Western Circuit

KATAVI NATIONAL PARK

Tour Highlight

It offers un-spoilt wildlife viewing in the country’s third-largest national park, in a remote location far off the beaten track. The national park is Africa at its most wild — unadulterated bush settings, spectacular views, and rich wildlife. The wilderness of Katavi National Park, located in the western area of Tanzania, is one of the most untouched areas in the entire country.

Descriptions

Katavi’s dramatic scenery is as varied as it is pristine. Flood plains of thick reeds and dense waterways are home to a huge population of hippo and varied birdlife. In the woodlands to the west, forest canopies shroud herds of buffaloes and elephants. Seasonal lakes fill with dirty coloured water after the rains and animals from all corners of the park descend in them to drink. The park is also home to the rare roan and sable antelope species, and it is a must-see for the visitors intending to explore the wilds of the continent.

Isolated, untrammeled and seldom visited, Katavi is a true wilderness, providing the few intrepid souls who make it there with a thrilling taste of Africa as if it must have been a century ago.
Tanzania’s third largest national park; it lies in the remote area southwest of the country, within a truncated arm of the Rift Valley that terminates in the shallow, brooding expanse of Lake Rukwa.

The bulk of Katavi supports a hypnotically featureless cover of tangled brachystegia woodland, home to substantial but elusive populations of the localised eland, sable and roan antelopes. Nevertheless the main focus for game viewing within the park is the Katuma River and associated floodplains such as the seasonal Lakes Katavi and Chada. During the rainy season, these lush, marshy lakes are a haven for myriad water birds, and they also support Tanzania’s densest concentrations of hippos and crocodiles.

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Baraka Bright

+255 624 04 12 79

GOMBE NATIONAL PARK

Tour Highlight

An excited whoop erupts from deep in the forest, boosted immediately by a dozen other voices, rising in volume and tempo and pitch to a frenzied shrieking crescendo. It is the famous ‘panthoot’ call: a bonding ritual that allows the participants to identify each other through their individual vocal stylizations. To the human listener, walking through the ancient forests of Gombe Stream, this spine-chilling outburst is also an indicator of imminent visual contact with man’s closest genetic relative: the chimpanzee

Gombe is the smallest of Tanzania’s national parks: a fragile strip of chimpanzee habitat straddling the steep slopes and river valleys that hem in the sandy northern shore of Lake Tanganyika.

Descriptions

Its chimpanzees – habituated to human visitors – were made famous by the pioneering work of Dr. Jane Goodall, who in 1960 founded a behavioral research program that now stands as the longest -running study of its kind in the world. The matriarch Fifi, the last surviving member of the original community, only three-years old when Dr. Jane Goodall first set foot in Gombe, born 1958 and died in 2004.

Chimpanzees share about 98% of their genes with humans, and no scientific expertise is required to distinguish between the individual repertoires of pants, hoots and screams that define the celebrities, the powerbrokers, and the supporting characters.

Perhaps you will see a flicker of understanding when you look into a chimp’s eyes, assessing you in return – a look of apparent recognition across the narrowest of species barriers.

The most visible of Gombe’s other mammals are also primates. A troop of beachcomber olive baboons, under study since the 1960s, is exceptionally habituated, while red-tailed and red colobus monkeys – the latter regularly hunted by chimps – stick to the forest canopy. The park’s 200-odd bird species range from the iconic fish eagle to the jewel-like Peter’s twin spots that hop tamely around the visitors’ centre. After dusk, a dazzling night sky is complemented by the lanterns of hundreds of small wooden boats, bobbing on the lake like a sprawling city.

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Baraka Bright

+255 624 04 12 79

MAHALE NATIONAL PARK

Tour Highlight

Set deep in the heart of the African interior, inaccessible by road and only 100 km (60 miles) south of where Stanley uttered that immortal greeting “Doctor Livingstone, I presume”, is a scene reminiscent of an Indian Ocean island beach idyll. Silky white coves hem in the azure waters of Lake Tanganyika, overshadowed by a chain of wild, jungle-draped peaks towering almost 2 km above the shore: the remote and mysterious Mahale Mountains.

Descriptions

Mahale Mountains, like its northerly neighbour Gombe Stream, is home to some of Africa’s last remaining wild chimpanzees: a population of roughly 800, habituated to human visitors by a Japanese research project founded in the 1960s. Tracking the chimps of Mahale is a magical experience. The guide’s eyes pick out last night’s nests – shadowy clumps high in a gallery of trees crowding the sky.

Scraps of half-eaten fruit and fresh dung     become valuable clues, leading deeper into the forest. Butterflies flit in the dappled sunlight. Then suddenly you are in their midst: preening each other’s glossy coats in concentrated huddles, squabbling noisily, or bounding into the trees to swing effortlessly between the vines.

The area is also known as Nkungwe, after the park’s largest mountain, held sacred by the local Tongwe people, and at 2,460 metres (8,069 ft) the highest of the six prominent points that make up the Mahale Range. And while chimpanzees are the star attraction, the slopes support a diverse forest fauna, including readily observed troops of red colobus, red-tailed and blue monkeys, and a kaleidoscopic array of colourful forest birds.

You can trace the Tongwe people’s ancient pilgrimage to the mountain spirits, hiking through the montane rainforest belt – home to an endemic race of Angola colobus monkey – to high grassy ridges chequered with alpine bamboo. Then bathe in the impossibly clear waters of the world’s longest, second-deepest and least-polluted     freshwater lake – harbouring an estimated 1,000 fish species – before returning as you came, by boat.

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Ask our Expert

Baraka Bright

+255 624 04 12 79