Nestled on the north-eastern shore of Africa’s deepest and longest freshwater lake, Lake Tanganyika, abutting the border of Burundi is the Gombe Stream National Park. Covering an area of barely 52 sq km (20 sq miles) it is Tanzania's smallest national park, but famed as Jane Goodall territory who brought the park into the limelight from wild obscurity with her pioneering research on chimpanzees. The landscape of the park is characterized by steep valleys, streams, and rivers with the vegetation being a blend of evergreen tropical rainforests, semi-deciduous forests, to grasslands to alpine bamboos which give ample frolicking space for various primate species inhabiting the park ranging from colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys, beachcomber olive baboons, and red-tailed monkeys. The park is a sanctuary for nearly 200 species of avifauna and you can spot Bushbucks and bush pigs once in a while, but what’s makes the park really coveted is the opportunity to watch the chimpanzees in their natural habitat. The rugged terrain provides good hiking opportunities and you can also undertake guided walking safaris deep into the dense forests and watch the primates out and about early in the day. Bear in mind the chimpanzees are friendly but you would be better served to not get too close especially to the baboons. The fresh water of Lake Tanganyika offers a relaxing ambience and are equally inviting for swimming, sailing and snorkelling activities without the fear of being ambushed by a hippo or a crocodile.
Chimpanzee tracking is around the year activity but chances of finding them easily are high towards the end of the dry season as they stay in the lower slopes of the park. Being dry season(July-October) you will get a lot of sunshine and chances of contracting malaria is also less. The remoteness of the park means you get crowds but its never really crowded. In the wet seasons of November to April, there is a fairly higher likelihood of being able to observe the chimps as they are less active but you will have to trek higher up in slopes in hot muggy conditions
Obviously the Chimpanzees! They share about 98% of their genes with humans. You will also see the Vervet and colobus monkeys, beachcomber olive baboons, forest pigs and small antelopes inhabiting the dense forest floors. The park also offers good birding opportunities and most commonly seen are fish eagles, palm nut vultures, tropical boubous and trumpeter hornbills. You can also undertake a visit to Goodall Foundation’s old feeding station and the nearby village of Ujiji is where Henry Stanley met Dr. Livingstone in 1871, who was presumed dead.
Gombe's remote location means the National Park is only accessible by boats or tramp steamers departing from Kigoma town. But to get to Kigoma, you can opt for flight, bus or train services. You can catch a train for Kigoma from Dar es Salaam, Tabora, and Mwanza but it can be long haul fraught with abnormal delays. You can also take a bus from Mwanza but its a hard ride on dusty roads and the buses have no air conditioning. You can charter a flight from Arusha or Dar es Salaam or opt for cheaper flights to fly from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma or from Arusha via Mwanza to Kigoma.
You can also take a bus from Mwanza.
You can catch a train for Kigoma from Dar es Salaam, Tabora, and Mwanza.
You can charter a flight from Arusha or Dar es Salaam or opt for cheaper flights to fly from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma or from Arusha via Mwanza to Kigoma.