PS. Sorry for the quality of the photos. We were not allowed to use flash or red eye correction, and it was fairly dark in the forest for my little point and shoot.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
This was an awesome time! After a very early breakfast we drove over an hr to the Kibale National Park area. Once heavily logged, it forms an 111 mile continuous forest and wildlife corridor. It has 60 mammal species, 325 bird species, hundreds of trees amd butterfly species, but we came for the chimpanzees! Only a small number are allowed in the park each day, and after a short briefing oftrekking rules...i.e. no eating, no making chimp noises, no running from or after chimps, and some other rules, we were assigned our ranger to lead us. Boy Howdy! Did we ever draw the lucky straw. Our group divided in half and we were assigned to "Alex". I knew that was a good omen, because it is the name of our grandson! It was cloudy, but warm, and we were lucky it never rained, although we were prepared. After hiking over an hour with no sightings, we were beginning to become a tad discouraged.....when far out into the forest came the most blood curdling banshee Chimpanzee noises, and they went on and on and on and stopped us in our tracks. I was close to Alex, and he turned to ask me if we were"strong to go". Wasn't exactly sure what he meant, but I said yes, and our group of 5 took off running thru the thick forest after the troop. We found them. Some were lying around under trees, some were foraging a little for food, and some were.....ahhhh, hmmmm playing with themselves. These are totally wild chimps, but somewhat used to humans if the humans don't act aggressive or challenging. We covered 5 miles of running/walking/climbing and following Alex for the next few hours. We came upon many chimps, mostly in groups, and lots of times they got very excited and wanted to fight other chimpanzees. The biggest thrill of all, was standing quietly watching a few random chimps when the forest once again errupted with agitated chimp screaming. A BIG alpha male broke loose and ran toward us on his way to the offending troop. Alex yelled at us to stand and NOT run, which was an instinct. The big Alpha ran so fast and powerful and veered toward our group, that he actually brushed his fur on Elena, who was standing next to me. It was an adreniline rush like no other! We continued for another hour or so tracking these exciting animals. When we all reconvened and asked the others how many they saw, they answered... 5, and they were hard to see because they were high in the trees. We saw over 80 ( some more than once, because they form with other troops), and had the "brush by" experience. The other group was dog tired amd dissappointed. We were ecstatic...luck of the draw!