We hit the dirt roads of Uganda once again to visit some of the Crater Lakes. There are many old volcanoes scattered over the Southwest region. Just 4000 years ago, they were still spewing and a few craters still harvest molten lava just 10 km deep. However today, instead of providing ash clouds and deathly lava flows, these retired beasts allow visitors to take a more refreshing dip in its cool pools of water.
Lake Nkuruba Community Campsite is surrounded by green trees and bush. We set up our tent on the rim of the crater, looking over the lake that now fills it. Everything was still, hardly a breath of wind. This was perfect for us since we love listening to insects, birds and the other wonderful sounds of nature filling the air.
The only question mark was Bilharzia. The camp managers told us “there is no Bilharzia here” but we feel like that’s what everybody says wherever we go… so if we believed everyone then apparently there is no bilharzia in Africa (?). But when we arrived at the campsite, it wasn’t it’s cool but questionable waters that made us smile from ear to ear – it was the monkeys!
We didn’t know monkeys were so active by the camp, so we were surprised to see black and white, long-haired, almost wing like creatures flying through the bush. We got closer and closer until just a few meters away and saw our first black and white colobus monkeys munching on some juicy leaves. They weren’t that botheres by us. One landed on a tree right in front of me and aimed for a branch behind my head. When it spread its arms and flew over my head, it’s long hair and tail reminded me a little bit of a dragon. But their character is not as fierce as the mythical beast and after a good meal they like to lay around like old grandpas. We watched them in the trees above us, lying over the branches in all kinds of sleepy poses while they had their nap time.
Then of course, the vervets showed up. Simon’s reaction…. “Awwwwwww, cuuuuuute!!!!” My reaction “Aggghhh… shit.” Those thieves were going to steal our food! We packed up everything as best we could and walked down to the lake. When we returned, the buggers had somehow opened the tent! We caught three vervet monkeys inside. The coffee bag was ripped open, the bananas were gone and – AND – our front pannier was ripped open! Scarily, they have a bite far stronger than I imagined and now we had a gaping hole in a beloved pannier. Fortunately, Simon’s a genius (he pays me to say that). He fixed it with floss and sealed it with glue to keep it waterproof.
But, by far the worst was that they tried to steal Simon’s jam!! Simon has a bit of a jam addiction, he keeps it under control but if somebody gets in the way… ya, just don’t get in the way. Safe to say the monkeys didn’t steal it, instead they just stuck their hands in the jar. Up in the tree, mom and baby were licking their fingers clean.
Their mischief didn’t stop there. Back in Fort Portal, we had just bought some amazing (and expensive) bread. As we were about to open it and enjoy that taste of fresh bread melting in our mouth, we look up.. a vervet monkey had beat us to it. All we could do was sit there and watch him eat our bread while trying not to cry. OK, well maybe not cry, but it was a depressing scene. Finally, he dropped what was left of it – the hollowed out crusty shell… And no – we didn’t eat the crust – however disappointed we were.
Although the vervets didn’t start out making friends on the right foot… we actually really love watching them. They are true pranksters, and playful at the very core of their spirit. Simon and I would sit there for ages, letting them entertain us with their antics.
The ‘kindergarten’ group would hang around, all the kids still learning their coordination. While an adult would be taking a nap, others would scheme on the best way to wake him/ her up. They would randomly groom each other. The young ones wouldn’t have a choice – he would be pulled away from playtime, four other monkeys holding him down while they groom him. The vervets must be the reason for the term ‘monkey business’.
We hiked up to a lodge called ‘the top of the world’. There was nobody at the lodge, but we hadn’t hiked that far for nothing so we just trespassed our way into the deserted place. We enjoyed our lunch there with an amazing view overlooking two crater lakes and Kibale Forest National Park, famed for its chimpanzees.
In the late afternoon, our friends/ foes the red colobus monkeys paid us their usual visit back at the camp. They have very unique faces and are the acrobats of the monkey world. Their favourite dinner time tree was directly above our tent. While we were having our own dinner, we felt some sprinkling of water. Looking up, we realized it wasn’t water at all, no, it was the colobus peeing on our tent! We were just feeling the splashback… Inspecting the tent closer – we realized one of them had also done the honour of shitting on it… Even more disturbing was that as they were shitting, they were stuffing their mouth with more leaves. More leaves went in, more shit came out. And then, again, they politely tried to wash all their excrement off by peeing.
Up in the tree, the red colobus, now permanently our foes, are very confident. But when they have to cross on the ground close to us, they are super scared. As soon as their feet touch the ground they screech at us while running fast to the next tree.
On our last afternoon, we watched the sun lighting the Rwenzori Mountains, known since ancient times as the Mountains of the Moon. This natural border divides much of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is the highest mountain range in Africa and one of the sources of The Nile river. They are a beautiful sight and the sounds of nature just added to the beauty. From here, the mountains lead us down to Queen Elizabeth National Park where more animal encounters awaited us. To get there, we snaked our way on dirt roads, past crater lakes that dotted the countryside.
For more photos from West Uganda, see here. For now, I’ll leave you with this: