Finding The Apes


Posted on January 21st, 2014 by Stephanie Hunt in Resources.

Perhaps the most fascinating, irresistible and charming creatures in Africa are the Apes.  Hidden in the dense jungle and rainforest areas, Africa’s gorillas and chimpanzees require time and effort to visit.  But the rare opportunity to share time with our distant cousins will be one of the highlights of your safari.

Mountain Gorilla

Gorilla gorilla beringei  Mountain gorilla

Quick Facts

  • The largest living primate, an adult male gorilla can be 1.8 meters tall and weigh 180kg.
  • Gorillas live in family groups, called troops, with up to 30 members.
  • Highly sociable, gorillas form strong attachments to members of their troop.
  • One mature male, known as the Silverback, normally acts as leader and chief protector.
  • Gorillas inhabit dense forest and rainforest, wandering over a 15-25km home range.
  • Feeding and resting through the day, gorillas build nests from bent branches or grasses each evening.
  • Gorillas are shy and retiring and will seek no trouble unless harassed.  But they will fiercely defend their family group when threatened.
  • Twenty-five distinct vocalizations are recognised and used for group communication in the dense vegetation.
  • There are only 880 mountain gorillas left in the world.

Where to See the Gorillas

  • Approximately 480 gorillas inhabit the Virunga Ranges.  This extinct volcanic region runs along the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • The remaining gorillas inhabit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwestern Uganda.

 About Visiting the Gorillas

  • Getting to see the gorillas is not easy and there are no guarantees.
  • At least a moderate level of fitness is required as you will have to trek through thick vegetation and up steep slopes in search of the gorillas.  The trek can last for several hours.
  • Local guides keep track of the animals, but they move daily and are not easy to track.  Visitors have been disappointed.
  • Your time with the gorillas is limited to 1 hour and facemasks may be required to prevent transmission of disease.
  • You may not use a flash, so choose your lens accordingly.
  • You will require an official permit to see the gorillas.

 

Western Lowland Gorilla

western lowland gorilla

Quick Facts

  • The smallest subspecies of gorilla, the average male still stands 1.6m tall and weighs 168 kg.
  • Compared to mountain gorillas there is a greater gender size difference, with females being half the size of males.
  • Endangered but far more common and widespread than the mountain gorillas.
  • Females don’t start reproducing until around 9 years old, and they generally have one offspring every 5 years.
  • When males reach maturity they go through a “bachelor stage” that can last several years.  Whereas females are never found alone.
  • This breed has the smallest family groups of all gorillas, averaging 4-8 members.
  • Highly sociable, gorillas form strong attachments to family members.
  • One mature male, known as the Silverback, normally acts as leader and chief protector.
  • The western lowland gorilla inhabits dense rainforest throughout central Africa.
  • Western gorillas frequently stand upright, but walk in a hunched, quadruped fashion.
  • Feeding and resting through the day, gorillas build nests from bent branches or grasses each evening.
  • All gorillas are shy and retiring and will seek no trouble unless harassed.  But they will fiercely defend their family group when threatened.

Where to See the Gorillas

  • The forests of the Congo (Brazzaville) harbour the largest population of western lowland gorillas.
  • Odzalla-Kokoua National Park has the densest population and new lodges are beginning to open, making this area more accessible.

About Visiting the Gorillas

  • Getting to see the gorillas is not easy and there are no guarantees.
  • At least a moderate level of fitness is required as you will have to trek on foot through thick vegetation, often for several hours.
  • Local guides keep track of the animals, but they move daily and are not easy to track.  Visitors have been disappointed.
  • Your time with the gorillas is limited to 1 hour and facemasks may be required to prevent transmission of disease.
  • You may not use a flash, so choose your lens accordingly.

 

Chimpanzee

chimpanzee

Quick Facts

  • Chimpanzees are humans’ closest relatives, sharing 98% of our genes.
  • Highly sociable, chimps move in flexible groups of 15-80, called troops.
  • Agile climbers, chimps build nests high up in the trees to rest during the day and sleep at night.
  • During the day chimps move largely on the ground, either bipedally or knuckle-walking.
  • Bigger than you might think, the adult male weighs up to 70kg and reaches heights of 1.7 meters.
  • Largely vegetarian, chimps do supplement their diets with meat.  Males hunt in groups for small antelope, monkeys and baboons.
  • Extremely noisy creatures, chimps communicate through screams, pant hoots, squeaks and barks.

Where to See the Chimpanzees

  • Chimps are present throughout a number of African countries, but the best place to see them is in Tanzania or Uganda.
  • The Mahale Mountains National Park, in western Tanzania, has an estimated 1,000 chimps in residence.
  • Gombe Stream National Park, also in western Tanzania, is where Jane Goodall studied chimps and remains home to several groups of habituated chimps.
  • Kibale National Park in Uganda is home to 1,500 chimps.
  • Chimps can also be seen at Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Kyamburu Gorge in Uganda.

About Visiting the Chimpanzees

  • You will have to trek to find the chimpanzees and the length of the walk can vary from a wander to the back of the camp to a 10-hour trek.
  • Local guides stay in touch with the chimps day to day movements.  As long as you’re up to walking, it’s unusual for people not to see the chimps in a 3-day stay.
  • When you find the chimps you are often able to get in close proximity as they are habituated.
  • Your time with the chimps is limited to 1 hour and facemasks may be required to prevent transmission of disease.
  • You may not use a flash, so choose your lens accordingly.
  • Tracking chimps is easier in the wet season when they don’t roam so far, but the dry season (July – October) is better for photos as the foliage is less dense.