Brenda and Brent, Dan and Merrilee - Chimpanzees

The Ugands trip report is now spread over 6 pages. If you want to look for a particular part of the trip, follow one of the links in this list:
route to Kibale

Kibale National Park - Chimpanzees

A long driving day, from Murchison (3, 4, 5) to the Chimpanzee Rest House near Kibale NP (6).

Johnnie and Alfred had a couple of good birding spots picked out along the way, so the trip was not all driving.

We moved from the savanna/grazing lands of the north to the more agricultural lands of the west central part of Uganda.

Hoima We stopped briefly in Hoima, a largish town but still clearly rural.

While there are a few cars, the local use bicycles a lot. On the right of this picture, just to the right of the woman in black, is a bicycle shop. He has his stock of new bicycles out on display.

These are not what we think of as bicycles these days. No 28 speeds with external derailleurs. Nope. These are one speed push bikes. Now that is a term I never really understood until this trip - push bike.

We passed a big sign advertising a particular brand of push bike - the Road Master. The sign claimed this brand of bicycle could handle Any Road ... Any Load.

Ugandans do not ride bicycles for fun - it is a business with them. They transport people on them - usually women dressed up in their Sunday best will take a bicycle taxi if the distance is too far to walk. They also transport produce - plastic water pails from the nearest pump or river, stalks of bananas to the local market.

Rural Uganda relies on bicycle power quite a bit. Bigger towns also use small motor cycles - the 100 cc size.

Kibale, Chimpanzee Rest House This is a picture of the grounds of the Chimpanzee Rest House near Kibale National Park.

As usual we saw almost nothing of the place. We arrived on the first day just before dark, left early the second morning for the Chimpanzee trek, got back late that night, and left at dawn the third day for Bwindi.

This area is at around 1100 metres above sea level, with hills to 1500 metres to the west. More importantly, the prevailing winds in Uganda are from the east, blowing from the Indian Ocean across Kenya before reaching Uganda. These are the first hills so they are often cloud covered and dampish.

The area was volcanic in the distant past. This lake, and many other lakes in the area, are old craters.

Tea plantations cover many of the hills, with more land being converted to tea production all the time. This rest house is on a tea plantation.

The rest house only has a few rooms, but it also has many tent sites - on the open hillside behind the building with the straw roof.

Like our place at Murchison Falls, the rest house is not on the electrical grid - we rely on a generator that runs for a few hours in the evening. Water is heated over fires in outdoor ovens. Cooking is done over propane or in outdoor ovens, sometimes over charcoal.

The electrical grid ends about 1 kilometre down the road. The rest house may have more reliable electricity by June 2007.

While primarily a travel day, we did manage to see 81 species of birds along the way.

Kibale, Chimpanzee Our first target animal of the trip - Chimpanzees in the wild!

The park is a short drive from the rest house. There we were put into a group of 6 (a Scot and an American went with the four of us) and along with a park guide taken into the forest. A short hike and we find the first set of chimps.

This is a mature deciduous forest, with the key trees as far as the Chimps are concerned being mature fig trees with lots of figs. Unlike mature forests in BC, here the large tree are quite far apart, with lots of shrubby trees in between.

The fig trees are pretty big - that branch is probably 15 metres off the ground. The chimps just sit on the branch and eat most of the time. When there are no figs left, they move along to the next tree with fruit.

According to the guide they don't actually eat the fig - they just chew it and suck out the juice. So, they sit there all day -- sucking on figs, spitting out fig pulp, eliminating the excess water in the natural way!

Kibale, Chimpanzee Well, they don't spend all day in the trees. This older Chimp came down out of the tree and settled himself down for a nap.

Yes, while these are Chimps in the wild, they are not exactly wild Chimps.

In fact, tourists only get to see three groups of chimps that have been habituated to humans. A truly wild group of Chimps would not tolerate a human this close - we are about 4 metres away. The alpha male would charge a human, or lead the troop away.

The guides know where the habituated groups are and lead the tourists to them, avoiding the wild groups.

Habituated they are, but there were too many of us too close for him to have a good nap, so he headed off into the forest.

We took some videos with our cameras. You can see them here and here. In the first video, the chimps are making quite a racket - the guide said a lone chimp had approached the group and asked to join them in the fig tree.

Kibale, Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill After the Chimp trek, Johnnie and Alfred took us down to a nearby wetland and we spent some time looking for the White-spotted Flufftail, a skulking marsh bird. We heard it calling and it seemed to be just out of sight in the bushes. Sadly, we were unable to draw it out of the swamp, even with all of Alfred's skill. I suspect I might have moved and spooked it at a crucial time.

However, in spite of spending a lot of the day in the forest on the trail of, and with, the chimps, we did see 67 species. This is a picture of a female Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill, quite a common bird which we saw on 9 of the 13 days we were in Uganda.

The little bit of pink in the wings was caused by the sunset - the picture was taken back at the Chimpanzee Rest House just at dusk. The area around the rest house is quite a birdy place - I am sure a walk in the area could produce a large number of different species in a day, even without Johnnie and Alfred to help. We probably saw 20 different species in the grounds in the hour of daylight we had that evening.

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