So in keeping with the primate theme of the week, my next stop was at a chimpanzee sanctuary on an island in the middle of Lake Victoria. Originally I wasn’t planning on visiting, but my original plan of visiting the Queen Elizabeth II game park fell thru due to a nasty case of anthrax that had apparently wiped out a good bit of the animal population. Getting to the sanctuary was an adventure in itself. The highway that we took to get to the shore of the lake passed directly over the equator, and of course the locals made sure to take advantage of this! There was the usual overpriced tourist kitsch, and a guy who had a couple of buckets that he would slowly drain out water on each side of the equator. While draining, the water in one bucket would spin slowly clockwise, and in the opposite bucket (supposedly equidistant across the equator) it would spin anti-clockwise. He even put floating bits of paper in the water to show that it wasn’t spinning before he opened the drain and let the rotation begin. Now, I’ve been around long enough to know a little bit of science, and there is absolutely no way that the amount of Coriolis force a few meters away from the equator could be detected with even the most sensitive of instruments, much less a plastic washtub and a few paper flowers! Besides, according to my GPS, we were at least 30 meters (with a 10 meter margin of error) away from the actual equator, which meant that the guy giving the demonstration was on the same side of the equator both times! When I got back to the states, I did a bit of research and found this web site It was still well worth the stop, just for the opportunity to grab a photo of me straddling the equator. 🙂 Anyway, from the lake shore it was about a 45 minute boat ride across Lake Victoria to get to the island. We were about half way across when we started approaching what looked like a dark raincloud stretching all the way from the lake surface up to a couple of hundred feet. As soon as we hit the cloud, we realized that it was a solid mass of lake flies and there was no way to avoid them. We just basically curled up and tried to keep our eyes closed and our breathing filtered thru our t-shirts. The boat driver was apparently quite used to this reaction from the white folks, and just laughed at us as he drove thru the swarm. We finally got to to Ngamba island, we listened to a presentation from the rangers where he told us about the problems chimpanzees face both in the wild, and in captivity. All the animals in the 100 acre sanctuary had been rescued from either zoos or private homes, and due to their habitation with humans couldn’t be returned to the wild. Instead, they had about 90% of the island set aside as wild jungle, separated by an electric fence from the 10% that the humans are allowed on. We followed the rangers as they tossed buckets of fruit and veggies over the fence toward the forest. It didn’t take long before we heard the first animals running towards us, hooting as they raced for the food. Watching these animals was a lot of fun….it didn’t feel like watching the gorillas in the wild, but it also wasn’t anything like watching chimps in a zoo either. It was great to see them in a natural habitat, but I still want to go see wild chimps someday. The other good thing about the sanctuary was that there were LOTS of other monkeys running wild, and I finally got to see a crested crane (the bird on Uganda’s flag) up close.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: