Western Circuit National Parks

It is Tanzania ’s smallest park covering only 52 sq km, is located 16 km north of Kigoma town on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and is reachable only by boat.

With thanks to Dr. Jane Goodall and her colleagues (who have been studying primates here since 1960), the Gombe Stream National Park is now one of the few places in the world that Chimpanzees can still be found in their natural habitat. Gombe is a place of different characters, just as unique as Chimpanzees are from humans; even though they share more than 95% of human genes!

The best place to spot them is at the Chimpanzee Feeding Station. Allow at least two days to see them as there are no assurances of where and when they will appear each day.

Gombe is a mountainous strip bordering the shore of Lake Tanganyika; which is heavily forested, making it unsuitable habitat for carnivores and therefore safe for walking safaris. There are no roads in the park, which allows you to walk and experience nature using all your senses.

The majority of mammals found in Gombe are primates such as Chimpanzees, Red Colobus, Colorful Red-tail and Blue Monkeys, Olive Baboons, as well as African Civet, Palm Civet and Genet from the cat family, as well as the shy Grey Duiker, Bushbuck, White-tailed Mongoose, Marsh Mongoose and so much more. Birdwatchers will be also richly rewarded; the wide variety of species including Ross’s and Livingston’s Turaco, African and Trumpeter Hornbills, Pied and Giant Kingfishers, Tropical Boubous, White browed Coucal, and Crowned Eagle.

Chimpanzee tracking, Hiking, Photography, Walking safaris, Bird-watching, Swimming and Snorkeling in Lake Tanganyika and forest streams etc.

When to go
During the rainy seasons (February to June or November to mid December) the chimpanzees are often easier to find as they do not wander very far. But drier months (from July through to October and late December to February) are better for photographing.

Getting there
By air or by road from Dar es Salaam or Arusha or by train from Dar es Salaam or Mwanza to Kigoma and then a boat transfer (1-2h).

Another sanctuary of the Chimpanzee population is Mahale Mountains National Park, located 120 km south of Kigoma town on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and reachable only by boat. Some 1.000 Chimpanzees wander in the hills and valleys of this 1.600 sq km big park.

A trip to see the Chimpanzees is a unique experience, and quite unexpectedly you can find yourself in the middle of a family of them (consisting in a group of five up to thirty). Allow at least two days to see them as they are not always easy to locate. Baboons and Colobus Monkeys also live in the park and other inhabitants include Elephant, Buffalo, Lion, Leopard, Giraffe, Bush pig, Porcupine and various types of antelope. Mahale offers wonderful and varied species of birdlife including African Snipe, Green Sand Piper and Crested Lark. The clear waters of Lake Tanganyika provide home to some 250 species of fish.

Chimpanzee tracking, Climbing, Walking safaris, Photography, Fishing, Bird-watching, Swimming and Snorkeling in Lake Tanganyika etc.

When to go
The best time to visit is during the dry season (May to October) and the short rains (November to mid December). Note that the tented camps are only open in the dry season!

Getting there
No vehicle access. A boat drive from Kigoma (4-9h) or a flight from Arusha or Dar es Salaam (2h).

In the southwestern part of Tanzania; 40 km southeast of Mpanda town, on a high flood plain surrounding Lake Katavi, is Katavi National Park. It covers an area of 4.500 sq km, is remote and quite difficult to reach! An air charter is the best way to access it.

Katavi is best known for the highest Hippo and Crocodile population in the country and its undisturbed natural landscape. Here you will only share the park with its abundant wildlife and your traveling companions!

Four of ‘the Big Five’ can be seen here: Leopard, Lion, Elephant and Buffalo; as well as Spotted Hyena, Eland, Roan and Sable Antelopes, Southern Reedbuck, Topi and Zebra and vegetation consists of mainly miombo woodland. The major characteristics of the park include Lake Katavi, with its vast short grass flood plains in the north, palm fringed Lake Chada in the southeast, and Katuma River connecting the two lakes. Lake Chada is known for its density of crocodiles as well as rich bird-life, with over 400 species of birds recorded – including large flocks of Pelicans.

The name Katavi immortalizes a legendary hunter, Katabi, whose spirit is believed to possess a tamarind tree ringed with offerings from locals begging his blessing.

Game drives, Walking safaris, Bird-watching.

When to go
The best months to visit are in the dry season (May to October); the park is inaccessible in the rains. Note that tented camps are closed during the rainy seasons.

Getting there
By air from Arusha and Dar es Salaam, a day’s drive from Mbeya (550 km), or in a dry season, from Kigoma (390 km).

This small national park, which is situated in the south-western corner of Lake Victoria (the only national park on the Lake), is a real water wonderland. It stretches over 11 little islands, covering an area of 460 sq km about half of which is land.

It is known for its tranquil atmosphere and its rich and diverse birdlife from east, central and south Africa and Europe, from where they flock to the lake’s ‘Bird Island.’ Close to 400 species have been identified)including Martial Eagle, Sacred Ibis, Saddle-billed Stork, Kingfishers, Bee-eaters, Flycatcher, Coucal, Hornbill and Sunbirds. Rubondo also has a unique variety of multi-colored Butterflies, but the major animal attraction of the island is the abundance of Sitatunga, an aquatic antelope that cannot be found in any other park in Tanzania.

Since Rubondo Island is relatively easy to protect, a number of animals have been introduced over the past 30 years including Chimpanzee, Elephant, Giraffe and African Grey Parrot. Visitors will catch sight of Hippopotamus, Crocodile, Bushbuck, Vervet Monkey, Genet and the exclusive Sitatunga. Rubondo also protects precious fish breeding grounds including tasty Tilapia and the tenacious Nile Perch. During the short rainy season, a profusion of 40 different ground and tree Orchids, as well as Gloriosa and Fireball Lilies, put on an impressive display.

The park provides a variety of habitats ranging from savannah to open woodland, dense forest, papyrus swamps and sandy beaches. On the island there is no risk of malaria and the coast of Kageye has been proved by experts to be free of bilharzia.

Walking safaris, Boat excursions, Bird-watching, Chimpanzee trekking, Canoeing, Fishing (recreational and sport). No cars are allowed on the island!

When to go:
The dry season is generally the best time to visit (June to August); for wildflowers and butterflies the wet season is best (November to March); December to February is best for migratory birds.

Getting there:
By air from Arusha or Mwanza or by road from Mwanza (6-7h) and then a boat transfer (2h).