Accessible only by boat or by air, Mahale Mountains National Park is known to be among the most isolated and beautiful parks on the African continent. With dots of isolated, golden sandy beaches framed by jungle-covered peaks, Mahale covers 1613 square kilometres of rugged terrain along the eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika.

Famous for containing some of the last remaining wild chimpanzees in Africa, Mahale is home to a population of approximately 800 to 1000 chimpanzees. Successive teams of Japanese researchers have quietly conducted some of the most important scientific work on these primates from as early as 1961, habituating what is known as the M Group, thus allowing for excellent encounters with this group of about 60 individuals.

Although the chimpanzees are the main attraction, and among some of the most studied primates in Africa, the rest of the region’s natural environment has remained relatively hidden from the outside world. The park protects at least 50 other mammalian species, many of which are primates but also leopard and different types of antelope.

During a morning walk in the forest it is not unusual to come across signs of other wildlife, such as troops of red colobus, red-tailed and blue monkeys. Warthog and bushbuck wander along the fringes of the forest and are often spotted on the sandy beaches.

The birdlife in Mahale, although prolific, is more often heard than seen. A moment of stillness in the forest will reveal the calls of numerous bird species above the general hum. Birds include the malachite kingfisher, pied kingfisher, purple-crested turaco and narina trogon. Fish eagles and palm-nut vultures are often spotted along the shoreline, special sightings include the elusive pel’s fishing-owl.

The warm, clear blue waters of Lake Tanganyika, the world’s longest and second-deepest lake, contains over 250 cyclid species found nowhere else on earth.