The long walk or Don’t give up!

We walked and we walked and we walked in the dense vegetation in the tropical forest, uphill, downhill, very rarely on paths, stumbling on roots, getting stuck on thorny bushes and avoiding safari ants. We were a group of photo enthusiasts trying to find chimpanzees in the Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.

We heard them, suddenly close to us, chatting, screaming and banging on tree trunks. Chimpanzees are very noisy animals! With the help of our skilled guide we tried to get close, moving silently and calmly. No luck – they just flew between the tree tops, away from us.

We walked on. And on. And on.

There they were again, just close by! Maybe this time we can get close to them and actually observe them, not only hear them!

But no. Same story again. And again. And again. The guide never failed to lead us in their direction, but the chimps always won the race.

We walked on in the beautiful forest.

Eventually, we spotted a male high up in a tree. Great excitement and all cameras out!

iPhone photo by Annelie Utter

But … was he laughing at us standing there clicking away and getting neck problems while trying our very best to get a good shot?

Silly humans, I’m sure he thought, while resigning to being photographed.

After seven hours of walking we gave up on the group we had tried to follow and set out to look for another group of these clever animals. Now we were lucky and rather soon found some that we could observe – and they could observe us.

The one here below was a rather philosophical guy, I thought, as I watched him sitting down to contemplate the interest in him and his pals.

Chimpanzees love fruit and this specimen feasted on some with red seeds that stuck to his lips.

When we were back at the jeep that should bring us back to the lovely Ndali Lodge where we were staying, 10 hours had passed since we set out in the morning. 10 hours of walking in the tropical forest. Was it worth it? Yes!!! Would I do it again? Without any hesitation!!! The experience of being close to chimpanzees in their natural habitat has no price and is worth all efforts.

It had been a wonderful day. I admit that I was a little tired though – just a tiny bit.



The proud mother

Help! The jeep suddenly veered off the track and headed straight into the bush. It looked a little like this, but denser:

Logs broke underneath the jeep, branches cracked against its sides, branches and leaves bounced as our guide navigated the vehicle with great determination. It was the first morning of my first real safari, and I was in Botswana, in the Khwai private concession.

I was very excited.

But what was the destination of this off-road expedition? We stopped in front of a hollow log and were asked to be very quiet. And then we saw a tail, a spotted tail, a leopard tail! Inside the log!! Never before had a tail caused such excitement and been the object of so many photos (I was with a group of Swedish photo enthusiasts).

But those small spots …? There was also a cub! The excitement reached new heights. I’m not ashamed to admit that tears started filling my eyes: here I was, on the first morning of my first safari, sitting a couple of metres from a leopard cub!

We waited very patiently for a while, but mother and cub didn’t come out. We decided to come back later and headed towards new morning adventures that brought more tears of happiness to my eyes (I mention this just to make you curious and alert for upcoming posts).

We all held our breath as we headed into the bush a few hours later: would we see more than a tail? The reply was very soon very obvious:

And as if this beautiful sight of a proud and vigilant mother wasn’t enough (notice how one of her ears is listening in to something), the spotted little creature was now quite visible inside its home:

Our guides told us that the cub must be less than eight days old since it hadn’t yet opened its eyes. We were in awe.