Chimpanzees are mans closest relative in the animal kingdom and Gombe Stream National Park is one of the best places in the world to see them in the wild.
Gombe Stream National Park
Going to visit them can be a hard task unless you fly so taking a 19-hour bus and minivan ride from Arusha, across in parts very bad roads, and staying in the middle of nowhere late at night, not knowing where you really are is part of the process.
Eventually ending up in Kigoma in Western Tanzania on Lake Tanganyika, you then have to get a boat ride for 2 hours up the lake to reach the entrance to Gombe Stream National Park.
On the way, you pass scenic small fishing villages.
Gombe Stream National Park is famous for being the place where Jane Goodall studied chimpanzees in the late 1950s and 1960s. Her observations were insightful into their behaviour.
There are approximately 100 chimpanzees in the park, split into 3 family groups. Along the way, the hillsides are covered in lush undergrowth and trees, with clouds rolling over the top.
After a peaceful cruise on the small wooden boat, you arrive at the entrance of Gombe Stream National Park. The only way to reach the park is by water.
Trackers head out every morning to see where the chimpanzees are, then radio in any sightings so they can be seen. Getting back on the boat to move down the lake to where some were seen, the excitement slowly builds.
Getting off you immediately come across several chimpanzees after just a few minutes walk into the bush. Getting within 10 metres of them it is fascinating to view mans closest relative in the wild.
Observing for several minutes, they slowly wander off into the bush, and it is time to visit another spot where a tracker has seen some more.
Trekking for 15 minutes surrounded by lush tropical vegetation, you come upon some chimpanzees high up in the trees. One of them is watching out across the treetops.
It’s amazing to see the faces on them and how close they seem to us. One of the trackers found 2 more playing in the treetops.
Again the faces seemed so close to humans. Two of the chimpanzees were making a nest in the trees to sleep. It was great watching them prance around.
Further away after some more trekking in the steamy undergrowth heat, a lone elderly chimpanzee was sitting high up in a tree.
It almost had the expression of ‘Here come those idiot distant relatives of mine again!’ He was old and slow and very chilled out high up.
After a long time trekking around to see chimpanzees, it was time to head back to the boat and go back to the main entrance.
Then more trekking 30 minutes up into the hills to visit a waterfall where a good showering was done, perfect for cooling down and getting the sweat off.
Then after a busy day, it was time to go back on the boat to Kigoma for some fresh lake fish for dinner. Wildlife watching is always great, and seeing chimpanzees in the wild was perfect.
Visiting Gombe Stream National Park was a very good day out.
When back in this part of Africa going gorilla trekking in Uganda will be another experience that is high on my list of wildlife safaris to do.
Take a look at my backpacking in Tanzania itinerary to help plan a trip there.
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