Mahale Mountains National Park lies on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Western Tanzania.
Named after the Mahale Mountains range that is within its borders, the park has several unusual characteristics. First, it is one of only two protected areas for chimpanzees in the country. Another unusual feature of the park is that it is one of the very few in Africa that must be experienced by foot.
The park headquarters is in the park at GPS: -6.035154, 29.741279.
Another office of the park is further north at the air strip at GPS: -6.011507, 29.764750.
Flora and fauna
There are no roads to get into Mahale. You need to do the last bit by boat.
- Take the park boat to the park entrance (US$200). The MV Liemba can radio them, so they can come and get you from Lagosa.
- Take a local boat to the park entrance. Depends on your language and bargaining skills. Very tough to arrange. Only very few people in Lagosa speak English and they may not be there when you arrive at the beach or may not offer boating services.
- Take a motorcycle from Lagosa to the airstrip (about 30-40 minutes and TSh 15,000 per person - DoyLaBs), where an official park office is located. They are able to arrange further transport.
- Airstrip to Kasiha Bandas (about 19 km by boat) will cost you Tsh 66,150. See calculation in "Get around".
- They will also have you buy the ticket for the boat to take you back. The city closest (and therefore cheapest) to the northern boundary of the Mahale Mountains National Park is Kililani. From there you would need to figure out a way to get back to Lagosa to take the MV Liemba.
- Official Park Boat In a brochure, they claim they can also pick you up in Kigoma with their boat. Since the distance is about 180 km the cost will be quite high and may be at around TSh 800,000 (one way). This is an estimation based on the actual charges for shorter distances (see below). Check with the park official for the price. Depending on your group size and the capacity of the boat, this may still be reasonable to do. However, keep in mind that this will take a while and you will miss the experience of sailing with the MV Liemba.
- Charter plane You can fly in with a private charter plane. Usually these flights are arranged as part of complete package with the stay in the park. The Nomad camp offers this. Also the Mbali Mbali can arrange this. If you get lucky you can hitch a ride with a plane. It may get cheaper then, but will still be expensive. From the air strip take the official park boat.
Fees and permits
- US$20 Chimpanzee Trekking per group
- US$80 entrance fee per person per 24 hours
- Take an official park boat
- Prices depend on fuel consumption and rather arbitrary calculations (see difference in kilometers and difference in fuel below) by the park officials. They claim one liter fuel costs TSh 3,150 and charge an additional 40% of the fuel price for wear and tear (Oct 2014). Examples of charged prices in Oct 2014:
- Airstrip to Kasiha Bandas (about 19 km): 25 liters (TSh 47,250) + 40% Wear and Tear (TSh 18,900) = TSh 66,150
- Kasiha Bandas to Kalilani (about 14.5 km): 15 liters (TSh 110,250) + 40% Wear and Tear (TSh 31,500) = TSh 110,250
Chimpanzees, hippos, crocodiles, fish, monkeys, leopards (very rare)
Fishing, kayaking, trekking
What you bring, if you stay at the self-catering bandas.
What you bring, if you stay at the self-catering bandas. If you bring water purification tablets (e.g. Micropur Forte) you can easily use the exceptionally clean water from the lake.
- Kasiha Bandas (GPS: -6.117289,29.730789) are self-catering. A kitchen with basic equipment can be used. Bring your own food. US$40 per person per night will be charged when entering the park. Bandas have two Queen size bed and sleep two persons (or two couples?). They are very well kept and nice.
- Other camps, including Mbali Mbali  (GPS: -6.129121, 29.731559) and Nomad  (GPS: -6.138535, 29.733037), are quite expensive and offer full board. If you can afford them, they are probably a very comfortable option.
You are not allowed to walk freely on your own. You need to book a tour or hire a park guide.
- Bring money and mosquito nets
- There is no ATM anywhere. All park related fees (e.g. activities) can be paid with a Visa credit card. It doesn't hurt to make sure you have some money for tips or are able to pay some things in cash.
- If you plan to stay at the self catering bandas, bring water purification tablets (Micropur Forte).
Ask your guide about any danger from crocodiles. They have been seen here (GPS: -6.084762, 29.729438).