Expert Reviews – Gombe NP
Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.
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Jane Goodall’s chimp reserve
Tanzania’s smallest national park, set on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, is most famous for the pioneering chimpanzee research project that was initiated there by Jane Goodall in 1960, and now stands as the world’s longest-running study of an individual wild animal population. The main reason you’d visit is too track chimps, which is an utterly marvellous experience, even if most of the celebrity chimps featured in Goodall’s books and films are now long dead. In my experience, the only place that offers comparably good chimp tracking is Mahale Mountains, and while the latter is preferable for its overall wilderness atmosphere and more varied wildlife, Gombe has the advantage of greater accessibility on a budget (you can actually get there using daily boats from nearby Kigoma, the main port and transport hub in this part of Tanzania). Other wildlife includes a beachcomber baboon troop that has also been studied for decades, three species gf monkey - red-tailed, blue and red colobus, the latter frequently hunted by chimps – and a checklist of 200 bird species including fish eagle, palmnut vulture and Peter’s twinspot, all of which frequent the camp.
Ariadne is a renowned African wildlife photographer whose work is featured in many well-known guidebooks and magazines.
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Jane Goodall’s land of primates
This wild and wonderful place on the shore of lake Tanganyika would be worth a visit without the obvious highlight of chimpanzee tracking. This is where Jane Goodall conducted her research. The chimps are amazingly habituated and didn’t seem to take any notice of me when I visited. Although the chimps have been known to walk through the camp, it can be quite a hike to find them. You are allowed to view them for an hour at a time. Once you got yourself in this remote, inaccessible place, you might as well stay for some days. In the 4 days I tracked the chimps, I found them feeding high up in the canopy, sitting on the forest floor grooming each other and marching through the underground, which proofed to be a real challenge to keep up with. The most exciting of viewing was when they were hunting colobus monkeys, which they only do occasionally. For anyone who loves watching primates, this is an experience not to be missed.