Gombe National Park covers an area of 52sq. km. and was first recognized as an important wildlife and chimpanzee habitat in 1943 when it was designated a Game Reserve. It has mountainous forested terrain that slopes steeply down to its sandy shoreline on Lake Tanganyika, and the defining attraction for the visitor are the chimpanzees living there.
The chimpanzees were originally the object of research by the renowned scientist and conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall, who was herself the protégé of the yet more celebrated anthropologist Dr. Louis Leakey. Her studies started in 1960, and she later married Derek Bryceson
who was a Tanzanian MP and the second Director of National Parks after independence in 1961. Gombe was upgraded to National Park status by the Tanzania Government in 1968.
Activities and wildlife
Chimpanzee viewing. It is possible to watch chimpanzees at close quarters during forest hikes, and it is a rare treat to be able to sit down quietly in a corner of pristine forest and have chimpanzees
romp, play and interact all around you as they go about their daily activities. All activities have
to be conducted under the close supervision of a Park Ranger.
In addition to the joys of walking in pristine forests and watching chimps there is lots of other wildlife to enjoy including red tailed monkeys, red colobus, blue monkeys (part of the gentle monkey family who are gentle by nature from birth), olive baboon and vervet monkeys.
Hiking. Hiking is done up into the forest and even up to the peak by using natural trails managed by the Park. All hikes are guided by National Park Guides and Rangers.
Water sports. Considered by many as the cleanest and purest water on earth, the lake waters are
wonderful to swim in, but more than that, Lake Tanganyika has the greatest diversity of Cichlid fishes in the world, and the largest specimens. Cichlids are generally brilliantly colored freshwater fishes that are a joy to watch either by snorkeling above them or using scuba gear to swim down amongst them.
Boat excursions are also possible as arranged by the Park authorities or by private boat owners.
There are hiking trails managed by the Park authorities for getting around in the forest.
The Park can be accessed by boat from Kigoma, and boat bookings are done through the Park or with private boat owners. Kigoma is a substantial town and is accessible by air from the larger Tanzanian towns. There is a rail link from Kigoma to Dar es Salaam and a ferry service from Zambia. Access by road is of course possible but the distances are large.
The park also has a campsite and a rest house for use by visitors which are booked through the Park. There is also a private tented lodge in the Park.
Gombe fits easily into one’s safari plans as it is possible to fly from Kigoma to almost anywhere else in Tanzania. Being so close to Kigoma, Gombe can become an extension visit to a regular southern circuit safari. It is a lot less expensive than a visit to Mahale Mountains for those wanting chimp viewing.