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It was a lifetime experience for Uganda Wildlife Authority's twelve interpretive guides specializing in mountain gorilla and chimpanzee tracking, when they closely interacted with the playful chimpanzees in the undisturbed Budongo forest reserve.

Uganda is famous for its unique populations of primates particularly mountain gorillas in Bwindi –Mgahinga Conservation Area and chimpanzees in Kibale National Park also known as the World's primate capital. Kanio-Pabidi an eco tourism centre in Budongo forest reserve inside Murchison Falls Conservation Area is also another popular destination harbouring over 120 chimps.

On January 29th, 2013, the management of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) offered 12 guides from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP), Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (MGNP) and Kibale National Park(KNP) a unique opportunity to enjoy a guided tour of the Budongo forest where they tracked chimpanzees during which they shared their guiding experiences.

The guides included David Agenya, Ritah Namatovu, Zipporah Kabugho and Wilber Tumwesigye from BINP while MGNP was represented by Allen Uwihoreye, Peace Niwanyine, Lucky Byukusabe and Yonah Okoth. From the Primate capital (KNP) were chimps tracking specialists namely Silver Kyamukama, Charles Turinawe, Gerald Tumwekwase and Harriet Nakyesa.

After an early morning breakfast at Budongo Eco-Lodge,8km from Kichumbanyobo gate, professional guides namely Joshua and John briefed the anxious team on what they should expect in the forest, the behavior of the chimps, clues leading to sighting of the primates, the dos and don'ts for them to have an eventful adventure.

Equipped with binoculars and cameras, the team broke into two groups of six individuals each and hit the forest at exactly 8.00 am using well maintained trails while observing minimum silence. During the smooth walk under the thick canopies, the team made intermittent stop -overs as the guides explained the various species of mahogany trees, calls made by a cross section of birds like chocolate backed king fisher, hornbills, and pruvels illadopsis.

The enthusiastic team also helped the guides to identify clues leading to the sighting of the chimps some of which were high up in the tree canopies while others were on the ground .They were also able to encounter other forest mammals like duikers, Black and white colobus monkeys and baboons.

It took the groups an average of thee walking hours to and from the forest to track the chimps some of which appeared not fully habituated as they kept running away from the visitors. It was an exciting moment to sight the closest cousins feeding on different fruits and forage as they occasionally threw some pods on the ground and acrobatically swung between the branches.

Across the valleys, some of the chimps made different vocalizations to keep in touch with the members of their community while others marked their territorial boundaries. During the tracking adventure, the UWA team and the Budongo guides compared notes on the challenges encountered in their routine chores, clues on easy sighting and detection of chimpanzee location, physical features that differentiate individuals among others.

The UWA team also utilized the sojourn to visit the breath taking top of Murchison Falls where the Victoria Nile Waters explode trough a narrow seven metre gorge cascading down to become a placid river.

The guides were earlier flagged off from the UWA head office by the Executive Director Dr. Andrew Ggunga Seguya flanked by the Director Tourism and Business Services (DTBS) Mr. Raymond Engena.

On their return, the visibly re-energised staff shared their experience with the DTBS and vowed to improve customer care, enrich their product knowledge through wider research, improve networking with their colleagues in the industry and above all market the other tourist attractions offered by UWA.

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