Kibale National Park is the best place in the world to view chimps, and today our expectations were met and exceeded.
The majority of us trekked today, waiting for longer than we expected at park headquarters, for the trek which began around 11 a.m. Aston was our guide, one of the better; he’s been there since 1991.
My first trek in Kibale was in 1995. I’ve trekked three times since and to see the difference is incredible.
It’s quite easy, today. We walked out of the back of the park headquarters down a gorgeous trail filled with magical plants and wondrous butterflies and amazing trees. Less than 20 minutes later we could hear the chimps screaming and a few minutes after that, we were amongst them.
An ordinary trek takes a total of several hours, of which the majority of that time is actually with the chimps. Our family of 30 stayed with us for nearly 70 minutes.
Aston identified many of the individuals, including an old “retired” male, the second and third males in command, and we watched several mothers with babies. In fact we watched one of the mothers making herself a day nest, with the little kid pulling giant leaves around in an obvious and hillarious mimic.
The crazy vocalization of chimps that most everyone would recognize is accentuated in the forest. This is IMA sound and was truly exciting.
Aston would locate a good viewing spot and position us, and then after a while or when the chimps moved, we would, too. But we never moved very much except the one time that Aston screamed, “Run! Run!”
I looked about me to see if some aberrant chimp was descending on us, but in fact it was that we had wondered into a collection of safari ants. Most of us got out with only a few bites, but Hope Koncal spent a long time picking them off.
Aston explained that there are currently 1,140 chimps identified in the park, of which 120 are fully habituated. The habituation process takes a full 5 years, much longer than with mountain gorillas, although they do start bringing in visitors after three years.
You’d never know they once may have run from us, or thrown things at us, or charged us! I really felt it was only the younger ones who had any interest in us at all.
And we encountered many beautiful birds that seemed to sing constantly: the yellow-rumped and spectacled tinkerbirds, several greenbuls and the loud and piercing croaks of the black-and-white casqued hornbill.
Together with the forest setting, those absolutely magnificent trees that seemed to tower into the stratosphere, it was absolutely a day to remember!