It is easy to underestimate Tanzania’s primate diversity, which stands at around 20 species, including bush babies. This is because most primates are essentially arboreal, and are thus better adapted to forested habitats than to the savannah country focussed on by most safaris. Even so, it is possible to see half-a-dozen primate species on a standard northern circuit safari, and enthusiasts might also want to travel to the Lake Tanganyika region, where Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains support the western rain forest primates, including populations of habituated chimpanzees. Luxury safaris Tanzania is here to explore and visit the primate’s of Tanzania with you.
Chimpanzees are large, powerful primates, with hairless hands, feet and faces. Though smaller than gorillas, they tend to be livelier, noisier and generally more arboreal. Communities may number 15 to 150 members. They observe complex patriarchal social structures, in which individuals switch between smaller groups according to political allegiances.
Predominantly herbivores, eating fruit and other plant matter, chimps will co-operate to collect a wide variety of other food –sometimes hunting monkeys and other small mammals.
Youngsters are highly dependent upon their mothers, and not weaned for three years. Studies of chimps, both wild and captive, have revealed impressive cognitive skills, including tool-use and language, and advanced levels of emotion and self-awareness.
Gombe Stream National Park for chimpanzee safaris
Gombe National Park, also known as Gombe Stream National Park, is located in western Kigoma Region, Tanzania, 10 miles north of Kigoma, the capital of Kigoma Region. Established in 1968, Gombe is one of the smallest national parks in Tanzania, with only 13.5 square miles of protected land along the hills of the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika. The terrain is distinguished by steep valleys, and the 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’s high levels of diversity make it an increasingly popular tourist destination. Besides chimpanzees, primates inhabiting Gombe include beachcomber olive baboons, red colobus, red-tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, and vervet monkeys. Red-tailed monkeys and blue monkeys have also been known to hybridize in the area. The park is also home to over 200 bird species and bush pigs. There are also many species of snakes, and occasional hippopotami 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.
Getting to Gombe stream national park
Kigoma is accessible from Dar and Arusha by scheduled flights; to Dar and Mbeya by rough dirty roads; to Dar and Mwanza by a slow rail service; and to Mpulungu in Zambia by a weekly ferry. It is three hours by local lake taxi from Kigoma to reach Gomber. Motorboats are also an option. They are chartered and take less than an hour.
Climate & Best Time to Visit
Gombe Stream National Park is visit able on most of the year. However, the wet season, from November to April, is a preferable time to be at the park. The access is difficult and trekking is slippery. Besides, the lodges find March and April a good time for maintenance. It is hard to find accommodation during these months.
During the dry season, from June to September, there is very little rain or no rain at all. It is when the weather is humid and warm, with plenty of sunshine. Chimps are observable and easy to find on the lower sloped during the dry period. Sometimes, they are even close to the camps or roaming along the sandy shores. Bird watching time is between Decembers to March. Hundreds of resident and migratory species such as pelicans, storks, ospreys, vultures, rollers, barbets, cuckoos, hawks, eagles, owls, cormorants and many more can be witnessed in the park.
Mahale Mountains National Park
The park like its northerly neighbor Gombe is home to some of the Africa’s last remaining wild chimpanzees, a population of roughly 900, they are habituated to human visitors by a Japanese research project founded in the 1960.
Mahale is located in the Western Tanzania to the South of Kigoma town, it is bordering Lake Tanganyika-the World’s longest, second deepest and least polluted freshwater lake-harboring an estimated 1000 fish species. The best time to visit the park is during the dry season (May -October) is the best period. During this period, chimpanzees are likely to be seen in big groups, the sunshine illuminates the fish in the Lake and the beach is an inviting place to relax. However, Mahale Mountains National Park is accessible all year round. A visit in the rainy season can also be a memorable experience, made remarkable by views of the neighboring country DR Congo across the water and by incredible lightning storms that light up the lake at night.
Top tips for viewing chimpanzees
A close encounter with wild chimps can be a thrilling experience. Realistically, this is only possible where researchers have habituated troops to human observers, including in Tanzania (Mahale Mountains and Gombe Stream national parks) and Rwanda (Nyungwe Forest).
Your guide will explain the protocol, allowing you to track the apes on foot to their feeding quarters and, if you’re lucky, sit quietly in the forest while they pursue their enthralling and often boisterous social interactions around you. Listen for the drumbeat summons on a buttress root with which a dominant individual calls the troop together.