I went twice Chimpanzees Tracking on my previous trip to Uganda back in summer 2011, once in Kibale Forest and once in Budongo Forest – And honestly had mixed feelings about this experience, as we had only poorly seen Chimpanzees. When I heard about the newly introduced Chimpanzees Habituation, I turned curious. True, it is an expensive undertaking (225 USD for the day), but what an experience! Local agencies do not push this opportunity, and that’s a real shame, but you definitely should insist and choose this option, in my opinion almost as stunning as Gorillas Tracking.
Why Choose Chimpanzees Habituation over Chimpanzees Tracking?
Let’s start with the daily routine of our closest relatives: Chimpanzees wake up with the first light, and start their day eating up in the trees. Once they are fed, they slowly get down and find a place to groom. Then they take the time to play and eventually mate. This done, they go “border control”, which means they make sure no other primate enter their territory. After that, they enjoy a well-deserved rest, then start playing again. It’s the time for males, especially dominant ones, to impress, show the others their strength. Last but not least, they climb up the trees and eat again, before preparing a new nest for the night and sleep.
And this is why Chimpanzee Tracking is so disappointing: the morning one hour Tracking is when Chimpanzees are up in the trees eating, and chances are low that they are done and already get down. The afternoon Tracking is slightly better, but most of the time the Chimpanzees are in their “siesta time” and do rest somewhere up in the trees. Add to this that only one family has been “habituated”, i.e. can be visited by tourists, and you have a very crowded experience, with several groups of loud tourists chatting and expressing loudly their amazement.
On the other hand, with the Chimpanzees Habituation, you spend approx. 10 hours (!!!) following the Chimpanzee family, with max. 2 groups of 8 people each. You can experience the various aspects in the daily life of Chimpanzees, and come so much closer!
The Highlights of Chimpanzees Habituation
The whole day and the whole experience is actually the highlight, along with the variety of opportunities observing our closest relatives.
A Few Advices On Chimpanzees Habituation
This is a very long day, and physically a challenging one at that: expect to walk through the jungle approx. 6 to 8 hours, a grueling experience, especially since Chimpanzees can walk very fast through the jungle!
- Take enough water: you will need at least 3 liters of water during the day, as it is not only physically exhausting, but it is also hot and humid in the jungle.
- Take a porter: having a porter carrying your bag during the day will cost you approx. 10 USD (say 12 USD if you leave a much appreciated tip) and will significantly improve your experience, especially if you are into photography and carry a heavy camera with an even heavier tele-lens!
- Beware where you walk: walking on a bee-nest turned into a nasty moment… With 20 to 30 stings, I had a rough afternoon!
Visiting The Neighboring Bigodi Swamp?
The leisurely walk around Bigodi Swamp turned into one of the highlights of my first trip to Uganda back in 2011. So I wanted to go back and take more pictures.
Well, this ecotourism project, managed by the KAFRED (Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development), is now highly popular, especially amongst tour groups. The walking tour has obviously turned into a daily routine of some sort and has lost a lot of its uniqueness. You can spot quite a few sorts of monkeys, though…