Mahale Mountains & Katavi National Park
Mahale Mountains National Park
Mahale Mountains National Park is without doubt one of Africa's
most beautiful parks. It is located on the edge of Lake Tanganyika
in the west of the country. It is generally around 6,000 feet
high with accompanying high rainfall so the best time to visit
is in the drier months, normally May to September. The park is made
up of montane forests and grasslands, along with small pockets
of alpine bamboo.
Mahale is most famous for being a chimpanzee sanctuary with an
estimated 1,000 chimpanzees living here in around 20 family groups
and even though access to the park is only by aeroplane and boat,
the allure of seeing chimpanzees in the wild is enough to tempt
many visitors to the region.
As well as chimps, there are eight other primate species: red colobus,
vervet monkey, yellow baboon,
Angola black-and-white colobus,
lesser galago and
thick-tailed greater galago. Primates aside, the brush-tailed
porcupine and giant forest squirrel are another two interesting
species found here.
Katavi National Park
Close to Lake Tanganyika is Katavi National Park. This lovely and
extremely remote park has very few visitors mainly owing to its
isolation and lack of facilities but those willing to make the journey
here will be rewarded with a really sensational safari experience.
The vegetation is a mixture of miombo woodland, acacia parkland,
grassland plains and swamps surrounding the Katuma River, which
joins the park’s two lakes, Katavi and Chada. During the rainy
season (light rains in November and heavier rains in April and
May) it is probably best avoided as the game disperses into the
woodland, temperatures soar, humidity escalates and mosquitoes
come out in their droves - not the best combination of factors
for a successful safari!
A flourishing habitat for a plethora of game
During the dry season, the story is quite different. The wildlife
is incredible - great numbers of elephant, buffalo (which congregate
in 1,000 strong herds) zebra, giraffe, hartebeest, topi, impala,
reedbuck and Defassa waterbuck along with a prolific lion population
and plenty of spotted hyena and leopard. The rivers support an
astonishing number and density of hippos and some seriously large
crocodiles. Water birds are wonderful here. There are pink-backed
pelicans, yellow-billed and open-billed storks, African spoonbills
and great numbers of herons, egrets and plovers. Elsewhere in
the park, such exotic sounding gems as the sulphur-breasted bush
shrike, the paradise flycatcher and the African golden oriole
can be found.
One resident of the park that its visitors are not so keen to see
is the irritating tsetse fly. Luckily, their distribution is
restricted to the woodlands away from the more popular game-viewing
areas on the floodplains.
With thanks to Nomad Safaris for the use of photographs
from Greystoke Mahale and Chada Katavi. Panoramic image courtesy
of Tanzania National Parks