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Published: February 26th 2006
Young Chimps in tree
Baby & teenage chimps are kept separate from the adults who are free to roam the jungle
Chimp Island 2-12-06
We woke early to leave by 7:30 for the Embassy boat to take us to Chimp Island. After a 45 minute drive we arrived at the boat landing and were joined up with two other embassy people plus two US based State Dept people, one of whom was the top person for assorted ecology related projects in Africa.
Due to a stupidly designed hydroelectric dam where the White Nile exits Lake Victoria, the water level has lowered by about six feet over the past four years. Given that it is the second largest fresh water lake in the world this represents a huge amount of loss. It meant that the marina was dried up and our boat was outside tied up in a marsh. We had to be towed out to the lake by a small boat before we could lower the outboard engines.
The ride out to the island was calm and the twin 200 hp outboards lifted us up to a full plane. We passed scores of small fishing boats with one or two men in each, fishing with had lines, or in some cases small nets. During the 45 minute ride we chatted
Getting in the Embassy Boat
The embassy has a boat to evacuate personnel if necessary. It has twin 200 hp Evinrude outboard engines on it.
about various embassy projects and the ins and outs of navigating a career in the Foreign Service.
Because we had an important US official with us we were greeted by the top players at Chimp Island including one of Jane Goodall's key people. We were given an excellent presentation by an African man about the chimps and how they ended up here. He described the very different personalities and the politics within the chimp community. They even warned us about one of the chimps who throws rocks at the tourists, and sure enough he did. We had to duck down when he threw a golf ball sized rock at us.
The chimps are separated into two groups with the young ones in a fenced off area and the adults free to roam the 100 acre island jungle. All but a few voluntarily enter indoor enclosures for the night. There is one baby female chimp with the adults. She is a “mistake”. Her mother figured out how to remove her birth control implant and became pregnant. The baby is adored and coddled by all of the other chimps.
After the tour we were given a hearty lunch of
Our Ferry to Entebbe
Our ferry was a large dory type fishing boat with a 140 hp outboard
matoke (plantains), potatoes, rice, tomatoes, and a bit of some unidentifiable tough meat. After lunch Sarah, Nate and the others headed back to Kampala in the embassy boat. Since Marie and I were due to leave for Niarobi at 5:40 AM we took a small commercial ferry (read that oversized canoe) to Entebby. The ride was quite rough so Marie was a bit freaked out. Her idea of a safe boat is a prairie schooner. We made it to Entebby without major problems, just a few engine stalls, but we did see one small fishing boat capsize. Fortunately there was a larger boat right next to it so they took in the fishermen. It was lucky for them, virtually none of the fishermen can swim and their body mass is so lean they sink like stones.
At the wharf we lucked out, as one of the Chimp Island workers lived right near the hotel where we were staying, so she drove us right to it. Downtown Entebby is pretty grim, but we did find a sidewalk restaurant. After a few Nile beers the food tasted good too. We walked back to the hotel after supper, arranged for a ride
Fishing Village Near Chimp Island
There are a whole series of small islands near Chimp Island with fishing villages. This 30 acre island has 600 people on it.
to the airport at 3:30 AM, then crashed for the night.
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