Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary is the leading primate conservation initiative in Uganda. The Chimpanzee population in Uganda has reduced considerably in the last 30 years. The sanctuary ensures that all volunteers receive three meals a day. Additionally, volunteers have the opportunity to take a free day each week to explore surrounding communities, and other nearby wildlife reserves, or engage in leisure activities within Entebbe or Kampala. Volunteering at the sanctuary demands a high level of interest, dedication, and a willingness to devote a substantial amount of time.
As a member of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance, the sanctuary attracts famous primate researchers, institutions, and staff from similar sanctuaries around the world who come to collaborate and share knowledge. Other interesting sanctuaries include the JACK Chimpanzee Sanctuary in DR Congo, Lwiro Chimpanzee Sanctuary in DR Congo, Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Centre in Congo, and the Senkwekwe Centre for orphaned mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park.
The Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary is under the management of the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust (CSWCT). The Trust works in partnership with 6 other wildlife conservation organizations which are committed to the welfare and conservation of wildlife. The organizations include the Uganda Wildlife Society, Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, Jane Goodall Institute, New South Wales Zoological Park, and International Fund for Animal Welfare, Environmental Conservation Trust of Uganda, and Born Free Foundation.
Ngamba Island is one of the top attractions in Entebbe town. To get to Ngamba Island, one needs to take a speed boat. Most of the boats park and depart from the waterfront beach in Entebbe close to the Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre (Entebbe Zoo). The boats are of different sizes. Some can take up to 25 people. Depending on budget, one can choose the smaller and faster boats or the larger ferries.
The Ngamba Island Reservations Office is the main place to go for any boat bookings. There are independent individuals and boats organizing boat trips to and from the Island but it is much safer to use the official Reservation office. If you find any difficulty booking with the Ngamba Reservations office, consult your tour company to make the bookings on your behalf.
The price charged depends on the number of people and kind of boat. Groups are charged less while solo travelers pay more. A speed boat takes about 50 minutes to reach the island. If one chooses local motorized canoes, they could take about 90 minutes. One can also take a chartered flight from Kajjansi Airstrip of Entebbe Airport directly to the island or arrange for a helicopter flight to the island.
One of the objectives of the Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary apart from taking care of the orphans is to educate the public about these remarkable primates and the importance of protecting their forest homes. By visiting the island and paying a fee, one contributes to the cost of ensuring the well-being of the primates. Visitors to the sanctuary have an opportunity to spot the chimps, feed them, and take part in other activities within the island including boat cruises, fishing, swimming, and relaxation/sunbathing.
Highly trained local and international staff from the sanctuary at the Centre for Visitors warmly welcome first-time visitors to the island. They will provide information about the island, its history, and the process that led to its selection as a chimpanzee sanctuary. Following the briefing and introduction, the staff guides visitors to observe the chimpanzees feeding from a raised platform, where they can take in the beautiful scenery, listen to the captivating bird sounds, and appreciate the stunning waters of Lake Victoria.
The section for chimps is protected using an electric fence. You might not find them in the feeding area if you arrive too early but once they hear the siren from the caregiver, you will start to hear their vocal cries, screams, and calls as they come from the thick forest to the feeding area. The chimpanzees can be spotted very closely and clearly from a raised platform. You will be able to observe their interactions, group dynamics, and distinct personalities. The caregivers have a strong bond with each of them like they would with a brother or sister. The experience of watching the chimps may not be the same as normal chimpanzee trekking but you will be able to see some things that are not usually possible in the wild.
Chimpanzees are very intelligent. They will use sticks to pull fruits closer to them or get those that have been trapped in the fence. After taking their lunch, the chimps head back to the forest. The chimps rest for the night in an enclosure away from the feeding area and forest. Evening porridge entices chimps back to their nesting enclosures, though some choose to sleep in the forest. Experienced caregivers and veterinary officers closely monitor their health. The resident Veterinary doctor has a choice of the best equipment for scanning, theatre, and MRI tests.
A half-day tour with a speed boat costs about $115 per individual. The same tour with a slower motorized boat costs $ 80 per person. Children below 5 years do not pay anything while teenagers pay half the price. Ugandan citizens, tour companies, and educational institutions receive discounts. To participate in the Caregiver for a Day experience, a fee of $200 is required. This experience is only available for those who are spending a night or two on the island.
Main activities in Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary
This experience is available for visitors who decide to spend the night or more on the island. The experience is designed to allow visitors to understand what the caregivers go through to make the chimps happy and in good health. Chimps in Ngamba IslandTo be eligible, one has to be ready to undergo extensive medical tests and clearance. Participants actively engage in all aspects of chimpanzee care, which encompasses tasks such as food preparation and feeding. When experiencing the role of caregiver for the day, you also take part in cleaning the chimps’ sleeping chambers, assisting in medical procedures, conducting research, and overseeing the overall monitoring of individual chimps. The experience not only allows visitors to experience what it is like to take care of chimps but also helps raise funds for the sanctuary.
This program is for those who intend to stay on staying in the island for a while. Highly trained and experienced chimp caregivers welcome volunteers to join their team. While on this program, you can take part in activities like cleaning chimp cages, helping in construction projects at the island, cooking chimp food, helping in the island shop, treating the chimps, and data collection, entry, and analysis.
integrating young chimpanzees in Ngamba IslandTaking part in the Integration Program for Chimpanzee infants: One of the most important things a newly rescued chimp has to undergo is integration with the group already on the island. The older chimps may take a while to accept a new resident or infants born within the island. The amount of time a rescued chimp takes to integrate into the community depends on sex, the trauma experienced, and age. The new chimp undergoes a gradual acclimatization process, starting with becoming accustomed to the indoor facility, then living with smaller groups in the outside enclosure, and ultimately integrating with the entire group in the forest.
Meticulously crafted, Ngamba Island’s Forest Trail offers visitors an educational experience, enabling them to gain insights into the island’s diverse array of flora and fauna. Additionally, it provides a unique opportunity for direct interaction with some of the juvenile chimpanzees, who accompany visitors on their forest exploration. Chimpanzees young behave just like humans. You can carry a playful juvenile chimp on your back or play hide and seek. Like humans, chimpanzee juveniles love teasing ticking, and seeking attention. Apart from the chimps, the islands are also home to monitoring lizards, otters, fish eagles, spiders, and fruit bats.
Boat cruise on Ngamba IslandFishing: Fishing while at Ngamba Island is very interesting. The main species caught are the Nile Perch and Tilapia. Fishing can be arranged for half a day or the whole day. Regardless of whether you choose half-day or full-day fishing, the experience will be very magical as you explore the great Lake Victoria. The Skippers are certified from the UK and know the best places to catch the largest fish. You can come with your fishing equipment or ask where to get one from within the sanctuary.
Sunset cruises: Sunset cruises are arranged in the evenings at around the time when the sun sets. While on the cruise, you will be able to spot the fishing villages and fishermen casting their nets as you enjoy a glass of wine in a truly romantic evening.
Chimps relax on Ngamba Island at the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, which offers a volunteer program tailored for primate enthusiasts and also those eager to delve deeper into chimpanzee knowledge. The program spans four weeks and comprises two distinct phases. In the initial phase, participants actively engaged in the day-to-day operations of the Chimpanzee Sanctuary. This includes preparing food for the chimpanzees, feeding them, collecting and entering data, maintaining and cleaning the chimpanzee housing facilities, participating in medical treatments, and gaining insights into general wildlife conservation.
By the conclusion of this program segment, you will possess a comprehensive understanding of chimpanzees and the responsibilities involved in their care. The second part of the volunteer program involves working on field projects. These projects help in raising awareness about the dwindling number of chimpanzees, forest, and general wildlife conservation. This part of the program also allows the Volunteer to help in strengthening partnerships with local institutions and individuals who are key in the area of wildlife conservation.
During the program volunteers live within the island. Internet, electricity, hot showers, and toilets are available throughout the day. The sanctuary provides all volunteers with three meals a day. Volunteers also receive a free day each week to visit surrounding communities, and other nearby wildlife reserves, or engage in leisure activities within Entebbe or Kampala. Volunteering at the sanctuary requires a strong interest, dedication, and a willingness to invest a significant amount of time. To inquire about the possibilities of volunteering, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visitors staying for a night or more can expect to sleep in luxurious tents with showers and comfortable beds. The tents and cottages are built close to the Lake Shores which offer amazing scenery. Spending the
night on the island outside the tent is beautiful. During the night, one can enjoy the sounds of the waves and chimpanzees.
Ngamba Eco-Lodge offers both luxury cottages and standard camping tents close to the waters of Lake Victoria. The lodge offers beautiful views and sounds of the lake. As you are about to doze off at night, you can hear the hooting of the chimps from their enclosure. The lodge also offers outstanding facilities with self-contained rooms that include hot showers, electricity, and private balconies. Staff at the hotel are super friendly and professional having received training from the Disney resorts in the US (Florida). The dishes served are both local and continental.