Africa Safari Guide Experiences | Chimpanzee Trekking
Trackers move out at first light to find the chimpanzees and when they do locate the group they will call the sighting in to the lodge to enable the guides to know in which direction they should walk. If the guides do not wait for the call they may find they have taken the guests in the opposite direction to where the chimps are and result long march for the guests.
Chimpanzees and Human Diseases
After breakfast we were handed water bottles and surgical masks and it was explained that the masks were for the protection of the chimpanzees. As the chimps are so closely related to us they are susceptible to human ailments - including the common cold. Guests with a cold or who are carrying communicable ailments are not allowed to get close to the chimpanzees.
We sat around listening to stories of the chimpanzees, waiting for the call from the trackers - but it seemed the chimps were hiding. When it seemed that we would have to give up for the day the guide mentioned that the trackers were confident that they were close to where the chimps were laid up. It was decided that we should start walking in the general direction in the hope that the trackers find them.
Climbing into the Mountains
We were climbing as soon as we left the camp - into the Mahale Mountains and a seemingly impenetrable forest. Our way was made easier by paths that had been carved out for the purpose of easier access in the forest.
We passed mango and guava trees that had been planted thirty years earlier by Japanese scientists to habituate the chimps to humans for easier studying of their behaviour.
Mud and Sunlight
The rain started fifteen minutes into the walk and continued for over an hour as we slipped and tripped our way further into the mountainous forest - and then the sun broke through the clouds, dappling the forest in sparkling jewels of light. There was a moment of silence before the forest came alive again to the sounds of insects and birds.
'The trackers have found them ... but they will be moving soon now that the rain has stopped so we will have to move quickly' our guide told us as he lengthened his stride. We panted and coughed our way higher into the forest.
Butterflies flittered through the dappled light, birds teased the shadows and the sounds of the forest pushed the senses to the limit ... monkeys, birds and insects ...The scent of the damp vegetation was intoxicating .... I tried to take in as much of the ambience as I possibly could whilst walk-stumbling briskly along the path.
As the excitement was rising at the imminent sighting of the chimpanzees I took time out and realised that the experience of getting to them is very often not appreciated, instead frowned upon by many. This is unfortunate as the walk in the mountains is inspirational.