Gombe National Park

Gombe National Park, the smallest of Tanzania’s national parks, spans 52 square kilometers and is located 16 kilometers north of Kigoma along the shore of Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania.

The park’s chimpanzees, accustomed to human visitors, gained fame through the pioneering work of Jane Goodall. In 1960, she established a behavioral research program here that has become the longest-running study of its kind globally.

Chimpanzees share approximately 98% of their genes with humans. No scientific expertise is required to distinguish the unique vocalizations, such as pants, hoots, and screams, of the park’s well-known chimps.

Other visible mammals in Gombe are primarily primates. A troop of beachcomber olive baboons is notably accustomed to human presence, while red-tailed and red colobus monkeys, often hunted by chimps, remain in the forest canopy.

During the wet season (February-June, November-mid December), the chimps have a smaller roaming area, making them easier to find. The dry season (July-October and late December) offers better photo opportunities. To see the chimps, plan for at least two days, as there are no guarantees of their location each day.

Mahale Mountains National Park

Mahale Mountains National Park covers 1,613 square kilometers in western Tanzania, bordering Lake Tanganyika. It is accessible from Arusha, Dar es Salaam, or Kigoma by flights, or by a three to four-hour motorboat ride from Kigoma.

Like Gombe, Mahale Mountains is home to some of Africa’s last wild chimpanzees, with a population of about 800. These chimpanzees have been habituated to humans by a Japanese research project established in the 1960s. Tracking the chimps here is a truly magical experience.

The area, also known as Nkungwe after its largest mountain, is sacred to the local Tongwe people. The mountain stands at 2,460 meters (8,069 feet) and is the highest of the six prominent peaks in the Mahale Range. Besides chimpanzees, the forested slopes host a variety of wildlife, including red colobus, red-tailed and blue monkeys, and vibrant forest birds.

Activities in Mahale include chimp tracking (allow two days), hiking, camping safaris, snorkeling, and fishing. The dry season (May-October) is ideal for forest walks, though the light rains of October/November pose no significant problems. Safaris with a Heart offer tours in these regions.

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