Western Tanzania is the least visited part of Tanzania but perhaps the most interesting for travelers with a sense of adventure. Western Tanzania is also where you can see chimpanzees in their natural habitat. There are two parks where it is possible to see chimpanzees (see below) but note that children under 10 are usually not allowed to track these primates. You should budget at least 4 days to visit western Tanzania's parks.
BEST TIME TO VISIT THE WESTERN CIRCUIT
The best time to visit parks in Western Tanzania is during the dry season (June - November) because the roads within the parks are passable. The dry season also means that the game is more concentrated around the rivers that run through these vast parks, thus making it easier to spot wildlife. When viewing chimpanzees though, the wet-season (December to April) makes it a little easier to find the chimps since they don't have to roam too far to get water.
PARKS AND RESERVES IN WESTERN TANZANIA
Katavi National Park has all the credentials of being a top wildlife destination in Africa. Katavi is beautiful and teeming with animals, beautiful and unspoiled. The reason Katavi sees so few visitors is because it is so remote. This is a good reason to visit if you're looking for a unique safari experience since it's only accessible by light aircraft. Katavi is best during the dry season where the pools are literally filled to the brim with as many as 3000 hippos.
Gombe Stream National Park is home to several groups of habituated chimpanzees. While it's Tanzania's smallest park, it is certainly one of the most important. Gombe is where Jane Goodall studied chimpanzees and brought home to us how closely we are related, in many ways, to our genetic cousins. Gombe is situated on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, so you can enjoy the beach as well as the wildlife. Gombe is really difficult to get to by road, it's best to take a light aircraft from Dar es Salaam or Mwanza. Tracking chimpanzees is easier during the wet-season when they don't roam too far. However, the dry season during July to October is better for taking photographs, when the foliage is less dense.
Mahale Mountain National Park is another chimpanzee sanctuary, with an estimated 1000 chimps in residence. There are other primates to see too, including the red Colobus monkey and yellow baboons. Like Gombe, Mahale lies in the shores of Lake Tanganyika. The best time to visit Mahale is during the dry season from May to October. A visit to Mahale is often combined with at least a few nights in Katavi National Park. Mahale is linked by chartered aircraft to Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Kigoma.
ADD-ONS TO THE WESTERN CIRCUIT
Rubondo Island National Park is an island situated in south-west Lake Victoria (the world's second largest lake). It is an amazing place for birdlife and you can also enjoy chimpanzee, giraffe, elephant and other mammals introduced to the island. Accommodation is limited to 10 luxury tents, but this means you'll have the beaches almost to yourself.
Zanzibar is one of Tanzania's biggest tourist draw cards and a popular add-on after a dusty safari. Stone Town, in the heart of the main island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The streets are perfectly preserved in this ancient trading town. You can also enjoy spice tours, snorkeling, scuba diving and much more.