Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary is a project that was established to provide refugee to orphaned chimpanzees that have been rescued from different circumstances. These are chimpanzees that have been rescued from bush meat traders, chimps caught in snares of poachers, from pet traders & owners and from wildlife traffickers intercepted in Uganda and from different parts of the world.
There is a chimpanzee that was got from as far as Russia. Other chimpanzees have been rescued from local communities where they were found stranded after they strayed from the forest. Due to the dwindling habitat of the chimps, they tend to venture beyond forests in search of food which brings them in conflict with humans.
The sanctuary sits on 100 acres forested Ngamba island located in Lake Victoria in Mukono District. At the time the sanctuary was established in 1998, there were 19 chimps, and currently, there are about 52 chimps, a testament to the immense work that has been done rescuing chimps. There is a non-breeding policy at the chimpanzee’s island. Reproduction among the chimpanzees is prevented at the island because the numbers would not be sustainable in such a small space. The female chimpanzees have contraceptive implants in them to prevent them from conceiving. However, there have been some failures in the system and 6 baby chimpanzees have been born at the island to date. Hence of 52 chimpanzees on the Ngamba island 46 were brought there and 6 born at the island.
The chimpanzees spend the day in the forest and in the evening come back to a nice holding facility to spend the night. Chimpanzees in the wild make new nests every night to sleep and it would be the ideal for the chimpanzees at the island however, the forest is too small for such a population that they would finish up the forest in no time from breaking nesting branches. Ideally this forest is just enough for about 3 chimpanzees to live in.
The forest does not provide enough nourishment for the chimpanzees so they are supplemented with fruits four times a day, two times when they are still at the holding facility and two times in the forest. The forest is surrounded by a double electric fence to avoid any escape. The chimpanzees are aware the fence is electric and keep a safe distance from it. However, some chimpanzees being intelligent have attempted escapes using non-conducting tools. The dream of Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary is to reintroduce the chimps back into the wild if a suitable forest with adequate size and territory free from another chimpanzee community is identified.
Visiting Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary for tourists and volunteer programs
Ngamba Island chimpanzee sanctuary is open to tourists and offers more personal & closer chimp experiences different from the chimpanzee trekking experiences in the jungle of Uganda.
Watching the chimpanzee upclose from behind the fence, the sanctuary gives give you a great insight into the lives of our closest relatives with whom we share 98.7% DNA. You learn so much about the chimps and how they are so similar to us and how they are so intelligent. You learn about chimp community organization and leadership structures. See the different individuals and observe their different interesting characters and learn about their background and interesting escapades while at the sanctuary.
There are two trips to Ngamba Island in a day and the two trips target two of the supplementary feeding times of the chimpanzees when they are in the forest. During the feeding time the chimps come out of the forest interior to a clearing near the fence where fruits are thrown to them over the fence. The two feeding times are; morning time at 11am and afternoon time at 2.30am. Tourists watch from a raised platform behind the fence. It is such an exciting moment (1 hour long) observing the layers of organization and leadership among the chimps and seeing the different individuals and their unique characters.
Tourists can have more than a day at the sanctuary and spend a night or more at the island. Overnight visitors to Ngamba Island have a chance to see all the four supplementary feeding times, see the chimpanzees in the morning leaving their holding facility and, in the evening, when they return from the forest to their improvised nests in the holding facility.
In addition to the longer chimpanzee experience, the Ngamba island is also one of the best getaways to go and relax on Lake Victoria, enjoy the tranquility at the island and sleep to the sounds of the chimpanzees. While staying at the island, you will enjoy the lovely views of the surrounding islands. The spectacular sun rises and sunset over Lake Victoria, a boat cruise on the lake and check out the fringes of the island, watch wildlife such as birds and otters, try fishing, watch the local fishmen going about fishing the traditional way, see how locals live on the other islands neighboring Ngamba Island mention a few.
Caretaker (volunteer) experience at Ngamba Chimpanzee Island
If you want to be more than just a tourist and get involved in the activities at the sanctuary, the caretake for a day experience gives you this once in a life time opportunity of getting even closer to chimpanzees. You join the sanctuary caretakers in their daily activities including cleaning the holding facility, preparing the fruits, feeding the chimpanzees, checking health status of different chimpanzees, collecting data about the chimpanzees
Ngamba Island accommodation – Ngamba Eco Lodge
The sanctuary has nice accommodation (3 star) with 4 cottages, nicely furnished and spaced for privacy and well situated with the waterfront. The cottages are spacious and self-contained with a lavatory. Each cottage has a patio where you can sit and unwind as you watch Africa’s largest lake.
Going to Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary
The easiest access to the island is from the lakeshore in Entebbe. It is 23km from docking station at the Water Front Club (opposite the Uganda Wildlife Education Center) to the island. Travel is by a speedboat and takes 45 to 50 minutes depending on the weather. The cruise is lovely as you experience the Africa’s biggest lake, enjoy lovely sites across the lake, watch birds along the way with lots cormorants, swamphens, terns, pelican, etc…, see the local fishermen looking for the prized Nile Perch
Crossing the Equator on the way to Ngamba Island
You will cross the equator on the way to the Ngamba Island. The equator line which divides the world into two halves is a phenomenon that interests many tourists who will want to know where it crosses on the lake. There is no physical signage or anything on the lake indicating where the equator is but if have GPS it will read 0 degrees. If you don’t have the boat has GPS and the boat captain will stop and inform when you are at the equator.