Day 155: Kibale, the search for Chimpanzees

"Into Africa" More than a Motorcycle Adventure
Howard Fairbank
Tue 8 Oct 2013 05:26





00:26.09N 30:23.38E   


Back in to the Northern hemisphere


Long ride back from Mweya, campsite in Queen Elizabeth Park, to Crater Lake area…. The very aggressive speed humps all over, and having done them twice now, really irritated.… Wardens send me off, Sunrise,

Game ride to start with another hippo, this time actually on the road infront of me.


I hab booked a game driver with the ranger from the Pavillion info centre, right at the north entrance of the QE Park. Then the US Aid Landcruiser, and driver, and two people and then to find a guard, these guys were milking it…. Lion poaching story, Bird spotting showing amateurs, village people problem, cell phones casual. What seemed like a great park, I was soon feeling like it wasn’t being managed properly, and was in decline. The game drive was expensive but really worth it from the point of view of the information I obtained.


I stopped at Fort Portal for lunch and then headed out for what I thought was about 50km of dirt road to get to Kibale and the Chimps. Another challenging ride, slippery, muddy roads. All the cars were struggling, and a flatbed truck had jacknifed almost blocking the path at the bottom of a hill.


The chimpanzee viewing was a bit of a disaster:   After being told, it’s almost guaranteed that we will see chimps, we, me and a irritating European family of three, walked for more than 4 hours, and missed the resident, habituated Chimpanzees. We, by fortune stumbled on a troupe of un-habituated chimpanzees, surprising them in a way that provided a very short but impressive viewing. High up in the canopy formed by these seriously tall equatorial forest trees, as they realised our presence, they started screaming and then sliding down the bare tree truck at a speed that would have put any human fireman to shame….  Anyway, that was all I saw, and I was a bit disappointed.


I camped with the baboons in Kibale Park campsite, and went for dinner at the nearby Primate Lodge we me and a 72 year old, British solo traveller were the only guests…. The manager joined us for a while and we had a pretty stimulating chat. This guy Roger was a real ‘find’ as he confessed to be very introverted at home, but here he was free and very talkative….. He did have a local guide driving him around, but he was very familiar and attached to the concept of solo travelling, and so in Roger I found an older version of me!   


Today in QE Park I saw more candelabra tress than I have ever seen before:

The Candelabra Tree Euphorbia ingens ,is found near the Equator. It can grow up to 10m tall and the branches all sprout from the trunk and they look a little like cactuses that grow upwards making the plant look like a candelabra. It has yellow flowers in winter. This tree is very beautiful but unfortunately also very poisonous. In fact just one drop of the inner sap can cause a blister. If it touches your eyes it can make you blind and even breathing its fumes can burn. The poisonous sap and the sharp spines it has on it branches are to prevent animals from feeding on it. Sometimes people use it as a fence because of these characteristics. Candelabra tree is also known by its scientific name, Euphorbia ingens. It is considered a succulent and is native to parts of Africa, the East Indies, and other countries bordering the equator. Generally, the candelabra tree can reach heights of about 40 feet (12.2 m). It generally has a single column with branches that reach out from the top section of that trunk, looking much like a candelabra. It also has needles along its green-colored trunk and branches, like a cactus, but the true danger lies in its sap, which is so toxic that can cause blindness and burns.

It is easy to maintain and care for a candelabra tree. The species thrives in sunny, arid areas, but it can survive if it is planted in an area of partial shade as well. It does not require a specific soil type, as long as the soil drains well. It only needs to be watered from time to time, and over watering may even be detrimental to the candelabra tree. It is considered a slow-growing plant, but is perfect for areas where water is scarce and soil is infertile.


The density and diversity of primates in Kibale National Park is the highest in the whole of Africa. The most well known of its 13 species are the chimpanzees, our closest relative. Kibale’s 1450 chimpanzee indicate Uganda’s biggest population of this threatened primate.Additionally Kibale is home to the uncommon I’Hoest’s monkey as well as East Africa’s biggest population of the endangered red colobus monkey. The black & white colobus, red tailed monkey, blue monkey, olive baboon, grey cheeked mangabey, bush baby and potto are among the other primates.

Lucky if maybe others arrive…..



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