Western Circuit – Katavi, Mahale, Rubondo & Gombe

Situated in the Rift Valley is the magnificent Lake Victoria, by far the largest fresh water lake in Africa. Also in the Valley is the equally impressive Lake Tanganyika. Those 2 lakes shelter a number of less commercialized National Parks including Gombe, Katavi, Rubondo and Mahale.

Safaris to these alternative destinations are often combined with the Northern or Southern Circuits, primarily because tourists tend to know little about the region. Nonetheless these alternative parks are magnificent, all with their own individual and unique attractions.

Gombe Stream National Park is Tanzania’s smallest park and is the natural haven for chimpanzees. Due to the renowned work of Dr. Jane Goodall which took place in Gombe the chimps found here are less wary of human beings than anywhere else in the world and so gives visitors the chance to view these amazing creatures close up.

In the extreme west of Tanzania are two national parks that aren’t well known: Mahale Mountains National Park and Katavi National Park. Those parks are exceedingly remote, tricky to access, and costly to visit – but they’re very different from anything else in Tanzania, and totally magical. Few people make the effort to come here and so it has remained an untouched, unique experience, and absolutely worth visiting. Mahale is also probably the best place in the world for chimp safaris!

The lakeshore here is a beach of the finest powder-white sand, behind which rises a range of imposing mountains, clad in verdant tropical vegetation. Big electric-blue butterflies flit above the streams and the forest is alive with sound. It’s not only beautiful, but it also harbours Tanzania’s densest population of primates: yellow baboon, red colobus, blue, red-tailed and velvet monkeys are never far away – and then, of course, there are the chimpanzees.

Katavi National Park is a name to conjure with. It is one of the best parks in Africa and many safari operations would love to start camps here. However, the logistics and costs are so difficult, that there are only a couple of small, permanent safari camps sharing this 4,500km² of wilderness.

The largest island national park in Africa, Rubondo Island lies in the southern part of Lake Victoria (the second-largest lake in Africa, after Lake Tanganyika). The island is 26km in length, and varies in width from 3km to 10km.

Rubondo has been almost untouched by tourism. It has, though, become a sanctuary for threatened wildlife and has seen many species introduced over the years.