Meeting the famous chimps of Gombe

Sunday December 3 2017


By Elisha Mayallah

        It was the chimps that drew our interest to visit Gombe Stream national park on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, in Western Tanzania.

My companion had read and learnt about the incredible life of Jane Goodall and in particular – her book ‘Shadow of Man’ and a visit to Gombe was calling and seeing its inhabitants was irresistible.

Being a return visit for me to Gombe I knew of the long road to Kigoma from Arusha.

We set for the journey around ten in the morning and drove away in a small group of three people.

Our late lunch was in Singida town and later left to catch up with the daylight and spend our night in Nzega or Kahama depending where we would reach before dark falls in.

The drive was peaceful and I enjoyed seeing the countryside and many businesses along the raid.

I was happy to see many locals particularly women engaged in selling cooking oil made from sunflower which is grown in Singida region.

To support the local communities each one of us bought a few containers of cooking oil.

Thanks to the smooth road we passed Igunga and reached Nzega around 5 pm and were convinced that we would get to Kahama in three hours which was acceptable to all of us.

We hit the road to Kahama and branched at Tinde town when already it was falling dark. Tinde town is a junction of the highway leading to Shinyanga.

We were in Kahama before eight in the evening and had dibber at a local eatery place before settling back to our rooms for the night.

Early morning after breakfast we set off to our destination Kigoma.

It was good to see how the road network has improved travelling in this part of Tanzania.

There were many interesting villages along the Kahama to Nyakanazi highway which drives to Rwanda.

From Nyakanazi we drove through Kakonko, Kibondo, Kasulu where we stopped to take our late lunch.

As we left for Kigoma shortly after I started wondering what is behind the names of town along this area dominated by the word K – Kakonnko, Kibondo, Kasulu and Kigoma!

We arrived in Kigoma around 4 in the afternoon and drove around to find accommodation,

Our night in Kigoma was interesting for me. I had a fish menu popular in the area Migebuka which I had been told as one of the delicious fish from Lake Tanganyika, one of the deepest lakes in Africa.

Next day after breakfast we drove to take our boat ride to Gombe Sream national park which was booked through an agent.

It took ustwo hours to reach Gombe National Park from Kigoma and given our limited time there we were happy to meet our guide on arrival.

We set off almost immediately on our first trek within ten minutes. We entered the thick bush with varied trees to begin looking for the chimpanzees.

It was humid and we were sweating within minutes, the paths were steep and in some areas it was blocked by fallen trees in which we had to climb over.

Along the trail our guide started making chimp noises as we marched along, and not long enough his calls were answered. Not by the chimps but by the parks trackers.

The trackers usually set off before sunrise each morning to find and follow the chimps, recording everything they do for the researchers to analyse. Their other purpose is to inform the guides the direction of chimps so visitors are able to find them.

Our first glimpse of the chimpanzees did not disappoint. We found a mother and two children fishing for termites. Not only were they doing something so fascinating to watch but the mother was none other than Gremlin, one of the chimps mentioned in ‘Shadow of Man’ although she was just a baby at the time.

Gremlin was part of the community that lived in the centre of the park and who Jane Goodall had first been accepted by.

We sat watching the three of them for around few minutes, including a crew filming for a local TV station.

And soon it started to rain Gremlin and her kids took cover and they gave us a great opportunity to take some clear good pictures.