RWANDA + UGANDA
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Spending time with chimpanzees - our closest genetic ancestors - is a humbling experience. Chimps are more active than gorillas, and finding them as they forage widely can be challenging.
Once found, expect a fascinating encounter as they play, bicker, mate and care for their babies. If you are lucky, you may hear them pant-hooting - a truly evocative sound. Few fortunate tourists get to witness chimps hunting monkeys.
Scroll past the safari packages below to find out EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW about trekking for chimps
Chimpanzees live in western and central African woodlands and farmland. They are the smallest of the great apes and our closest living relative, sharing 98% of our DNA.
There are two chimpanzee species – the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) - with four subspecies - and the bonobo or pygmy chimpanzee (Pan paniscus). They live in troops averaging 35 members (the largest known troop has 150 members).
Like humans, chimpanzees are omnivorous. They are opportunistic feeders, with fruit forming half of the diet, supplemented by leaves, stems, seeds, flowers, bark, pith, honey, mushrooms, resin, eggs, and animal prey such as insects and medium-sized mammals. They are the most carnivorous of the great apes (other than humans) and are known to form hunting parties to track down and catch species such as colobus monkeys.
Being omnivores, chimpanzees are much more active than the usually sedentary and vegetarian gorillas. Finding them usually means tracking for three to seven hours along forest pathways, sometimes via known fruiting trees and other food sources. Chimp encounters can be an exhausting and exhilarating experience, as they are often very active, especially if they are hunting monkeys, facing up to rival troops or moving fast to another area.
Meeting chimpanzees in the wild is an extraordinary experience. Coming face to face with an animal so clearly intelligent and thoughtful is unlike any other animal encounter in Africa and hard to put into words
Mahale Mountain National Park and Gombe National Park.
Nyungwe Forest National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park and Kibale National Park
The hiking pace is usually relaxed, but it does speed up if the chimpanzees are on the move. The landscape is usually not as steep as it is for gorilla trekking, which means a lower level of fitness is required. But you still need to be able to walk for three to seven hours.
The minimum gorilla trekking age is 15 years. There is no maximum age
What to pack: Water, snacks for while you walk, lunch, raincoat, several layers of clothing, wide-brimmed hat, hiking shoes/boots, towel, insect repellent and equipment such as binoculars, cameras and lenses. Here is a complete packing list for your African safari;
Backpack: Take a day pack for the above items;
Porter: Hire a porter for the hike - he will carry your backpack - freeing you to carry only binoculars and perhaps a camera. The cost is a fraction of your daily expenses on safari in Africa, yet it makes a big difference in the porter's life;
Photography: The forest can be dark, and the use of large lenses will be limited. Keep that big lens in your backpack, and use a general-purpose lens on your camera. Keep a dry lens cloth handy to wipe away dew and raindrops. Flash photography is not permitted while with the chimps;
Waterproofing: Carry a few waterproof bags for equipment in case of showers and high humidity;
Mask: Some treks require the use of a surgical mask while you are with the chimps;
Weather: Chimpanzee treks are in high-rainfall areas. The weather can swing from clear and hot to torrential rain and cold in minutes.
We live here, in Africa, and have been doing this since 1991. Travel in Africa is about knowing when and where to go, and with whom. A few weeks too early / late or a few kilometers off course and you could miss the greatest show on Earth. And wouldn’t that be a pity?
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