Skip to content

chimp asylum

Considering how pricey inter-Africa travel is, we decided to make the most of our trip to Uganda. D was able to get Monday off, but our flight left at daybreak on Tuesday morning, meaning that we could not venture too far from the Kampala – Entebbe area. Unfortunately, we were too tired to do anything Sunday afternoon after the games ended, which left us with just one day for sightseeing. We had read about a Chimpanzee Sanctuary that was located on an island in the middle of Lake Victoria; given Kampala’s other lackluster tourist attractions, we decided that it was the perfect day trip for us, and sought help from the hotel staff in setting up the trip. We might as well have asked them to arrange passage to Antarctica. Fortunately, we met some frisbee players from Kampala who were able to give us good advice and we managed to arrange the trip ourselves. The timing was perfect: 10:30am departure and 5pm return, allowing us to sleep in and make Monday an early night ahead of our 3:45am wake-up call.

dsc_4442

Ngamba Chimpanzee Island Sanctuary lies just 23 km offshore from Entebbe. It is a forested island of about 100 acres that serves as a safe haven for chimpanzees – currently 44 individuals – that had been poached from their natural habitats in Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda, and were fortunate enough to be rescued instead of being sold for bushmeat. The boat departed from the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, a small zoo that afforded us the chance to see some white rhinos, a pair of lions, a serval cat, and a leopard before we shoved off from the dock. We even got to pet a foul-smelling, morbidly obese hyena – the jury is still out on whether that was a worthwhile experience.

dsc_4400

One thing you have to know about seeing apes is that 90 percent of the tour consists of prepping and getting to them. It took us two hours in a slow-moving ssese boat to travel the 23km to Ngamba. The lazy boat ride across Lake Victoria was idyllic in theory, but would have been much more pleasant in practice had it not been so chilly and rainy. Upon arrival, we were met by Innocent, one of the chimp caregivers, who proceeded to give us an unimaginably painful hour and a half long tour. Not only was his speech pattern slow and difficult to understand, but his stories also dragged on interminably as he added non sequitur details, all of which detracted further from his disjointed anecdotes, none of which were interesting to begin with. Mercifully, the tour eventually came to an end and Innocent led us to the viewing platforms.

dsc_4529

All of our frustrations with the vapid tour melted away as soon as feeding time commenced. The chimps spend most of their day in the forest, coming back at set times to receive bucketfuls of avocados, carrots, and assorted fruits. By the time we arrived, they had already gathered in the clearing. A few of them played around, but most of them sat still, looking longingly towards the fence that separated us from them. No sooner had they spotted their caregivers with buckets of food, however, than all hell seemed to break loose. They began to run around, madly grunting and hooting in impatient anticipation of the moment it would start raining food. The scene that ensued for the next half hour is indescribable, and though we are happy to share some of our best photos, even the pictures fail to capture all the idiosyncrasies of the moment. Suffice it to say that the 45 minutes we spent with the chimps were well worth the wait, and we have resolved to return to Uganda, to combine next year’s tournament with a chimp trekking tour in Budongo Forest.

third wheel

third wheel

head-butt

head-butt

at arm's length

at arm’s length

going ape shit

going ape shit

old-timer

old-timer

feed me now!

feed me now!

feeding time

feeding time

saving up for later

saving up for later

Advertisements
2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Paula #

    Hey D!
    Great reading your stories. I visited the chimp island years ago, while on R&R from Sudan (in nicer weather, faster boat by the sound of it, and without guide) – indeed a great experience.
    When you’re in Uganda next, I would highly recommend staying at Explorers River Camp http://raftafrica.com/site/accommodation/explorers-river-camp/facilities.html#main
    from Nile River Explorers, which do some awesome rafting tours as well. We did the grade 5 one day tour, which made me swear to never, ever, step onto a raft again. Great fun though if you like the sensation of being inside a laundry machine. We flipped so many times I lost count. Gorgeous views though, and a fantastic experience. If you stay there – which, again, I’d very much recommend (though it has a bit of a student/backpackery atmosphere), take a safari tent!
    Keep the blogs coming!
    Love,
    Paula

    August 17, 2011
  2. We both love to raft so a visit to Jinja and rafting on the Nile are on our agenda for next year’s tourney. In fact, S is hoping to get the better part of the Kenyan Ultimate team on the river. Our friend who lives in Kampala gave us the same rec for Nile River Explorers so we’ll check out their River Camp (although if we get lucky we might have a fellow Ultimate player’s house to stay in…right on the river).

    August 17, 2011

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: