The Western Hinterland
With no longer the rumble of caravan trains nor the journeys and intensity of European missions, Western Tanzania’s wide-reaching plains and deep lakes have once again become the undisturbed kingdom of the flora and fauna that have reigned there since time began. Visiting Western Tanzania is a journey to another world.
The western hinterland – remote mountains and historical meeting points
Gombe Stream National Park – the chimpanzee centre
Tanzania’s smallest national park, Gombe Stream is a world centre of study on chimpanzees, and the location of the longest-running wildlife observation programme on the planet. Started in 1960 by British naturalist Jane Goodall, the chimpanzee study is now in its sixth generation. As an added bonus, Gombe Stream’s small size permits an easy and comprehensive visit, so don’t miss the opportunity to get out walking with every chance of meeting a couple of chimps on your way.
Katavi National Park – the great unkown
No list of this sort would be complete without a “best kept secret”. And Katavi is precisely that. Tanzania’s third largest National Park covering 4,500 sq km, remains one of the few viable savannah reserves anywhere on the continent. You could drive around for days without encountering another tourist. Big five devotees have much to look forward to, lion and elephant sightings match those anywhere; thousand strong herds of buffalo mass on the plains, while leopard are frequent in the woodland. An unexpected highlight is the ponds of up to 200 hippos that jostle for wallowing space in practically any stretch of water deep enough to wet a knee in.
Ujiji – ancient caravan terminus
On to tiny Ujiji, just south of Kigoma, the region’s capital. Although few traces of its former glory remain, this town used to be the terminus of East Africa’s most important slave and ivory caravan route, linking Lake Tanganyika across the plains and mountains to Bagamoyo and the Indian Ocean. As such, it was an important ship-building centre, and a natural way-station for a number of European explorations. It is also the scene of the famous meeting between Henry Morton Stanley and Dr David Livingstone.
Tabora – trading post of the past
Previously a major trading post on the old caravan, the town of Tabora has also been a mission station as well as hosting several European explorers. One of its major claims to fame though was as the centre of the infamous slave trader Tippu Tip’s extensive empire. More recently, Tabora has become a regional centre for education and is where Tanzania’s first President, Julius Nyerere attended school.
Mahale National Park – Lake Tanganyika paradise
This lovely National Park could be described as a tropical beach nirvana. Scenically, Mahale might have been transplanted from some uninhabited Indian Ocean Island, with its white sandy beaches lapped by the transparent waters of lake Tanganyika (the world’s longest, second deepest and reputedly least polluted fresh water body) and rising to forested peaks 2,000 m above shore. With an area of 1,600 km Mahale mountain slopes harbor a diverse forest fauna and flora, including readily observed troops of red colobus, red-tailed and blue monkeys and a population of eight hundred chimpanzees, he subject of Japanese research for four decades.
Furthermore, there is always a lake nearby for refreshing dip and home to an estimated one thousand colourful cichlid and other fish species.
It was in Ujiji, in this part of Tanzania that the famous historical meeting took place.
“Dr. Livingstone I presume”
And this is how the dialogue went: the only white men within a thousand miles, they came up to each other and doffed their hats:
Stanley: “Dr Livingstone, I Presume”.
Stanley: “Doctor, I think God I have been permitted to shake hands with you.”
Livingstone: “I feel thankful that I am here to welcome you.”
Not perhaps the most sparkling of dialogues, but it did give birth to one of the best known lines in the English Language.