The Great Apes of East Africa

  • 13-day wildlife expedition accompanied by expert primatologists
  • Track chimpanzees in western Tanzania and observe mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans

Expedition Details


Follow in the footsteps of Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey—two of National Geographic's greatest explorers—on an expedition into the jungles of Rwanda and western Tanzania. From the shores of Lake Tanganyika, hike into the hills of Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains National Parks to find and observe chimpanzees in their native habitat. Then journey to the slopes of Rwanda's volcanoes for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to encounter mountain gorillas in the wild.

Trip Highlights

  • Spend four days tracking chimpanzees in the wilderness of western Tanzania.
  • Observe mountain gorillas and golden monkeys in Rwanda's Parc National des Volcans.
  • Hike to the original site of former National Geographic grantee Dian Fossey's Karisoke Research Center. 
  • Stay in stunning lodges, from a tented camp on a beach on Lake Tanganyika to a hilltop eco-lodge with views of Rwanda's volcanoes. 

Itinerary - 13 Days

Days 1 & 2 — U.S./Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Depart the U.S. for Tanzania, and arrive the following day. Transfer to our hotel in the city center, and enjoy an evening at your leisure.
Dar Es Salaam Serena Hotel

Day 3 — Dar es Salaam/Kigoma

Rise early this morning for our flight to Kigoma, a port town on Lake Tanganyika, and settle into private cottages overlooking the water. Learn the legacy of legendary Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone on an excursion to the nearby town of Ujiji, from which he launched several expeditions. It was here that Livingstone encountered Henry Morton Stanley, who allegedly uttered the now famous words, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" See a memorial to Livingstone before returning to Kigoma for a welcome reception and dinner.
Kigoma Hilltop Hotel (B,L,D)

Days 4 & 5 — Gombe Stream National Park

After breakfast, board a boat and cruise north on Lake Tanganyika—the longest freshwater lake in the world—to Gombe Stream National Park. In these rugged hills, Jane Goodall spent decades conducting groundbreaking behavioral research on chimpanzees with support from National Geographic. Spend two days in the park, tracking chimpanzees and observing their uncannily human-like behavior. As we explore the forest, keep an eye out for red colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, beachcomber olive baboons, and some 200 species of birds. Return to Kigoma in the evenings.
Kigoma Hilltop Hotel (B, L, D)

Days 6 & 7 — Mahale Mountains National Park

This morning, fly from Kigoma to Mahale Mountains National Park, whose forest-clad slopes hug the eastern coast of Lake Tanganyika and are accessible only by water or air. The park is home to roughly 800 chimpanzees, as well as red colobus monkeys, warthogs, and more than 350 bird species, including the malachite kingfisher, purple-crested turaco, and palm-nut vulture. A boat trip brings us to a remote stretch of beach where our luxury raised safari tents are tucked into the trees along the sand's edge. From here, delve into the forest on nature walks with guides, following clues to find the famous, well-researched "M group" of chimpanzees deep in the park. After our hikes there is time to relax on the beach, or swim and snorkel in Lake Tanganyika.
Kungwe Beach Lodge (B, L, D)

Day 8 — Mahale Mountains National Park/ Kigoma/Kigali, Rwanda

After a final morning of chimpanzee tracking, fly back to Kigoma for our connecting flight to Kigali, Rwanda's thriving and progressive capital city. Enjoy dinner on your own this evening.
Kigali Serena Hotel (B,L)

Day 9 — Kigali/Parc National des Volcans

This morning, pay a visit to the Kigali Memorial Centre, where a poignant exhibition recalls Rwanda's mid-1990s genocide and testifies to the country's remarkable resilience. Then travel north through beautiful countryside to the Parc National des Volcans, where the late Dian Fossey established her research station in 1967. Settle into your private banda, or villa, perched on a hilltop with stunning views of the surrounding volcanoes and lakes. In the afternoon, meet experts at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund's Karisoke Research Center to learn about ongoing efforts to study and protect the region's gorillas. In 2008, National Geographic helped fund a major study in which the skeletons of more than 70 mountain gorillas were exhumed for ongoing analysis to shed light on human and ape health and evolution.
Virunga Safari Lodge (B,L,D)

Days 10 & 11 — Parc National des Volcans

Spend a day tracking mountain gorillas in the forested hills of the Parc National des Volcans. Follow local guides through thick undergrowth and dangling vines in search of gorilla families. Sit among these gentle giants, observing their interactions, listening to their distinctive grumbles, and viewing one of the planet's most endangered creatures from an awe-inspiring, up-close perspective. The following day, hike the slopes of the Visoke Volcano to the original site of the Karisoke Research Center, where Dian Fossey carried out mountain gorilla research for 18 years and is now buried. Alternatively, venture back into the jungle for a second morning of gorilla tracking. (Optional gorilla tracking permits are based on availability and offered at an additional cost.) In the afternoon, pay a visit to a school and meet with children in their classrooms. Celebrate our encounter with the great apes at a farewell reception and dinner.
Virunga Safari Lodge (B, L, D)

Days 12 & 13 — Parc National des Volcans/Kigali/U.S.

Head out into the lower, flatter reaches of the park on the lookout for golden monkeys, a distinctly colored species often found in thick bamboo stands. Drive back to Kigali International Airport in the afternoon and board your flight home, arriving the following day.

Related Trips


This expedition is not currently being offered.

Activity Level

Click here for a description of all activity levels.

What To Expect

This is an active expedition limited to 16 travelers, with moderate to strenuous hikes. Participants should be physically fit. While tracking primates, guests will trek through thick jungle at elevations ranging up to 10,000 feet, for as many as six hours, depending on the location of the primates. Treks can be arduous; and the terrain can be steep, uneven, wet, and muddy. This trip is not suitable for those who suffer from a cardiac, respiratory, or circulatory disorder or a disability that limits mobility.