​User Reviews – Gombe NP

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Justin   –  
Canada CA
Visited: November 2014 Reviewed: Apr 28, 2015

Email Justin  |  20-35 years of age  |  Experience level: over 5 safaris

Gombe National Park is truly spectacular.
Overall rating
5/5

Our trip to Gombe National Park was truly special. My best friend and I did not book our trip in advance, as we were backpacking and preferred to let our trip unfold more naturally. It was our final safari destination on our Southern/Western Tanzania trip, and it was certainly worthwhile. At the time, we had just caught the MV Liemba traveling from Kipili North towards Kigoma and we weren't sure whether to stop at Mahale National Park or Gombe. After various consultations with locals regarding the logistics of both, coupled with their evaluations of the likelihood of high quality chimpanzee sightings at both parks, we decided to go with Gombe National Park. Our rationale was that Mahale would probably be amazing, but would probably be enjoyed as more of a luxurious fly-in destination. With the often unpredictable schedule of the Liemba, it didn't make sense for us to get off at Mahale and risk not having a lift out. Gombe on the other hand seemed to beckon us, as it seemingly fit seamlessly into our journey (which also included Ruaha and Katavi, both of which are wonderful).

From Kigoma, we traveled by local public boat to Gombe on the way there and organized a local boat owner to pick us up when we were finished. Since Gombe NP regulations require you to pay per 24 hours, coupled with the fact we arrived in the park in early evening (too late to go trekking that day), we decided to pay for two days and leave after finishing the day 2 trek. This was slightly complicated because we wanted to travel by public boats and these only pass by Gombe at certain times of day. Thus, it would not have been possible to take a public boat back to Kigoma that evening. The official park boat transportation is very pricey, so we negotiated for some time over the price for a local boat owner to come pick us up (four of us paid something like 20-30$ each for the trip back). The boat trip back was pretty epic, as a major storm hit and lightning was striking everywhere. Despite what we paid for transportation, our boat actually ran out of gas and had to be paddled to shore; it was raining so hard it seemed like the whole shoreline was washing into the lake. It made for a pretty stimulating adventure!

The park itself is wonderful, as were the guides and the trekking experience. On the first day, we trekked for maybe an hour before coming across the main group of chimps and we spent considerable amount of time with them within close distances. The second day, our trek was longer, and arguably more satisfying, as we trekked for somewhere between 2-4 hours before finding the main group. This second encounter was the highlight of the trip as several times, some of the male chimpanzees walked within a couple feet of us as we stood still and let them pass. These close brushes alone were enough to send shivers down my spine and make me feel utterly fulfilled with the park.

Aside from the chimpanzees, there are also a range of other colobus monkeys, baboons, interesting insects, snakes and so on. We were lucky to spot a very colourful bush viper coiled on a branch on one of our walks. The beach is very scenic and calming and the lake is a pleasure to swim in with beautiful cichlids (we had already been scuba diving/free diving/ snorkelling in the Kipili area, so we were less interested in cichlid spotting at this point). If you want to find cichlids, look for the big rocky substrate. As for birds, I can't really comment as I have had much more success spotting birds in other, more open parks, like Katavi, Ruaha, Ngorongoro, Tarangire etc. My favourite place for spotting birds in Tanzania though is the Mnazi Bay-Ruvuma Estuary Marine Park in the Southeast. In my opinion, the tree cover in Gombe makes it a challenge for birding, but more specialized bird watchers could probably speak better to this than I can.

We went in mid-November and it did not rain during our treks, though it began pouring shortly after. As for food, since we were backpacking, we came with our own pots and beans, but food can be purchased there (it's pricey though). Accommodation is very reasonably priced, comfortable and secure.

Some advice I would give for photographers would be to have a camera with good high ISO capabilities. It's usually overcast and under tree cover, so you're often shooting in much lower light situations than other safari experiences. I was shooting with my old canon rebel which is unfortunately not great above ISO 800. I'm picking up a canon 6D soon, which would be a perfect camera for chimpanzee trekking in my opinion. You don't need an obscenely long focal length - 70-200 should be plenty and I'd make sure your shorter focal lengths are somewhat covered as well. F/2.8 if possible, though I personally wouldn't want to carry the 70-200 f/2.8 monster on a 4 hour hike. I'd probably personally recommend a full frame body with a 24-70 f/2.8 and a 70-200 f/4 IS (I shoot canon), but that's just me. You could probably get away with primes as well, as long as your livelihood doesn't depend on capturing the 'decisive moment'. There is electricity available in the rooms to charge batteries.

I used a GoPro hero 3 black with a head strap for video.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience.

seltzca   –  
United States US
Visited: October 2011 Reviewed: Jun 21, 2012

Email seltzca  |  20-35 years of age  |  Experience level: 2-5 safaris

Amazing chimpanzee encounters- where Jane Goodall started it all!
Overall rating
5/5

I have wanted to visit Gombe ever since I read one of (and then the rest of) Jane Goodall's books years ago. It was a dream come true to visit the place where she started studying the chimpanzees more than 50 years ago.

I can see why she stayed- Gombe is beautiful! The mountains meet Lake Tanganyika's shores in Gombe and there are several streams and waterfalls. Views from the peaks above the lake are spectacular. When it's clear you can see the mountains in the Democratic Republic of Congo across the lake.

If you stay at Gombe for 2 days you are practically guaranteed to see a chimpanzee. Sometimes they hang out near the camp, but seeing them in the bush is even more exciting. We saw a group in camp the first morning and a larger group on the forest where there was a lot of social activity going on. Your guide will be sure to tell you how to behave for the best chimp-viewing experience.

One of the other highlights for me was swimming in Lake Tanganyika. It's one of the largest and oldest lakes in the world. The temperature was perfect and the water was beautifully clear.

Gombe is small (in fact, the smallest of Tanzania's national parks) but remote. You'll have to take a boat from Kigoma to Gombe (the only other option is to walk!). Kigoma has an airport with several regional flights each day but the town is smaller than I expected.

I stayed at the self-catering hostel which was basic but not primitive. All buildings in Gombe need to be chimpanzee- and baboon-proof so it can't be too rustic! I would have stayed longer than 2 days if I could and I would absolutely love to return.

peter the safari maniac Visited: February 2009 Reviewed: Apr 11, 2012

Overall rating
4/5

As an off the beaten track specialist, Gombe offered me one thing Chimps and Jane Goodall! Experiences i cant forget. Logistics is a night mare though fly and dont use the road at least into Kigoma am a local and take my word for it!

davisww Visited: March 2005 Reviewed: Apr 4, 2012

Overall rating
5/5

You actually get to use the fancy hiking boots you bought for the Tanzania trip. Chimps are awesome.

Alie Sijbersma   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: July 2008 Reviewed: Apr 2, 2012

Email Alie Sijbersma  |  20-35 years of age

An unforgettable extraordinary experience with amazing animals
Overall rating
5/5

Gombe Stream National Park is mostly known for its chimpanzees and the research of world famous primatologist Jane Goodall. As the park is small and situated in forest in a hilly area you walk through the park with a guide. A day's hike will get you around the park and get you to see the chimpanzees from very close up. As they move around all the time it can take a while for an encounter, but the guides know the park and the behaviour of the animals very well and are therefore excellent at tracking them down. Seeing these animals in their natural habitat was an amazing and extraordinary experience! It's very fascinating, and quite indescribable. Definitely something to go experience yourself.

The scenery is beautiful, there are plenty of baboons and other monkeys, and the forest is right next to Lake Tanganyika. This is also how you reach the park: by boat from Kigoma. You can either enquire at the Jane Goodall Institute when a boat is going from there, or go to Kibirizi and take a local boat from there. This will take you up to the park in about 3 hours, regularly stopping at villages along the shore. This is definitely a great (local) experience and I would recommend to take one of those!

There are 2 places for accommodation in the park itself. Camping is not allowed, so there is no other option than that. There is a forest lodge and a (sort of) motel (it was still being build when I was there). Since there are usually not that many visitors in the park you can take your chances and just go, but if you want to be sure you can book beforehand. If you're for example staying in Kigoma in Nzimano Hotel (highly recommended: lovely staff, great local food, quiet and peaceful, overlooking Kigoma bay), the staff there will be able to help you with bookings.

Kigoma can be reached by plane, but there is also a train going from Dar Es Salaam to Kigoma twice a week, which is well worth the trip. The train crosses the whole country, so you will have an amazing view of the country (it passes through the capital Dodoma, through the Uluguru mountains, over vast plains, and much more). I can very much recommend to take the train in Tanzania. Great experience!

Highlights of Kigoma: Gombe Stream National Park, local markets, Ujiji (where explorers Livingstone and Stanley met), Lake Tanganyika (with apparently an enormous range of unique fish), Amani Beach, Jacobson's Beach, MV Liemba (old German ferry going every week around Lake Tanganyika to Bujumbura(Burundi), Kalundu-Uvira(DR Congo) and Mpulungu(Zambia) and back to Kigoma), Katonga(small fishing village).

Rita Gazdag   –  
Hungary HU
Visited: January 2009 Reviewed: Aug 4, 2011

Email Rita Gazdag  |  35-50 years of age

Overall rating
5/5

We were greeted by a whole Chimp family at the entrance of Gombe Stream, its was amazing, we also saw many baboons and other beautiful animals. In the evening we could watch a film about Jane Godall's first research and time there and talk to local stuff. Their meal was nice!

Average User Rating

  • 4.7/5
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  • Birding

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