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