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Should I Trek Chimpanzees or Gorillas on My Safari?

April 12, 2024  By: Gretchen

Many people planning a safari want to include the chance to trek primates as one of their activities. Choosing between a trek to see mountain gorillas and chimpanzees proves difficult for many travelers. We are here to help you understand the differences between and excitement of seeing each species.

adult gorilla

Mountain Gorillas

Africa’s mountain gorillas are found in only three countries: Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We do not operate safaris in DRC, but have decades of expertise in planning safaris to Uganda and Rwanda. While the mountain gorillas are considered endangered, conservation efforts have been very successful in not only maintaining but growing their population.

baby gorilla in tree

We believe spending time with these charismatic primates is one of the top highlights in the natural world. Our gorilla safaris will get you up close and personal with the gorillas, guided by an expert who spends time in the rainforest every day. Hiking to see the gorillas can range from quick and easy to long and challenging, but is always worth every step! Mountain gorillas live between 8,000 and 13,000 feet above sea level, so a reasonable level of fitness is required for trekking.

Kelly with silverback gorilla

Once you reach the gorillas, you’ll have the chance to spend time with them in their habitat as they forage, eat, play and groom one another, gaining an intimate glimpse into their family lives. Their behavior is generally peaceful as competing males evade one another and the apes have very long rest periods, making them relatively easy to observe. But even when resting, their huge size, intelligence and gentleness are evident.

boys with silverback gorilla

Both species are habituated to humans, though there are many necessary rules to observe including following your guide’s directions, keeping a recommended distance and masking when with the gorillas, as transmission of disease from humans to apes can easily occur. The hour you are allowed to spend with the gorillas goes by very quickly. We strongly recommend trekking at least two days on your safari.



Our favorite places for chimpanzee trekking are in remote Western Tanzania at Gombe Stream National Park and Mahale Mountains National Park, or in Uganda’s Kibale National Park and Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Chimps can also be seen in Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park and Gishwati Mukura National Park.

chimpanzee up close

Chimpanzee trekking can range from gentle and undulating terrain to steep gorge and mountain climbs depending on where you choose to trek. As with gorilla trekking, you will be guided by an expert who spends most every day in the forest with the chimps and who has expertise on finding the apes, as well as their behavior. They will also be able to point out other interesting forest species.

chimpanzee in tree

Chimpanzee behavior is very different than that of the mountain gorillas. Much smaller than their gorilla cousins but incredibly strong and agile, chimps are often more active and boisterous than gorillas. Chimps are fiercely defensive of their territories and can experience frequent conflict with rival troops. They feed in the cooler parts of the day – early morning and evening – and can move quickly both on the ground and through the trees as they forage during these hours. While their diet is primarily vegetarian, they do eat insects and meat, hunting other primate species. They will often rest during the heat of the day, making them a bit easier to observe.

taking picture of chimpanzee

As with anything in nature, primate sightings are never guaranteed, though the odds for both apes are excellent. Permits are required to trek both gorillas and chimpanzees and are available in limited numbers each day, so booking well in advance is essential.

gorilla in leaves

Are you still having a hard time deciding whether to see gorillas or chimpanzees on your safari? Do both! The geography of East Africa, along with flight availability, make combining these two activities simple and the chance to observe both primate species in one trip is nothing short of remarkable. Be sure to ask about booking a chimpanzee or gorilla habituation experience if you would like the chance to spend even longer with the primates on your safari. Adding on a traditional safari or a beach extension to your primate experience is also quite easy.

chimps in grass

If you are ready for your own African primate trekking experience, contact one of our Journey Specialists to start planning your customized adventure and keep in touch by subscribing to our newsletter below.


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Photos courtesy Kym Illman, AAC Journey Specialist & Safari Concierge Nell Pollak, AAC President Kent Redding, AAC Marketing Director Beth McCabe and AAC Journey Specialist Diana Garcia Hernandez