It was a chilly morning at Rweetera Safari Park as we set off for our journey to Kibale National Park for the chimpanzee tracking experience. It took us roughly 15 minutes on a clear and well tarmacked road before reaching the park information centre for briefing. I was so amazed at the sight of the large number of tourists awaiting to start this amazing adventure as well on this same day. A thought ran through my mind, ‘this is definitely a good sign for Uganda’s tourism.
Kibale National Park, commonly known as ‘THE PRIMATE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD’ is located in Western Uganda roughly 30km from Fort Portal city covering 766sq km. A tremendous total of 1450 chimpanzees have been registered and it is believed to have the highest concentration of chimps making it the right spot for your chimpanzee tracking experience. The park is also a home to various monkey species, over 350 bird species, 250+ species of butterflies, 21 species of reptiles and 71 species of mammals have been registered. According to the guide’s briefing, chimpanzees live in communities with each having a dominate male and the park is estimated to have between 13-15 communities.
Inclusively, chimpanzee tracking has guidelines to follow which include; no use of flash photography as it interferes with the sight of chimps, no mimicking the chimp vocalization because you may mimic an aggressive call, no having snacks in the forest unless authorized by the guide, keeping a distance of at least 5-8 meters from the animals if found on the ground to avoid disease transmission.
After the briefing, everyone was placed into a group with a guide armed with an AK47 and we happened to be 5 in our group. Something that caught my attention was the guide allocated to my group. The guide was actually female who told us about her 10 years’ experience in the game. It is pretty cool to see a lady take up such a task and being good at it.
Anxiously, we drove off to the starting point when finally the astounding feeling of actually sharing the same air as the wild set in and it was so vivid to my mind. Silence gripped our world as we penetrated the forest. The only sound that could be heard was the cry of the fallen parched leaves that lay awestruck pondering about the weight of the human bodies that had evaded their space. At the start, it seemed like a walk through nature, running through monumental trees that covered the park, this experience even became more interesting as we trekked on. The guide kept giving updates about everything for instance the trees with fruits that act as a good source of food to the chimps. The park has almost 350 tree species, some rising to over 55m and over 200 years old.
just a few minutes into the walk, a grunt of the chimpanzee was heard which led us right to a mother up in the trees holding onto its baby that fed gracefully. A nice camera with perfect lenses was a must have to capture this breathtaking scene due to towering trees. Without even minding our presence, the chimps continued to feed on the fruits that were appetizing. After a while, this refine chimp modeled down the tree and disappeared right before our eyes.
Writer observing Chimpanzee on top of the tree