Chimpanzee trekking: a unique and rewarding experience
You tend to hear them before you see them. Their cries and hoots fill the forest and your heart pounds.
Chimpanzee trekking in Africa
" We’d come out at a small clearing with a huge boulder in the middle. A mother chimp, Kupi, was sitting there on the rock grooming her boisterous baby in the sun. My heart was beating so fast I could hear it. "
Watch our short video
See our lovely video of chimp trekking in Gombe and Mahale in Tanzania.
The experience of watching chimps can be very variable depending on what they are doing. If they are in the trees eating fruit you will usually get a good sighting, though possibly also a cricked neck! If they are on a hunt or in playful mood they can move around very quickly of course, so you might need to keep moving the watch them. If they are on the ground, perhaps grooming, you may be treated to a much closer view.
Watching chimps can be an altogether edgier experience than being with gorillas if they're active. They might be drumming on buttress roots in the forest, having an argument, or swinging high above you in the canopy.
Having said that, they can be calm, and when you look into their eyes or watch their hands, you know for sure that these creatures are not so different from us. What a moment!
Depending on where you are trekking, the terrain can vary from reasonably flat to extremely steep, but it’s always forested of course. Once you find the chimps, you get about an hour to stay with them or follow them with your ranger.
Where to go
We have researched chimp trekking in many places, but our top recommendations would be Gombe or Mahale in Tanzania, or Kibalie or Budongo in Uganda. Wherever you can see chimps, though, take the opportunity. It’s magical.
KENYA: Sweetwaters Chimp Sanctuary is in Ol Pejeta Conservancy
RWANDA: Nyungwe Forest has habituated chimps.
TANZANIA: On Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania, you can go chimp trekking in Mahale Mountains National Park or Gombe National Park. Gombe is where Dr Jane Goodall researched chimps for many years.
UGANDA: Kibali Forest, Semliki, Budongo (near Murchison Falls) or Kyambura Gorge (near Queen Elizabeth NP) all have habituated wild chimps. Ngamba Island Chimp Sanctuary is on Lake Victoria near Entebbe.
When to go
You can go chimp trekking at any time, but it’s much more difficult and uncomfortable in the rainy season of April and May.