Gombe is the smallest national park in Tanzania. It is famous for its colony of chimpanzees that inhabit this fragile strip of dense forest straddling the steep slopes and river valleys that hem in the sandy northern shore of Lake Tanganyika. It is remotely situated 16 km (10 miles) north of Kigoma on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania.
Its chimpanzees – habituated to human visitors – were made famous by the pioneering work of Jane Goodall, who in 1960 founded a behavioural research program there, which is the longest-running study of its kind in the world. Visitors still regularly see the matriarch chimp called ‘Fifi’, who is the only surviving member of the original community. ‘Fifi’ was three-years old when Goodall first set foot in Gombe.
Chimpanzees share about 98% of their genes with humans as well as many mannerisms, making it all the more fascinating observing them at close quarters.
The most visible of Gombe’s other primates are the troop of beachcomber olive baboons (also under study since the 1960s), which are exceptionally habituated; while red-tailed and red colobus monkeys (the latter regularly hunted by chimps) stick to the forest canopy. The park is also an ornithologists haven with over 200 bird species ranging from the iconic fish eagle to the jewel-like ‘Peter’s twinspots,’ that hop tamely around the visitors’ center.
After dusk, a dazzling night sky is alight with hundreds of lanterns on small fishing boats, bobbing on the lake.
About Gombe Stream National Park
Size: 52 sq km (20 sq miles), Tanzania’s smallest park.
It is a long drive from Arusha or Dar es Salaam to Gombe Stream and we strongly advice using the scheduled charter flights from both of these cities that fly several times a week into Gombe.
What to do
Enjoy chimpanzee trekking; hiking, and swimming and snorkelling on Lake Tanganyik.
Visit the site of Henry Stanley’s famous “Dr Livingstone I presume” at Ujiji, near Kigoma, and watch the renowned dhow builders at work.
When to go
The chimps don’t roam so far in the wet season (February-June, November-mid December) so it is often easier to find them during this period. Better photo opportunities are available in the dry season (July-October and late December).
There is a new luxury tented lodge, several (semi permanent) luxury tented camps as well a self-catering hostel, guest house and public campsites on the lakeshore.