Jungle Adventures With Wild Chimpanzees
I felt as if we slipped into another world as the calls of unfamiliar birds and unseen wildlife echoed above the sounds of our guides’ machetes as they cleared narrow paths through a jumble of lush vines and exotic plants. The thrilling hoots and calls of distant chimpanzees lead us further into the dense forest.
Experiencing a faraway African rainforest teeming with life and seeing wild chimpanzees has been a dream since childhood. The mountain rainforest is little changed from the time Livingston and other Europeans first explored the region. Dappled sunlight streamed through humid air and mist creating strange patterns of shadows and light surrounding ancient trees of astonishing height and girth. Sweating from scrambling through the mountain rain forest and fording swollen streams, we were amazed by the intense humidity (We would soon learn nothing completely dries in the jungle including us.) The intense humidity makes photography a challenge as the camera lens continually fogs.
Over the next three days we spotted troops of chimpanzees on several occasions during our treks through the forest. These wild chimpanzees have been carefully studied by researchers since the 1970s and the chimps pay little attention to us.
Shrill cries, shrieking and “pant-hooting” ring across the jungle in a wild chorus of communications with unseen chimps deeper in the forest. The group encompasses chimps of all ages, including an adorable nursing infant receiving constant attention from the mother and other doting females.
We are soon entertained by a boisterous juvenile climbing tree trunks, running across giant limbs, and swinging from vine to vine while shrieking and hollering. He makes an impressive display of acrobatic skills and is quite the show off. Suddenly the vine snaps, landing him on the ground in a tangle of brush, bruising only his pride. The youngster pouted and sulked for a few minutes before scrambling up a tree.
Experiencing the thrill of an untouched remote wilderness will inspire my paintings for years to come.