At a Glance
Dates: October 8th - October 21st, 2023
Extension: We do not currently offer any extensions to this itinerary.
Prices: £6,250 pp sharing (with a £600 single supplement), excluding international flights.
In a sentence: Combine world-class game-viewing in Katavi with intimate viewing of primates in the world-famous Mahale, Gombe and Mt Rungwe.
Uganda and Rwanda sometimes feel like they have a monopoly on primate-focussed safaris. If you're adventurous, you may have considered the Congo. But very rarely do people venture to Western Tanzania, despite its obvious connections to safari powerhouse destinations such as the Serengeti, leaving areas like Gombe and Mahale relatively untouched despite their rich histories and fantastic primate-viewing. Perhaps their greatest asset, though, is completely unexploited, and that is the ability to combine them with two hugely exciting areas - Katavi and Mt Rungwe. Katavi is vast and wild, supporting truly surprising densities of big game including lion, elephant and buffalo. The hippo densities here can be beyond belief. And Mt Rungwe is a world of its own, hardly explored at all, and a stronghold for the odd kipunji. This primate, only formally described in the early 2000s, is a beautiful animal, and one that Pictus Safaris has a 100% success rate in locating.
On arrival into Kigoma, you will be met by your local guide and your Pictus Safaris tour leader. From the airport, it is around a six-hour drive to Katumbi, from where we take a boat operated by Tanzanian National Parks (TANAPA) to Mahale. We aim to arrive at the park bandas just before dark - there will a pre-tour briefing today before some well-earned dinner and rest.
Our safari begins in earnest! We wake at the crack of dawn today to head out on our trek into the national park. Our aim is to intercept the habituated families of chimpanzee as they descend to the forest floor from their nocturnal roosts, and we are highly likely to be successful this morning. It is a true privilege to spend time with these families as they feed, play and squabble with one another, not unlike many human families. In order to be fair to these amazing creatures, our visit this morning will be limited to one hour, but what a magical hour it will be.
This afternoon we will head out into the forest, away from the lakeshore where the chimpanzees typically reside at this time of year. Chimpanzees actively hunt other primates, so we will seek out multiple 'prey species' on this walk, including the lovely yellow baboon, ashy red colobus, red-tailed monkey and blue monkey. Keep your eyes peeled for the pretty chequered sengi rooting around on the forest floor too.
After a final morning with the chimpanzees of Mahale, we return to Katumbi by boat and overnight in Kigoma.
We again take to the water this morning, using a boat to access Gombe National Park, not too far from Mahale. Gombe is much smaller than Mahale, offering a more intimate experience. This, coupled with the history of the park that is so deeply associated with the work of Jane Goodall, makes it a firm favourite with many visitors. We aim to arrive in time to track chimpanzees this evening, and there will be time to relax after dinner ahead of a busy few days to come.
We have a full day in Gombe, starting again with a one-hour session with the families of chimpanzee that reside here. The habituation here is much more prevalent than in Mahale, and it is not uncommon to be surrounded by dozens of chimps here. After a wonderful morning, our afternoon will be spent walking the forest birding and enjoying sightings of other primates, including the charming ashy red colobus.
If desired, a final morning with the chimpanzees can be arranged today before we return to Kigoma by boat. The afternoon is at leisure.
We leave Kigoma at dawn today, arriving at Katavi by late afternoon. After a quick chance to drop bags off in our rooms, we will head out on a game drive, aiming to locate our first big game of the tour. At this time of year, the game-viewing is prolific and astonishing. Thousands of hippo gather in the dwindling pools, often doing battle as temperatures rise. Elephant, buffalo and lion are present in great numbers, and we may even record the elusive leopard or wild dog this evening. After dinner, a night drive will allow us to follow prides of lion as they stalk buffalo through the darkness.
Days Eight to Nine
Two full days allow for morning, afternoon and night drives to soak in this indescribable park. This is Africa at its most authentic and wild, and scarcely a game drive goes by without at least one truly awesome sighting. Katavi has to be seen to be believed!
After a final morning game drive in Katavi, the remainder of the day is dedicated to a long drive to the frontier town of Sumbawanga, where we overnight.
We have more time on the road today, demonstrating just how vast this part of Tanzania truly is, but we eventually make it to our destination by mid-afternoon. Our basic campsite will be set up for us here, as there is no acceptable accommodation nearby, and we will immediately begin a hike into the forests that line this mountain. It is here that the curious kipunji, somewhere between a mangabey and a baboon, hid undiscovered until the early 2000s. We have a great record in finding this wonderful animal and we aim to be lucky tonight.
Our full day will be spent hiking the mountain searching for groups of kipunji. Keep an eye out too for the newly-described Rungwe dwarf galago in the hours of darkness, and perhaps even the ultra-rare Abbott's duiker.
After a final search for kipunji this morning, we head to Mbeya where we spend the night.
This morning you are flown to Dar es Salaam, where your tour ends.
Please be aware that whilst we make every effort to follow the above itinerary as closely as possible, circumstances may
occasionally arise that mean the tour deviates from the itinerary.
Dates and Prices
This tour will run in October 2023, aiming to take advantage the limited period when Katavi and the primate reserves are at their very best. The tour will run from October 8th to October 21st.
The cost of this trip is £6,250 per person excl. flights. This includes all meals, accommodation and wildlife-focussed activities. Drinks are not included. We regret that we must levy a single supplement of £600 pp for this trip. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £2,500 plus any single supplement must be paid.
Flights and Visas
Pictus Safaris do not offer flight booking services. However, we do recommend the use of travel comparison websites such as skyscanner.net or momondo.com to identify the best fares, and then booking with the airline directly where possible. This will reduce the likelihood of complications and fees should any issues with your booking arise. If you wish to spend an additional night in Dar es Salaam at the beginning or end of your tour, we can arrange this for you at an extra cost. We strongly recommend booking flights leaving Dar es Salaam after 22.00 on your return, if leaving on the same day that we return to Dar es Salaam to avoid disruption to your plans.
British nationals do require a visa to enter Tanzania. Clients of other nationalities are advised to check well before travel whether they require an entry visa. Details of the process of obtaining a tourist visa for Tanzania will be provided to you upon booking. The cost of a Tanzania entry e-visa for UK citizens is $50 - these may be obtained online or on arrival into Tanzania.
Weather and What to Bring
The weather in Tanzania in October is hot and dry, with maximum temperatures of around 30 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 20 degrees Celsius.
A full packing list will be circulated at least two months prior to departure. Pictus Safaris will be able to provide one extra set of binoculars and two spotlights per group, and clients are welcome to bring additional camera, videography and scope equipment should they wish to. Please note that the use of drones is not permitted in many protected areas. We strongly recommend bringing comfortable, loose-fitting and neutral-coloured clothing on safari - please do not bring camouflage clothing. We recommend against dark coloured clothing (e.g. black or dark blue) as this attracts biting flies. Worn-in hiking boots with ankle support are a must, as are sunglasses, sun protection and a hat.
Do also remember to budget for any expenses not included in the cost of the trip, including for gratuities and additional activities. We recommend bringing US Dollars.
Safety and Security
The security situation in Tanzania is good - however, there is some unrest in Mozambique close to its northern border with Tanzania. At this stage, this has not spread to Tanzania, but we are constantly monitoring this situation and will advise all clients should the security situation in Tanzania deteriorate.