Destinations Magazine

Rekindling Family Ties in Nyungwe Forest Rwanda

By Monkeys And Mountains Adventure @Laurel_Robbins

30 year old male chimp in Nyungwe Forest Rwanda

Have you ever had an overenthusiastic uninvited relative show up out of the blue? Well that was me, when I visited the chimps in Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda.

To say I was excited to meet my closest non-human relatives in the flesh would be like saying that meeting the Mountain Gorillas was good when it was EPIC! It turns out my relatives are early risers.  By the time we arrived at just after 8:30am they had left their nests and most of the family had even finished their breakfast.  The trackers said they had been up since 6:30am – clearly I did not inherit their early rising gene.

Chimp climbing up a tree in Nyungwe Forest, Rwanda

Ladies, feel better about your behind now?

I heard there pant hoots long before I saw them.  Great they had brought out the welcoming committee!  As excited as I was them to meet me though it wasn’t mutual.  I wouldn’t say they were rude – just uninterested.  Of the 13 family members, just one of them gave me a passing glance before getting on to more important things –  inspecting his belly button:

chimp inspecting his belly button

A Chimp inspecting his belly button, which apparently was more interesting than me. I tried not to take it personally.

But I guess that was slightly better than the few family members who had decided that i wasn’t even worthy of meeting, including the mother with the six month old baby.  I tried to connect with her telepathically.  Please, please come out.  I want to meet you and your baby.  I have waited my entire live to see a baby chimp in the wild.  I waited several minutes, snapping photos of a  juvenile chimp  who was grabbing a late breakfast (by chimp standards):

A juvenile chimp foraging for food in Nyungwe Forest, Rwanda.

A juvenile chimp foraging for food – although I think he’s just showing off in the middle photo.

Still no baby chimp, so I tried to seal the deal with I sign at least one petition a week against using primates in experiments  and try to use my social media influence to show everyone how cool chimps are. (like this one protesting Philippine Airlines shipping monkeys to be used for experiments.  You can sign it here.) I waited….

At least the 30 year male (the guide didn’t think he had a name) decided that he may as well pose for a few photos.  I think he sensed that i wasn’t leaving until I got at least a few and figured that this was the quickest way to get rid of me (clearly he doesn’t  know me very well): 

staring contest with a chimp in Nyungwe Forest, Rwanda
I observed him looking for family resemblances. He glanced my way now and then, but made it clear that while I wasn’t exactly unwelcome (that could have involved throwing poop at me or bluff charging me) I wasn’t exactly welcome either.  I had become THAT family member. You know, the one who shows up uninvited, doesn’t bring a gift and overstays their welcome? Yep that was me. Undeterred I continued working on the family portrait.  He retaliated by posing directly into the morning sun. Despite not being the most considerate family member, I fell in love with him anyway, just like I did with Charlie when I volunteered at a chimp sanctuary in Girona, Spain.  He clearly had a routine and an annoying, overeager, uninvited family member wasn’t going to get in the way of it!

I listened to him with almost equal fascination as I watched him.  Like a typical guy he farted…a lot (which the gorillas also did). I could also hear his fingernails making long scratches across his tummy. I had no idea that scratching could be so noisy…or so interesting to watch!

An hour went by way tooooo fast.  Visitors are only allowed an hour with the chimps every day so not to interfere with their daily activities. Despite the chimps not returning my enthusiasm (maybe they didn’t know that I am a popular travel blogger who would be proudly displaying the family photos on my blog?), it was an incredible visit!  I had finally met my closest living non-human relatives!

chimp resting in Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda.

The mother and baby never did make an appearances though so you know what that means….I’LL BE BACK! I have a feeling they might have wished they had thrown poop at me!

In retrospect the chimps practically rolled out the red carpet compared to the baboon’s welcome that we met on our return from the chimps…but that’s another story (stay tuned)!

chimp in Nyungwe Forest Rwanda

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