Gombe Stream National Park, Chimpanzee Tracking in Tanzania

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This Park is located in the western Kigoma Region, Tanzania, 10 miles north of Kigoma, the capital of the Kigoma Region.  Established in 1968, Gombe is the smallest national park in Tanzania, with only 20 square miles (52 km2) of forest running 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 alpine bamboo to tropical rainforest.

How to Access Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania

Accessible only by boat, the park is most famous as the location where Jane Goodall pioneered her behavioral research conducted on the chimpanzee populations.

What to See in Gombe Stream National Park Tanzania

The Kasakela chimpanzee community, featured in several books and documentaries, lives in Gombe Stream National Park.

Gombe Stream’s high levels of diversity make it an increasingly popular tourist destination. Besides chimpanzees, primates inhabiting Gombe Stream include beachcomber olive baboons, red-tailed monkeys and vervet monkeys. The park is also home to over 200 bird species and bush pigs.

There are also 11 species of snakes, and occasional hippopotamus and leopards.  Visitors to the park can trek into the forest to view the chimpanzees, as well as swim and snorkel in Lake Tanganyika with almost 100 kinds of colorful cichlid fish.

Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall first traveled to Tanzania in 1960 at the age of 26 with no formal college training.  At the time, it was accepted that humans were undoubtedly similar to chimpanzees we share over 98% of the same genetic code.

However, little was known about chimpanzee behavior or community structure. At the time she began her research, she says “it was not permissible, at least not in ethological circles, to talk about an animal’s mind.

Only humans had minds. Nor was it quite proper to talk about animal personality. Of course everyone knew that they did have their own unique characters everyone who had ever owned a dog or other pet was aware of that.

But ethologists, striving to make theirs a “hard” science, shied away from the task of trying to explain such things objectively.
However, her research eventually proved just that the intellectual and emotional sophistication of non-humans, chimpanzees in particular.

With the support of renowned anthropologist Louis Leakey, Goodall set up a small research station in Gombe Stream in hopes of learning more about the behavior of our closest relatives.

There she spent months tracking the elusive chimpanzee troops, particularly the Kasakela chimpanzee community, and observing their daily habits until she was slowly accepted by one troop and was allowed rare and intimate glimpses into chimpanzee society.

With an area of only 52 sq km, Gombe Stream National Park is Tanzania’s smallest national park, but its connection to Jane Goodall has given it world renown.

Many of Gombe’s 100-plus chimps are well habituated and though it can be difficult, sweaty work traversing steep hills and valleys, if you head out early in the morning sightings are nearly guaranteed.

As well as chimp tracking you can go and see Jane’s old chimp feeding station, the viewpoint on Jane’s Peak and Kakombe Waterfall. In addition to walking in the forest, it’s possible to swim in the lake (no hippos, crocodiles or bilharzia) or hike along the shore.

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