Chimps of Mahale & Gombe

To see chimpanzees in the wild there is hardly a better place to go than the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania to visit Gombe National Park or nearby Mahale Mountains National Park.

In Gombe National Park, we watched a 49-year-old chimp named Gremlin select a wild mango, climb down the tree, choose a rock and crack the mango open - all in full view and as close as we were allowed to be.

  • Chimpanzee at Mahale, Tanzania © AGMarks

    Chimpanzee at Mahale, Tanzania

  • Chimp trekking in Mahale Mountains from Greystoke Mahale, Tanzania © Andrew Marinkovich

    Chimp trekking in Mahale Mountains from Greystoke Mahale, Tanzania

  • Mahale chimp hand and foot, Tanzania © AGMarks

    Mahale chimp hand and foot, Tanzania

  • Gombe chimps, Tanzania © AGMarks

    Gombe chimps, Tanzania

  • Chimp trekking in Gombe, Tanzania © AGMarks

    Chimp trekking in Gombe, Tanzania

  • Gombe chimps, Tanzania © AGMarks

    Gombe chimps, Tanzania

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The drawcard for both Mahale Mountains National Park and Gombe National Park in Tanzania is the wild chimpanzee families. This incredible experience comes at a price but is definitely worth it for primate lovers.

From these prime locations in the hilly rainforest straddling the shores of Lake Tanganyika, you can enjoy superb chimpanzee treks. Sometimes the chimps come close to the camps and at other times it can involve strenuous walking to locate them, but either way, when you see them you will be in awe, mesmerised, and it is something you will undoubtedly remember forever.

It’s neither easy nor cheap to get to either park, particularly Mahale. This means that both parks get very few visitors and it’s a very special and exclusive experience which is, quite frankly, all the more magical for the lack of people.

  • Chimpanzee trekking: Read our page about the experience of trekking to see chimps.
  • Mahale’s chimpanzees:  Mahale has about 1000 individual chimps and eight other primate species such as red colobus and blue monkeys. Trekking can be quite difficult and depends on where the chimps are located when you are there, but it is well worth the effort. Please note only a small proportion of these chimps are habituated.
  • Gombe’s chimps:  Gombe National Park is where Jane Goodall began her study of chimps under Dr Leakey in 1960. The research is the longest-running study of any wild animal population in the world. There are about 90 chimps in this tiny park.
  • Chimp behaviour:  Your experienced guides will be able to share their extensive knowledge on chimpanzee social structure and behaviour.
  • Lake Tanganyika:  After a strenuous trek to meet the habituated chimpanzees, you might want to relax on the sandy shores of the lake.  This is the world’s longest freshwater lake.
  • How to get to here?:  Scheduled air transfers from Arusha, Serengeti, Ruaha and Katavi arrive at a small airstrip near the lakeside. From the lake airstrip, it’s a 90-minute boat journey to Mahale. Gombe is about a one-hour boat trip from Kigoma.
  • Where to stay:  To see the Mahale chimps, you can choose either Greystoke Mahale or Mbali Mbali Mahale. Both are excellent places to stay and their treks see the same families.
    In Gombe, we advise staying at Mbali Mbali Gombe (otherwise known as Gombe Forest Lodge).
Chimps of Mahale & Gombe map pin

Chimps of Mahale & Gombe

Gombe chimp hand, Tanzania

To see chimpanzees in the wild, there is hardly a better place to go than the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania to visit Gombe National Park or nearby Mahale Mountains National Park.

Learn more