Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda
On the 11th November, 2018, Wanderlust magazine published a list of the top 7 best places to see Chimpanzees in the wild. The top 3 were in Uganda. If this were a music show, Uganda would be topping the charts threefold. Gifted by nature in this way makes Uganda a must-visit destination for anyone who wants to make contact with our closest cousins in the animal kingdom, the chimpanzees.
What to expect on a Uganda Chimpanzee tracking experience
Beneath a canopy of sapphire skies above the green breeze of the trees, chimpanzee trekking in Uganda unfolds as one of the world’s greatest wildlife experiences. As soon you are in places like Budongo or Kibale rainforest, for instance, the air is filled with feeding calls comprising a clarion of grunts, pant-hooting, drumming and belch vocalizations of chimpanzees atop fig trees or on the ground.
Their poop or feaces pocks the ground around the forest floor and can serve as a spoor when you’re tracking them. As soon as you arrive, you’ll notice that the air is thick with their active presence.
The chimpanzees (Pan Troglodytes) know you’re there, but they go about their business without any monkey business. If you don’t find them climbing trees, you’ll see them relaxing while grooming each other.
In this process of grooming, they remove ticks from each with the precision care and delicateness of a surgeon in an operating theater.
When their excited, you will witness them launching themselves through treetops as the leaves of tree canopies rustle closely to you on a 4-hour guided chimpanzee trekking tour.
Chimpanzees live in hierarchical social groups or communities. They know who’s who in their communities. However this doesn’t stop them from fighting or getting embroiled in turf wars. So you might witness a showdown between warring chimpanzees.
During such a fight, the males tend to attack the soft parts: testicles, throat and the belly. Although smaller than human beings, chimpanzees have muscles which contract three times bigger than human muscles. This makes them three times stronger than humans. They can literally rip your arm out it’s of your socket, that’s how much stronger they are than us. So of you witness a scrap between them, don’t try to referee that fight.
Chimpanzees are prone to dragging tree branches or throwing rocks when they seek to display their dominance or are simply angry or frustrated, so you will surely hear a lot of noise in the forest due to such rituals.
But, don’t worry, this doesn’t mean there’s trouble in paradise.
After an altercation or fight, the chimpanzees make up and this leads to greater social bonding and goes a long way in establishing the hierarchy amongst them. This sets the forest to the musical plainsong of calm and relaxation that you’ll witness among these peace-loving primates in the aftermath of a fight.
Moving in communities of a 100 to 120 individuals, chimpanzees can move over ten kilometers in a day in search of food. On our chimpanzee trekking experience in Uganda, you will witness chimps enjoying their favorite food: ripe figs.
These figs are bountifully served up by the Ficus micuso trees in the rainforests, which surround and embrace you the way Mother Nature should.
You will notice that some trees in the forests are held strong and steady by buttress roots. Buttress roots are sweepingly big, broad roots found on all sides of a rooted tree and stick out like gigantic veins.
As odd as it sounds, they prevent the tree from falling over. This is why they are called buttress roots. They also help in gathering more nutrients for the tree, nutrients which serve choicer figs for chimpanzees.
When chimpanzee are moving in their communities in search of such figs and one of the chimpanzees falls behind or gets lost, he or she will drum the buttresses of these trees.
The distressed chimpanzee will also supplement this drumming with a cacophony of noises vocalized as hoots, pant-hoots, pant-grunts, wraas and screams. When the rest of the chimpanzees hear these sounds, they will respond accordingly. So don’t be alarmed when you hear these loud noises, which is inevitable, because you will be safe.
It is really an exhilarating feeling; like a sports event on the verge of deciding a winner it will be uptick your adrenaline and leave you feeling restless to recapture this excitement at every turn.
Fun Facts about Chimpanzees.
Genetically, chimpanzees are very close to humans. It is well known fact that they share about 98.6% of our DNA with us. So, it goes without saying that they can catch our diseases very easily. Humans share more their DNA with chimpanzees than with monkeys or creature in the animal kingdom. Yes, this includes every other one of the other great apes as well.
When chimpanzees, like us, they play a lot. They are also have complex emotions and an intelligence similar to our own. You only have to look at them to realize that we also share physical features.
Chimpanzees are very smart. The great primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall, discovered that chimpanzees use tools. These tools are used to forage for tasty termites, cracking nuts with stone tools and fishing for ants with sticks. This tool making skill makes them very sophisticated in their feeding habits and hunting excursions.
Chimpanzees live as a community, and do not live in families at all. They do not have specific partnership like the monogamous male and female pairings we find prevalent amongst humans. In a very real sense, it takes a village to raise a child amongst chimpanzees.
If a young chimp makes an alarm, all the chimpanzees will respond because they don’t know whose son or daughter that distressed chimpanzee is. It could be anyone’s simply because when the female chimpanzee comes into estrus, all males in the community copulate with her. So her offspring could belong to any of her suitors, so to speak.
Copulation amongst chimpanzee takes 4 only seconds. After 243 days, the female chimpanzee will give birth in a nest built in tree-tops. The Chimpanzee gives birth to one baby at a time, and it takes her 3 years to conceive again. When she is in heat or during her menstrual period, her buttocks swell. And this is cue for the male to mount her.
At times the males rush the females, but more often than not it is the female who chooses which males she wishes to copulate with. In this instance, she will choose the male with the stiffest erection during her 30 days in heat.
When the males feel they are not being accorded sufficient attention for their attentions, they will fight over the female in the treetops. After the battle is over, she will decide to choose one male amongst the last man standing. Then, like any happy ending, they will walk into the sunset for a honeymoon. Then about 2 or 3 weeks later, they return to the community basking in the afterglow of their post-nuptial vacation.
Although chimpanzees move in communities of up to 120 individuals, it is extremely rare to find the whole community together at the same time and same place. They don’t sleep in the same place more than once, they tend to move around. Being nomadic, they sleep in the nest they’ve made only once and then they move onto to another location and make another nest.
Why you should consider booking a chimpanzee trekking experience in Uganda with us.
We offer a-once-in-a-lifetime experience, courtesy of the comprehensive access we shall give you when you come and track chimpanzees in Uganda.
We’ll take you to all the places where this experience shall be fullfilling to you.
Chimpanzees have been habituated for tourism in Uganda at Kyambura Gorge, Kibale Forest, Kalinzu Forest, and Budongo Forest. We can also ensure that you find the 50 orphaned chimpanzees at Ngamba Island in Lake Victoria. Of these listed places, Kibale forest is the best place for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda.
Non-habituated chimpanzees can also be found in Bugoma Forest Reserve in Hoima district.
On a Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX) you follow a family of chimpanzees with a group of researchers and ranger guides from the time they descend from their night nests until they make new nests in the evening. The CHEX experience is limited to 4 visitors a day so you must book far out in advance if you want to be part of the experience.
It takes at least two years or more of daily contact for the chimpanzees to get comfortable with humans through this habituation process.
An integral part of every Nile Basin Safaris chimpanzee-trekking itinerary is the thorough education you’ll receive about these unique primates from our guides. For example, you will learn about the incredible power of the chimpanzees; how according to research, an adult male chimpanzee’s muscle strength is about 1.5 times that of an adult human.
We know you are interested in a heartwarming adventure with our closest relative, the chimpanzee. And we are here to make sure that this life-changing adventure stays with you for the rest of your life.