffe and leopard. These safaris may require up to 7 days.
        Sport fishing on the fresh waters of Lake Tanganyika is possible under special licences available to visitors.

  •     Cultural tourism activities entailing visits to the nearby villages can also be arranged. Kigoma town and the historical town Ujiji are worth a detour. Kigoma is the capital of the Kigoma District and the economic centre of the region. Ujiji is a historical town dating back to the days of German colonial rule in Tanganyika. In the 19th century, Dr. Livingstone travelled to Ujiji in a bid to stop the slave trade.

  •     Other tourist destinations in western Tanzania that can complement a visit to Mahale Mountains National Park include Gombe Stream and Katavi National Parks, lying north and south of Mahale respectively.

Rubondo Island National Park

Rubondo Island National Park was gazetted in 1977 and covers 456.8 km2 of which 236.8 km2 is dry land and 220 km2 is water comprising of 11 small islets of varying sizes. It is an important breeding ground for both migratory birds and fish species (especially Tilapia and Nile perch) as for a long time it stood to be the only area in the waters of Lake Victoria which was well protected and preserved. The park is located on the south-western corner of Lake Victoria in Geita region about 150 km (95 miles) west of Mwanza city. The Lake (Victoria) is the second largest lake in the world. The Lake is also the source of the longest river in the world, River Nile.

  • A variety of water birds , Eurasian migrants and introduced African grey parrots

  • High density of African fish eagles distinctly seen

  • Animal species including Sitatunga, Elephants, Giraffes, Hippos, Bushbucks, Pythons, Crocodiles, Chimpanzees (not fully habituated), Bush pigs and Suni

  • The Lake Victoria forming a spectacular sight for visitors with the deepest point in the lake (Irumo) forming part of the park

  • Magnificent view of one of the last remaining representatives of evergreen dense primary lowland Congolese forest with a unique habitat mosaic in the midst of high biodiversity value

  • Beautiful and attracting beaches such as Fly catcher, Mchangani and Michicoco

  • Important gulfs of Irumo and Kamea

  • Clear sighting of both sun rise and sun set

  • Cultural sites such as “Ntungamirwe”, “Maji Matakatifu”, “Altare” and “Solo” which explain the life of natives who once stayed in the park

  • “Birds Islands”, breeding sit for water birds

  •  Crocodile island

Tanzania Popular Destinations