Mahale Mountains National Park
The Mahale Mountains National Park lies in the extreme west of Tanzania along the eastern shores of the famous Lake Tanganyika. The national park has its western boundary along a 1.6 km strip of the eastern coast of the lake. The park covers an area of 1613 sq km and was gazetted as a national park in the year 1985. Majority of the terrain in this park is rugged and hilly mainly because of the presence of the Mahale Mountain range that stretches from the North West to the South East, almost along the entire length of the park. The Mahale Mountains Park offers an excellent opportunity for the tourists to embark on photography safaris. The picturesque sandy beaches of the Lake Tanganyika along the mountain park are a treat for the photography enthusiasts.
Apart from the mountains, the other striking feature of the landscape is the rain forests on the slopes of these mountains. In addition to these, there are also woodlands of alpine bamboo and grasslands as well. The park does not have broad roads; as a result the touring can be done only on foot via various trails on the mountain slopes. These trails however, offer some of the most delightful scenery that cannot be witnessed at any other Tanzania safari. One such memorable activity is the trekking to the highest peak of the Mahale mountain range called Mt. Nkungwe which is at an altitude of about 2,462 m above sea level. This trip can take 2-3 days and in addition to the wilderness and the animals that one sees all through the trail, the best of the sights on offer are the ‘fishing lights’. This is a term given to the view of the kerosene lamps that are placed on the small fishing boats in the vast lake. The sight is one to behold.
The fauna of the park is also varied and the mammal population of the park comprises of about 82 species. These can be broadly classified into three segments, the rain forest animals like the chimpanzee and the monkeys, the savannah animals including lions and zebras and finally the miombo woodland animals like the antelopes. Various species of antelopes like the sable antelope and the roan antelope along with the Lichtenstein hartebeest, lions, zebras, warthogs and the giraffes can be spotted during the trails. But, the main attraction of the park safaris is undoubtedly the chimpanzees. The park contains one of the biggest concentrations of animals in Africa. As a matter of fact the park itself has been a research zone on the activities and habitation of the chimpanzees since 1965. Observing the chimpanzees in the familiar environs of their natural habitat is an experience like no other. The hike through the jungle and observing natural habitation of chimpanzees, not only makes the visit worthwhile but also provides a perspective on Africa which is all the more genuine.
The other notable fauna are the birds and the amphibian reptiles. Though the exact nature of the amphibians and the reptiles are not yet determined and information on them is scant but the bird population is steady. There exists over 350 species of the winged creatures in the park. Many of these species are native of the park and cannot be found anywhere else. In addition to these there are over 250 species of fish in Lake Tanganyika which are endemic and cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The adaptive features of the lake fishes here have been a subject of study of the biologists since long.