These guys eat well and they eat often. They are fed 7 times a day! And their food looks and smells delicious. Ripe, and I mean ripe, pears, bananas, oranges, melons, the works. All this stuff gets thrown at them from a great height, but it ends up being a game. Yep, chimpanzees can catch with both hands and feet and they rarely miss a catch. In the big onslaught of airborne fruit bombardments I only saw one of them get hit in the head.
They did not even tell me that we were crossing the Equator in the boat journey here until we were returning. Yes, you have to cross the Equator here twice to and from Ngamba Island. You are now in the very middle of the world. The guys on the boat tell you that when you pass a certain island (pictured somewhat) that you just passed from the Southern Hemisphere to the North! It would have been better if they had told me going out – so I am letting you know ahead of time.
Before you start your tour the guide will tell you about the different personalities you will meet. Pay attention! One of the chimpanzees was a sort of pet/freak show who used to go to bars with his ‘owner’ and smoke. He still makes gestures like he has a cigarette. One of the guys will lay down when he is happy. He of course does this after he has eaten. Another makes ‘raspberry’ spitting sounds to gain attention. Another must have been doing some boxing because he always stands like a fighter in a ring. Some of these are sad stories, but you recognise who is who when you meet them.
All tours to Ngamba island are set up through Wild Frontiers. They are the only people allowed to land a boat on the island. Prices can change, so please go to their website via the link below. It is not cheap, but you can see how your money is spent when you get there. If you are only in the Kampala/Entebbe area for a few days, this is an excellent way to see wildlife in Uganda. It’s a fantastic day out. Your ticket includes entry to the fantastic outside zoo on the mainland. I suggest taking the afternoon tour (there are 2 a day) and getting to the zoo early. It will take you ate least 3 hours to see it all. And take your own food and water!
THE CHIMPANZEE SANCTUARY & WILDLIFE CONSERVATION TRUST (CSWCT) owns and maintains Ngamba Island. The Sanctuary was established in October 1998 to care for Chimpanzees confiscated by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. There are orphans from Bush Meat/Poaching as well as animals rescued from being pets and circus entertainment. The goal is to reintegrate them into Chimpanzee social groupings and behaviours so they can be returned to protected wild areas in Uganda. The sanctuary never turns down orphans. Limited mating also takes place. Scared chimpanzees are initially held in a holding area (pictured) until their needs can be assessed and a reintegration plan is drawn up. The staff love and know all about each chimpanzee.
The sanctuary is managed by 7 trustee organizations: The Uganda Wildlife Authority, Uganda Wildlife Society, Environment Conservation Trust, Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Born Free Foundation-UK, International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Jane Goodall Institute.
Its just so amazing how like a human a chimp is, when we watched them being fed, the chimps actually held their hands out for the food - the also fought each other if they wanted the other chimps food.....as you can see this chimp was very pleased with himself!!!
When you arrive and walk up onto the island there is a small shop and an area for refreshments and some toilets.
Then you continue up onto a wooden walkway which takes you past numerous information boards in English. These boards introduce every chimp who is here, telling you about their history and their future.
Continue on up from the boards and you can meet the chimps in person!
When watching the Chimps feeding time its amazing and a funny sight really!
The Chimps make such a noise, running around and squaking at the top of their voices! They were so excited to be getting fed that they just run around their compound at high speed!
These Chimps are so lucky to have this amazing view out across the lake from their tall bamboo table like contraptions that they climb up on.
Dont underestimate the Chimp - these animals are very intelligent and can be very aggressive too, in fact they are one of the closest animals to a human - I bought a T Shirt which read 98.7% Chimp!!
You can view the chimps from a walkway which goes up high and looks out to these structures and the Lake. You are enclosed by barbed wire!
Ngamba Island is set on Lake Victoria.
During the boat ride from Entebbe we saw locals on fishing boats on the Lake, other small islands that make up the Lakes population with people, houses and boats on their beaches.
The boat ride for us was smooth and took around 2 hours from Entebbe one way.
When you are on Lake Victoria it is so big that it feels like a sea not a lake! This Lake has waters in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.
If you can afford this (it's fairly expensive), DO it! It's the only place in the world where you can give a chimpanzee a piggy back ride! It's so incredibly fun to be able to interact with, feed, and play with the chimps. They are incredibly human-like and I felt like I was playing with little kids. They jump on you, hold your hand, and argue with each other over who gets the next ride.
If you want to participate, however, definitely plan ahead. You need a couple extra vaccinations than you'd otherwise need for Uganda and you have to show them documentation before they'll let you participate. Google Wild Frontiers and they'll give you all of the information.
Also, if you're wondering why I don't have photos of myself playing with chimps, they don't let you take them... it encourages people to want them as pets, which leads to poaching, which causes the problems they're trying to fix. That's okay, I'll always have the memories!
Ngamba Island is home to these chimps, orphaned due to poaching (approximately 5000 are killed each year) the young were rescued by the Ugandan Wildlife authority and brought to the island sanctuary. They each have handlers to care for them, and they are fed daily at 11 am and 2:30 pm which the public can watch.
Chimpanzees are our closest relative, sharing 98.5 percent DNA. There are actually 2 different species of Chimpanzee. The Common Chimpanzee which is found in 21 African countries
and the Bonobo or Pygmy Chimpanzee which is found in DR Congo. There are four subspecies of the common chimpanzee. There are approximately 175,000 chimpanzees remaining in the wild which is slowly reducing due to poaching.
There are 17 Sanctuary's like Ngamba in Africa and chimpanzee's in general live to about 50 years of age. They live on a diet of fruit, figs and sometimes insects, eggs and nestlings. Occasionally they will stalk, attack, kill and eat monkeys; red colobus monkeys being their favourite. They feed mostly in the morning and evening and rest during the heat of the day.
At the sanctuary, the chimpanzees are fed a variety of foodstuffs including fruit and vegetables, posho and millet porridge. They are fed four times a day.
Contrary to popular belief, chimpanzees do not make good pets. An adult chimpanzee is at least five times stronger than a human being and although chimpanzee infants are cute and harmless, eventually they too grow up. Chimpanzees that are kept as pets by individuals or businesses are kept for human entertainment, not for the chimpanzee’s benefit. Once they reach adolescence they often get out of control, start disobeying their human owners and destroy their domestic environment. At this point they are often restrained, abandoned or even killed, only to be replaced by a new infant who will eventually face the same treatment.
Chimpanzees share 98.4% of their DNA with humans. This means their physiology, anatomy and immunology is very similar to ours. This similarity between the two species has caused one species to suffer for the benefit of the other. Chimpanzees are kept in laboratories around the world, often in poor conditions, so that biochemical researchers can test new drugs, experiment with new vaccines for HIV and Hepatitis and study the effects of various toxins. All for human benefit. For those chimpanzees that are still alive by the end of their “useful” life, their bodies have often suffered too much for them to survive much longer. These chimpanzees pay a high price for being our closest living relative
Chimpanzees have a rich collection of sounds, postures and facial expressions. There are four main ways which they get their point across: touch, smell, sight and sound. Chimpanzee vocalisation is often related to their emotions: pant-hoots of excitement, food grunts at meal time, and barks when angry. Chimps will wave their hands vigorously to ask for food, stare intently at their neighbour hoping for a tasty bit or perhaps “puff up” and “charge” to show their high rank.