Saturday, November 17, 2012

Baboon Island / River Gambia National Park

This past weekend, we got to take a day trip to Gambia’s best wildlife area, known as River Gambia National Park.  This park is well known for one inhabitant: wild chimpanzees!  Historically, chimps, elephants, lions were all found in Gambia but exterminated by habitat destruction and hunters.  Back in the 70s two primatologists, Janis carter and Stella (?) founded this park on 6 islands to re-introduce chimps into the wild.  The Chimps they re-introduced were previously held in captivity in Europe and the States.  One of these chimps was a famous chimp named Lucy who was taught how to use sign language.  Janis came to Gambia to help Lucy and the other chimps adapt to life in the wild.  She did this by living on the island with Lucy, alone, in a cage, teaching her how to forage for fruits and nuts – for 10 years!  Too absurd to be true? Google it!
 The river was so still inside the park
All of us in front of the cabin on the river where we ate our meals

So now Janis does chimp research and work here in Gambia, northeastern Senegal, and Guinea.  The park was awesome!  There are four tents that hold 2 people and we filled them up with all Peace Corps volunteers.  To get to the camp you take an hour long boat ride where you see birds, hippos, and monkeys.  The tents are like the ones found on safari’s in East Africa that have showers, toilets and sinks.  The food was delicious, and your tents are situated on one of the few hillsides in the Gambia that overlooks the water and the park.  We went on a 2 hour boat ride to watch the feeding of the chimps.  And we got to see a lot of them which was really cool.  The best thing we saw was a mother chimp kissing and tickling her baby, so sweet! We also saw different varieties of monkeys, birds, and hippos.  To all of us it did not feel like we were in the Gambia because it was so heavily forested and there was so much wildlife. 


 Our tent!

It took us so long to go to this park because it is at least a 7 hour travel day, and because it is expensive on our Peace Corps budget.  It was well worth it though; we are very happy to have visited it!  And even our traveling days went about as well as they could – no flat tires, the ferries were working, and we got a nice vehicle with ample leg room the whole way there. 

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