Gombe is the smallest of all Tanzania’s national parks, a brittle strip of chimpanzee habitat straddling the steep slopes and river valleys that hem in the sandy northern shore of Lake Tanganyika.
Its chimpanzees-habituated to human visitors – were made famous by the instigated work of Jane Goodall, who in 1960 founded a behavioural research program that now stands as the longest-running study of its kind in the world.
Chimpanzees share about 98% of their genes with humans, and no scientific proficiency is required to distinguish between the individual press of pants, hoots and screams that define the celebrities, the powerbrokers, and the supporting psyche.
The most visible of Gombe’s other mammals are also primates. A troop of beachcomber olive baboons, under study since the 1960s, is exceptionally habituated, whereas the red-tailed and red colobus monkeys – the latter regularly hunted by chimps – stick to the forest canopy.
The park’s 200 – eccentric bird species range from the iconic fish eagle to the jewel-like Peter’s twinspots that hop tamely around the visitors’ centre.
Gombe has a pleasant, moderately cloudless Dry season from May – October and a humid, squally Wet season from November – April. One of the foremost things about the drier months is the absence of cold nights. The coolest it gets is around 15 degree centigrade \ 59 degree fahrenheit. A lot of water can get dumped on the park when the rains come, but these usually arrive late in the day and don’t last long.
The chimps tend to stick to the lower slopes of the escarpment during the drier months in May – October, so this is the best time to track them. And hiking through the forest is certainly easier when the tracks are firm and dry. During the Wet season in November – April it’s slippery and the chimps require a lot more effort to find.
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