Western Tanzania

The Mahale Mountains rise steeply over 8,000 feet above the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika, with its white sand beaches and clear waters. It feels exciting, wild and far away from anywhere.

In reality, access is via Dar or Arusha - an (expensive) 4-5 hour light aircraft flight.

Visitors to this remote and extremely beautiful park are most often in search of chimpanzees. There are around 1000 in the mountains although you're most likely to see the Mimikire or 'M' clan as it is more commonly known, which has been habituated since the mid 1960s (by a Japanese research project) and offers memorable encounters.

Other primates roam the forest including colobus, baboons and vervets.

You can track chimpanzees at most times of the year (except April/May), but the end of the dry season between July and October, when chimps can be found on the lower slopes looking for their favourite fruits and the forest paths are dry and firm underfoot, is considered optimum.

Also in the west is Katavi National Park - the third largest but one of the least known parks of Tanzania. This is a classic dry-season park, where wildlife is drawn to the Katuma and Kapapa rivers, providing excellent opportunities to observe them - elephant, lion, giraffe, zebra and buffalo can all be seen among many other species, and if you're really lucky you may see a leopard but they tend to be fairly elusive in this part of the world. There are no rhino.

There are a couple of lovely permanent small camps including Chada, Katavi Wildlife and Mbali Mbali.

Part of the appeal of Western Tanzania is that hardly anyone visits - just a few hundred (in comparison to the Northern Circuit Parks which receive thousands of vistors) meaning you have this spectacular place pretty much to yourself.