Just after sunrise we boarded our small engined boat. Everything else seemingly still asleep. Lake Tanganyika mirror-like. Its water the clearest of any lake I’ve ever seen with columns of early morning sunlight penetrating some feet to the sandy bottom. Engine noise shattering the morning silence as we headed back up the lake in the direction of Gombe Stream National Park. (From Bujumbura, on the previous Tuesday, we traveled over night down the lake by tug-boat no less…!) By 9 A.M.we had arrived, paid the entrance fee, completed formalities and set off into the park.

The hike started out easy enough but gradually increased in intensity. The incline becoming more and more difficult. Abdul, our guide, whispering into the cb radio along the way. After about an hour we stop for some questions. “They use tools? Yes. They charge? Yes. They hunt? Yes. They’re obviously intelligent then? Yes”. Molly and I look at each other nervously. “If they charge….Hug a tree!”. Thanks Abdul…that’s a great help! Then, as if they knew they we were in the forest, they let out raucous screams. The kind that send shivers up your spine. “Welcome!” Abdul declares. Nervously we continue. Steeper and steeper. Sweating heavily now we look up.

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A black hairy ball of legs and arms. Barely recognisable until a head pops out for a quick look. Chimpanzees. Lots of them. Most sitting around and grooming each other. Almost flossing with each others hair. I’ve seen this group on t.v. – the “F” group. Fifi, Flori and Frodo all there. I am in disbelief. I am where Jane Goodall carried out over 50 years of research. This very ground.

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All of a sudden hooting, screaming, screeching yelping and howling. Just as before. “Dont run” Abdul says. I’m petrified. “Run? Where?” I think. One breaks off and practically runs through the treetops. Shadowlike. Most of the group are now on the ground. We watch patiently and quietly trying not to make direct eye contact and keeping our distance. We all follow various F group members for about one and a half hours. Frodo is up in his nest and refuses to come down but keeps an eye. A young female comes down for a closer inspection. She looks at us and us at her. A magic moment. The rest of the group is moving off now. Frodo comes down gracefully in seconds to the path. He stops and looks back. For the tiniest moment we are eye to eye. He is grey now, not the Alpha male, but no less impressive. He is astounding. And to think we were not going to come…

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The Young Female

98% human and 100% TOP BUZZ !!!

muni

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