At 7:30 the owners son drove me to the boat which was going to take me to see the chimpanzees in the Gombe Stream National Park. This area was put on the map by Jane Goodall who lived and studied the behaviour of these animals from 1960 till today. She still visits the camp 2x per year but now because of her age and the spread of Covid she has not been here for the past 2 years. Her dedicated research and observations revealed a lot about social behaviour and the intelligence of the chimpanzees and their ability to learn and make tools. She was first not accepted by the people to be in the animal behaviour research, but now she stands way above them and travels the world to promote the protection of wildlife. This park has always been on my list to visit. Same as seeing the gorillas in Uganda. I did not get around to it in 1977/78 so I am glad I can do and afford it now. It is not a cheap trip but worth it.
After 2 hrs by boat we arrived at the park. You could see that the slopes of the hills around the lake became covered with trees from the park boundary onwards. It is real jungle. The oil palm and mango trees from the past are left standing to provide extra food for the chimpanzees. For the rest it has grown back to its original state since it became a national park in 1968. This means that there are lots of vines running from tree to tree which make it difficult to follow the monkeys through the jungle. Now I know why they are so small and walk on all 4 “legs”. I sometimes had to do that as well to stay underneath the vines and prevent my rucksack from getting caught.
The park has trackers who stay with a group of monkeys and reports where they are to the guide who takes you around. We were lucky that a group of 2 females with several youngsters was only a 20 min hill climb away. We followed them to where they wandered through the forest and eventually climbed a tree and made a nest for the afternoon nap. They are used to humans. At one point one mature female just walk close by me through the group of 5 Tanzanian tourist on her way to the next tree. The park maintains a strict protocols to protect the animals. One is that we had to wear face masks and also we had to stay at least 10 m away from the monkeys. For years the monkeys were also fed banana’s. That started already in the sixty’s as part of the observation project. It is now no longer done because it changed the natural behaviour of the chimps and also was the cause of various transmissions of human deceases to the monkeys which for quite a few, was fatal.
After a standard lunch (grilled chicken and fries) I boarded my private boat again and was back in the guesthouse at 17:00. Tired but satisfied.
Fishing is done by nets which are set out on long poles behind the boat. Several smaller boats are then put to water to help pull the net together. The engine of the main boat would scare the fish away.