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Gombe Stream National Park – A Tanzanian Chimpanzee Haven

Gombe Stream National Park is found in the Kigoma region of Tanzania, at the shores of Lake Tanganyika, covering an area of 35 square kilometers, making it one of the smallest national parks in the country. The vegetation here is characterized by woodland, savannah, rainforests, and steep valleys.

Gombe Stream National Park is one of the places where Jane Goodall conducted her study and research on chimpanzees in Tanzania.

Kasekala Chimpanzee Community

The Kasekala chimpanzee community, also known as Kasa kala, is a habituated chimpanzee group at Gombe Stream National Park. Jane Goodall’s work began with these chimpanzees, and they are the longest continuously studied animals in their natural habitat since 1960. The Kasekala chimpanzee community has been featured in several books and documentaries.

Wildlife Watching

While Gombe Stream National Park is mainly famous for chimpanzees, other animals also inhabit the park. Some of these include bush pigs, African leopards, hippos, olive baboons, red colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, vervet monkeys, and many others.

Bird Watching

There are over 200 species of birds recorded in Gombe Stream National Park. Some of these include red-capped robin chat, snowy-crowned robin chat, collared palm thrush, helmeted guinea fowl, crested guinea fowl, blue-spotted wood dove, tambourine dove, African palm swift, Ross’s turaco, Hartlaub’s turaco, Livingstone’s turaco, grey heron, cattle egret, African sacred ibis, long-tailed cormorant, common sandpiper, white-winged tern, osprey, black-winged kite, African harrier hawk, long-crested eagle, little sparrowhawk, African fish eagle, speckled mousebird, mountain buzzard, crowned hornbill, green-backed woodpecker, olive woodpecker, yellow-rumped tinkerbird, broad-billed roller, African malachite kingfisher, pied kingfisher, tropical boubou, fork-tailed drongo, white-necked raven, blue-mantled paradise flycatcher, green-throated sunbird, northern brown-throated weaver, red-billed fire finch, red-headed bluebill, northern grey-headed sparrow, mountain wagtail, African wagtail, yellow-fronted canary, white-headed saw wing, leaf love, common bulbul, white-browed robin chat, barn swallow, green-backed twin spot, blue-breasted cordon-bleu, southern red bishop, red-chested sunbird, cinnamon-chested bee-eater, European bee-eater, African malachite kingfisher, giant kingfisher, crested barbet, bat hawk, yellow-rumped tinkerbird, common barn owl, and Ayres’s eagle, to name a few.

Chimpanzee Trekking

Chimpanzee trekking is the most popular activity at Gombe Stream National Park. The chimpanzee families open for visitors have been habituated, meaning they are used to human beings being present while they go about their day-to-day activities. Chimpanzee trekking at the park is usually done in the morning hours after a briefing from the park headquarters. Visitors will trek with an experienced and knowledgeable ranger guide into the jungle. It’s important to follow the park’s trekking rules and regulations during trekking.

Lake Tanganyika

Gombe Stream National Park is found at the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Lake Tanganyika is the second-largest lake in Africa and the second-largest lake in the world by volume. It is also the second deepest lake globally and one of the world’s longest freshwater lakes, accounting for 16% of the world’s fresh water. Lake Tanganyika covers an area of 32,900 square kilometers, with a mean depth of 570 meters and a maximum depth of 1,471 meters. Numerous small rivers flow into the lake, with the two main rivers being the Ruzizi River and the Malagarasi River. The main outflow of Lake Tanganyika is the Lukuga River, which drains into the Congo River.

Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall is an English primatologist and anthropologist who dedicated her life to studying and researching chimpanzees in the wilderness for about 60 years. She first visited Gombe Stream National Park in 1960, where she discovered human-like behaviors in chimpanzees. Her research challenged the belief that only humans could use tools and that chimpanzees were vegetarians. The Jane Goodall Institute was established in 1977 to protect chimpanzees and their natural habitat in Gombe Stream National Park. In 1992, Jane Goodall founded the Tchimpounga chimpanzee rehabilitation center in the Republic of Congo to care for orphaned chimpanzees rescued from the bush trade. Lake Tanganyika Catchment Reforestation and Education was created in 1994 by Jane Goodall to protect chimpanzee habitat from deforestation.

Where to Stay

There are only two places where visitors can stay while at Gombe Stream National Park: Gombe Forest Lodge and Mbali Mbali Gombe. Other accommodation options near the park include Muzye Lodge, Mkoyoyo Guest House, Sunset Vista Hotel, Lake Tanganyika Hotel, Kigoma Hilltop Hotel, Gombe Bandas, and many others.

When to Visit

Gombe Stream National Park can be visited all year round, but some months are better than others. During the dry seasons, fruits are ripe, and therefore chimpanzees don’t have to move further into the jungle to forage for food. Visitors traveling to Gombe during the wet season can easily chance seeing chimpanzees while trekking. The dry season is also a good time for visiting Gombe National Park because the hiking trails are not muddy and slippery, making it easy to move through the forest. However, chimpanzees move to higher areas in search of food.

What to Carry

Tourists going to Gombe Stream National Park are sure to trek chimpanzees in their natural habitat in the rainforests, but you need to come well-prepared with proper equipment for hiking. Some of the essential things you should carry include rain jackets, insect repellents, waterproof hiking boots, long-sleeved clothes, an umbrella, sunscreen, plenty of drinking water, energy-giving snacks, sunglasses, hats, and many other things you might need.

Getting There

Gombe Stream National Park can easily be reached by boat from Kigoma town. You can choose to take a public motorboat or hire a speedboat. Private boats usually take less than an hour to reach the park. Tourists can land at Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, Arusha Airport, or Kilimanjaro Airport and then drive to Kigoma, but domestic flights can also be booked to Kigoma. Tourists can also combine their Gombe Stream National Park safari with visits to other exciting Tanzanian national parks like Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Arusha National Park, Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, Kilimanjaro National Park, Mahale Mountains National Park, and many others. Each park is unique, providing excellent wildlife viewing and birding opportunities.

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