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Gombe Stream National Park
is a pretty little conservation area on the north-east shore of Lake Tanganyika in the western
region of Tanzania
First protected in 1943 and upgraded to national park status as early as 1965, Gombe is a 20km boat ride north of the frontier town of Kigoma and covers an area of just 25 square kilometres of largely forested mountains slopes above the lake.
The place is best known for its population of around 100 chimpanzees, some of which have been habituated and can be observed at close range. It is the location for British primatologist Jane Goodall's original research during the 1980's, which first brought the plight of chimpanzees to the attention of the world.
The main negative with Gombe Stream is that it is that the park is too small. The natural landscape has been encroached upon from every direction, accelerated in the 1990's by refugees pouring out of Rwanda
following the genocide.
We have heard it said that the chimpanzee behaviour here has become worryingly disturbed and there is now barely enough land to sustain a viable natural chimpanzee population. We remember one evening in Kigoma during 2004 when one researcher literally wept to us over a beer one night ... "the chimps are dying, Gombe is dying". These days The Goodall Institute seems to have departed for good and we have been unable to get any comment from them.
On a more practical level, the park remains relatively difficult to access, with a scheduled flight from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma, followed by a long boat journey up the lake. Often at least one night is needed in Kigoma along the way.
The park also contains relatively moderate accommodation options.
Many years ago we used to regularly include Gombe Stream into safaris, but between 2003 and 2007 we swung almost entirely over to the Mahale Mountains
, which has a much larger and more sustainable chimpanzee population, much better lodges and much easier access.
Gombe Stream most often visited by intrepid backpackers on their way through this relatively remote region, who cannot afford the longer boat journey to Mahale.