My guide Joseph

in search of chimpanzees

Bananas, anyone?

KAVALI  ..........  I didn't know how long we'd hike in search of the chimpanzees or how much would be uphill. I was prepared with long pants tucked into my socks, long sleeves (a sweatshirt that would never recover from the hike), water, and film - I also had on sneakers with absolutely zero traction. As B.B., the guide, hopped and skipped, I tripped and slipped down the trails.

To my horror and fear, B.B. said he couldn't guarantee we'd even see the chimps. I couldn't imagine coming all the way to Kavali National Park and not seeing them. But, B.B. was a great guide. He guided me 4.5 kilometers into the forest, and it sounded like a Tarzan movie. I saw a few kinds of primates I'd never heard of before, but they did not satisfy.

The place was not Etosha. There were no chimps sitting by the edge of the paths waiting to be photographed. But, they were there. At first I only caught glimpses of them at the edge of our limited view of the rain forest. They didn't stay put on land, but in the treetops I was able to watch them eat and play. It was not a photographer's delight. The forest was dark and pointing a camera up into the sky wasn't good either. Actually, not one of my photos of the chimpanzees came out. But, as a spectator, it was incredible. On the day before, as the matato (public bus) zoomed down dusty roads, I wondered, "What am I doing in rural Uganda?" After seeing the chimpanzees, I knew. It was just amazing - and exhausting.

Copyright 2000 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.