Tanzania : Mahale Mountains
In the extreme west of Tanzania is Mahale Mountains, one of the most remote, rewarding and peaceful national parks in Tanzania. It is not easy to get to (but some of the best places aren’t!), but is very different to anywhere else in the country, completely magical and probably one of the best places in the world to see chimpanzees. Created in 1985, the Mahale Mountains National Park is predominantly a chimp sanctuary to some of the last remaining wild chimpanzees in Africa, but you can also see a variety of other primates, as well as birds, butterflies, warthog, bushbuck and porcupine. It borders the shores of Lake Tanganyika, the Rift Valley's deepest lake which boasts crystal clear waters abundant with fresh water fish and a lakeshore of the finest powder-white sand. A stay here is a wonderful kaleidoscope of forest and lake.
Greystoke Mahale is a fantastic and very special place set on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, with the dramatic Mahale Mountains (peaking at 2460 metres) rising sharply behind. In an idyllic location, with no roads for 60 miles, the camp is completely remote and secluded. The only way to the camp is by the 45ft dhow, The Isabella, who gently motors down the shoreline passing fishing villages and areas too thick with vegetation for human inhabitants. Each of the six thatched rooms is set on the edge of the forest, peeking through to the lake, and offering total privacy. Raised on decks, the large beds are draped in mosquito nets and there is a chill out deck above, and a private bathroom to the rear reached by a short boardwalk, with hot and cold running water, strong showers and flush-toilet. The main mess is set on the beach and looks out over the lake to the mountains of the Congo in the haze beyond.
Once you arrive in camp you choose your own timetable. With one foot in the forest and one in the lake, you can be as relaxed or active as you like. The surrounding tropical vegetation is thick and rich with permanent water supplies and is home to Tanzania's greatest population of primates including yellow baboon, red colobus, blue, red-tailed and vervet monkeys and most significantly around 1000 chimpanzees, some groups of which are habituated and fairly relaxed in human company, offering great tracking opportunities. A morning might be spent tracking the chimps, which could be a 20-minute or a few hour hike, but usually it is rewarded with seeing a group going about their daily routine of grooming, hunting and confirming the hierarchy. It is totally compelling and you could watch them for hours. The National Park is a walker's paradise and there is a good chance that you will also see Colobus monkeys, warthog, bushbuck, a number of reptiles and butterflies, and many fascinating plants. Jump into ice cold waterfalls to cool off and head back to camp for lunch, then you can spend a lazy afternoon kayaking, snorkelling or fishing on the lake (fresh-lake sashimi is a regular in the dining tent), followed by a sundowner and delicious dinner as the day draws to an end.