CHIMPANZEE TREKKING IN TANZANIA

Nestled along the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania, the Mahale Mountains National Park awaits you.

In this magnificent little corner of Africa you can embark on one of the most fascinating and rewarding Wildlife Safaris on earth. Mahale Mountains National Park is one of only a handful of places where you can experience the rare privilege of Chimpanzee Trekking. Prepare for a profound experience as you visit endangered wild chimpanzees in their natural habitat, an experience which is at once thrilling, humbling and intimate.

 

Carpé Diem – Seize the Moment

It is a sad fact of life that wild chimpanzee numbers are on the decline throughout Africa. The major reason for their plight is the human population explosion in recent decades which has placed enormous pressures on natural resources. Cities are expanding and the demand for agricultural land is causing vast tracts of chimpanzee habitat to be destroyed on a daily basis. Add to this, the illegal trade in bush meat and the belief that chimpanzee body parts can be used as medicine to cure a wide range of illnesses, it is easy to see why numbers are dropping.

These enchanting creatures, which share 98% of their DNA with humans, are already extinct in several African countries including Bukino Faso, Benin and the Gambia. Unless we can turn the tide, future generations will never be able to experience the magic of seeing chimpanzees in their natural habitat. There has never been a better time to seize the day and start planning your Chimpanzee Trekking safari to Tanzania.

 

Where to go Chimpanzee Trekking in Africa?

Although there are still chimpanzees in the wilds of many Equatorial countries in Africa it is almost impossible to find them in the dense habitats which they call home. Even in wildlife sanctuaries like Cross River National Park in Nigeria, wild chimpanzees are extremely elusive due to the habitat and years of persecution. The only possibility for wildlife enthusiasts to enjoy a meaningful encounter with chimpanzees in the wild is to go trekking in areas where the wild chimpanzees have been habituated to humans over many generations.

The work of researchers and primatologists like Jane Goodall, who spent a large portion of her life studying wild chimpanzees in Gombe Streams National Park, have made it possible for wildlife enthusiasts to join a Chimpanzee Trek in several places in Africa including Gombe Streams National Park and Mahale Mountains National Park in Tanzania, Kibale National Park and Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda and Nyungwe Forest National Park in Rwanda.

 

Why choose Tanzania for your once-in-a-lifetime Chimpanzee Trekking Adventure?

  1. Mahale Mountains National Park is without doubt the remotest, most beautiful and most pristine destination in Africa to go Chimpanzee Trekking.
  2. You will have the services of expert guides who have known almost every single habituated chimpanzee since birth and know exactly what to anticipate
  3. You can look forward to staying in one of the most iconic luxury lodges on the continent, the fabulous Greystoke Mahale Lodge
  4. Mahale Mountains National Park is also home to at least 82 other species of mammals and a myriad of bird species
  5. If you choose Gombe Streams National Park instead, you can walk in the footsteps of legendary Jane Goodall and meet direct descendants of her favorite chimpanzees
  6. Where else can you go chimpanzee trekking in the morning and snorkeling or kayaking in the afternoon?

 

Some Chimpanzee Facts you Need to Know before you Go

Chimpanzees are Man’s closest relative and share an amazing 98% of their DNA with humans. Jane Goodall’s ground-breaking research has proved beyond reasonable doubt that chimpanzees are remarkably anthropomorphic and share many human traits including the ability to make and use tools. This skill was previously believed to be the pivotal difference between humans and our primate ancestors. One of Jane’s first defining experiences was watching a chimpanzee carefully remove the leaves from a twig, bend it to shape, and then use it to fish termites out of a mound.

Chimps also have distinct personalities which range from quiet and subservient to boisterous and extrovert. There is no doubt that they also demonstrate human emotions like joy and sadness.

Unfortunately, they are also susceptible to several viruses and illness which are prevalent in humans. This is why you will be warned to maintain a safe distance from the troop, wear a mask and avoid trekking altogether if you know or suspect you may be coming down with a cold or the ‘flu.

 

What to expect from your Chimpanzee Trekking Adventure in Tanzania

Firstly, you must understand that chimpanzee trekking is not a visit to the zoo. The animals are living in a completely natural forest environment with no limits or controls. The chimps have a very large range to explore and you never know where they will be at any particular time. For this reason you need to be physically fit enough to walk long distances through a natural forest environment. Although the national parks employ trackers to give the guides an idea of where the troop is, you may have to trek through the jungle for a few hours before you come across them. Of course, there will be plenty of other wildlife to see as you make your way through the forest.

Usually, you will hear them long before you see them! Chimps are very sociable animals and you should be able to hear them vocalizing and hear branches snap and bend as the youngsters swing from tree to tree. Once you find your group you will have a wonderful 60 minutes to watch them go about their everyday business, which could include grooming each other, breast-feeding the babies and foraging for food. You need to keep a ten-meter distance from the chimpanzees to protect them from possible viruses and to avoid any stress. The chimpanzees are usually quite curious and may try and approach you – if that happens your expert guides will either intervene or you should simply step aside and avoid direct eye-contact which could be interpreted as a form of aggression.

At the end of your precious hour with the chimpanzees you will return to your luxury lodge, enjoying the opportunity to see and photograph a host of other interesting primates, birds, butterflies and small mammal en-route.

Afternoons are usually your time to enjoy the beach and the wonders of beautiful Lake Tanganyika, Africa’s oldest and deepest fresh-water lake. You can go swimming and snorkeling directly off the beach (the lake is crystal clear and full of fish) or perhaps enjoy the view of the Mahale Mountains from the water as you take a kayak expedition or scenic boat tour. Perhaps you would like to spend your time simply relaxing lake-side with a book.

 

Luxury Lodges in Mahale Mountains National Park and Gombe Streams National Park

Once you have decided to fulfill your bucket-list ambition of enjoying a wildlife safari in Tanzania you may as well stretch your budget to include staying in the iconic Greystoke Mahale Lodge. This remote luxury lodge on the shores of Lake Tanganyika is only accessible by boat or small plane and offers visitors one of the most unforgettable African safari experiences on the planet. You will be sleeping in a luxurious A-frame thatched banda (hut) right on the beach with a wonderful upstairs viewing deck where you can look out over the lake or spend an evening star-gazing. Guests are pampered with delicious food and beverages and you can dine alfresco on the beach if you prefer.

Mbali Mbali Mahale Lodge is the other option in the Mahale Mountains National Park. Here you will stay in a luxury tented camp which is also located on the shores of the lake. Both resorts offer visitors a unique wildlife safari experience in the lap of luxury.

If you choose to go trekking in Gombe Streams National Park, which is located further north close to the town of Kigoma, you can stay at the Mbali Mbali Gombe Lodge (Formerly Gombe Forest Lodge). This small and intimate tented camp is beautifully positioned in the shade of ancient trees and has just seven luxurious safari tents. All these luxury lodges offer inclusive packages which include daily chimpanzee trekking, all your meals and drinks, kayak excursions and, if you are staying in Gombe, a chance to go on a cultural visit to a near-by village.

Some Practical Considerations

Children under the age of twelve are not permitted to go chimpanzee trekking, although they are welcome to join you at any of the lodges.

Bring suitable clothing for jungle trekking – light-weight long pants and long-sleeved shirts are ideal to protect you in the forest environment.

Buy, borrow or hire a good camera and at least one zoom lens – a smart-phone camera will simply not do justice to the amazing wildlife you will see. Also be sure to have a back-up memory card and battery with you.

Bring unscented insect repellent – perfume is not permitted while trekking.

Pop some plasters in your backpack – you may get a blister from all the walking.

Chimpanzee trekking and other wildlife safaris are a year-round activity in Tanzania and every season brings its own delights – June and July are the best months to visit northern Serengeti if you want to catch some of the Wildebeest Migration action, while February is the best month to see baby animals in southern Serengeti. Whatever time of year you choose you can rest assured that you will have an unforgettable wildlife experience in Tanzania.

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