Western Circuit

RUBONDO ISLAND

Rubondo Island is one of two Tanzanian national parks located on an island in Lake Victoria. The island attracts a small number of visitors each year, mainly game fishermen and bird enthusiasts.
Rubondo Island – in the southwest corner of Lake Victoria – is for those seeking the thrill of adventure in a truly wild area, all but untouched by man. the island is uninhabited by humans and has been set aside as a refuge for threatened chimpanzees. The surrounding waters of Lake Victoria are a crucial breeding ground for tilapia and the enormous Nile perch. This unique corner of Africa is a sanctuary to be enjoyed by only a handful of fortunate – and intrepid – travelers. Rubondo Island Camp is the only accommodation in the entire park.

DISTANCE: HOW TO GET THERE

DRIVE:
To reach at Rubondo Island, there three options. One is to drive with a car, which if the trip starts from Dar
es Salaam then Morogoro-Dodoma-Singida-Shinyanga and the last stop is Mwanza.

This takes two to three days drive. From Iringa then Dodoma-Singida-Igunga-Shinyanga last stop to
Mwanza.

FLIGHT:
Flight from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza.

BY ROAD:
(self drive/’a do-it-yourself’ safari): From Mwanza – via The Kigongo Ferry (photo), Sengerema, Geita and Muganza: 265 km (Good/fair road condition all the way – and asphalted).

FROM MUGANZA:
TANAPA speedboat (photo in the middle) to Rubondo Island (30 minutes).
US$ 100 (return) – Tanzanian residents/non-residents. Max 6 pax.

FROM NKOME:
TANAPA speedboat (photo in the middle) to Rubondo Island (90 minutes).

GOMBE STREAM

Gombe Stream National Park is located in western Kigoma Region, Tanzania, 10 miles north of Kigoma, the capital of Kigoma Region. Gombe is not the easiest or cheapest place to get to. The only way to get there is by boat from Kigoma town. Depending on your itinerary, you might book your international flight
to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) in Arusha town or Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) in Dar es Salaam, (By Flight). In most cases, your tour operator will pick you up from the airport. Your tour operator will also book your ongoing domestic flight to Kigoma Airport (TKQ) and will charter a private motorboat to Gombe. The boat trip takes less than an hour.

DRIVE TO GOMBE:
From Iringa to Gombe Stream (Kigoma) takes 752 km by a car which takes two days getting to Gombe. From Kilimanjaro to Gombe takes 2 days drive. From Dar es Salaam to Gombe takes 3 days to drive.1,086km Distance from Dar es Salaam to Gombe National Park.

SAANANE ISLAND

Saanane Island is a fully fledged National Park since July 2013, covering an area of 2.18 sq km comprises of three islets and aquatic environment. The islets lie on the southern part of the main Island. The park made a record of being the first ever National Park to be located within the City and the smallest

National Park in both Tanzania and East Africa. The Park is the home of mammals like Impala, Rock Hyrax, Velvet Monkeys, and Wild Cats. The presence of “De-brazas Monkey” underscores its potential as the only Park in the country inhabited the species. Reptiles are also dominant; they include crocodiles, Monitor Lizards, Agama Lizards, Pancake and Leopard Tortoises, Snakes particularly Python.

GETTING THERE:
One can travel by road or air from either Dar es Salaam or Kilimanjaro International AirPorts to Mwanza. Also can travel by road or railway to Mwanza City from Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Kigoma, and Tabora. to mention a few. Moreover, people can travel by ship/vessel to Mwanza Port from Uganda, Kenya, Bukoba and nearby Islands. The Island is accessed by a regular short boat ride for about 5 minutes from Park Offices, on the mainland. Park Offices are easily accessed about 15 minute’s short walk from the City Centre.

LAKE TANGANYIKA

Lake Tanganyika is the world’s longest (660km), deepest in Africa and second-deepest in the world (more than 1436m) and second-largest (by volume) freshwater lake. At somewhere between nine and 13 million years old, it’s also one of the oldest. Thanks to its age and ecological isolation it’s home to an exceptional number of endemic fish, including 98% of the 250-plus species of cichlids. Cichlids are popular aquarium fish due to their bright colors, and they make Tanganyika an outstanding snorkeling and diving destination.

Comparatively narrow, varying in width from 10 to 45 miles (16 to 72 km), it covers about 12,700 square miles (32,900 square km) and forms the boundary between Tanzania and Congo (Kinshasa). It occupies the southern end of the Western Rift Valley, and for most of its length, the land rises steeply from its shores. Its waters tend to be brackish. Though fed by a number of rivers, the lake is not the center of an extensive drainage area. The largest rivers discharging into the lake are the Malagarasi, the Ruzizi, and the Kalambo, which has one of the highest waterfalls in the world (704 feet [215 meters]). Its outlet is the Lukuga River, which flows into the Lualaba River.

Lake Tanganyika is situated on the line dividing the floral regions of eastern and western Africa, and oil palms, which are characteristic of the flora of western Africa, grow along the lake’s shores. Rice and subsistence crops are grown along the shores, and fishing is of some significance. Hippopotamuses and crocodiles abound, and the bird life is varied.

Many of the numerous peoples (predominantly Bantu-speaking) living on the lake’s eastern borders trace their origins to areas in the Congo River basin. The lake was first visited by Europeans in 1858, when the British explorers Sir Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke reached Ujiji, on the lake’s eastern shore, in their quest for the source of the Nile River. In 1871 Henry (later Sir Henry) Morton Stanley “found” David Livingstone at Ujiji. Important ports situated along Lake Tanganyika are Bujumbura (Burundi), Kalemi (Congo), and Ujiji and Kigoma (Tanzania).

GETTING THERE:
It is possible to reach the lake via any of the neighboring countries. Kigoma and Kalemie both have small airports and both are connected to their countries’ rail networks. However the whole region has some safety risks and DR Congo, especially the Kivu region where Kigoma is located, is particularly dangerous. See the country and region articles for details. The nearest airport with a good selection of international flights is Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, and a common route to the lake is to fly there then take either plane or train to Kigoma. Alternately, Bujumbura has some international flights. Other rail lines from Bujumbura north to Kenya and Uganda, and from Mpulungu south to Lusaka are being planned, but are not in service as of early 2015.

MAHALE MOUNTAINS

The parks like its northerly neighbor Gombe is home to some of Africa’s last remaining wild chimpanzees, a population of roughly 900, they are habituated to human visitors by a Japanese research project founded in the 1960s. Tracking the chimps of Mahale is a magical experience. Mahale is located in Western Tanzania to the South of Kigoma town, it is bordering Lake Tanganyika-the World’s longest, second deepest and least polluted freshwater lake-harboring an estimated 1000 fish species.

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS:
The Chimpanzees Chain of Mountains (Mahale range) Forest fauna and flora (Angola colobus, red colobus, red-tailed and blue monkeys, forest birds, alpine bamboo, montane rainforest etc). Beach along Lake Tanganyika Local fishermen
Sunset on the Lake horizon.

DIRECT FLIGHTS TO MAHALE:
This is the easiest way to reach Mahale. During the peak tourist season (June to October) the three tour operators with camps in Mahale schedule regular flights between the park and Arusha town. Between October and March flights arrive and leave twice each week. Between March, April and the first half of May Camps close therefore there are no scheduled flights. However, it is also possible for visitors to arrange their own charter flights. Tanzania has a large number of charter flight companies such as Air Excel, Northern Air, and Regional Air to mention a few. Private charters can be arranged from major cities of Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Mwanza or Zanzibar. The airstrip at Mahale is suitable for light aircraft only with the capacity of up to 12 passengers.

TRAVEL TO MAHALE VIA KIGOMA:

Kigoma can be reached via several routes:
By Air: Air Tanzania schedules daily flights from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma. The flight takes about 3 hours.
By Road: Road provides accessibility to Kigoma, but it can be rough and impassable, especially in the rainy season. From Arusha it takes 2 or 3 days to reach Kigoma by car, a 4-wheel drive vehicle is required.
By Rail: Trains from Dar es Salaam leave 2-3 times a week. The journey takes about three days and two nights.

FROM KIGOMA:
Mahale can be reached by boat, by light aircraft or by car. Transport to Mahale by speedboats or timber boats from Kigoma can be arranged with the Park or private operators in Kigoma. The speedboats take between 4 and 5 hours to reach the park while timber boats can take up to 15 hours or more.
A large steamship – MV Liemba – leaves Kigoma twice a month [on Wednesday afternoon], carrying passengers and cargo the length of the Lake to Zambia. It makes numerous stops along the way, including one for Mahale, which is referred to as Lagosa (the old name) or famously known as Mgambo. MV Liemba takes around 10 hours to reach Lagosa- Mgambo from Kigoma, and it passes Mahale again on its return journey [either Sunday or Monday morning].

From Lagosa-Mgambo one may organize the park boats for a pickup. Mahale is 45 minutes from Kigoma town by light aircraft. A few safari companies offer private charter flights from Kigoma to Mahale and other National Parks in western Tanzania.

Road: Either drive 2 hrs South of Kigoma via Simbo Village (160km ) crossing Malagarasi river to Herembe village (passable during the dry season) or drive 122km to Sigunga Village upon arrangement with Park HQ for boat transfer to the Park maximum 1 or 2 hrs boat cruise respectively.