Most people think that if they want to see chimpanzees in the wild, they can just travel to Africa and look around in the forest. That could not be further from the truth.
Unlike the thrill of seeing big cats on a hunt, the fascination of chimpanzee trekking is more personal. Imagine seeing yourself reflected in the expressive face of an animal with which you share 98% of your DNA. You will be amazed to see how these uniquely sociable primates engage with one another, cradle their offspring, and goof around in a delightfully familiar way. It’s a spectacular experience, and it’s no surprise that it rates among travellers’ top African highlights.
Unfortunately, chimpanzees are endangered. They have been hunted to extinction in several locations for use as laboratory animals. And, humans have reclaimed their habitats elsewhere, forcing them deep into the rainforest’s tangle of leaves and lianas, out of sight. Until recently, no one had even photographed them in their natural habitat.
It is in the deep forests of the Albertine Rift, where East Africa meets the Congo jungle and West Africa, that Chimpanzees can be found. They are declining across their range, with some populations barely hanging on in Africa.
Chimpanzee trekking is highly regulated and requires some planning, due to the remote locations they are found in.
Chimpanzees are fascinating to watch. So, it is no surprise that witnessing these amazing primates in the wild is on so many people’s bucket lists. An hour spent with a chimpanzee family can be a wonderfully grounding and life-changing event.
Places to see Chimpanzees
Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania
Without a doubt, Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania is the best area to trek to view chimps in the wild. Mbali Mbali Mahale Lodge and Greystoke Mahale are the two best places to stay if you want to watch the chimps. The guides have been working with the chimps for many years, and a few nights here provides a wonderfully rewarding and one-of-a-kind animal experience.
Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania
If you are visiting Mahale Mountains National Park, then you can include a visit to Gombe Stream National Park, where Jane Goodall pioneered her behavioural research studies on chimpanzee groups, specifically the Kasekela Chimpanzee Community.
Nyungwe Forest, Rwanda
In addition to being an excellent area to trek with mountain gorillas, Rwanda has a thriving chimpanzee population. You may combine Uganda and Rwanda, making for an ultimate primate experience.
Kibale National Park, Uganda
In terms of primate experiences, Uganda is similar to Rwanda. Both are fantastic for chimpanzees. Uganda is more affordable than Rwanda and Tanzania for viewing Chimpanzees but also receives more tourists.