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Whilst the main attraction for travellers are the habituated chimpanzees that are evident in Western Tanzania, this part of the country is one that is rarely explored fully. Infrastructure in Western Tanzania is not as reliable as in other areas of the country which can mean that travelling around can take far longer and be more complicated than expected. That said, for those that do want to make the effort to explore a little further, the rewards can be great and give visitors an experience like no other.
Made famous by the primatologist Jane Goodall, the Gombe Stream National Park is home to the chimpanzee groups that she has spent her life studying and protecting. Situated on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, Gombe is the smallest national park in Tanzania and the sounds of mans closest relatives, chimpanzees, seem to carry across the whole area. Goodall and her team have spent many years with the chimpanzees and a number of groups have been habituated allowing tourists the chance to trek into the forest to spend time observing the primates in their natural setting. This experience is truly unforgettable and a real highlight of a trip to Tanzania.
The park is also home to a number of other primates including olive baboons and red-tailed and red colobus monkeys as well as small antelope and over 200 species of tropical birdlife. Whilst the chimpanzees are the main draw to Gombe, hiking and swimming within the park are also popular activities. A visit to the site of Stanleys ‘Dr Livingstone I presume’ at nearby Ujiji can also be easily arranged from Gombe.
Despite being the third largest national park in Tanzania, Katavi National Park is seldom visited due to its remote location which means that it has remained virtually untouched. It offers a true wilderness experience for the safari traveller.
The flood plains of the Katuma River, Lake Katavi and Lake Chada which meet within the park are a haven for birdlife and are home to one of the worlds largest populations of hippos and crocodiles. The park also boasts the 'big 5' as well as rare species such as the roan and sable antelope. During the dry season when the floodplains retreat the small trickle of the Katuma River offers one of the only sources of drinking water in the area and huge groups of animals flock here making it easy to see a huge array of wildlife - groups of up to 4,000 elephant and herds of up to 1,000 buffalo have been seen converging here.
Mahale Mountains National Park is located in one of the most remote locations in Tanzania – it is accessible only by small aircraft or by motorboat. Whilst not as well known as Gombe, Mahale Mountains National Park is also home to groups of habituated chimpanzees which tourists may visit. The research and habituation process started in the 1960’s and today allows visitors to get up close with the chimpanzees within their natural habitat.
The second highest uninterrupted falls in Africa, the Kalambo Falls, as well as being a breeding ground for the marabou stork, is also one of the most important archeological sites in Africa. 300,000 year old Stone Age tools have been found here as well as some of the oldest evidence that wood was used as a construction material. A variety of earthenware pottery has also been found in the area, with some thought to date from as early as 350 AD.
© ecoTravel Africa 2011