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Trip Report Uganda Trip Report

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Thanks to everyone on this board who took the time to answer my questions while I was planning my trip to Uganda. The following is my trip report from a 9 day trip in late January (booked with Great Lake Safaris).

Day 1

Arrived around 9pm in Entebbe, where I was met by a driver from Sophie’s Motel (located about a ten minute drive from the airport). Since I was leaving early the next morning for Ngamba Island, I was looking to save a few bucks on accommodation my first evening. Sophie’s was fine – very basic but clean and only 35$ (which included the ride from the airport). A/c would have been lovely, but I wasn’t expecting A/C for that price. Just happy to be in Uganda, and despite the long plane ride (Atlanta – Amsterdam – Entebbe) I still couldn’t sleep because I was so excited about seeing the chimps the next day.

Day 2
After an early morning breakfast (I was perplexed as to why we had to eat breakfast in total dark!), Alyce from Great Lakes Safaris picked me up and drove me to Ngamba Island’s office, where I was to meet with the Director, Lily, prior to leaving for the island. After about a 30 minute one-on-one talk by Lily about the problems facing chimpanzees & the history of Ngamba Island (and double checking my medical records – one of them was not an original – she was asking for the original – all I could think was Sweet Jesus, if this woman doesn’t let me play with the chimps I will literally have a coronary), I was off to the island. The water was extremely choppy and all of us on the boat were drenched from head to toe by the time we arrived. (Side note – I thought I had read to avoid the water in Lake Victoria, and after I returned and did a quick google search, I am now convinced that I have bilharzia since I was drenched in the water for about an hour.) Ladies, from personal experience I can tell you that you really might want to think twice about wearing a white t-shirt on the boat trip, as if the water is choppy, you may arrive on the island looking like you entered the Ngamba Island wet t-shirt contest. Every single inch of me was soaked & I was very glad I had clothes to change into. The tents on the island were great – very comfortable. They each have fantastic porches, however, mine was constantly swarmed by tiny insects (as in, I felt like I had to hold my breath while unzipping the tent or else I would have been sucking a bunch in) so I didn’t end up using it at all.

Next to seeing the gorillas, Ngamba Island was the highlight of my trip. Watching the various feedings was quite entertaining (upon arrival, the alpha male of the juvenile group promptly started chucking rocks at us), however, the high points were definitely my two chimp walks with the juvenile chimps. If you go to the trouble / expense of getting all the vaccinations in order to have the one-on-one with the chimps, I highly recommend that you sign up for two. My first “chimp walk” wasn’t really a walk -- since the youngest juvenile chimps are now four, all of them feel comfortable in the main forest area and generally run off and play on the typical chimp walks. Thus, Stany, the head caregiver, suggested that we use my first chimp walk to just hang out with seven of the juveniles in their main area. As soon as I walked into the area where they were, I immediately had a chimp jump up on me and give me a giant hug, followed by more chimps wanting me to hold them. Stany and I sat on the ground and played with them for awhile – several times “chimpanzee fisticuffs” broke out over who would get to sit in my lap. I always had one in my lap, one or two trying to get in my lap, one trying to untie my shoe, one grooming me, etc. The experience is hard to describe – they were all just so sweet and affectionate, I could have stayed there for hours. We eventually walked down to the water with them, and I alternated giving Nakuu and Pasa piggyback rides. All too soon, my time was up and I had to say good night to them.
After the first chimp walk, I had a dinner that was quite good and was off to bed. I bolted upright in bed several times during the night after waking up to the sounds of the chimps screeching (or whatever the technical term is for the noises they make)...just made me more eager for my next chimp walk the following morning.

Day 3
The day started with coffee and tea being delivered to my tent around 6am. At 6:30, Stany arrived at my tent with coveralls, and we were off to watch the morning feeding. (I was the only overnight guest.) After everyone had been fed, we were off on my second chimp walk with the same seven from the night before. As soon as I saw Pasa and Nakuu, they both immediately jumped up in my arms. I made a good faith effort to carry both of them, although they probably weighed about 80 pounds combined, which is about 75% of my body weight, so, after it was clear we wouldn’t be moving anywhere fast as long as I tried to carry both Pasa and Nakuu, I handed Pasa off to Stany. Nakuu alternated between riding piggyback and sitting on my shoulders. Most of the chimps ran off as soon as we got into the forest, although Pasa and Nakuu stuck close by the entire time (actually Nakuu never left my side –she did jump off my back at one point, ran and hid in behind some trees, and then bolted back out and jumped up on my back again as soon as I walked by…sneaky devil.. ). We walked through the forest, over to the shores of the lake and watched everyone play, while Nakuu hung out with me and Stany. I always hope for a moment or two on every trip that sort of “defines” my trip – last summer it was being given a crash course on driving a stick shift in the Jordanian desert by a Bedouin while singing along to his Frank Sinatra tape – this trip it was sitting on the rocks at the shoreline of Lake Victoria with not another person in sight, talking to Stany about politics in America and Uganda, while Nakuu fervently worked on unlacing my shoes. It was just so peaceful yet odd considering I had Nakuu with me…exactly the kind of travel moment I live for.
All too soon, we had to head back. I showered, had an awesome breakfast, watched the morning feeding, and then sadly had to leave for Entebbe.
I arrived back in Entebbe luckily completely dry – apparently our virtual swim there the previous day was unusual. When I was dropped off at the dock in Entebbe, I was hoping to see someone from Great Lakes but no one was there and I realized I hadn’t actually confirmed w/them what time they’d be picking me up. There were a number of people hanging out in the area – several of whom pointed me in the direction of a woman with a “phone booth.” I got a hold of someone at GL and just sort of hung out chatting with people for the next half hour or so. (There seemed to have been a miscommunication between GL and Wild Frontiers – the company that runs the camp on Ngamba Island, and I actually enjoyed talking to everyone in Entebbe, so I didn’t really care either way, and it got me accustomed to being called the word I would hear over, and over and over again…Mzungu!)
I finally arrived in Kampala at Hotel Africana. I was really too tired at this point to go wonder around Kampala – in hindsight, I wish I had, but I just had a beer at the hotel (which was a little run down but had a big sitting area in the back of the hotel), and had a really really really (did I say really?) bad dinner at the hotel (if you are thinking of eating there…abort!). I was, however, thrilled to have internet access, so that was all I really cared about at that point.

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