Mahale National Park
Area: 1,613 sq km (623 sq miles)
Like its northerly neighbour Gombe, Mahale Mountains National Park is home to some of the last remaining wild chimpanzees in Africa. Around 1,000 of these fascinating animals roam the isolated rainforest of Mahale, chain of dramatic peaks draped in lush vegetation falling to lake Tanganyika’s beaches far below. Visitors are led on guided walks in search of the chimpanzees, following clues such as the previous night’s nests, shadowy clumps high in the trees, or scraps of half-eaten fruits and fresh dung. Once found, the chimpanzees preen each other’s glossy coats in concentrated huddles, squabble noisily or bound effortlessly into the trees, swinging nonchalantly through the vines.
In additional to a hike on the trail of the chimpanzees, visitors can trace the Tongwe people’s ancient pilgrimage to the mountain spirits, trekking through enclaves of rainforest to grassy ridges chequered with alpine bamboo. After a hot walk in the forest, the clear waters of the lake, home to 250 species of fish, beckon for a refreshing swim. The best time for forest walks in Mahale is during the dry season, from May to October. The light rains of October and November present no real obstacle to visitors.