Day 52: Gombe National Park

To Gombe National Park to see the chipanzees!!!!!!

This was an experience of a lifetime and not to be missed! It was so special to visit these creatures in their natural habitat. It was such a unique experience beyond description!


Gombe National Park is located in western Kigoma Region, Tanzania, 20 km north of Kigoma, the capital of Kigoma Region. Established in 1968, Gombe is one of the smallest national parks in Tanzania, with only 35 sq km of protected land along the hills of the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika. The terrain is distinguished by steep valleys, and the forest vegetation ranges from grassland to woodland to tropical rainforest. Accessible only by boat, the park is most famous as the location where Jane Goodall pioneered her behavioral research conducted on the chimpanzee populations. The Kasekela chimpanzee community, featured in several books and documentaries, lives in Gombe National Park.


Gombe NP can only be reached by boat. We researched beforehand and arranged with the owners of Jakobsen’s Beach to book us a boat from Kigoma to take us to Gombe NP. The owner of the boat, a local Tanzanian, came to our camp the second evening to secure the arrangements. That night at twelve he docked his boat at the beach below our camp, and the next morning we boarded the boat while it was still dark.


It was a pleasant drive, although very slow. We had the early morning sunrise on a perfectly calm lake with lots of fishing boats going out around us, and we cruised a few hundred meters from the shore at the boat’s max speed of 10 km/hr. Along the shores of the lake are small fishing villages where everything was brought in by boat, as there are no roads out.



We also noticed boats loaded with people, and the skipper told us that these boats are taxi-boats, bringing people into TZN from the Rwanda border.




We arrived at the park offices at nine, bought our permits and met our guide for the tour. We were the only tourists for the past three days, and according to the visitor’s registration book the park receives two to three small tourist groups per week.

Then our hike into the forest started. Shady and humid and a very steep climp up against the hill until one reaches the area where the chimps sleep. They move around and do not necessarily stay in the same trees, and we had to climb for approx an hour before we started to hear them. It was a difficult hike through the forest, as it was uphill with a lot of overhanging branches on a footpath full of slippery wet leaves.

Within a few hundred meters where the tree canopy was really high, we were in the middle of the group. Eric took binoculars to see them, which he never used, as they moved around as if we were not present. They were playing around and at one stage started to shout. 48ACA755-A4B3-4E06-8B27-5FA5561CDBDD3DB05547-C8DB-42A0-BBB6-CBAFE3D15388E9E52FAD-3AC6-4808-89A9-CEF68F918931

One female was on heat and a few young males were challenging the alpha male. The younger ones were just running up and down the trees and playing. Some of the males passed within a meter from us on the ground towards the alpha male and ignored us totally. We spent more than an hour in their midst, and then they moved further along and we decided to go back to the boat.

The videos below show the experience much better than the photos:

On the way back we visited the waterfall that was sparkling clear – one could drink from it.


We had the return journey on the boat on a more windy lake and it took forever (almost three hours) to get back to the camp. Once back, we were just exhausted and grateful for an opportunity to see these magnificent creatures.


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