Western Circuit

Western Tanzania is not only rich in flora and fauna but in history too. From the famous quote of Henry Stanley when he found Dr. Livingstone to the search for the source of the Nile, the West is a gem to be discovered. The Nile had always fascinated the Egyptians and held it in high regard. To the late 18th century explorers, the search for the source of the Nile became the driving force to many. Unbeknown to many, part of this source was in Tanzania. Lake Victoria forms part of the area known as the great lakes region, and the water flowing from this lake travelling north forms the mighty Nile until it gets into the Mediterranean.

The Western circuit can be said to harbor three geographical areas of interest with a common denominator that they all are next to continuous supply of water. The three tourist destination are Katavi National Park, Gombe Streams National Park and Mahale Mountains National Park. Apart from the three there is a growing interest amongst bird watchers and hikers for the islands in Lake Victoria.

Katavi National Park
Being the third largest national park in Tanzania, Katavi National Park has a lot to offer. What it lacks in popularity it makes up with not disappointing any visitor who chooses it over the other more popular national parks. This park is isolated and it is rarely visited making a true wild west with a feeling of meeting the Africa of years gone by.

The park is covered by both woodlands and expanse savanna plains. In the woodlands, one can find the eland, sable and other antelopes. For the game enthusiasts, the focus is beyond the woodland to the shores of Katuma River and the flood plains that are formed during the rainy season. There are the seasonal lakes of Chada and Katavi which are home to waterbirds, hippos and crocodiles.

In the dry months between May and October, the water retreats and the wild game has the Katuma River to depend on. Elephants in thousands, buffalos, zebra, giraffe and impala all congregate at the river for drinking water. Following them closely are the prides of lions, hyenas and other animals of prey. But the best spectacle of all is provided by the hippos as males fight for the few remaining river spots in which they can rest without disturbance.

Being isolated means that Katavi has few accommodation options and also getting there is limited to flying only.

For accommodation in Katavi please click here.

Gombe Streams National Park
For those fascinated with how we became who we are and where our ancestors are, this is the place to visit. It is the smallest of Tanzanian’s national parks, but it is unique in its own way, and that is why it is a destination not to be missed. This park is home to chimpanzees and other primates like the beachcomber olive baboons, red-tailed and red Columbus monkeys that are often hunted by the chimps. As the park lies on the shores of Lake Victoria, it is well watered and the dense forest creates an atmosphere of being in another world.

This park was made famous by the pioneering studies made by Jane Goodall in the 1960s. The park also has about 200 species of birds. Due to its location, the choices of accommodation are limited, and it is challenging to get here. There is one lodge that is in the park for accommodation.

Mahale Mountains National Park
A hundred kilometers from Ujiji where Stanley found Livingstone, deep in the heartland of Africa lies another gem. This is Mahale Mountains National Park. The Mountains rise from the shores of Lake Victoria and form a dense tropical forest that is only inhabited by chimpanzees and birds. This is a remote place that is only accessible by boat.

About 750 wild chimpanzees call these mountains home. While the chimps in Gombe were studied by Jane Goodall, the chimps in Mahale were made famous by the study of some Japanese research project in the same decade of 1960’s. Those who visit Mahale, come purposely, to track the chimpanzees. The tracking is made possible by trained guides checking out the last night’s nest and then following them from there the following morning.

The Tongwe people held these mountains sacred, and called them Nkungwe in reference to highest peak of the mountain which is about 8,000 ft above sea level. As is with Gombe, Mahale also supports other primates namely, red and blue colubus and a great number of bird species.

Apart from observing the primates in the mountains, Mahale offers other activities like fishing in the second deepest lake in the world which is Lake Tanganyika, swimming and boat rides. One can also make a cultural excursion to discover the ancient pilgrimage of the Tongwe people to the sacred mountains along the rainforest boundaries and meet the endemic group of Angola colubus monkeys.

As is the case with any remote location, choices are limited when it comes to accommodation. But Mahale boasts of two world class accommodation facilities.

For more information on accommodation in Mahale, please click here.