Looking in the mirror - Chimpanzees in Uganda

Chimpanzee - does this remind anyone of straphanging on the Tube?!

After the major excitement of our encounter with the mountain gorillas, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to go Chimp Tracking at Kibale, Uganda. We arrived bright and early to be given our briefing and assigned our ranger, Leticia.

Do chimpanzees daydream, and if so, of what?

Leticia set off on the trail at top speed and we followed her. Level ground here so no need for walking sticks or porters and we covered the ground quickly. Ten minutes into our hike and we heard the unmistakeable sound of chimpanzees hooting. We headed cross-country through the dry forest towards the sound. Leaving the trail hadn't slowed Leticia at all while the rest of us stumbled along, trying to maintain the pace. The sound of chimpanzees got louder and louder until we were surrounded by chimp sounds.

Chimpanzee - old timer taking it easy

Then we spotted one animal calmly sitting at the base of a tree, fantastic. Then another in the branches above us. Then two more enjoying a mutual grooming session. Then another animal lying on his back on the ground, looking totally relaxed. We'd been concentrating so hard on keeping up with Leticia that we hadn't realised we'd walked right into the middle of a large community of chimpanzees. We were surrounded! Not that the chimps were at all bothered. They just carried right on doing what they were doing regardless of any humans in the area.

Chimpanzees - the lads hanging out together

All around us, little cameos of daily chimp life were being played out: two youngsters played tag as they crashed around in the branches overhead; a mother scooped up her baby and took it safely away from the rough and tumble play; a grizzled old-timer simply sat and stared dreamily into space; another chimp lay on its back and stretched up its feet into a yoga pose. Seen close-up, these animals seemed much bigger than I'd remembered, but they were all so chilled and calm that I didn't feel at all intimidated.

It was wonderful to be able to simply stand and soak up all the chimp activity around us as the animals took no notice of us at all. Their faces were so mobile, their expressions seemed so familiar, it really was uncannily like looking in a mirror!

Chimpanzee - sure I've seen this pose in a yoga class before!

All was peace and harmony in the chimpanzee community. Then from high up in the trees came an urgent chimpanzee shriek and the mood of the group changed in an instant. All the chimps were now on high alert and those on the ground were looking up into the trees towards the source of the shriek. More animals hooted and screeched in reply and then they were off, covering the ground rapidly and swinging up into the branches. They nimbly climbed into the highest branches and swung effortlessly from tree to tree as they followed the urgent command. We humble earth-bound humans were left behind, wondering what we had just witnessed.

Happy chimp-watchers with our ranger, Leticia

Another unforgettable encounter in Uganda, the country that just keeps giving.

For more of our bird and mammal adventures, do check back for more Bird Blogs.

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