Chimpanzee habituation experience

Chimpanzee habituation experience

A chance to catch a glimpse of a unique group of chimpanzees that are in the process of being habituated. Track and follow the calls of these remarkably human-like creatures, and with luck spend some time watching them in their natural environment. This activity can only be done from Rubondo Island Camp.

The Details

Between 1966 and 1969, 16 chimpanzees were released onto Tanzania’s Rubondo Island. Led by Professor Bernhard Grizimek from the Frankfurt Zoological Society, this was the first known attempt to rehabilitate captive chimpanzees, and its success is undoubted. Today the population is thought to number around 35 individuals, which now display all the traits of wild chimpanzees.

Since 2016, researchers have been trying to habituate the chimps again to the presence of humans for a tourism perspective – a slow and difficult process that requires a lot of patience. The chimp experience here allows you the exceptional opportunity to be a part of this gradual process and, while chimp sightings are certainly not guaranteed, the chances are getting better and better.

The exact set up for the chimpanzee experience varies from day to day, depending on where the group is. You’ll usually start early in the morning and join the tracking team – perhaps hopping in the car and heading out from camp to reach the starting point for your trek; or setting off in the boat to reach a different side of the island. Then, once you’ve reached the starting point, you’ll continue on foot.

Although spending time with the chimpanzees is your main focus, there’s plenty of other life to be found in the forest. Sitatunga and bushbuck are regularly sighted, and you may even be lucky enough to see a forest elephant.

After your trekking, you have the option to fly-camp out in the forest in simple dome tents if you haven’t found the chimpanzees. Fly-camping allows you to get an early start the next morning and continue your search. However, if the allure of creature comforts is calling, you can simply head back that afternoon.

Start location/time: You’ll usually start early in the morning from camp – either heading out in the vehicle or boat to start the trek from a more remote part of the island.

Duration of excursion: The trek length can vary hugely. Some visitors are lucky enough to find the chimpanzees on their first day, whereas others may choose to camp in the forest so that they can continue their trek the next morning.

End location/time: You’ll return to the lodge once the trek is over. Generally the treks are full days.

Maximum size of group: Up to four adults can trek at once.

Meals included: All meals will be included for the time you are trekking.

How hard is the walking? Paths are limited, and a lot of the time you will be walking through the forest on uneven ground. You should be comfortable walking for several hours at a time with short breaks for a drink and snack.

Guides: You’ll be led by a TANAPA (Tanzania National Parks) ranger, and a resident guide from the camp. They will take you to the Chimp Habituation team – who will continue guiding you from there. The camp’s guide will stay with you and can provide an insight into everything else the forest has to offer.

Please note: Expert Africa only books excursions as a part of a full, Expert Africa itinerary.