Friday, July 17, 2015

Kibale Forest - Uganda

A large male chimp in contemplative mood shortly after waking.
 Hundreds of thousands of butterflies greeted us upon arrival at Kibale. A mass emergence of tree-nymph butterflies scattered the roads and forest edges in almost unimaginable numbers. Amongst them were swallowtails, gliders and emperors of every imaginable coloration.

Forest can be tricky as the creatures living within this habitat can be remarkable tricky to locate. But the surprises are frequent such as this little frog which gives ample chance to hone macro photography techniques.   
At Kibale one gets the unique chance to explore one of  Africa's equatorial forests at night. After arriving at Primate Lodge, the only lodge situated within the forest, we decided on an early dinner  and a night walk. This unique experience offers guests the chance to see some of the unique forest night life such as three species of galagos or bushbabies, the strange Potto, a host of nocturnal insects, amphibians and reptiles which occurs in the forest. Our night walk did not disappoint as we encountered Thomas’s bushbaby – a first for me as well as the very secretive and rarely seen Potto., a rare nocturnal primate, related to bushbabies. In addition, a host of vibrant invertebrate life allowed for great nighttime images, sharpening our skills at macro photography.

As the sun filters through the forest canopy we get to the Chimps level in a small forest clearing.
The next day it was off to the full day Chimpanzee habituation experience or CHEX. In general guests are only allowed one hour with the chimps but when signing up for CHEX one is afforded an entire day with the chimps where you get the chance to follow the chimps throughout the course of their day. And what a remarkable day it was. We encountered the chimps shortly after they woke and spent the next few hours as peripheral members of the troop. 

Mid-morning is siesta time for the chimps. 
Spending a significant amount of time with them is very relaxing, as one doesn’t feel the frantic pressure to make the most of your time when only having an hour.  The local guides literally knows each individual chimp by name and offered wonderful insights into the family groupings, social structures and even politics of the respective animals.

In addition to the chimps a host of forest secrets are explained by well informed guides from the Uganda Wildlife authority.
 Forest photography can be very challenging. Firstly, ones view is often obstructed by vegetation or the action happen twenty meters up in the forest canopy. Personal movement is also limited due to the dense bush. But the most challenging obstacle is the severe low light. Even when the sun is shining, only the last bits of light reach the forest floor. Combining the high ISO capabilities of most modern cameras as well as the odd photographic technique goes a long way to get great images.

Catydid on a leaf
The trick is to capture the dappled forest scene effectively and not make each image look like its taken in a studio. Sufficient time allowed more than ample practice capturing the essence of the chimps in their forest habitat.  

Gregarious moth bug nymphs of the family Flatidae grouping together.


Unknown said...

Your trip to Uganda (The Primate Capital) is incomplete without a visit to the Kibale National Park. Infact, this park is Ranked one of the Best places in the world to encounter our close relatives in their natural habitat!

Come and visit Uganda!

Corne Schalkwyk said...

Thanks Kelley, you would love this trip....remind me to give you some details when I see you next. Albie is a very knowledgeable guide, over and above his photographic skills and we are grateful to have partnered once again to deliver these "one of a Kind" explorations within Uganda.

Having known Albie for years, I can assure you that clients will delight in their experiences and the wider knowledge they will gain.

Regards Corne

Corne Schalkwyk said...

Thanks Kelly, remind me to send you the programme for this trip. I’m sure your clients will love it! (We built in a lot of special experiential treats that will delight any traveller)