Like Alice walking through the Looking Glass, we stepped down into the magical Kyambora Gorge for our second chimp trek.
Only 40k from Mweya, Kyambora is a world onto itself. It stretches 21 km into the Kazinga Channel and is at no point more than about 200m wide and often much less, but about 150-200m deep. A stream runs through the bottom into the channel.
The surrounding plateau is typical QENP bush: grasslands with acacia and other trees. But once inside the gorge, the world changes completely. There are rain forest trees like podacoporus which tower above the plateau ceiling, many giant ferns and several types of palms.
It is like suddenly stepping out of one world into a completely different one.
Thirty chimps live in this rather confined area, and there are problems with the gene pool getting too inbred. Recently this has been exacerbated by an unusually high frequency of male babies.
Without too much trouble we all saw Brutus and Hatari, and some of us saw the indiscreet female who had broken the normal rule of not mating until your child is off your back, and who as a result carried a 4-year old on her back and an infant at her breast!
We found the small group of chimps after hardly a ten minute walk once at the gorge bottom. So we decided to continue on the elephant trail just to see more of this beautiful forest. We passed one cycad, the dinosaur of the rain forest, and a multitude of other palms and giant figs. The tinker birds and greenbuls never stopped calling, and every once in a while a huge black-and-white casked hornbill would fly through an opening in the forest looking like a 747.
We ended at a beautiful forest pool that our guide said was frequented by hippo in the rains.
We then ascended the gorge and our guide switched the 7 of us for the other 6 in our group. We learned that as soon as they had descended to the pool, Brutus and Hatari were there waiting to greet them!
The two sneaks had followed us on our walk, absolutely quieter than they usually are! So it wasn’t just we humans walking through the looking glass curious to see the magical creatures on the other side, it was so the magical creatures could observe us!
The experience is not as intense with the chimps as at Kibale, and it’s not intended to be. This is an unusual group in an unusual space, and it was beautiful just to see!