In November 2015 I spent two weeks travelling through Uganda. The main focus of the trip was wildlife conservation, with a particular emphasis on great apes. One of the first places we visited after having arrived in Entebbe was the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary.
Situated in Lake Victoria, approximately 23 km south-east of Entebbe, Ngamba Island is home to 48 orphaned chimps that have been rescued from throughout Uganda as well as some surrounding countries. The sanctuary is run by the NGO Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust (CSWCT). They not only run the sanctuary itself, but are also involved in the conservation education of local communities, as well as working with the Ugandan government and wildlife authorities.
Our visit to Ngamba Island coincided with lunchtime for the chimps, so I took the opportunity to record them as they vocalised. It was interesting to hear how they communicated both between themselves and with the staff who were distributing fruits.
Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that any of the chimps will return to the wild. But it was fascinating seeing how the staff manage the sanctuary for confiscated individuals that cannot be returned to the wild. Although I felt the work being done here was very impressive, I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed seeing the chimps fenced in. They have 98 acres of forested land to roam free, but as visitors our time was restricted to viewing platforms which felt a bit like being in a zoo. And knowing that later in my trip I would be observing both chimps and gorillas in the wild, it felt a little bit strange being here.
Being located in the middle of Lake Victoria, Ngamba Island is also home to some wonderful birdlife. On arrival we were greeted by a terrific noise coming from a nearby tree. As I approached I realised there were hundreds of Black Headed Weaver Birds nesting. Male Weaver Birds are responsible for building the nest, which will only be used once. The nests are beautifully woven from strips of reeds or grass leaves. Once completed the males display outside their nest trying to attract a female.
Not far from the first group of Weaver Bird nests, I found another tree a few metres offshore. The soundscape was really beautiful, with the frantic calling of the Weaver Birds contradicting with the calm lapping of small waves onto the shore of the island.
A little further inland I came across a number of Spurwinged Plover. These birds nest on the ground and try to ward off potential predators with a kip-kip-kip sound. Conscious of not disturbing the bird, I respectfully kept my distance whilst recording.
Whilst I enjoyed my time on Ngamba Island, in the back of my mind I was aware of the more adventurous experiences that were to come as I would travel further into Uganda. I was particularly keen to get out into the wild, rather than visiting wildlife in a controlled environment. That said, I can’t take away the hard work being done by all at Ngamba Island in helping the conservation effort.
Photos in this post are courtesy of Dee Marshall – www.beneaththeskies.com/