Kigoma town is situated on the shores of the world’s longest and second deepest lake, Lake Tanganyika. Only 10 km from Ujiji where journalist Henry Morton Stanley found the ailing Dr. David Livingstone and greeted him with the immortal words “ Dr. Livingstone, I Presume “, Kigoma town is the main gateway to the remote Gombe Stream and the Mahale Mountains National Parks in western Tanzania.
Gombe Stream National Park is situated in the western border of Tanzania, and is easily accessible by boat from Kigoma town which is 16 km to the south. With an area of only 52 sq km, Gombe Stream is one of the smallest National Parks in Tanzania, comprising a narrow strip of mountainous country bounded in the east by the crest of the Great Rift Valley escarpment, and in the west by Lake Tanganyika, the world’s longest and second deepest at 1400 meters deep. Gombe Stream, like its sister game park of Mahale Mountains to the south, is a park without roads, where you can experience nature on foot accompanied by the park guide. The park’s vegetation varies from the evergreen forests of tall trees to open woodlands and grasslands. The park’s most special feature is its chimpanzees, made famous by Jane Goodall’s study. Chimpanzees are classed as one of the world’s endangered species, and is the primary visitor attraction in Gombe. Other common mammals found are forest species, mostly primates including baboons, blue monkeys, vervet monkeys, red tailed monkeys and red colobus monkeys. There are more 200 species of birds in Gombe Stream National Park.
Mahale Mountains National Park lies 120 km south of Kigoma town, on a peninsula in Lake Tanganyika on the western border of Tanzania. The park has an area of 1613 sq km and is dominated by the Mahale Mountains Chain running from north-west to south-east across the middle of the park, the highest peak, Mount Nkungwe, rising 2,462 meters above sea level. Its western boundary protects not only 63 kms of lakeshore but also the adjacent 1.6 km-wide strip of coastal waters. The park vegetation is mainly Miombo woodland with narrow strips of riverine forests, some rain forest and savannah which provide habitat to a variety of animal species. Mahale Mountains like its northerly neighbour Gombe Stream, is home to some Africa’s last remaining wild chimpanzees, with an estimated population of about 800, found in the rain forests of Mahale together with other rain forest animals including the Angolan colobus monkey and other primates. Species found in Miombo woodland include roan antelopes, sable antelopes and lichtenstein hartebeest, while the savannah provide habitat to warthogs, giraffes, grant’s zebras, hyenas and lions. About 82 species of mammals have been recorded in Mahale, a remote road-free park accessible only by boat or light aircraft. The park is rich in bird life with over 350 bird species recorded. Mahale is bordered to the west by Lake Tanganyika, the world’s longest, second deepest and perhaps least-polluted freshwater lake, which harbour a variety of fish species, with about 250 species found nowhere else on earth. Mahale offers a variety of attractions for visitors, from tracking wild habituated chimpanzees, to mountain climbing, snorkeling, fishing, kayaking and relaxing on pristine, white, sandy beaches of Lake Tanganyika.