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. Chimpanzees in Uganda, like elsewhere in Africa are threatened by poaching and deforestation. As more and more of their natural habitats are reduced to small patches of forests, they are forced to come into conflict with humans. The Ngamba Island chimpanzee sanctuary was opened as a non-profit in 1998 to cater for orphaned chimps that had been rescued from poachers, wildlife traffickers, zoos, and circuses from countries like Burundi, Congo, Russia, Tanzania and Uganda. Most of the chimpanzees in the sanctuary were rescued from poachers who make good profits by selling them in the pet market or for meat. While in transit with their captors or when waiting to be sold, they are kept in a deplorable states and have to endure great difficulty leaving most traumatized.
Ngamba Island Ngamba Island Chimpanzee sanctuary also known as “Chimp Island” is one of the leading sanctuaries for primates in the world. It is one of the best places to visit in Uganda. The sanctuary began with 19 chimpanzees but there could be over 50 individuals now. Ngamba island is found in Lake Victoria which is close to Entebbe town. The Island is covered with about 100 acres of forest which provide a natural environment and food for the chimpanzees. 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.
Chimpanzee in Ngamba Sanctuary
The Ngamba 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.
How to Reach Ngamba Island
Ngamba Island is one of the top attractions in Entebbe town. In order to get to Ngamba Island, one needs to take a speed boat. Most of the boats park and depart from 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 boats are equipped with life jackets and fire extinguishers.
The Ngamba Island Reservations Office is the main place to go to 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 do 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. To enter the island, you will be required to show an entrance ticket from the Ngamba Island Reservations office regardless of who you choose to travel with.
Visiting the Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary
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 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. The chimpanzees in Ngamba Island are well taken care of space in the island is limited. To avoid overcrowding, the chimps are stopped from reproducing by using modern birth control methods.
Ngamba chimpanzee sanctuary for orphaned chimps Half-day tours are organized in two shifts. The first shift starts at 9am and ends at 12:45 while the second ends at around 5pm. The Sanctuary also organizes overnight trips that can cost about $600 dollars. The overnight trips include accommodation in high quality self-contained tents and cottages.
First time visitors to the island will be struck by the beautiful scenery, amazing bird sounds and the amazing waters of Lake Victoria. Visitors are received by highly trained local and international staff from the sanctuary at the Centre for visitors. The staff will share information about the island, its history and how it came to be selected as a chimpanzee sanctuary. After the briefing and introduction, visitors are led to spot the chimpanzees feeding from a raised platform.
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 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.
Feeding Chimpanzees in Ngamba Island The feeding area is large and consists of an area of grassland which is followed by the large forest follows from where the chimps spend most of their day. The chimps are served mostly fruits in large buckets. It can be very amusing watching the chimps feed. Some stand up straight with hands raised and desperately begging for more food from the caretakers while others clap to get the same attention from the caregivers. 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. Some are known to sleep in the forest once in a while but the tasty porridge served in the evenings forces all of them back to their nesting enclosures most of the time. Their health is monitored by experienced caregivers and veterinary officers. The resident Veterinary doctor has a choice of the best equipment for scanning, theatre and MRI tests. If you are interesting in seeing Chimpanzees wilder surroundings, then you might find our 3 Days Chimpanzee tracking tour to Uganda Kibale Forest National Park very interesting.
The cost of visiting the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary
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 school on an education are given discounts. If you are interested in the Caregiver for a day experience, you will need to pay $200. This experience is only available for those who are spending a night or two in the island.
Main activities in Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary
Caregiver for the day experience:
This experience is available for visitors who decide to spend the night or more in the island. The experience is designed to give visitors an opportunity 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 are involved in all aspects of chimpanzee care including preparing food and feeding them. While on the caregiver for the day experience, you are also involved in the cleaning of the chimp sleeping chambers, during the performance of medical tests, in research and 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.
Long stay visitor programme:
This programme is for those who are intending on staying in the island for a while. Those who choose this program can expect to join a highly trained and experienced team that is dedicated to taking care of the chimps on an ongoing basis. While on this programme, 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, data collection, entry and analysis.
integrating young chimpanzee 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 in 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 in the community depends on sex, the trauma experienced and age. The new chimp has to get used to staying in the indoor facility, living with smaller groups of individuals in the outside enclosure and finally with the whole group while in the forest.
To ensure smooth integration, new chimps live in a separate enclosure for a while to protect them from being bullied by older chimps. Different adult chimps are introduced to the young in intervals for familiarity. Visitors invited to take part in the integration process will take the young chimpanzees for a walk in the forest while holding their hands or carrying some on their backs. The walk in the forest is intended to teach the infants to be comfortable living and exploring the forest later on.
Monitor Lizard in Ngamba IslandForest Trail/Walk: A forest trail at Ngamba island is designed to help visitors learn about the animals and plants found in the island. It is also an opportunity for direct contact with some of the juvenile chimpanzee who are allowed to walk with visitors to the forest. Chimpanzee young behave just like those of humans. You can carry a playful juvenile chimp on your back or play hide and seek. Like humans, chimpanzee juveniles love teasing ricking and seeking attention. Apart from the chimps, the islands is also home to monitor lizards, otters, fish eagles, spiders and fruit bats.
Boat cruise in Ngamba IslandFishing: Fishing while at the 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.
Volunteering at the Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary
chimps relaxing in Ngamba Island The Ngamba Island Chimpanzee sanctuary has a volunteer program targeting primate lovers and those who are interested in learning more about chimpanzees. The program is for four weeks and is divided into two parts. During the first part of the program, participants are actively involved in the daily activities in the Chimpanzee Sanctuary including preparing chimpanzee food, feeding them, data collection/entry, cleaning chimpanzee housing facilities, taking part in medical treatments and learning about general wildlife conservation. By the end of this part of the programme, you will have an in-depth understanding of chimpanzees and what is required to take care of them. The second part of the volunteer program involves working with 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. All volunteers are entitled to 3 meals a day. They are given a free day each week in which to visit surrounding communities, other nearby wildlife reserves or for leisure activities within Entebbe or Kampala. One needs to be very interested, dedicated and willing to sacrifice a lot of time while volunteering at the sanctuary. To inquire about the possibilities of volunteering, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Accommodation – Hotels and Lodges in Ngamba Island
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 that offer amazing scenery. Spending the
night in the island outside the tent is beautiful. During the night, one can enjoy the sounds of the waves and chimpanzee.
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 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.