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Published: March 30th 2016
Today is Chimpanzee Walk day. Now to be honest when I booked this trip; it was ALL about (in order) the Gorillas, going to Jinja and seeing Queen Elizabeth Park. Little did I realize that the Chimp visit (which I thought would be “nice’) turned out to be one of the highlights, and the trip has barely begun.
We had an early start of 6am from Fort Portal and were at the Kibali National Park grounds by 8ish.On route we saw some baboons, a couple with babies too. We were split into 2 groups and off we went with each guide, in search of the chimpanzees. We were told that human DNA is 95% identical to a chimp and 96% to a gorilla. Not quoting exact science here, but after seeing them, I can completely see it.
We went along fairly quietly; and saw a bit of the rain-forest greenery which was quite stunning. Roots that spiraled around tree trunks like boa constrictors, beautiful flowers, lush green leaves etc. It was quite picturesque just to walk along and I was starting to lag taking photos, but our guide asked us to hurry up as he
Some on routes some not so much
had an idea where some chimps might be. We stayed mostly on the trails, but some "off-roading" occurred but nothing compared to what was coming up with the gorillas.
Wasn’t more than ½ hour and we encountered our first one; high up in a tree eating enormous amounts of figs. Chimps are omnivores so eat mostly plants and some insects but they are large creatures, so that’s a lot of figs one has to go through, and this chimp was content to eat. And eat. And eat. And drop each empty fruit to the ground with a random thud. Sahara actually got hit by the fruit carcass later on, she was unharmed but it was funny “nature hazard”.
The guide/tracker left us to watch the chimp we had, and while I was trying to take a zillion photos with my zoom lens, and giving it to the girls to use like binoculars as well, I looked down and there was a large millipede. Or perhaps a centipede. But with me it’s irrelevant, I wasn’t about to stop, pick it up and count the number of legs to confirm as it was simply more than 4. I have an
unnatural fear of anything with more than 4 legs, anything. Snakes – no worries, reptiles don’t phase me, birds all good. But exceed the maximum appendage okness with me and we have problems. And this millipede was large. Not the biggest I’ve seen, but big enough to make me dry heave.
I mentioned it to Sahara in a whisper as I was trying to take photos, not look down, and not panic. HA. Mind over matter. Mind over matter. I watched it continually; but apparently forgot briefly as I looked back down and it was gone. So I quickly scanned my body and realized I was safe, and breathed a sigh of relief!
Our guide came back and took us to another spot, where we encountered 3 chimps in the trees; lower down this time and entertaining to watch. Our morning continued on like this, with our guide moving us around to see different groups, and one visit included them getting all excited (we had been briefed on this before the start) and screaming as they do and starting to scramble down the tree. I was at the 6 o’clock position, Diane was at
the 9’oclock and we were both warned by the guide to stand still and calm. I went to lean into the tree, realizing that they may come down that way so stepped back and stood still. Diane did the same, except they came down her side of the tree! She stood amazingly still and calm while 2 large chimpanzees were within an arms length of her, grunting and screaming and scrambling away. My telephoto lens was on so I couldn’t capture the moment as they were simply too close. But what an experience for her!
As we walked along, they would flee in front of us, or lag behind – obviously not that concerned about humans. It reminded me of being in the Galapagos – animals have no fear of humans and it is your responsibility for you to get out of the way – you are in their space now. We spent a couple hours with the chimps, enjoying them playing, screaming, eating, napping or just enjoying a sun beam thoughtfully (see photo). I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed watching them, and how similar they are to us (or us to them?).
After we headed back to the farm where we were staying and went for a walk around, enjoying the flowers, the plants, learning how the farm is completely self sustaining and has it’s own ecosystem. They even treat their own well water instead of drawing from the river.
It was St. Paddy’s day; so in true fashion (thanks to Rhonda) we all had brought green clothing so we all dressed up and met up in the bar that night and taught our guides Sam and Paul and the staff at the hotel how to whoop it up Canadian style to celebrate an Irish holiday. They enjoyed it and we gave them Canadian pins as well, and had a campfire and sat out and just chatted and enjoyed the African night sky. Perfect way to end the day. A photo speaks a 1000 words so enjoy some additional photos below :-)
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