Mahale has been on the back of my mind for years. I kept hearing about this splendid destination for years, even drove by a couple of times in the region but never reached it: one reason is that it is not so easy to access. I was always told that the only way to get there was by some long boat ride. Upon finally deciding to go there, I was pleasantly surprised that there is an actual road leading all the way to the park – though indeed those last 200 km took 5 hrs to cover 😊
1,022 km journey there took 2 days and took us to some beautiful and less travelled corners of Western Tanzania. We enjoyed nice views of Lake Victoria.
And spent a night in a small town of Kibondo, which turned out to be quite a hotbed of refugee oriented organizations due to influx of refugees from Burundi. Even the hotel was aptly named “Swidish House” (= that is the spelling 😊) due to the presence of “Norwegian Refugee Council”. All hotels in Tanzania by the way enjoy having a picture of a wild animal at the gate, usually an antelope being in the jaws of a beast (picture).
The road around Kibondo (about 180 km stretch) cutting to Kigoma is a “Toyota Probox” country: we counted about 35 of them in driving for about 4 hours – other than that only an occasional bus or a “white Landcruiser” of those refugee NGOs.
The country when descending toward Kigoma changes – from dense forests to more wide open terrains – and it is the first time in East/Southern Africa that I seen people selling on the side of the road “palm oil”. Now you may think palm oil = deforestation: this indeed rings truth for largescale plantations but the oil produced here is grown by small farmers on their plots and is simply cold-pressed of very vivid orange flavour. Very tasty!
At the turn off to Ibanda, we had to stock up on some foodstuffs: the turnoff was about 22 km before Kigoma, which meant we did not have a chance to do a usual “supermarket” shopping but took advantage of the roadside market. Amongst the delicacies we found one live village chicken (slaughtered on site), fresh village eggs (including duck eggs), and assortment of vegetables and fresh mangoes. We were all set to go to the forest for the next 5 days!
End of the road: TANAPA headquarters – and with a shop serving cold beer – we took advantage and took a couple on our boat. Once on the boat, the place has sunk in: evergreen slopes of mountain wilderness and glistening lake. The accommodation was a great surprise: apart from other govt agency ran bandas I visited, these units were superb: spacious, modern and clean with hot water and set in shady forest.