Chimpanzee trekking in Tanzania – Gombe National Park and the Mahale Mountains National Park. Tanzania is popular for the abundance of wildlife and one of the greatest wildlife safaris in Africa.
However, apart from the thousands of wildebeest seen on game drives in the vast plains of Tanzania, there are also chimpanzees that can be trekked in Gombe Streams National Park and the Mahale Mountains.
Tanzania isn’t the ultimate chimpanzee trekking destination, however, it is a unique chimp tracking place. Uganda’s chimpanzee trekking safaris offer a very memorable experience because of the high population of chimpanzees as well as Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest National Park.
But even with few chimpanzee numbers, the chimpanzee trekking experience in Tanzania is undertaken under very unique experiences.
Mahale Mountains National Park is home to one of Africa’s most studied chimpanzee populations and Gombe streams have a small population that lives in a great environment.
Around 1000 chimpanzees roam around the isolated and lush rainforest of Mahale just above the beaches of Lake Tanganyika. These are habituated to human visitors by a Japanese research project founded in the 1960s.
The Mahale Mountains rise to an altitude of 2,460 meters (8,069 ft) at the highest of the six prominent points that make up the Mahale Range. The highest mountain is also known as Nkungwe and at times borrowed by the park.
Though chimpanzees are the main attraction of the Mahale Mountains, the slopes of the mountains support a diverse forest fauna including readily observed troops of red colobus, red-tailed and blue monkeys. There is also a very colorful array of forest birds.
To get to Mahale Mountains National Park, tourists can use charter flights from Arusha, Dar-es-salaam, or Kigoma. The other means of transport can be by motorboat from Kigoma lasting about three to four hours. The park borders Lake Tanganyika and therefore can be reached by boat.
Gombe streams National Park is just 16 miles north of Kigoma on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania and was made famous due to the pioneering work of Jane Goodall who founded a behavioral research program in the 1960s and is still running.
Gombe Streams National Park is the smallest of all Tanzanian parks (52 square kilometers) a habitat for chimpanzees spanning the steep slopes as well as the river valleys that border the northern sandy shores of the stunning Lake Tanganyika.
Other than the chimpanzees, other primate species in Gombe include large troops of olive baboons, red-tailed and red colobus monkeys. The park also supports about 200 unique bird species ranging from the fish eagle to peter’s twinspots.
On a chimpanzee trekking safari in these unique settings, tourists walk through guided trails in search of the chimps. The trek is guided by clues like the previous night’s nest, shadowy clumps high in the trees, fresh dung, or scraps of half-eaten fruit.
Watching the chimpanzees swing through the forests is amazing, it feels like being so close to nature unlike when on a game drive.
When you get amidst the chimpanzees, you see them preening each other’s glossy coats in concentrated huddles, squabbling noisily or bounding into trees to swing effortlessly between the vines.
The best time for chimpanzee trekking in Tanzania is during the dry season which is between May and October. This time is best for forest walks, hiking, and camping safaris. However, chimpanzees can also trek at any other time of the year.
During the times between February to June and then from November to mid-December it is the rainy season and chimps don’t move so far which makes tracking them easier.
However, though chimps can easily be tracked in the rainy season, quality pictures cannot be taken during this time.
On a visit to Gombe Streams or the Mahale Mountains, other activities that can also be included are hiking, swimming, nature walks, bird watching, and snorkeling.
Tanzania isn’t actually the best place to see many chimps in their natural habitat but the experience is one of a kind. Other activities that can be done in the country include Tanzania wildlife safaris to the parks like Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, and Tarangire National Park.
For extremely amazing primate tracking safaris, take Uganda gorilla safaris or Rwanda gorilla tours. For chimpanzee trekking, the two countries still offer great experiences with Nyungwe Forest National Park in Rwanda, Kibale Forest National Park, Budongo forest, Kyambura Gorge in Uganda.
Here are some of the recommended itineraries that tourists can choose when going on the East Africa safari.