04.30.2017 27 °C
Up this morning for a 7:30 departure and of course it's a gorgeous sunny day in Jinja, as we say goodbye to the pool. Our hired driver Richard was early to pick us up, and we stopped to get a coffee with soy milk at the Java House (Africa's Starbucks) before we set out. The drive was supposed to take 4-5 hours since you go through Kampala and Kampala's traffic is absolutely brutal. But since it was Sunday and still early, basically the whole country was in church and Richard said it was the perfect time to drive. The trip ended up taking less than 3 hours on mostly single lane traffic and through many little villages. Score!
Richard was a really unique guy, basically single at 33 which his family hates, but he has a taxi company with 5 drivers under him and he rents out rooms in Jinja. It sounds like he's worked very hard to get where he is, and his 6 siblings all had kids young and are all struggling. The Ugandan English accent is really difficult to understand, but I got used to it by the end of the drive. He asked about us and how we managed to avoid pregnancy, which I thought was quite a taboo topic for Eastern Africa! But we told him anyways haha. We also talked about our dog and how he sleeps with us, and I showed him pictures to prove it. African dogs only sleep outside and are for security, so it always surprises people to learn that ours sleeps with us!
As we drove into the Entebbe area the sky got dark and eventually it started POURING. We reached our hotel and ran inside, paying and thanking Richard for the quick and friendly drive. Once inside we had to wait about an hour for our room to be ready, but the owner and her kids (and wifi) kept us occupied. Since it was getting close to noon I didn't think we would get to go and see the orphaned chimpanzees on Ngamba Island, something I had really wanted to do in Entebbe. Angela, the owner, made a few calls and booked us on the boat; I was thrilled! She also arranged for a driver to take us there. So as soon as we checked into our very nice little hut we were on the road to the marina, and the rain was just starting to let up.
It was a little delayed to get going but we made some small talk with an Alaskan father and son and then we headed out on the boat for the almost hour long ride out to Ngamba Island.
Once there we were greeted by a TON of flies and a crazy smell of ocean, even though we were on the largest lake in Africa. I think it was all the fishing they do. There was also a massive lizard on the beach! He was too far away for a good photo though.
Our tour started with a guide telling us about the island. It was taken over by the conservation group to take care of orphaned chimps. The island is 1 square kilometre in size, and the few people who take care of the chimps live on 5% of it, the chimps roam freely in the forest for the rest, separated by two massive electric fences. It felt a lot like Jurassic park as the chimps were roaming freely maybe 50 feet away, past the fence, and calling and yelling out for us! They knew it was almost time for their afternoon snack. Our guide told us lots of information about them, their social lives, politics and romantic lives. They have 49 chimps on the island and two babies that were made when the chimps removed their own IUD's and got pregnant! We also learned about how they introduce a new orphan or a new member to the family, and how it can take up to 2 years to have a new chimp be accepted into the group. It sounds like a lot of work to be sure they can roam free with the others. They get the chimps from around Africa when they're injured or separated from their mothers due to poaching, traps, and injuries. Their oldest member is 36 years old!
We learned more about the chimps and watched them from afar before we walked right up to a platform next to the first electric fence and watched the volunteers throw avocados, watermelon and sweet potato over the fence. The chimps put their hands up waiting for their share! It was amazing to see. They are so human like it was crazy. They all have completely different faces, just like people, and not at all like the other animals we've seen. Like every zebra has unique stripes, but their faces are identical to me. These chimps had completely different faces.
Then came a mom and baby looking for their share. The mom was at the point of letting baby wander off to different chimps and socialize and find his way. It was super cute!
When the chimps wanted the food that hadn't made it over the fence, they banged sticks and motioned for the caretakers to use these giant sticks and poke the food through the electric fence at them. The chimps had their own sticks and fished it through the fence being sure not to touch. It was so cool to watch!
At the end we got up close and personal with some chimps in the holding areas. These are the ones who they are trying to introduce into the family in the forest. There was also a mom with her baby who got pregnant super young, usually too young to get pregnant, so she is unable to properly care for the baby and they weren't doing well in the forest. Baby is suuuuper cute! The guide said they are working to reintroduce them now.
Just watching them eat and be around each other was amazing. I'm really glad the tour all worked out for us. Plus the sky opened up and we got a gorgeous day in the end!
Our boat ride back was much smoother than the one coming to the island, and we stopped in the middle of the lake so the driver could announce that we were on the equator line! Queue equator selfie.
After returning to the mainland we got a taxi to the mall where we ate at a cafe and enjoyed the open air restaurant. We watched monkeys go through garbage in the parking lot too. There were so many! They were pretty large too and with super long tails. I didn't get a photo of them though, Josh said I was making a scene because I was so excited to watch them lol.
Now we're back to our hotel for another early night, having a few Tuskers since they may be our last! We depart here at 2 am (gross) to the airport to fly to Cairo!