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In spite of the impressive bird life, the stars of the show here are the primates. You may find families of chimpanzees chattering and swinging through the ancient forest canopy. Intelligent and lively, the sociable chimpanzee shows an ability to learn as well as act instinctively. The chimpanzee is the animal that resembles man most closely. It shares familiar human characteristics such as problem-solving abilities, a high degree of parental care and a variety of facial expressions. They use and even make tools; for example, they use sticks as weapons and to dig out the contents of insect nests. Also, sick chimps have been seen eating plants that have medicinal properties. Many primatologists now attribute culture to chimpanzees, noting learned variations in such skills and habits among different groups. Chimp behavior could provide a clue to that of our early ancestors. Although incapable of speech beyond their own simple vocalizations, captive chimpanzees have been taught to communicate in a language using visual rather than verbal symbols. Chimpanzees suffer from many human diseases, including malaria. Because of their close evolutionary relationship to man, they are often used for medical and behavioral experimentation.
Full grown chimpanzees usually measure up to 5-ft tall and weigh about 150 lbs., they have an arm spread of up to 9 ft and are much stronger than humans. They are covered with long, black hair over most of the body and have naked faces ranging in color from nearly white to nearly black. Chimpanzees spend much of their time on the ground, where they walk on all fours, using the soles of the feet and the knuckles of the hands; they can also stand on two legs and sometimes walk this way for short distances. They climb trees in pursuit of food and for nesting and can swing by their hands from branch to branch. Their diet consists largely of fruit and other plant matter, but they also hunt and eat small animals, including monkeys. Chimpanzees move about the forest in bands of varying composition, usually numbering six to ten individuals. The males of a group engage in dominance contests involving displays of screaming and stamping. Family groups consist of mothers and offspring; females mate with several males during their fertile periods. A single infant is born every three to eight years. Under ideal circumstances chimpanzees may live 50 years.
Your accommodations for the next two nights will be at the charming Primate Lodge located in the heart of Kibale Forest National Park. It is a comfortable tented camp offering a great base from which to view the range of wildlife in the forest and park. The tents are all set on raised wooden platforms and each has a private veranda offering views over the forest. All tents have ensuite bathrooms with showers. There is a tree house high in the canopy for those with a sense of adventure! The restaurant serves both local and international cuisine and the adjacent bar and lounge areas are excellent places to relax after a day’s game viewing. Overnights at the PRIMATE LODGE.
Your game drives will afford you an opportunity to perhaps watch the entertaining antics of the Ugandan kob. Although still numerous in western Uganda, the kob is far less common in other areas of East Africa. It was once found in western Kenya and northern Tanzania but has not been seen there in recent years. The kob is similar in appearance to the impala, but the two species are not closely related. Horns occur only in males, and though lyre-shaped, they are shorter, thicker and ringed almost to the tip. Kobs often associate with larger animals such as hippos, buffalos, topis and hartebeests. These animals help keep the grass short, as the kob prefers. The social structure of the kob is based on small herds that come together into larger groups of up to 1,000 animals. These large groups will contain 30 to 40 breeding males that hold territories. Like many other antelope species, breeding only occurs within areas controlled by an individual territorial male. But the kob, unlike other antelopes, has taken the system a step further by establishing permanent breeding grounds, some of which have been in continuous use for at least 50 years. Similar to an impala, the male kob avidly defends his harem against other male intruders. It’s not unusual to see a fight break out and the victor the happy possessor of the females.
Besides your drives you will also embark on a two-hour launch trip on the Kazinga Channel and Lake Edward to view some of the largest concentration of hippo in the world, reported to be about 30,000. Nile crocodile, African rock python, monitor lizard, and snakes can also be sighted. The boat ride will also afford excellent birding opportunities.
You will spend the next two nights at Mweya Lodge, which is built on a peninsula offering stunning views of Lake Edward, Kazinga Channel, and the park with the Rwenzori Mountains in the background. It is a luxury lodge in the old style with a restaurant, bar, terrace, and swimming pool. The comfortable rooms have en suite facilities. Overnights at MWEYA SAFARI LODGE.
Huge trees are festooned with creepers and parasitic plants such as mistletoe and orchids. Giant thickets of bamboo thrive in the humid atmosphere and, where sunlight breaks though, the elegant heliconia or lobster claw spreads its colorful petals. At least 120 species of mammals make their home here in one of the richest ecosystems in Africa. Besides the 10 species of primates, elephant, bush pig, giant forest hog, many species of bats and rodents, at least 346 species of birds including rare forest birds, 14 species of snakes, 27 species of frogs and toads, 6 chameleons, 14 lizards, skinks and geckos, and at least 202 species of butterflies are resident in the Forest. There are also several endangered species of birds with limited ranges.
The Buhoma village walk gives you a great insight into the traditional African way of life and it is also a wonderful way to support the local community directly. This village walk is intended to help you understand their cultures and beliefs, as well as participate in some of their cultural activities. Wander through the village, stop at a traditional Healer -no, he is not a witch doctor but someone who knows what to use from the forest for ailments – you will be surprised at this informative demonstration. Look through their art crafts, watch them dance or better participate. You will be amazed at how resourceful the local people are as you interact with them and learn their lifestyle.
Certainly, the main highlight of this park is the mountain gorillas, which spend most of their time in the hagenia woodlands and bamboo forests. During the rainy season when new bamboo shoots are growing, the gorillas spend more time foraging in the bamboo forests at base altitude. This park was the base for Dian Fossey up until her death in 1985 and she focused her work at the Karisoke Research Center for 18 years. There are four habituated gorilla families that can be visited here, most of them on the slopes of the Visoke volcano. The Susa group has 35 individuals, the Amahoro group has 11 individuals, the Sabyinyo group has been divided into two groups (“A” has 13 individuals and “B,” a break way group, has four individuals) and group 13 has seven individuals.
Ugandan authorities are fiercely protective of this natural treasure and permit only a maximum of 72 passengers per day (currently) to visit the gorillas. Your group will have the opportunity for one trek per person to view the mountain gorillas during your stay. After breakfast, you will proceed to the nearby park headquarters and meet with your excellent local guides and porters, who will carry your personal items and assist you during the trek. Gorillas here live on the slopes of ancient volcanoes in high elevation forests. Dense bamboo thickets give way to a combination of large meadows and dense herbaceous vegetation zone highlighted by moss-laden hagenia and hypericum trees. Your treks will take you through a fairyland forest, an experience that in of itself is thrilling. As you venture forth, you will spot evidence that the gorillas have been present. The treks can last from four to seven hours (or more) depending on when you spot the gorillas. There is an hour limit to the time you spend with these majestic creatures once you spot them. Tracking gorillas through misty, seemingly impenetrable forests can be an exhausting process as the paths are often slippery, entangled and wet. However, this effort is quickly forgotten the minute you encounter these beautiful creatures. They instantly capture your full attention with their acrobatic antics and cacophony of grunts, screeches and chest beating.
Without doubt, your first impression of the dense jungle will be its almost audible silence. Jungle creatures are very, very shy, but, as you pick your way along the trail, through the dense undergrowth, you’ll realize that the jungle is alive. Thousands of living organisms are discreetly watching and waiting as you pass through their home and, from time to time, the complete tranquility will be shattered by a darting forest bird or group of chattering monkeys leaping through the stands of ancient trees, disturbing the secretive residents and setting up a chain reaction. Now, the everwary jungle comes to colorful and noisy life for a moment, until silence reigns again. As you walk among the shadows of the leafy canopy, this rainforest reveals the smells and sounds of Africa, just as it has been for centuries. Your guide will take you along river trails with delightful waterfalls, up steep slopes and into forest clearings in search of these gentle giants.
Although the hike is physically demanding the beauty of the forest and surrounding scenery make the trekking worthwhile. Once the gorillas are located all fatigue is forgotten, as the experience is often described as being the most profound natural history experience in the world. There are nine habituated families within the forest and you will be viewing the Mubare and Habinyanja families. Approximately 98% of the gorilla treks are successful but there is no guarantee that you will see the gorillas.
Mahogany Springs Lodge is located on the northern side of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest on its own private section of the Munyanga River, offering privacy and serenity blended with optimal comfort in a spectacular setting. The lodge is built in a way that one can easily catch a glimpse of the gorillas crossing in and around the land of the lodge and even feeding on the various plants near the riverside. Each spacious suite has two double beds and en-suite facilities. The cottage has its own private elevated terrace with chairs, table and stunning views. Enjoy afternoon tea on the terrace or sundowners by the riverside. Overnights at the MAHOGANY SPRINGS LODGE.