Gombe Streams Game Reserve is located on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and chimpanzees are more easily seen here in their natural habitat than anywhere else in the world. Gombe was created to protect the chimpanzees and is set in the beautiful Mahale Mountains. It is renowned for fantastic sunsets over Lake Tanganyika and Eastern Zaire (DRC), which makes it an essential stop for the keen photographer. The habitats include rain forests, grasslands, alpine bamboo and woodland. The best time to visit is between May and October. Gombe Stream is Tanzania’s smallest park (52 sq km) and is home of the world famous chimp reserve. It is located 16 km north of Kigoma Town on the shore of Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania.
There are plenty of baboons around, but the focal point of Gombe is the chimps. It’s reconciling their interests with those of tourism that has occupied the founder of the reserve, Jane Goodall, for 25 years. Here, in the 1960’s, Goodall carried out major research conclusively the unique relationship between man and chimpanzee, as we share 95% of our genes with them. They have similar hearing, smells and other senses to humans.
Habituating the chimps – getting them used to coping with people – involves living in the middle of dense jungle, often alone, and under trying conditions. Despite all this, the biggest threat to the chimps still comes from humans. Finding the chimps is largely a matter of luck as they can theoretically be anywhere from the top of the 8000 ft mountains to the lakeshore at 2500 ft. However, the trackers at the camp know the animals well and are nearly always in touch with their movements from day to day.
The length of walk can vary enormously – they are sometimes literally at the back of the camp and other days they are nowhere to be seen – but on average you should expect to walk for at least 2-3 hours.
If you fail to spot a wild chimp, don’t get too disheartened, the landscape and flora and fauna are fantastic in and around the reserve. From Jane’s Peak you can see a stunning view of the entire park and Kakombe Waterfall.