Today we got up before the sun to venture into the Kalinzu Forest in search of chimpanzees.
Local trackers met us at our campsite, and split us into two groups to go see the chimps. The trackers communicate with one another, as well as other trackers within the forest, so they know where to lead groups.
It was still dark when we ventured into the forest. I tried not to trip over tree roots or slip in the mud. Our trek guide, Debbie, showed us the tracking numbers on the trees and explained that the numbers decrease as we get further into the forest.
“So if I get eaten by a leopard, you can find your way out now,” she said.
My goal for the morning switched from finding chimpanzees to leaving the forest uneaten.
Debbie showed us butterfly nets for the research teams, a giant black millipede, and different types of plant life. She banged on the hollow roots of a tree, and explained that the chimpanzees bang on those tree roots like drums, to communicate their location to their groups.
As we got further into the forest, we could hear chimps calling to one another in the trees, but we couldn’t see any. Debbie made a few phone calls and tried a few paths before waving us over and pointing toward the sky.
There in the very top of the trees was a chimp. I had a hard time spotting him at first, but he was there.
Debbie told us that this chimp was a 24 – year-old male named Victor. In captivity, chimps may live to 50 years. They live to be about 40 in the wild. Victor was hanging out in the treetops eating baby jackfruit and watching the silly humans with their cameras all pointed at him.
We spent about an hour taking photos of Victor. During that hour, a fire ant crawled up my leg, stinging as it went. I realize the importance of tucking my pants into my socks now. I wasn’t entirely sure what was stinging, until the other half of our tour group burst through the trees, grabbing at their clothes, while one girl exclaimed “I have ants in my pants!”
We ventured in search of more chimps, but did not see any others. Debbie said that the group yesterday saw 5. Sometimes they find up to 10. Sometimes none. The chimps stay within their 8 square kilometer territory, but they were well hidden today.
After searching the forest for chimps, we visited a tea plantation and learned about Uganda’s production of tea. The tea fields are bright green and cover land all over the country.
We saw a blue monkey hanging out at the edge of the forest and stopped to take photos of him before heading to camp to pack up and head to Lake Bunyonyi.
The blue money is hard to spot, but he’s there!
We do more trekking tomorrow to go see the gorillas! I will wear longer socks to prevent the attack of the fire ants, this time.
Also, enjoy this nightmarish photo I took at camp of the reason I may not be sleeping tonight.