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We not only got lucky with the animals, the human characters we met along the way were equally as entertaining.
At all stops we found friendly and engaging company. We were provided with classic examples of Uganda’s charming but idiosyncratic personality. “Hilariously, I welcome you to our lodge!” was one greeting we received. “This is the dustbin, if you have any dust you put it here,” was part of a room introduction. On our way to see the gorillas before sunrise, riding the truck into the deep pools and feeling the truck lose traction it felt that we were really off-roading our way into the unknown, only for a boda-boda to casually come the other direction loaded with school children.
We traveled with Volcanoes' Amon as our guide, who glides through life oblivious to the jealous and disbelieving stares from the male passengers and lustful gazes from the female ones. Or maybe not. As we travelled through Ishasha on our way from Queen Elizabeth to Bwindi he demonstrated the incredible eyesight that the guides possess, spotting a group of lions in a tree from perhaps 200 yards. These lions are one of only two groups in the world that seek shade in the trees, and the pride (no pun intended) on Amon’s face indicated how rare and difficult it is to find them. He sat back and enjoyed his moment.
These trips always shake me out of my blasé existence in Kampala. Moving between home and work, frequenting the same network of bars and restaurants, it is too easy to forget how beautiful this country is. In the space of seven days and 300km we travelled through diverse landscapes, met characters and stumbled upon scenes that I honestly believe you can’t find anywhere else in the world. The only constant is small children, existing by the side of a road and asking only for a return wave to make their day.
I’ve always doubted the phrase ‘trip of a lifetime’ but if such a thing exists this was it: a perfect combination of wildlife and human encounters set against a backdrop of stunning scenery. Thank you, Lady Luck.
by Gary Almond
Tracking chimpanzees in their natural habitat, as they swing from the branches in the canopy high above the forest floor is nothing short of exhilarating. The chimps effortlessly cross and scamper through the trees above the gorge, and visitors on the other hand must cross the river using natural bridges in order to keep up with the chimps. So although the walk usually lasts only 2–3 hours, descending the steep gorge and crossing the log bridges over the river requires some agility and fitness.
Chimpanzee tracking is also available in nearby Kalinzu, a forest reserve 30 minutes drive from Kyambura Gorge Lodge where there is a community of about 40 habituated chimpanzees.