You’ve read Jane Goodall’s books and now you’ve made the best decision of your life and are planning to visit Gombe National Park and experience the chimpanzees for yourself. Brilliant – but how on earth do you plan it from the other side of the world? Well, we are here to help you.
Park office in Kigoma
The easiest way to plan trips to Gombe is from within Kigoma (The closest town to GNP). The park has an official office in town and trips can be arranged as quickly as the same day depending on your transport method.
The park office isn’t in the centre of Kigoma but up a hill behind the market. From the market walk up the hill and then take the second right, this will take you behind the market and then up a steep dirt road. Keep walking up and you will find the park office on the right. It’s quite near the top of the hill so don’t think you’ve walked too far, the office is quite grand (for the area) and hard to miss.
We emailed the office before arriving in Kigoma however they didn’t reply and they seemed to be having difficulty with the internet when we were there. As mentioned above, as the trips can be arranged so quickly it’s probably just worth waiting until you are in Kigoma, the staff are very helpful (and not pushy) so you’ll also get the benefit of having a long chat about the park before deciding how you want to go about your trip.
The only way to get to Gombe National Park is by boat! There are four different options ranging in price.
Public boat – This is your cheapest option by far – about $4. The price is obviously a big benefit but the boats can be unreliable and make a number of stops. Journey time is at least 4 hours, boats are often crowded and there is no shade available. The boat only travels once each day leaving Kigoma at around lunch time and returning from Gombe at around 7am.
Private boat – You can hire a private boat to take you to Gombe for around $220, you will have shade, a life jacket and you can decide the time it will take you to the park entrance. It takes about two hours to get from Kigoma to the park entrance, half the time of the public boat, which means if you wanted you could do the journey in a day (no accommodation fees).
Tanapa boat – The national park’s official boat is a bit more expensive than the private ones ($300) but has all the same pros.
Speed boat – This is by far the quickest way to get there taking only 45 minutes however it also costs a fortune – $1200!
We chose a private boat to take us to the park around lunch time, this way we could have two treks, one on the afternoon we arrived and one the following morning (Also meaning we only had to pay one 24 hours park fee). With limited time the flexibility of all but the public boat are a real plus, you determine all the times plus, the price is per boat so the more the merrier.
If you wish to take a private boat ask the staff at the office if they know anyone. The staff we spoke to were happy to arrange everything for us and the boat’s captain even came to meet us at the office the day before.
There are two options for staying the night in Gombe:
Camping – You’ll have to bring your own tent and sleeping bags and you can expect a lot of interested baboons during the night, they are a constant in camp.
Banda – Ensuite rooms with two single beds & mosquito nets. The banda is the same price as camping and an easy choice. With so many baboons in camp, we get the impression that the park would rather you chose these rooms than camping to avoid any problems with food or belongings. The banda is locked up with bars across the windows (like every other building in the park) so it’s much harder for them to come in. The rooms are comfortable and better than we expected, especially for the price.
The food is relatively expensive in the restaurant ($15) however the portions are big and they will pretty much cook whatever you request. After a big trek it was nice to come back to a warm meal that we didn’t need to prepare ourselves. You can also bring your own food and prepare it in their kitchen – you have to store all food in the kitchen as once again the chimps and baboons have been known to steal it!
The drinks are much better value and there is a large variety to chose from including beer, wine, soda and juice all at very reasonable prices. Sprite 1,500TSH, Castle Lager 3,000TSH and large water 2,000TSH. You can also bring your own drinks from Kigoma.
Park entry fees
To enter Gombe National Park it is $100 per a person per 24 hours. The 24 hour permit usually starts from when you enter the forest so if you are coming by public transport and arriving at 4pm it should start the following day, when you set out on your first trek and last until the following morning. They are happy for you to stay at the beach after the 24 hours is up – but you won’t be allowed to enter the forest again.
To be clear: You do not need to pay park fees to be in camp, meaning you can enjoy the lake, rooms and restaurant either side of your 24 hour permit.
Every time you enter the forest you need to pay a $20 guide fee per a group (maximum 5 people). If you plan to go trekking more than once you will need to pay again however, the guide usually includes a trek to the old feeding station, waterfall and Jane’s peak in one of the treks.
Remember to take your swimming costumes with you as the camp is right by lake Tanganyika, it was lovely taking a dip after the long hard treks in the forest.
Total spent for two people
- Boat: $230 (price for boat not pp)
- Accommodation: $40 ($20 per person, per night)
- Entry Fee: $200 (2 x $100 24 hour park fee)
- Guide Fee: $40 (2 treks)
- Food: $30 (2 x $15 evening meal)
- Drink: $5
- Tips: $17 (Paid in Shillings to trackers and guide)
- Total: $532 (£330)
We hope this helps you plan your own trip to Gombe and to get you even more excited why not read our incredible experience of the park here, it didn’t disappoint.
If you would like to know more then please just ask!