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Behind Budongo

Emma Gregg examines the ecosystem and conservation projects of this biodiverse forest reserve, one of Africa’s best places to track chimpanzees. She also discusses the work of Professor Vernon Reynolds, founder of the Budongo Conservation Field Station

Sometimes, as you drive through the southern reaches of Uganda’s Murchison Falls Conservation Area, between the Kichumbanyobo Gate and the Victoria Nile, you’ll hear a volley of hoots and screams reverberating through the trees. The locals call the racket a kelele. This region is called Budongo Forest Reserve, and it’s chimpanzee country. It may not be as well known as Kibale (also in Uganda) or Mahale and Gombe Stream in Tanzania, but nonetheless, it’s one of the best places in Africa for a chimptracking expedition.

Like many of the best primate-watching destinations, Budongo is a place where ecotourism, field research and education intertwine. Its beautiful tropical rainforest was a centre of scientific research long before part of it opened up to tourism. British anthropologist and chimpanzee expert Professor Vernon Reynolds and his wife Frankie conducted a pioneering study of Budongo’s chimps in 1962, when they were in their twenties, an experience that Professor Reynolds described in his first book, Budongo: A Forest and its Chimpanzees: “We spent the best part of a year in the Busingiro area of the forest, going in from our little rest house every day, watching the chimps if we could find them and recording what they were eating and doing,” he recalls in his diaries. “There were no trails in those days, so we had a tough time of it. Several times, we got lost, a terrifying business. After we left Uganda, we were invited to California to write a chapter in a book, the first ever on primate field studies.”

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About Travel Africa

Life as a chimp - everything you need to know about this great ape • Kafue National Park's natural attraction • Driving around Zimbabwe • The Waterberg and Madikwe, South Africa • Tarangire on foot • Stunning leopard portfolio • Learning to guide in the Mara • Taking tea in Malawi • The Himba today... and much more!