Gombe Stream National Park
Location and Getting There
Gombe Stream is 20 sq miles and is Tanzania’s smallest national park. It is 10 miles north of Kigoma on the shore of Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania. From Kigoma, local lake-taxis take up to three hours to reach Gombe. Motorboats can be chartered for less than one hour. Kigoma is connected to Dar and Arusha by scheduled flights, Dar and Mwanza by slow rail service, Mwanza, Dar and Mbeya by rough dirt roads, and Mpulungu-Zambia by a weekly ferry.
Wildlife and Natural Highlights
Gombe is the smallest of Tanzania’s national parks it is a fragile chimpanzee habitat straddling the steep slopes and river valleys that hem in the sandy northern shore of Lake Tanganyika. Its chimpanzees were made famous by the pioneering work of Jane Goodall, who founded a behavioral research program in 1960 that is now the longest running study of its kind in the world. The most visible of Gombe’s other mammals are also primates. A troop of beachcomber olive baboons is exceptionally habituated, while red-tailed and red colobus monkeys, hunted by chimps, stay in their forest canopy.
When entering Gombe, an excited whoop erupts from deep within the forest,boosted by dozens of other voices, rising in volume, tempo and pitch to a frenzied shrieking crescendo. This is the “pant-hoot” bonding ritual that allows others in the troop to identify themselves through their individual vocal stylization. This spine-chilling outburst is also an indicator of imminent visual contact with human beings, the chimpanzee closest genetic relative. Chimpanzees share about 98% of their genes with humans, and no scientific expertise is required to distinguish between the individual repertoires of pants, hoots and screams. There may be a flicker of understanding when looking into a chimp eyes, with an apparent recognition across the narrowest of species barriers. The park’s 200 bird species range from the iconic fish eagle to the jewel-like Peter’s twin spots that hop tamely around the visitors’ centre. After dusk, a dazzling night sky is complemented by lanterns of hundreds of small wooden boats, bobbing on the lake like a sprawling city.
Chimpanzee trekking, hiking, swimming and snorkeling. Visitors can also visit the site of Henry Stanley’s famous “Dr Livingstone I presume” at Ujiji near Kigoma, and watch the renowned dhow builders at work. . The best time to go is in the dry (June-October and late December-March). The chimps don’t roam far in the wet season.