The Jane Goodall Institute’s Chimpanzee Eden, set in a forested reserve between Nelspruit and Barberton, has brought hope, peace and some degree of normality to dozens of traumatised chimpanzees from all over Africa. Visiting the sanctuary is a moving and uplifting experience.

Did you know?

Chimpanzees are our closest living relatives, sharing 98% of our DNA.

The day starts with the balding Joao, well over 60 years old, doing a handstand. Claudine, a new arrival, greets Cozy. Martha plucks up her courage and sits beside Jessica to groom her.

Claude, still in quarantine, lets out a whoop of delight as crates of bananas, donated by a local farmer, are carried past his window.

It’s a happy life for these 33 primates at the Chimpanzee Eden near Nelspruit, but their cheerful behaviour belies their individual tragic histories.

Each one of these chimpanzees has been rescued by the Jane Goodall Institute, mostly from logging and the related bushmeat trade. While adults are killed, the babies are kept as pets or for sale all over Africa.

Lika was kept for years in a dark brick cage in Luanda, Angola. It took her a very long time to adjust to other chimpanzees – she hadn’t seen one since her family was killed.

Nina was a little orphan, confiscated from bushmeat hunters in Sudan. She and the other little ones from Sudan – Thomas, Dinka, Zee and Charlie, still tend to stick together. A few others were rescued from circuses.

Zac and Guida were chained to trees outside a nightclub in Luanda and were severely undernourished. They’d also been taught to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes to amuse guests, and their fur was falling out. Zac’s recovery, in particular, was one of the most dramatic at the Jane Goodall Institute of Chimpanzee Eden.

It’s unlikely that any of these chimpanzees can ever be released back into the wild, simply because conditions are perilous for them all over the continent.

But here they live a semi-wild chimpanzee life – foraging, interacting with each other in massive treed enclosures on this 1 000-hectare nature reserve, eating healthy food. They are treated with constant kindness – something in short supply in their previous lives.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Chimpanzee Eden
Tel: +27 (0) 79 777 1514
Cell: +27 (0) 82 561 3681

How to get here

The Jane Goodall Institute's Chimpanzee Eden is only 15km away from Nelspruit, which also has an airport. Take the R40 south towards Barberton. After 12km, you'll see a signposted road to your left. Travel less than 4km down the road and you'll see the Chimpanzee Eden gate.

Best time to visit

Tours are conducted at 10am, 12pm and 2pm, and they last around 90 minutes each. It's recommended that you be there about 15 minutes before the tour leaves.

Around the area

If you base yourself in Nelspruit, you're very close to the Kruger National Park. If you enjoy plants, don't miss the Lowveld National Botanical Garden.

Barberton also has some fascinating museums and is developing a geology trail.

What will it cost

Aboutn R180 per person for entry and a tour. You could also adopt a chimpanzee for between R640 and R2 200 a year, making a valuable contribution to upkeep.

Length of stay

This makes a fascinating day trip for a few hours, or you could stay a few nights at the guest house. But if you're inclined, you could become a volunteer here for a week to a month. For health and safety reasons, you won't be able to handle the chimps, but you may well be called on to note observations of them, as well as other tasks.

Where to stay

There is a luxury guest house on the property, otherwise you'll find plenty of accommodation in nearby Nelspruit or Barberton.