Kibale National Park located in Southern Uganda and has the highest diversity and concentration of primates in Africa. It is home to a large number of endangered chimpanzees, as well as the red colobus monkey (status: Endangered) and the rare L’Hoest’s monkey (Vulnerable). If you are a bird lover you can find approximately 350 species of birdlife. So keep your eyes peeled for the wildlife that is hidden around every corner.
Excited and energized to start the day we filled our bellies with protein, collected our packed lunch from our lodge and met our driver. We did not have any established expectations. We assumed the trek would be a good warm-up for our upcoming Gorilla trek in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Our driver dropped us at our meeting point around 7:45 am, we signed in and listened to the safety brief. With each word that was spoken, the anticipation built. We would soon come face to face with Chimpanzees in their natural habitat. One of the important directions was to keep a responsible distance between yourself and the wildlife. No flash photography under any circumstances, speak quietly and as little as possible. Of course, definitely no eating near the Chimpanzees. A close primate relative to modern humans Chimpanzees share 97.8% of their DNA genome with us. In the primate family tree Chimpanzees and their species “cousin,” the Bonobo are situated on the closest evolutionary branch to us. Over time they learn to adapt to their environment and have even developed tools for survival.
We were grouped into a team of 6 trekkers with a Uganda Wildlife Authority Ranger, named Africano.
About ½ hour in we spot 2 chimpanzees high up in the trees, it was quite hard to see them and even more difficult to photograph them. As we sauntered through the dense forest, scanning for tell-tale signs like expert trackers, Africano observed fresh scat (aka, poop) ears scanning for noises and eyes peeled for fresh tracks. Then, he remembered where he found the chimps the previous day (that certainly sped things up). One hour in and we spotted a female and baby, it is fascinating how human-like they appear. Their interactions with one another are so familiar, you can almost make sense of their unspoken communication.
Chimpanzees move quickly and set a demanding pace. You have to be fleet-footed if you want any chance of seeing them. You could hear them as their callings echoed through the trees. We did our best and kept up with Africano until we hit the mother load. We counted 15 Chimpanzees in fig trees feasting on the fresh fruit.
We were captivated by how they played with each other, such a large family with its own dynamics and deep relationships. They were completely in their element and our presence did not seem to concern them. What a priceless experience we felt very lucky and hoped the moment wouldn’t end. Our cameras clicked, lenses and shutter worked their magic, we knew would have a mountain of photos to sort through. We made sure we took the time to put our cameras down and just watch in awe, soaking it in and revelling at the moment. They came close to us, I guess no one told them it was against the rule. Moosh had the pleasure of a very close encounter that will stay with her forever.
The hour disappeared very quick. It did not feel like enough time we hoped we had captured the perfect photo. We knew the experience would be with us forever. With such rich memories…the perfect photo is less important.
Chimpanzees, unfortunately, are facing extinction due to human conflict, poaching and mobile phones. Yes, you heard that right mobile phones. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has been afflicted by war and civil unrest funded in large part by the demand and mining of columbite–tantalites. Coltan (as it is called) is a mineral used in electronics like mobile phones and batteries for electric cars. So next time you want the latest phone, just give a thought to the Chimpanzees. You can recycle your old mobile phones with various charities around the world:
Read more about our travels in:
Get some tips:
6 Tips On How To Prepare For Gorilla Trekking
7 Easy Packing Tips For A Great Vacation
5 Camera Tips For African Safaris
CommentsAdd Your Comment
A very special experience.
Chimpanzee Trekking In Kibale National Park, Uganda looks like an experience of a lifetime. Its great to see these places with the locals as guides as they can share wonderful anecdotes too apart from helping one manoeuvre around and see what we might miss in the forest! We are always disheartened to read how wild life is getting affected by factors caused by humans. Shocked to read how mobile phones and electric cars are a contributor here.
I didn’t know that chimpanzees were facing extinction 🙁 And I was even more surprised that one of the reasons was mobile phones!
Going on a trek like this is something I would love to do some day. I’ve read a couple other blogs about these activities in Uganda and I love that they are trying to preserve the natural habitats as best they can.
Oh wow!!! This is one piece of article that I needed to bookmark. Thank you for the information… I will surely keep in mind about my chimpanzee friends everytime I change phones.
Trekking in Uganda, and that too one, where you can spot Chimpanzees, is indeed a once in a lifetime experience. Its really good to know, that in these treks, its only witnessing the Chimpanzees in their normal being in their Homes, and theres no harm whatsoever to their home.
A truly amazing experience this must have been, indeed. Observing any animal in the wild goes way beyond seeing them in a zoo, but to see primates like this is really unique.
It is sad to hear our demand for more throw-away goods can be so damaging to these chimps. Can anything be done?
This must have been so special to see in person. I’m glad there are strict protocols such as no flash photography and of course no food. It was the same when we went to visit the snow monkeys in Japan – it’s great to see them but we have to be so mindful of the potential impact and ways we might be changing animal behavior if we’re not careful.
What an awesome experience that must have been for you. Hope you were still able keep your distance a bit.
This must have been a very rewarding experience for you. Hopefully the chimps will be able to survive and indeed flourish for future generations in places like this
Such an amazing adventure, thank you for sharing it with us. My husband is crazy about monkeys in general and works for Save the Chimps when he is in the country. I had to share this with him and he loved it! This would be one of his bucket list trips and experiences. 😉