Our two chimp trekking experiences in Uganda could not have been more different. The first experience at Kibale National Forest was more up close and personal encounter with the Beta asserting his dominance and naturally interacting with humans. Our second experience at Kyambura Gorge was a far more distant experience but in many ways a more natural in my opinion.
What you need to know about Kyambura Gorge Chimp Trekking
You arrive at the visitors centre in Queen Elizabeths National Park and then drive in small groups to the site where you will be entering the gorge. As with all the chimp and gorilla trekking experiences in Uganda your time with the animals is limited to an hour and you must have got permits in advance.
What should you take with you when chimp trekking in Kyambura Gorge
Now I am going to admit I am not the most surefooted hiker but even so the hike was difficult. I definitely needed a my hiking stick (For those who are interested, you might want to read our guide to what to wear for gorilla and chimp trekking).
As you descended into the Gorge, you really feel like you are descending into nature and a less sanitised experience (though the chimps at Kibale are wild, you can tell the are more used to seeing humans).
What it’s like in Kyambura Gorge Chimp Trekking
There was no guarantee down in the Gorge that you would actually get to see the chimps. The Gorge is a large area that the chimps move through, and the Gorge is split into areas by rivers, which are filled with hippos and you can also easily stumble across other wildlife while down there which means you may have to chose another route sharpish! This happened to us on two occasions. The first we found a male elephant on our path and quickly had to retreat. The second, a fresh lions footprint caused another retreat. It was both exhilarating and also slightly terrifying but the Rangers were excellent and carried weapons to scare any animals away. Our rangers told us that in all their years they had never had to fire their guns!
Down in the Gorge we came across two unexpected – the first was a 40 foot spiders web (the picture doesn’t do it justice). Not a place for arachnophobics!
The second was an elephant graveyard. It felt like we had stumbled into the real life Lion King!
Now, our trek hampered by stray elephants and lions, was further exacerbated by a constant rainfall. The perils of going to Uganda in the wet season and we were giving up hope of actually seeing the chimps here.
As we were about to give up, we noticed a flash of fur in the distance. The only problem, there was a river between us and them. Our guides were undeterred and managed to get us across the rapidly rising river, but had concerns about whether we would get back.
It was worth the perilous crossing. We got five minutes to watch the chimps at a distance – they had placed themselves on a small island in the middle of another river but we got to watch them swinging front the trees. In many ways I am glad we couldn’t get closer. The Kyambura Gorge chimps are cut off from both chimps and human contact so it felt like we were;t intruding in their space. I also feel really privileged to see these chimps as they won’t stay this way forever. There are great concerns over the chimps at Kyambura Gorge as if they don’t make contact with other groups, there will be issues related to inbreeding. However, these chimps have been cut off for so long, if other chimps were introduced into this area, the Kyambura Gorge chimps would be unlikely be able to compete. I feel really privileged to have had this experience.
Our joy at this experience, was soon replaced by slight fear as we realised the river had risen even more rapidly wile we had been watching. There was a great hurry to get back. Wandermust Daddy ended up wearing the female rangers wellington boots, which were about seven sizes too small while I was carried over by the male ranger. It was an exciting way to end the day.