Chimpanzee Trekking in Tanzania
Have you heard of chimpanzee trekking in Tanzania? If not then brace up because if you are planning a Tanzania safari, then you will come across many such marvels that are either unheard of or not much talked about. For instance, there is this Serengeti wildebeest migration across Tanzania onto Kenya where more than two million animals including wildebeests, zebras and gazelles migrate hundreds of miles and all along you can partake in the party.
Chimpanzee trekking in Tanzania is relatively less popular than the wildebeest migration or climbing Mt Kilimanjaro for that matter, but it is in no way any inferior an experience. Chimpanzee trekking will require your Tanzania safari to head towards the Mahale Mountains. Lake Tanganyika would obviously be on your itinerary because visiting the world’s second deepest lake and possibly taking a dive into it to explore the fascinating underwater world of the lake will be an amazing experience. On the eastern shore of this lake is Gombe. About a hundred miles south of Gombe lay the spellbinding Mahale Mountains. In these mountains live several hundred chimpanzees, not the small ones or trained ones but wild chimpanzees.
Fortunately, the chimpanzees are completely at ease in their own world and they don’t care if you are there. They are so comfortable amidst human presence that they would not even pay attention to where you are, what you are doing. Instead, they would be busy with their tricks, games and fights. You may even be lucky to witness some feuds and drama among the chimpanzees. It is these wonderful acts of the chimpanzees, almost always unassuming and far from being orchestrated, that makes chimpanzee trekking in Tanzania such a wonderful experience.
Chimpanzee trekking will be a little demanding because you will have to keep walking and would have to wait for the time when the chimps would show their acts. The chimps can be anywhere from the treetops to the peak of the mountains down to the shore. It isn’t that the chimpanzees would be waiting for you or would be around all day. But with a good guide, you will surely see dozens of chimps.
Usually, you would have to plan a two day or three day trip for chimpanzee trekking in Tanzania and this is a completely worthwhile experience. If you wish to capture the chimpanzees on video or click a few shots, then make sure you take a good camera that works well without flash. You can imagine what happens if you use your flash on some wild chimpanzees, flash photography is strictly prohibited.
GENERAL SAFETY RULES
Chimpanzees are a man’s closest living relative, and we share 98% of our genes with them. As a result, chimps are susceptible to most human infectious diseases but because chimps and humans are not the same species, the outcome of infection can be very different. Even simple human cold and flu viruses can be fatal to chimpanzees.
Tanzania’s chimps have been studied and habituated for more than 40 years, and are well accustomed to people. Nevertheless, they are wild animals and it is important that you avoid doing anything that may antagonize them or that they may see as a challenge or threat.
• When near the chimps, please remember to keep your voices low. This will also help you to observe the other wonderful and varied wildlife of the Mahale forest.
• Do not point at the chimps or make any sudden movements, and avoid direct eye contact with them because they may perceive this as aggressive or threatening behavior.
• Do not use perfume, smoke or spit.
• Stay in a tight group when near the chimps, and try to sit or squat rather than standing, as this minimizes disturbance. Also be sure that your group does not completely surround the chimps.
• In the unlikely event that a chimp charges towards you, move to the nearest tree, stand up and hold on tightly to the trunk. Above all, don’t panic or run. Follow your guide’s example.
• If the chimpanzees move closer to you than permitted 10 meters, don’t make any sudden movements to increase the distance. Simply back slowly away.
• Camera flashes must be switched off. Flash photography can disturb and antagonize the chimps.
NATIONAL PARK VIEWING RULES
Maintain a distance of at least 10m from the chimps at all times. This minimizes the risk of you transmitting bacteria and viruses to them.
• Always wear a mask (provided by your guide) over your nose and mouth when you are close (<50m) to chimps.
• DO NOT eat or drink while you are near the chimps – move at least 250m away first.
• DO NOT leave personal belongings on the ground or where they are accessible to the chimps. They are curious animals and your belongings can transmit disease. If you need help carrying bags, your guide will be happy to assist you.
• DO NOT leave any rubbish behind. It can be harmful to all kinds of wildlife and it can transmit diseases to the chimps.
• If you feel the urge to cough or sneeze when you are near the chimps, please cover your nose and mouth to reduce the distribution of germs.
• Try not to go to the toilet in the forest. If it is unavoidable, move at least 250m from the chimps and ask your guide to dig a deep hole.
• It is not permitted to visit the chimps if you are sick or have infectious disease. Please be responsible and tell your camp managers if you feel unwell. They will decide whether you would be risking the chimps’ health by visiting them.
• No person under the age of 12 is permitted to visit the chimps. This is for their own safety and because young people are more likely to transmit infectious disease.
• No more than 6 visitors (plus one guide) are permitted close to the chimps at any one time. If another group is with the chimps when you arrive, please wait at a spot chosen by your guide, at least 250m away from the animals.
• Maximum viewing time is one hour. If the chimps are moving and viewing is interrupted, your time will be paused until they have been relocated, but tracking is not permitted for longer than 3hours after the initial chimp sighting, even if the one hour total has not been reached. This is to minimize disturbance to the animals and to the forest.
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