by Chris Walker Bush
November 30, 2015

Spending some time with our closest genetic relatives is a truly humbling experience, and it’s made all the more special by the hard work involved in getting there. Chimpanzee trekking is difficult work, but it’s thoroughly rewarding once you come upon a family of chimpanzees quietly preening, playing, and relaxing.

With their remarkably human behavior, chimpanzees are a fascinating species to observe in the wild. Before you head off into the forest in search of chimpanzees, read the below information so that you’re prepared.

About Chimpanzees

Chimpanzee Sitting Rwanda

Sharing 98% of our genes, chimpanzees are humanity’s closest living relatives. Possessing long arms, opposable thumbs, black fur, and bare faces, palms, and soles – they look and act a great deal like us. Perhaps this is a part of our enduring fascination with these great apes.

Chimpanzees are highly sociable animals, living in groups of anywhere between 15 and 80 members. Like gorillas, these groups are led by a dominant male. Chimpanzees communicate using a complex mixture of body language, hoots, pants, and barks. They are capable of both bipedal (two legged) or quadruped (knuckle-walking) movement. They are also capable of moving at great speed over great distances through the trees, which is the area where they do the majority of their feeding.

Chimpanzees primarily eat fruits and other plants, but are actually omnivores capable of digesting insects, eggs, meat, and even carrion. Their diet is almost as varied as the human diet.

Chimpanzees are also one of the few animals in the world to make use of tools, using sticks and rocks to aid in their pursuit of food. Chimps are well-known for using sticks to dig out insects they wish to eat, and use rocks to smash open particularly tough fruits and nuts.

Male chimpanzees can stand up to 1.7 metres tall and weigh approximately 70kgs. Females tend to be smaller and spend a great deal of their adult lives carrying around their babies.

Best Time to Visit

While it is possible track chimpanzees throughout the year, the best time to see them is during the wet season. While the rain tends to make the hike less pleasant, the abundance of water and food also means that the chimpanzees have to range much less to find sufficient food.

For this reason, the rainy seasons is the best time to track chimpanzees. Depending on which country you’re in, the rainy season may vary.

  • Rwanda: The short wet season is from October to November, while the long wet season stretches from mid-March through to June.
  • Uganda: The wet seasons are March – May and September – November.
  • Congo: North of the equator, the wet season is April to October. South of the equator, wet season stretches from November to March.

Fitness & Health

ol peyeta chimpanzee

It is not possible to predict ahead of time just how long you’ll be hiking before you encounter a chimpanzee family. Some people spend as little as 40 minutes hiking before they come across gorillas, while others can spend up to seven hours hiking.

For this reason, it is recommended that all trekkers be in good physical and mental condition.

Chimpanzees are also susceptible to many of the viruses that affect humans, so you will not be permitted to go on a chimpanzee trek if you are sick.

Rules & Codes of Conduct

While they may look and act like humans sometimes, chimpanzees are still wild animals. It is essential that chimpanzee trekkers follow the below rules to ensure not only their safety, but the safety of the animals.

  • At all times, you must obey all instructions given by your guide. Your guide knows the gorillas very well, and will direct you as to where it is safe to stand.
  • It is important to keep a distance of at least 8 metres between you and the chimpanzees.
  • Do not eat around the chimpanzees.
  • Flash photography is prohibited.
  • No more than an hour is allowed with a chimpanzee group.
  • Chimpanzees require a great deal of freedom to move about. Do not corner them.
  • Children under the age of twelve are not permitted to go on a chimpanzee trek.

As these are wild animals, we cannot guarantee that you will see them. While most groups do encounter a family group, we cannot give refunds if you do not spot the animals. The fee charged goes to the park for the ongoing conservation efforts.

Rwanda_Chimpanzee

What to Wear

The hike through the rainforest to reach the chimpanzees can be strenuous, so it is important to dress appropriately and comfortably for the trek.

Due to the rugged nature of the land you’ll be passing through, it is advisable that you wear a long sleeved shirt, trousers, and a good pair of lightweight hiking boots to protect against scratches. You may also wish to wear protective gloves, although these are not necessary.

As temperatures can vary greatly during the day, it is also advisable to bring along a light jumper and a light, breathable rain jacket or poncho.

You’ll also wish to bring along a small backpack in which to store your extra clothing, water, lunch, and your photography equipment.

While on your trek, you should wear neutral coloured clothing that is comfortable.

What to Bring

In addition to the aforementioned warm clothing and rain protection, there are a number of other handy things we recommend you bring along with you on your gorilla safari.

The below packing list is much the same as what you would bring along for a traditional game drive safari.

  • · A backpack;
  • · A warm sweater or light fleece;
  • · A windbreaker or waterproof jacket;
  • · Walking shoes or boots;
  • · A long sleeve dress shirt and trousers;
  • · Sunglasses;
  • · Hat;
  • · Sunscreen and lip balm;
  • · Insect repellant;
  • · Camera;
  • · Binoculars;
  • · Batteries and/or charger for your camera;
  • · A flashlight or headlamp;
  • · Guide books;
  • · Phone and charger.

You may also wish to bring your own first aid kit. While all of our Shadows of Africa vehicles have their own on board first aid kit, it never hurts to be prepared.

chimp trekking tanzania

  • · Anti-malarial medication;
  • · Painkillers;
  • · Antihistamines for allergies and insect bites;
  • · Cold and flu medication;
  • · Anti-Diarrheal medication;
  • · Medicines for rehydration after diarrhea or sunstroke;
  • · Insect repellant;
  • · Sunscreen and lip balm;
  • · Eye drops;
  • · Moisturiser for treating sunburn;
  • · Antiseptic lotion;
  • · Rubbing alcohol;
  • · Bandages and plasters;
  • · Scissors;
  • · Tweezers;

You may also wish to bring along water purification tablets and any medications you take for any existing medical conditions.

Don’t let the above list daunt you. Many of these items are only necessary in extreme cases, but it’s better to have something and not need it than it is to need something and not have it!

This entry was posted in Tours, Rwanda Attractions, Rwanda and tagged chimpanzee trekking, About Chimpanzees.
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