Tanzania Western Circuit
The Western Circuit embraces the parks along Lake Tanganyika, the western border of Tanzania with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The vast space in a remote natural location makes the circuit worth a visit. Gombe Stream National Park was made famous by Jane Goodall’s research on its chimpanzee population and subsequent habituation. Mahale Mountains National Park further south, on the shores of the gin-clear waters of Lake Tanganyika, is a more authentic chimpanzee experience and highly recommended. You'll have to go further to find the chimps but you'll get a better idea of how chimps are in the wild than by observing them at feeding pens. Katavi National Park is another 150km towards the south-east of Mahale and probably gets fewer than 500 tourists a year.
More on Tanzania Western Circuit holidays
Two of the three Western Circuit parks are well worth a visit if you appreciate primates and off-the-beaten track safaris. Getting there is fairly expensive because all three parks are a long way to fly from Arusha or Dar es Salaam. There are only two flights a week so you'll have to stay at least a week (three days at Mahale and four at Katavi, or vice versa). You can link Katavi with Ruaha if you like; a good combination would be Ruaha, Katavi and Mahale Mountains.
Katavi National Park
With an area of 4471 km², Katavi National Park is Tanzania’s third largest park and one of its most unspoiled wilderness areas. It is well known for high habitat and species diversity with high concentrations of large mammals. Katavi also serves as a refuge for endangered species such as wild dog and cheetahs.
Mahale National Park
Mahale National Park is located in the western part of Tanzania, bordering Lake Tanganyika. The forested slopes of the Mahale Mountains rise behind the park, home to the world’s largest known population of chimpanzees, with approximately 800 individuals inhabiting the area. Tracking the chimps of Mahale is a magical experience. The forest also boasts amazing troops of red colobus, red-tailed, and blue monkeys and is home to an endemic race of Angola colobus monkey. For ornithologist, this is the perfect place to see a kaleidoscopic array of colorful forest birds.
Gombe Stream National Park
With lush forest and a fascinating diversity of animals, Gombe stream National Park is home to one of the most beautiful and stunning natural forests in Tanzania. Stop at this park for an amazing chimpanzee trek. Chimpanzees are known to be the species of primates closest to humans, sharing 98% of the genes that we also have. Efforts to conserve the chimps are widely acknowledged and supported. The Jane Goodall Foundation plays a big role in the conservation of the Chimpanzees here as well as the gorillas in Uganda. Here, you will also find troops of olive baboons, red-tailed and red Colobus monkeys, which stick to the forest canopy due to being regularly hunted by the forest chimps, as well as more than 200 birds species.