Gombe Stream National Park

Size: 52 sq km (20 sq miles)
Established: 1968
Distance from Arusha: To Kigoma it is roughly 1,020 km (633 miles) – about 4 hours by plane and from Kigoma to Gombe is 16 km (9 miles).

Description

The tiny Gombe stream national park is located on the north-eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika near the border with Burundi. Even though it is the smallest park in the Tanzania, it has become world-famous through the pioneering work of the passionate Dr Jane Goodall who came to study the behaviour of chimpanzees.
The landscape of the park is made up of steep valleys, streams and rivers. The vegetation changes from tropical rainforests, alpine bamboo to grasslands – similar to that of neighbouring Mahale Mountains National Park. Air charters land in Kigoma, but accessibility into the park is limited to boats departing from Kigoma town.

Highlights

Gombe is famous for a population of chimpanzees live within the park. These incredible primates habituated to humans can be seen on a walking safari through the forests. Other primates seen in the park include vervet monkeys, beachcomber olive baboons and red tailed monkeys.
Bushbucks and bush pigs can also be seen foraging on the forest floors from time to time.
The park is home to over 200 species of birds, amongst the most commonly seen are fish eagles, palm nut vultures, tropical boubous and trumpeter hornbills. Lake Tanganyika with is clear water is home to over 100 cichlid species as well as hippos.

Activities

Walking safaris to see the chimpanzees and forest is the main attraction at Gombe. Lake Tanganyika is also a wonderful place to go snorkelling and swimming, or just relax on the white sand. Hippos and crocodiles tend to keep their distance from Gombe which means visitors can take a dip in the lake without having to worry about sharing the water with wild animals.
While at Gombe a visit to the Goodall Foundation’s old feeding station should be on the list of things to do and the nearby village of Ujiji is where Henry Stanley met Dr Livingstone in 1871.

Mahale Mountains National Park

Size: 1,613 sq km (623 sq miles)
Established: 1965 the first research camp was set up, officially gazetted in 1985
Distance from Arusha: to Kigoma it is roughly 1,020 km (633 miles). From Kigoma to Mahale – 130 km (80 miles).

Description

Located in the remote western part of Tanzania, Mahale Mountains National Park is one of the most picturesque places in Tanzania. The park borders Lake Tanganyika, one of the oldest and deepest lakes in the world.
Getting to the park is an adventure as it is accessible only by air and boat. There are no roads in the park, only forest paths through the lush vegetation. This park is a hiker’s paradise, but most importantly it is a chimpanzee paradise. Mahale is a haven for primates, with chimpanzee trekking one of the prime reasons for visits.
The park is teeming with life, rivers and waterfalls are everywhere and around the shoreline of the lake, are the most unspoilt white sandy beaches anyone could imagine.

Highlights

Remoteness, primate-trekking, hiking, snorkelling and bird watching.
Mahale is home to nine species of primates including the yellow baboon, red colobus, blue monkeys and the red-tailed monkey as well as 73 other mammals.

The chimpanzee trekking takes visitors on a wild adventure through the misty forests. Hikes can vary between 30 minutes for the first sightings to up to 3 hours. During these walks hikers also have the chance to spot other animals such as roan and sable antelope, mongoose, warthog and sometimes even lion and leopard. Crocodiles are also known to live in the park. Hippos are sometimes sighted in Lake Tanganyika, swimming in the crystal clear waters. The amphibian and reptile worlds of Mahale have still not been thoroughly researched but from what is known there are a minimum of 20 species of amphibians and 26 reptile species.
With almost 355 species of birds, the park will satisfy both amateur and serious birders. On the sandy beaches on can spot pelicans and different storks as well as malachite kingfishers, pied king fishers and fish eagles. Closer to the forests Livingston’s turacos, narina trogons, crested guinea fowls and blue cheeked bee eaters can be seen.
The lake has over 250 endemic fish species and can be seen while snorkelling in the shallow waters.

Activities

Mahale is not just about chimpanzee-trekking, it offers the perfect balance of wildlife viewing as well as relaxing at the lake. Kayaking, snorkelling and fishing on the clear waters of Lake Tanganyika adds an extra dimension to a visit to Mahale. For those looking to spend more time in the forests, hiking is an option. Climb (2-3 days) to the peak of the Mahale Mountains, Mt. Nkungwe (2,462 m).

Katavi National Park

Size: 4,471 sq km (1,727 sq miles)
Established: 1974
Distance from Arusha: over 1,000 km (620 miles) – about 4 hours flying time

Description

Katavi National park is the third largest park in Tanzania. It is also by far one of the least visited in the country, making it a truly untouched wildlife paradise. It is located in the west of Tanzania and is quite hard to access by road, so the easiest way in and out is by charter flights.
The park is primarily fed by the Katuma River which in the rainy season – April and May – transforms the park into a wetland. Lake Chada and Lake Katavi are both seasonal lakes which are situated within the park boundaries. In terms of vegetation the park hosts a varied mix of bush land, Miombo forests, riverine forests as well as grasslands.

Highlights

For those lucky enough to visit Katavi, the dry season – June to October – is by far the best time to see animals. The Katuma River is one of the only sources of water in the dry season and is the lifeline for creatures both large and small when they congregate along the river to drink and bath. Then, when the last lakes and swamps are drying, up to a thousand hippos at times would huddle together for that last bit of water. Large crocodiles can be seen basking in the sun or in the remaining mud pools.

The Katisunga plains in the heart of the park attracts large numbers of wildlife and it is one of the few parks where visitors can catch a glimpse of both the roan and sable antelope in the same place. Other animals grazing here are zebra, hartebeest, eland, giraffe and defassa waterbuck. Katavi is also one of the last parks that boasts massive herds of buffalo; some herds easily reaching a thousand animals or more. A healthy population of roughly 3000 elephants also reside in the park. Predators such as cheetahs, hyenas, jackals and servals are also present in the area and the resident prides of lions are always around looking for their next meal. Leopards also call Katavi home.

With over 400 species of birds, Katavi is a great place for birdwatchers. Large flocks of storks like saddle bills, open-billed and spoon bills as well as African fish eagles, Bateleurs, lilac breasted rollers, crested barbets and paradise flycatchers are but a few on the long list of birds in Katavi.

Activities

Guests can enjoy game watching and bird watching on game drives. Lodges in the park also offer walking safaris and night game drives so you will be able to experience a larger variety of animals and plants more intimately.