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In 2002, while I was on safari with clients in Queen Elizabeth National Park, we took a game drive one morning at 8:00 am. We first drove to the Northern part of the park, which is better known for its sightings of buffalos, elephants and antelopes. After a short picnic we proceeded to the Southern side of the park to see the famous tree-climbing lions in Ishasha.
The Ishasha sector is famous for the tree-climbing lions, which are known for roaming around in the night and climbing trees. They are often seen hanging on branches of fig trees while antelope species graze around the plains. The males of this area even sport black manes unlike some other lions in other areas. Upon hearing all this, the clients were extremely excited, as they had never seen lions that could climb trees.
We drove past almost every fig tree in the park (lions are usually found in the low hanging branches of the fig trees, which provide a lot of shade in the midday sun) without seeing a thing. Just as we were about to give up hope, we saw sixteen lions, all in one fig tree! It was incredible. I told them that I had never seen so many lions in one tree before. They normally stay in groups of two or three, so sixteen in one tree was exceptional. The clients were thrilled. Their cameras could not stop clicking away.
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.