CHIMPANZEE TREKKING IN BUDONGO FOREST RESERVE
Overview: Budongo Forest Reserve, 825km / 319 sq. miles is located 300km / 4 hours drive northwest of Kampala Capital City in Masindi District. The forest is the environmental “lungs” that forms the natural shield between human settlement in Masindi District and town, and wildlife in Murchison Falls National Park. It is a large expanse of lowland rainforest boasting of huge mahogany tree species, woodland, thickets and bush, grassland and patches of wetland vegetation. Receiving average 1200mm-2200mm rainfall annually, the forest is moist almost all through the year. Brief rains begin March-May separated with bright sunny days June- August and burst into bouts of heavy rains characterized by strong winds and thunderstorms between September-November. December-February is dry season. Combination of other factors than season, determine the weather patterns of the time with occasional bright sunshine during rainy season and heavy rains during assumed dry season.
Budongo Forest is so full of life and filled to the brim with average of 470 tree and plant species. The forest is a natural attraction and ideal home with vibrant wildlife presence. Residents in forest average 29 mammal species (of these 9 are primates), 350 bird species, several species of insects (290 butterflies and 130 moths), reptiles and fish. Residents in the forest but very rare to spot include forest elephants, forest buffalos, giant forest hogs, warthogs, waterbucks, hippopotamus, duikers, bush pigs, leopards, pangolins, bush babies and many others. Olive baboons, black and white colobus, red-tailed, velvet and other primates are often sighted. Chimpanzee tracking forms the main tourism attraction in Budongo Forest Reserve.
Budongo Forest; incredibly endowed with gifts of natural resources in abundance and is naturally a magnet for humankind greed with illegal human activities. Lumbering and logging for timber and poles for housing construction, expansion for plantation and commercial agriculture, human settlement, charcoal burning, poaching for game meat, livestock grazing, infrastructure expansion (road construction), tourism development, industrialization and growth (oil refinery) amongst many other challenges. The government of Uganda through Uganda Wildlife Authority, National Forest Authority and Jane Goodall Foundation concurrently pull resources together to counter this huge human appetite for natural resources, ensure sanctity, wildlife protection and conservation for tourism purposes.
Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) is an ape resident in the wilderness sharing 98.7% DNA with and humankind closest relative in the wilderness. Chimpanzees body is covered in black hairs save for the face, hands, toes and the hind-quarters. Chimpanzees have long arms and legs with five fingers and toes. Thumbs separated from other fingers and toes help in grasping and holding onto items, use tools, and stabilize movement. Chimpanzees naturally walk on both legs and arms; knuckle walking. Occasionally chimpanzees hold items in hands and walk only on legs when carrying, transporting, delivering or transferring them.
Chimpanzees are social mammals and live in community sometimes reaching 150 members under command of an alpha male. They split up into smaller groups in the mornings to access survival resources with ease. The alpha male is an authoritarian. He ensures security to community members, discipline in the group, direction and course of movement, feeding and watering areas and controls routine activities. The alpha male enjoys privileges of mating and feeding rights. Chimpanzees leave their nests at daybreak, search and move to areas with plenty of food. They take siesta at noon, engage battle drills and mock fights, play games, guard, sentry and patrols, curdling and grooming. They feed one last time close to evening, and make nests around sunset for the night. They are very quiet and inactive in the night except if there is any threat largely by predator, thunderstorms or wild bush fire.
Chimpanzees are omnivores with huge options for diet. Fruits, plants, fresh vegetation, shoots, barks, rhizomes, root tubers, nuts, eggs, insects, grasses, form main diet. Chimpanzees hunt in groups, capture and feed on small antelopes, reptiles, birds, monkeys, rodents besides capturing fish in shallow streams, swamps and ponds of water. Chimpanzee preferred natural habitat is rainforest with plenty of trees that ensure reliable fruit supply though they easily adapt and seasonally inhabit woodland, grasslands and visit wetlands for survival resources.
Chimpanzees are categorized Endangered with average 180,000-250,000 only individuals remaining on the globe; 800 only individuals estimated in Budongo Forest Reserve. Chimpanzees may live up to 45 years old in their natural habitat. Predators for chimpanzees in the wilderness include leopards, lions, and crocodiles. Diseases, bush fire, droughts are other natural threats to chimpanzees. Humankind remains the greatest threat to chimpanzee life survival; illegal international wildlife traffickers, capture for zoos, cinema, pets and scientific research. Some indigenous community members trade in chimpanzee body parts for rituals and ceremonies, hunt chimpanzees for game meat, set bush fires that destroy their habitat while others poison, lay traps and kill chimpanzees that encroach on their farmlands. Chimpanzees contract human diseases and unnatural behaviors through uncontrolled human interactions, careless disposal of human waste, littering amongst others.
Note: conservation fees paid for chimpanzee tracking in Budongo Forest Reserve boost funds that finance wildlife protection and conservation.
CHIMPANZEE TRACKING IN BUDONGO FOREST RESERVE
Chimpanzee tracking briefing point; Kaniyo-Pabidi; is average 35km Masindi- Murchison Falls National Park road; 8 minutes drive after Kichumbanyobo park entrance gate. Note experienced research teams habituate chimpanzees before tourism activities. Though wild, tourism chimpanzees remain calm and not threatened by human presence. Research teams monitor tour chimpanzees on regular basis to check their health status. Chimpanzee tracking is two-shift day activity done in mornings and afternoons. Some guidelines for smooth, safe and successful chimpanzee tracking expedition in Budongo Forest Reserve:
- Invest in gathering some information about the Budongo Forest Reserve. Take note of climate and weather patterns. Dry season runs December-February. Rain Season March-May, September-November
- Follow the standing chimpanzee tracking guidelines. The guidelines are designed with both your and wildlife interests in mind.
- Procure Budongo chimpanzee tracking permit through trusted tour and safari company. The permit specifies visitor names, age, gender, residence status, date of tracking, time of tracking, fee chargeable amongst other details.
- Assemble at Kaniyo-Pabidi; the chimpanzee tracking starting point an hour to tracking time. Carry your identification documents and the Budongo Chimpanzee tracking permit
- The forest guide is head of the entourage. Cooperate with him, pay heed to what he says. He delivers to your satisfaction.
- There are 8 groups of chimpanzee ready for tourism at Kaniyo Pabidi. Each tracking entourage is limited to 6 visitors
- Starting time and duration for tracking chimpanzees varies. Please confirm your category
-Half day tracking; average 4 hours wilderness exploration. Morning tracking starts at 8am and 12pm for afternoon
-Full day chimpanzee tracking aka chimpanzee habituation starts 6.00am-6.00pm
- Minimum age for chimpanzee tracking is 15 years. Intention is to minimize odds of transmitting and contracting communicable diseases
- Share necessary information declaring your health status to the forest guides and rangers. The forest guide adjusts to the pace of travel in forest. Volunteer to opt out of chimpanzee tracking if feeling unhealthy and unable to complete the entire exercise.
- Chimpanzees are wild, highly mobile and adapted to natural settings. It is not possible to ascertain the duration it takes to get onto their exact location.
- Visitor interaction with chimpanzees is limited to one hour
- Keep 8m distance away from chimpanzees when interacting with them. It is a very important health regulation.
- Deactivate camera flash light before capturing chimpanzee photos
- Deactivate GPS on your electronic gadgets
- Minimize use of body gestures to zero. Do not imitate calls or chimp activity unless forest guide advises for it. The chimpanzees may interpret the message their own way and react accordingly
- Keep up with the rest of entourage. Request the forest guide to adjust the pace and steps to suit your interests.
- Keep voices down to ambush wildlife in the natural settings and get maximum enjoyment of the exploration
- Appropriate dressing suits wilderness environment and makes it easy to maneuver in the wilderness. Read on for additional information on dressing
- Carry only the essentials into the forest. Potters are on hand on request to help carry the pack at a small fee.
- Carry lunch pack with high nutritious light snacks and enough drinking water. Note to eat your lunch pack and take drinks away from chimpanzee presence. Remember to carry any litter with you out of the forest
- Alert the forest guide if in need of making calls of nature
What to wear for Chimpanzee tracking in Budongo Forest Reserve
Budongo reserve is an expansive rainforest with gentle rolling hills. Woodland, bush and thickets cover forest edges patches of grasslands do exist deep into the forests. Chimpanzee tracking is an all year round activity under any form of weather conditions. Continuous and persisting rainfall leads to rain runoff that often form streams, rivulets and drain into pools of water ponds and small lakes. The tropical sun always has surprises in store and the burning heat often follow shortly after the rains. Some plants and shrubs have thorns, others poisonous others have toxic scents. Chimpanzee tracking entourages sometimes encounter different types of both crawling and flying irritating, biting and stinging insects. There are possibilities of coming face to face with charging forest elephants, buffaloes and others mammals. Pack sets of clothes that suit the above environmental conditions and circumstances.
- Face masks
- Light long sleeved shirts, blouses and tops preferably in dull colors
- Safari trousers
- Water proof hiking boots, rubber boots
- Poncho or rain gear
- Light warm clothing
- Strong stockings
- Garden hand gloves
- Head gear; round hat, cap, head scarf
- Sun glasses
- Changing clothes after the chimpanzee tracking expedition in rain season
- May need a walking stick; possible to improvise at starting point
What to carry for chimpanzee tracking in Budongo Forest Reserve
Though chimpanzee tracking takes just a few hours, the items to aid in the exercise give it an incredible experience.
- First aid kit with simple items
- Lunch pack
- Water bottle
- Field Guide book, note book with a pencil or pen
- Strong flash light
There are unlimited opportunities of combining chimpanzee-tracking expedition in Budongo Forest Reserve with other tourism activities within and close to Murchison Falls National Park to maximize and satisfy adventure adrenaline.
- Bird watching in Budongo forest
- Forest walks
- Game viewing safaris in Murchison Falls National Park
- Boat cruise along the Nile river
- Adventure exploration at the top of Murchison Falls
- Zip lining at Sambiya River Lodge
- Bokwe Community tour close to Kichumbanyobo Gate
- Boat cruise to the Delta; Shoe bill expedition
Budongo Eco-lodge; a jewel in the middle of the rainforest sharing compound with Kaniyo-Pabidi briefing point is by location, every adventurers’ ideal rendez vous for chimpanzee tracking. The establishment has self-contained cottages with warm showers, shared accommodation for a limited number of group travelers. There is a camping site for the travelers who need personal experiences with nocturnal wildlife. Sambiya River Lodge with a swimming pool and zip lining is 30 minutes drive further into the wilderness on the road to Murchison Falls. Masindi town average 35km south of Kaniyo-Pabidi has a wide range of accommodations that cater for all travelers. Others places of accommodation close to Budongo Forest Reserve include; Paraa Safari Lodge, Bakers Lodge, Pakuba Safari Lodge, Red Chilli Hideout and Paraa area has a variety of other options.
Road connection from Kampala Capital City to Budongo forest reserve is all-smooth tarmac taking average 4hours drive passes through Masindi Municipality. Private travel moves at own pace and is the most preferred form of transport. There is steady public travel by bus and taxis up to Masindi Town. Then arrange private travel; average 35km onto Murchison Falls National Park. There is an airfield at Bugungu 1 hour drive towards Paraa and Pakuba Airfield 1hour30minutes from Budongo Forest Reserve for light air charter flights. Contact Encounter Africa Safaris for details.