Western Tanzania is for the serious safari enthusiast, travellers who want to experience the rough, remote frontier land of the Africa of old. Vast trackless expanses, minimal infrastructure and few visitors mean this region is still much like it was when when Stanley found Livingstone here in the 1870s. You’ll find a true sense of adventure here that is often missing in other more popular parts of the country.
Western Tanzania encompasses Katavi National Park and Mahale Mountains National Park, both part of the ‘road less travelled’ in safari circles. Wild Katavi is home to the famous denning crocodile and predators galore as well as hippo pods numbering in the thousands. Mahale is all verdant forests and angular mountain slopes which drop vertically down to the shores of mystical Lake Tanganyika. It is one of the best places in the world to see chimpanzees in their natural habitat.
You'll depart Arusha airport on a 3.5 hour flight to the literal middle of nowhere, Katavi National Park (this includes pick-ups/drop-offs and a short fuel stop). Your guide will meet you at the Katavi airstrip and drive you to your lodge for your four night stay. Along the way you'll stop to enjoy a picnic lunch and some game-viewing, familiarising yourself with the unique landscapes of this remote wilderness.
Katavi boasts a great diversity of habitats - the open grasslands are home to the largest herds of buffalo on the planet (up to 3000 animals in one herd), while the flood plains of thick reeds and dense waterways teem with hippo and crocodile. During the dry season from June onwards the Katuma river dries up, leaving just a small stream with a few muddy ponds. Te hippos are forcehd to huddle together in these last remaining puddles, leading to hair-raising fights between males as they vie for space and survival, Look out for dry-country antelope species including the fringe-eared oryx and peculiar long-necked gerenuk, as this is the only place in Tanzania where you can see them.
When not out on game drives and walking safaris, you'll be relaxing at your lodge on the Katuma River where the only people you will see are the lodge staff and fellow guests. Take a trip to the tamarind tree, a site of local legend which is said to house the spirit of the spirit of a great huntsman named Katabi, and leave an offering in his memory.
After a leisurely bush breakfast, you'll depart camp for a short one hour flight to Mahale. Once back on land, you’ll hop aboard a dhow which will take you down the lake to your lodge accommodation. The journey takes an hour and a half with a stop for lunch. On arrival at your beach lodge on the shores of the lake, staff will settle you into camp and give you an introduction to your chimpanzee trek which heads out the following day. You'll have a long afternoon to explore the lake at your your leisure with a number of activities on offer. Take a stroll along the marvel that is Lake Tanganyika, the world's longest and second largest freshwater lake. Wander through thick forests, go kayaking on the lake or soak up the sunshine on the beach.
This morning you'll head out on your first of two days of chimpanzee trekking. You'll depart camp in the morning and enter the dense forest on the slopes of the Mahale Mountains in search of man's closest relative. Guided by trackers and scouts, you'll be divided into small groups of six, each group hiking independently along the narrow mountain trails to find the chimps. A large habituated troop lives in these mountains providing you with a cherished encounter that feel a lot like looking into a distorted mirror. Time seems to stand still during the hour you have to visit with them. Watch as 40 or 50 chimps suddenly appear in the trees in front of you, infants dangling from their mothers as they stare at you in equal parts shyness and curiosity. You'll get an inside look at how they live as they eat and play together and even irritate each other, just like human families.
Back at the lake, you can spend your afternoon fishing, sailing on a dhow for truly spectacular sundowner or relaxing at camp or on th beach. The dry season is the best time of year to witness the chimps in large groups lower down on the slopes, but the park is accessible all year round.
After one last breakfast on the shores of this magical, timeless place, you'll depart by dhow in time for your lunch-time flight back to Arusha. You’ll arrive in the late afternoon to catch your international flight home or be transferred on to your next destaintion.