Hidden in the forests of East Africa, chimpanzees are man’s closest relative. The similarities are almost spooky and you’ll be dazzled by the emotion and communication within a troop. While gorillas take all the fame in East Africa, we’d highly recommend considering a chimpanzee trek or chimpanzee habituation experience. Spending an hour with these magical primates is one of the highlights of Africa.
Unique Chimpanzee Trekking Experiences in East Africa
Chimpanzees aren’t the sort of animal you’ll see roaming around the lodge or gracing the distant horizon. They mostly live high in the trees, hidden away in forests that flicker with mist. While you can occasionally spot chimpanzees at random, it’s best to go on a dedicated chimpanzee trek or habituation experience. Trackers move ahead of you and radio back the troop’s location, drastically increasing the chances of spotting these elusive primates.
In recent years, researchers have been able to habituate a handful of chimpanzee troops. The chimps’ complex social structure makes this a very challenging undertaking, taking upwards of six years – which is why there are more habituated gorilla troops, even if their total population is much lower. These wild yet habituated troops are now accustomed by human presence, allowing you to spend an hour with the troop. You can only encounter them on foot and you must be prepared for a touch hike through indigenous forest.
Where Can You See Chimpanzees in Africa
A small number of chimpanzee troops have been habituated in Tanzania’s Gombe and Mahale national parks. Both destinations will usually require a long trek through virgin rainforest, especially when they roam further into the rainforest during the rainy season of March to May.
Kibale National Park has long been the flagship destination for chimpanzees and their sightings have become almost as guaranteed as the gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Also in Uganda, Semuliki has a habituated troop. While this troop is harder to locate, there’s a good chance that you’ll see the chimpanzees walking on two legs across a forest clearing; perhaps nothing in Africa has taken our breath away like this did.
The Intimacy of a Chimpanzee Experience
Fingers curl around tree branches, tools are used to deftly open fruit, and faces are laced with dexterous detail. The chimpanzees will look at you, inspecting their visitor. And they’ll display the most remarkable levels of communication between each other. It sometimes feels that you can interpret what they’re thinking and gesticulating. This isn’t a glimpse of an animal, it’s an immersive journey into a unique and unknown world. We can’t get enough of how intimate the experience can be.
Chimpanzees are the smartest of the wild primates and their intelligence is immediately apparent. You might see them carrying sticks to ward off enemies, or plotting mischievously between themselves. Troops can number 50 to 100 and you might be lucky to see them all together. However, these troops are made up of smaller family clusters, which often splinter off for a few days at a time. In short, you might get to see the whole extended family together, cousins, aunties, and all the in-laws. Or you might be getting acquainted with 10 to 20 individuals.
Adding a Chimpanzee Experience Into Your African Safari
East Africa’s chimpanzees make a wonderful complement to the animals of the savannah. The experience is also a great way to interrupt an itinerary of game drives. If you’re seeking something truly unique on your African adventure, then talk to us about planning an intimate hour with the chimpanzees.