Lindsey Robbins

I have always wanted to go to Africa, and now that I have, I am dying to go back again!  This trip was totally wicked for so many different reasons.  I was able to walk in the shoes of Jane Goodall and watch the chimpanzees of Gombe as well as Mahale.  I was given the opportunity to see fantastic things; I was even able to interact with a village close to Gombe.  I traveled in Selous Game Reserve and got great shots and just observed the wildlife.  Most importantly, I learned about so many different things on tis trip and it was such an eye opening experience for me. 

 

 

Mahale 

Treking through an African Jungle, through pouring rain and thunder booming in the background, hiking for thirty minutes or longer, or hiking up and down muddy slopes and falling at least twice makes a person wonder if this bush whacking has any rewards.  However, once you see, no hear, a chimpanzee, the entire trip becomes worthwhile.  Just knowing that your close enough to even hear their calls gives a person a second wind, revitalizing them to move on until the chimpanzees can be seen. 

It is absolutely breathtaking to turn a corner and to see these amazing animals for the first time.  Seeing a chimpanzee so close and looking into those stunning brown eyes makes one appreciate wildlife.  Not only that, but these particular animals are our closest relatives and so seeing them for the first time (at all!) makes you have a special connection because as they act, you can see the similarities between yourself and this distant cousin.  Its one thing to be told a chimpanzee is similar to humans, but it is put into perspective when you see it for yourself.  It’s like finding that long lost relative you never knew because their behavior is so much like our own.  

Seeing chimpanzees in zoos and then getting the thrill of seeing them in the wild is a completely different experience.  You learn and take from your observation so much more from wild chimps than captive ones.  At dawn, one chimp can be halfway up a mountain and within a few minutes cross a river and be close to the beach.  You gain a new insight on just how much room these animals can use.  Not only that, but their behavior is more sporty and unpredictable .  True, this adds a bit more to the danger, but it also adds to one’s learning experience.  Most chimps in zoos are selected based on how docile they act, but in the wild their moods change drastically!  One moment a chimp is grooming, the next he is charging at an intruding male.  To be able to see how the mood changes with weather is also spectacular.  Where else but in the wild would you see a chimp perform a rain dance?  Terrifyingly beautiful is a way to describe this performance.  Their movements are beautiful and the amount of power behind them can be a bit terrifying, but it is an opportunity not to be missed. 

 

Gombe 

Stepping off a boat onto unknown territory is always a thrilling experience.  Especially when it’s known that within the jungle there are chimpanzees and upon your arrival there are baboons scattered on the beach and playing in the water.  Gombe is filled with so much history, being that this is where Jaen Goodall first studied chimpanzees.  Being able to see a part of the history by walking the same path Jane had, or by seeing what she saw, it is easy to see why someone would easily fall in love with this land.  Getting to climb to the top of Jane’s Peak is a difficult trek but well worth it.  It’s the most breathtaking view one will ever see and taking a few moments of silence one can hear the jungle spring to life.  Recognizing areas by photos taken years ago is another wicked experience, such as Jane’s waterfall.  Yet, the best experience is watching the chimpanzee’s behavior and with a bit of luck, seeing the same behavior Jane saw and possibly the same chimpanzees.  This is enough to send chills down one’s back and make you feel like you’re jumping for joy when all you’re doing is holding your breath as you watch chimps interact. 

The best thing to watch is when the babies play and every time they do an adorable action, you can’t help but let a giggle out.  Watching them play fills you with happiness and you are never without a smile when you see this even.  Seeing two mothers grooming each other while their babies swing in the tree limbs below, you will find it is almost impossible to tear your eyes away from the babies, but once you do, you will notice something spectacular!  This scene is almost identical to none you would witness at any park back home.  Two mothers chatting away while their children are having a blast swinging on the jungle gym. 

Seeing a baby separated from its mother is heart wrenching to see, but realizing that this nine year old chimp seems to be experiencing what children experience back home is jaw dropping.  He seemed to be experiencing separation anxiety.  Another example of not only how these animals are similar to us in behavior but their psychology as well. 

 

Content provided by Canisius College students under the direction of Michael Noonan, PhD.