Chimps are one of the “Great Ape” species and are found only in Africa; there are three great ape species in Africa, the other two being gorillas and bonobos. Chimps used to inhabit the whole of equatorial Africa but are now restricted to 21 countries. It is not known how many survive in the wild, but an educated guess would be fewer than 100,000. Chimps are on the CITES endangered species list. The major threats to their survival are poaching for “bushmeat” and the pet trade; the ubiquitous challenge of deforestation for agriculture and logging is also a major threat.
N’gamba Island is part of the Koome archipelago in Lake Victoria, 23km offshore from Entebbe. It’s nearly 40 Ha of primary forest: “primary forest” is woodland that has never been logged. A small area (approx 2 Ha) in fenced off as a visitor centre, opened in 1999, thus keeping humans and their potential health-threats separate from the chimps.
N’gamba is home to 44 orphaned chimpanzees, 29 of which were confiscated from the illegal pet trade. N’gamba Island is managed by the Chimpanzees Sanctuary & Wildlife Conservation Trust (CSWCT) which is a combination of 6 international organizations including the Born Free Foundation and the Jane Goodall Institute. N’gamba provides a secure home for the chimps to live out their lives: a return to the wild is not possible.
You travel to N’gamba by boat (approximately 50 minutes by speedboat or 1½ hours by motorised traditional “pirogue”). Entrance and activity fees go directly to N’gamba.
Day trips (Half day on the speedboat and or Full day on the traditional boat)
Travel out from the pier to the island and view either a morning or afternoon feeding from the viewing platform. The N’gamba staff will give an informal talk about the work they do, life on the island and some of the characters of the chimps. Lunch is included. Other activities can be included such as, kayaking, swimming on the equator, viewing a near-by fishing village, bird-watching (which is excellent) or just sunbathe and relax!
There are four en-suite tents (with solar-powered lighting) on the island, overlooking the lake, accommodating two persons per tent. Meals are provided by friendly camp staff and dining is either in the mess tent or al fresco, depending on the weather. There is a cash bar for soft drinks, beer and wine. You can watch both feedings (11:00 and 14:30) from the visitors’ platform; the bedtime and early morning feeding routines at the chimpanzee holding facility and you have unlimited use of the other island facilities. The most common animal species seen are otters and monitor lizards. The birding list extends to over 154 species.
Camp staff and CSWCT staff are resident on N’gamba for informal conversation.
The Integration and Care-giver Program
The aim is to establish a single troop of chimps: new arrivals are health checked and gradually introduced to the main group. This is a continuous process because rescued animals arrive throughout the year. Most of the chimpanzees at N’gamba have accepted each other and live as a natural, wild community with a social hierarchy; there are a couple of rogues who prefer their own company. Integration depends on factors such as age, gender, level of trauma experienced and how long the individual lived in captivity. Integration has three phases:-
1. Settling in and health-checking new arrivals.
2. Introducing new arrivals to a selection of gentle residents, in small groups, first indoors and then outside in an enclosure.
3. Releasing them into the main forest enclosure with the rest of the group.
Visitors to N’gamba can participate in the integration program working with very young as well as adult chimps. There are very specific instructions regarding clothing, cameras, glasses and behaviour when signing up for this unique opportunity. The N’gamba chimpanzees are used to human contact and they will play-bite, climb on you, grab your glasses and pull your hair … and sometimes they will behave and walk along holding your hand! There is no guarantee how long this activity will last and it may be curtailed at any time.
Minimum age is 18 years; maximum 65 years.
Checklist for visitor.
The following MUST be accompanied by supporting original documentation (a vaccination certificate or signed GP letter).
* Hepatitis A (valid 20 years)
* Hepatitis B (valid 5 years)
* Measles vaccination: either vaccination cert or a blood test titer result, stating your immunity to measles. Unfortunately even if you have had the disease or a vaccine as a child you must have a blood test result stating your immunity to measles.
* Meningococcal meningitis (Menomune vaccine – covers A, C, W & Y strains and is valid 3 years)
* Polio vaccination (valid 10 years)
* Tetanus vaccination (valid 10 years)
* Yellow fever (valid 10 years)
* Tuberculosis (TB) test – negative result – this test can be done through your doctor or a laboratory.
Please also note that your TB test must have been done within the last six months.
All vaccines must be at least two (2) weeks old prior to arrival on the island (this is the length of time it takes for your immunity levels to react).
Before leaving the mainland visit the CSWCT offices in Entebbe where they will check your documentation, have you sign release forms, collect your payment and provide you with a portfolio of information about our project.
You will also need to be clear of any cold sores/herpes simplex. Chimpanzees and many other non-human primates are susceptible to herpes infections. So again, if you suffer from these, please ensure that you are free of them before arrival.
If you have any of the above or cold/flu like symptoms/cold sores, unfortunately you will be denied contact with the chimps.
All payments made locally must be in US dollars, cash only, in denominations of $50 and $100 notes. Notes must be in mint or excellent condition.