"Ngamba Island Chimp Sanctuary" Ngamba Island by emeybee
Ngamba Island Travel Guide: 35 reviews and 129 photos
Ngamba Island is a sanctuary for chimpanzees that were orphaned, usually due to poaching and people trying to keep them as pets. The goal of the sanctuary is to help the chimps transition back into the wild. When I visited they had two groups, adults and juveniles. The adults were living in the forest part of the island, however they clashed with the juveniles, so the juveniles had to stay within a manufactured jungle-gym-like compound.
Visitors are welcome at the island, most take half-day trips from Entebbe. It takes about a half hour there and back by speed boat, and they have a slower traditional boat too. The trips are arranged through a local company called Wild Frontiers that was very efficient and reliable from my experience with them. They are a seperate entity from the folks who run the sanctuary.
When you reach the island you are given a tour and a history of the sanctuary, it's goals, etc. You are then able to observe a feeding, when all of the chimps come in from the forest to be given fruits and vegetables. There you can see them MUCH closer than if you were tracking them in the forest, and can take photos and what-not. The adult chimps are much... wilder, for lack of a better word, and due to danger issues you can't have personal contact. When they come in for feeding you are on a bridge about six feet above/away from where they are.
The trip to and from the island wasn't very expensive if I remember right, and is based on the number in your party.
Everyone who visited the island as described above seemed to enjoy themselves, but I can't imagine going and not participating in a chimp walk. Unfortunately it is far more expensive to do this and you have to stay on the island overnight, so it may not be an option for everyone. But it is for you, do it! It was 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, argue with each other over who gets the next piggy ride, and it's just a once in a life time experience that I don't think exists anywhere else in the world.
If you want to participate in the chimp walk, however, definitely plan ahead. You need a couple extra shots 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!
Staying on the island is great and although you stay in a tent it is FAR from roughing it. The tent is more like a room that happens to have canvas walls. They are complete with beds, lamps, restrooms, everything you'd find in a normal hotel. Maybe not 4 or 5 star, but very comfortable. The best part is you have your own huge balcony overlooking Lake Victoria (literally just feet from the water). They also have an on-site chef and I probably my best meals in all Uganda here. The entire island is very eco-friendly also, and they'll tell you all about composting and that sort of thing if you're interested.
By staying on the island you get a much better feel from the place. Besides being able to take part in the chimp walk you also are able to talk with the staff, who not only are very knowledgable scientists/zoologists but locals with amazing stories of their own.
- Pros:Once in a life time interaction with chimpanzees, great hospitality and staff!
- Cons:My stay was too short!
- In a nutshell:Where else can you give a chimpazee a piggy back ride?
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... more travel advice
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