Covering an area of 623 square miles and known for its lush forests, pristine beaches, crystal clear waters and stunning mountainous landscapes, the Mahale Mountains National Park is only accessible by boat or plane, making the journey to this breathtaking place an adventure in itself!
The park is home to around 1,000 chimpanzees, accustomed to human presence, meaning you can observe them up close in their natural habitat without disturbing their natural behavior. Chimpanzees are our closest cousins with whom we share approximately 98% of our DNA. They are intelligent, social, and complex animals with a wide range of behaviors and emotions.
Chimpanzees are found wild in the rainforests and woodlands of central and west Africa. They live in large groups led by a dominant male, called an alpha male, and females with their offspring. Group size can vary from 15 to over 100 people.
Like us, chimpanzees are omnivores and their diet consists of fruits, leaves, seeds, insects and sometimes small mammals like monkeys or rodents. They have been recorded using tools to obtain certain foods, such as using sticks to extract termites from their nests or using stones to crack nuts.
Chimpanzees are known for their complex social structure and behavior, using grooming and play to develop hierarchies and communicating with each other through a variety of vocalizations, gestures, and facial expressions. They form strong bonds with family members and other members of their group and often adopt reconciliatory behavior after conflict.
They have also been observed exhibiting extremely aggressive and sometimes physically violent behavior towards members of their own group or towards individuals from other groups, hitting or biting them while shouting loudly and hooting.
Chimpanzee tracking experiences in Mahale Mountains National Park require you to set out early in the morning with your guide to find the chimpanzees. The hike through the forest can be challenging, but the scenery is beautiful and the experience is worth it. Your guide will lead you through the forest, showing you other animals and plants along the way, until you reach the chimpanzees.
You will hear them before you see them. They can be heard from far away and the sounds they make will become louder and more intense the closer you get. When you finally see them, you will be amazed by their intelligence, their curiosity and their human actions.
The number of chimpanzee tracking permits issued each day is limited so that the number of visitors chimpanzees receive is properly regulated. You will have the chance to spend a few hours with them, observe them up close and follow them on foot as they travel through the forest.
The return trip to your lodge can be just as challenging as the arrival journey, but you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Lake Tanganyika and the surrounding mountains.
Chimpanzees are threatened in the wild in all range countries due to habitat loss, poaching and disease. Conservation efforts to protect them include the creation of protected areas such as the Mahale Mountains National Park. It is therefore a real privilege to be able to see them in their natural habitat.
Of course, Mahale Mountains National Park isn’t just about chimpanzees. The park is home to a wide variety of wildlife including elephants, leopards and a rich diversity of birds. The park also has several hiking trails leading to stunning viewpoints, waterfalls and hidden beaches. The remoteness of the park, combined with stunning scenery and incredible wildlife, makes for a truly unforgettable travel experience.