6 hours drive west from Entebbe, is Kibale with its primate forest, home of the chimpanzee. Staying overnight at the Primate Lodge, where the chimps had actually come into the camp the evening before and created quite a ruckus outside one of the lodges, we set out early morning, before light, into the forest, just as the rain started to fall. Very soon we were very wet.
It didn’t take long for the guide to locate the chimps, but due to the rain they remained high up in the forest canopy. ‘be careful, they throw dung at you from the tree tops’, too late, a brown splodge hit my camera bag. As the morning wore on the rain cleared, but the chimps remained elusive. Other guides arrived with their groups. Hilariously we watched as one group quietly crept through the undergrowth, keeping a watchful eye on the canopy, and as they past our position, we spotted a large male chimp following their footsteps; not 3 metres behind them.
Travelling south now, tracking the foothills on the snow covered Rwenzori Mountains, which are home to six of Africa’s ten highest mountains. Crossing the equator, stopping off to watch the water disappear down the plughole in different rotations either side of the ‘line’. Approaching the Queen Elizabeth National Park, where we hoped to see the tree-climbing lions, the sky darkened. By the time we entered the park the downpour was biblical. Tree-climbing lions don’t’ climb in the rain apparently, or show themselves at all, we’ll have to come back we decide.
Another day of driving on challenging roads brought us to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, the home for over 1,000 mountain gorilla. It was very hot and humid in the forest. I had upped my walking before leaving for Uganda, in anticipation of the mountain trek, but nothing could have prepared me for the walk into and out of the mountains, thanks to Strava I could see that we have covered 8.5 miles and climbed 3,000 feet and seeing as though we arrived back at the place we started, I guess that is 3,000 feet decent as well.
But. You would give anything to be in the presence of the mountain gorilla family, it is as a humbling experience. With the help of the guides and the rangers we were able to get very close to these magnificent creatures. The rangers communicating with Kanyonyi, the silverback, with a low grumbling noise, assuring him that all was well. Kanyonyi, was very generous, allowing you time to be close to his family of female gorillas and their young babies, however when he moved, best give him space, when on all fours he is a huge creature with formidable strength.
As we left Uganda Covid-19 was starting to bite. Shortly after arriving home the National Parks of Uganda closed to the public. A few weeks later, we heard of the death of Rafiki, a 25 years old silverback of the Nkuringo group, at the hands of a poacher. Rafiki’s death was even more damaging to the preservation of these creatures since he was the only male on the 17 strong group, an uncertain future for the remainder of the group for sure. The family will most likely disperse and incoming silverbacks will kill the young of other silverback as they take over, such is nature.