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Hiking with Chimpanzees in Uganda: Why Haven't You Done This Yet?

By Liz Donahey | Apr 04

Liz is Bushtracks' Digital Marketing Manager. Like an online safari guide, Liz, helps travelers navigate the often complex landscape of African travel by keeping www.bushtracks.com up to date and creating online communities where returning Bushtracks travelers can continue their adventures by learning more about Africa and connecting with others who love all things African. When she’s not busy blogging about the latest goings-on in Kenya or Zambia, you’ll find Liz enjoying the company of her three little girls, husband and kennel of golden retrievers. Prior to joining Bushtracks in 2013, Liz spent the last decade exploring the uncharted terrain of digital marketing and information technology, creating online marketing roadmaps and platforms, and teaching part time as an Assistant Professor at Dominican University of California.

Uganda Chimpanzees
A chimpanzee mother rests with her four-month-old infant while babysitting an older baby from another mother. Kibale Forest National Park researchers are inviting safari travelers to help habituate a chimpanzee family to human observation so that future visitors can get up close and personal with our closest genetic relatives.

One of the best places in Africa to hang with our closest relatives is Uganda's Kibale Forest National Park, home to more than 1,400 chimpanzees and the continent's highest diversity and density of primates. Most safari travelers opt for one of the twice-daily, ranger-guided, three-hour chimpanzee hikes. But as rewarding as this experience is, you are limited to spending just one hour with the primates once the guide locates them to avoid provoking stress or transmitting human-borne diseases.

To help travelers learn more, and to increase the chances of better sightings for future visitors, the park is offering fit hikers the chance to spend an entire day in the company with researchers studying a chimpanzee family undergoing habituation for tourism. A chimpanzee's natural behavior is to run or climb as far from humans as possible (in Uganda and other countries, local people illegally hunt and eat wild chimps and steal their babies to sell as pets). It takes at least two years of constant daily observation to get a chimpanzee troop to feel comfortable enough with human presence for safari chimpanzee treks to succeed. Chimpanzees share 98 per cent of human DNA and much of our behaviors, which is why observing these primates in the wild is so engaging: the Shakespearian politics of a dominant male and his sidekicks, infants playing, sibling rivalries and adolescent posturing, and the incredible athleticism of the great apes as they swing from tree branches or race effortlessly over terrain that would leave an Olympic marathoner panting.

Tourist in Uganda
Tourist Looking for Chimpanzees in the Kibale Rainforest. On the all-day Chimpanzee Habituation Experience, hikers follow a family of chimps from the moment they descend from their arboreal nests just after dawn and observe them until they make new nests in the evening.

On the park's Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX), visitors hike with a researcher to watch chimps descend from their overnight nests between 6 and 6:30 a.m. You stay with the group all day, observing and photographing the chimps as they forage for fruit, copulate, hunt, breastfeed, rest, patrol, and display until it is time to build new nests in the canopy above the forest floor around 7 p.m. The fee is $220, and the program, available to just four visitors per day who book ahead, runs November, and March through May. The hiking is arduous, because chimps can move quickly over uneven, densely vegetated terrain and steep muddy slopes. In addition to waterproof shoes with good traction, bring rain gear, insect repellent, hiking gaiters to keep biting ants from crawling up your pants, and a walking stick. Apart from the chance to spend much more time with the chimps than on a conventional trek, the day affords better opportunities to glimpse other primate species, such as the endangered red colobus and I’Hoest’s monkey.

Source: Conde Nast Traveler 
For more information about booking your Uganda gorilla and chimpanzee trekking safari, please call 800-995-8689 or complete our safari questionnaire to receive a free proposal and quote.
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Topics: Africa Travel Guides and Tips, Gorillas in Africa, Chimpanzees, Gorilla Trekking Safari, Jane Goodall, Uganda, Trips to Eastern Africa, Colubus Monkey

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