Top seven places to see chimpanzees

Sunday November 18 2018

ATTRACTION. Chimpanzees are a major tourist

ATTRACTION. Chimpanzees are a major tourist attaction in Budongo Forest, Masindi District. COURTESY PHOTO  

By Amos Wekesa

Early this week, Wanderlust, the UK’s leading magazine, published a list of the top seven best places in the world to see chimpanzees in the wild and all the top three are in Uganda. The publication is owned by travel experts Paul Morrison and Lyn Hughes.
A lot of credit will go to the PR firm that Uganda hired in the UK to promote the country and that is Kamageo.
The first on the list is Uganda’s Kibale National Park found in southern part of the country with ever moist evergreen rainforest and its 795 square kilometres in size, located between 1100 metres to 1600 metres in elevation.

Kibale National Park is also known as the world capital for primates. This is because it has the highest density of primates of any protected area of the world.
Kibale National Park has about 351 different species of trees and some of the trees are more than 55m long. Some of these trees are more than 200 years old though the forest cover is interspersed with patches of grassland and swamp that dominates the northern and central parts on an elevated plateau.

This same national park is a home to 70 species of mammals but famously known for its 13 species of primates including the chimpanzees (believed to have a population of more than 1,500 individuals)
The second on the list is Budongo Forest Reserve which is part of the Murchison conservation arear and it is the largest surviving natural forest in Uganda.

Budongo forest is about 825 square kilometres of which 430 is continuous forest. Budongo was historically protected by the king of Bunyoro and it is only with his permission that could local chiefs hunt inside.
Thanks to his strict policy the flora and fauna was preserved, until the reserve was officially gazetted in 1932. The name Budongo derives from the local Bunyoro word’ fertile soil.
Budongo forest is very rich in biodiversity and this includes nine species of primates, 24 species of small mammals, 280 species of butterflies, 360 species of birds and 465 species of plants which include the Mahogany trees which grow upto 80 metres high.

Because of its diverse environment, Budongo forest offers some of the bird viewings and so far the best in this reserve is the royal mile.
Budongo forest is about 30 kilometres from Masindi Town and if one wants to trek the chimpanzees, they must use Kichumbanyobo gate and eight kilometres after the gate, you find the chimpanzee trekking centre – Budongo eco lodge is as well.
The third on the list of Wanderlust magazine is Uganda’s Kyambura gorge part of Queen Elizabeth National park conservation and it’s also called the ‘valley of apes’.

This valley is approximately one kilometre across at the broadest point and about 100 metres deep and this gorge is drained by River Kyambura.
The landscape is amongst the most impressive you will find in East Africa and its swarmed by a rich wildlife bio-diversity that comprises primates, wild animals as well as birds. Enter into this amazing gorge and you will be marvelled by the verdant, rich tropical rainforest right close to the Equator crossing. The gorge is another world on its own with savannah above which there is reasonable amount of light, plus sunshine that offers brightness, the tree canopy within this underground forest comprising rich blocks of plants life shut out of the sun rays.

Besides chimpanzee trekking in Kyambura gorge, one can also enjoy guided nature and birding as an icing on the cake.
While on the private walk and game viewing of black and white colobus monkeys, giant forest hogs and the red tailed monkeys, you will encounter lots of different species of butterflies.
Kyambura gorge is a feature every Ugandan and foreigner should visit before they die.

The fourth on the list of Wanderlust is Mahale National Park in Tanzania. Mahale National Park is 1613 square kilometres - the largest accessible habitat in the rift valley.
While the tracking expeditions can be long and hot, the idyllic lakeside setting on the Lake Tanganyika helps make the experience extremely special.
The 5th on the list is Gombe stream national park. It is at Gombe that Jane Goodall did her intensive research on chimpanzees.
In the 6th place is Rwanda’s Nyungwe national park and while this national park is small, its a place where one enjoy the canopy walk in this region.

The population of chimpanzees in this national park is almost same in number as Kibale National Park and I know that a few very high end accommodations are being built to cater for passionate primate lovers.
In the 7th position lies Gisovu, Gishwati and Burundi’s Kibira national park.
In many ways, I hoped that this would make headlines in our local media but since they did not pay attention, let me have it known to all of us that promoting what is about Uganda, is good not for just Uganda but to us as individuals.

The writer is an investment expert
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