You may not have had a chance to visit the Gombe Stream National Park but the odds are you have heard of it. While you are pondering the name and trying to figure out why it should sound familiar if it hasn’t already come to mind, here is another name that will clue you in about this park: Jane Goodall. Yes, this park is synonymous with the pioneering work of Jane Goodall. This, the smallest of all the national parks in Tanzania, is where the chimpanzees and the other primates she studied for years inhabit. It is safe to say that her study which began in 1960 and continues on today, helped to draw attention to this park and it welcomes quite a number of visitors regularly and visitors still can catch a glimpse of the only chimpanzee that remains from Goodall’s original study group, a matriarch named Fifi.
Gombe Stream National Park is located in the Kigoma Region of Tanzania just about 20 kilometres north of the capital, Kigoma. It is a strip of land that lines the northern shore of Lake Tanganyika, complete with steep slopes and river valleys as part of the make-up of the terrain. Having been studied closely by Goodall and her fellow researchers and colleagues, the chimpanzees have become accustomed to the presence of human visitors and if you have read up on any of Goodall’s findings over the years, you would be familiar with what to expect in their behaviour – and I would suspect that all those years they were watching humans, the chimpanzees know what behaviours to expect of their human guests too!
Of all the wildlife in the forest and valleys of this park, the majority is primates so along with the chimpanzees, there are also olive baboons that like the chimpanzees, are habituated to human presence. The smaller colobus monkeys are a little more careful and will stay high up in the trees’ canopy. If it is not the humans they are fearful of, they could be just staying out of harm’s way from the other primates, as chimpanzees, according to Goodall’s observations, have been known to attack the smaller monkeys, to say the least.
If you are aiming to see the chimpanzees, travelling there during the wet season will give you ample opportunity to see any of them as they apparently do not roam far in those wet conditions, but if you are trying to get yourself a National Geographic worthy photograph, it is recommended you travel during the dry season of July through to October and late December.
Be sure to spread your visit of this national park over a few days. Like going on a safari, you may or may not see the animals you expect to see, right away. Over the course of a few days though, you will. But while you seek out that moment, there is nothing wrong with going along with some other activities like hiking, swimming or even snorkeling.
For accommodations you can look into the Gombe Forest Lodge, the smallest of the lodges holding only 14 but allowing you some privacy the larger lodges may miss out on. Overlooking Lake Tanganyika, the Kigoma Hilltop Hotel might be another option. If you do plan a trip to the Kigoma region and to the national park, do some research preliminary research so that you will have some background information to help orient yourself by. Browse through the other options for accommodations and see if you might want to also see the surrounding areas of Gombe Stream, and perhaps be able to see other national parks. Tanzania has many, many more wonderful parks and exotic things to discover.