Introduction to Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary

Tucked away in Lake Victoria's northwestern corner, in the Ssese Islands lies Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary. 

The sanctuary was set up in 1998 to rescue orphaned and confiscated chimpanzees from the illegal pet and bushmeat trades across East Africa. 

Today, 49 chimpanzees live at the sanctuary and are free to roam the 95 acres of thick forest covering the island. The aim is to help them recover from their initial trauma and eventually thrive over their long lives of up to 60 years.

The chimps have the liberty to stay in the forest at night or return to night-time enclosures, where they can construct nests and receive their dinner. 

Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary

What to Expect

Upon arrival at Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, you will have the chance to learn about their history, conservation efforts and residents in the visitors centre.

You will then be given a personal tour by a chimpanzee caregiver and view a feeding from a raised deck on the enclosure edge (full day visitors will observe two feedings).

If you join the feeding team, you can throw food down to the chimps and watch as they excitedly vie for your attention, all seeking the delicious piece of fruit in your hand.

A tasty lunch is provided on the island and usually costs between $10 and $15.

If staying overnight at the Ngamba Eco Lodge, you can observe the chimps making their nests and then take to Lake Victoria's calming waters for a sunset cruise, and look for some of the other animals and birdlife that inhabit the island and surrounding lake.

Staying overnight also offers more one on one time with the chimpanzees, as you can take part in the chimp enrichment program, where you will be involved in challenging the chimps critical thinking. 

Chimpanzee in Kibale Forest on Kibale habituation experience.

You have an excellent chance of seeing chimps in Kibale.

Volunteering

The sanctuary offers one and four-week volunteering programs where you can directly contribute to the conservation efforts of the chimps. 

While volunteering, you will gain hands-on experience by preparing their food, feeding them, cleaning their sleeping area and taking part in enrichment activities and behavioural observations. 

You can stay in their volunteer dormitories or the Ngamba Eco Lodge. 

Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary

Where to Stay

Ngamba Eco Lodge

Situated on the water's edge with uninterrupted views of Lake Victoria, Ngamba Eco Lodge is a tranquil sanctuary of your own, perfect for unwinding after a day spent with the chimps.

They offer four permanent luxury cottages, ten double standard camping tents and five single standard tents.

Full amenities are provided, including hot water for showers, electricity, bathrooms and a private deck.

Swap stories around the evening campfire, while you listen to the distant chimp hoots and enjoy a freshly prepared 3-course dinner in the thatched-roof dining area. Fall asleep to the sound of the crashing waves of Lake Victoria.  

Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary

Luxury cottage interior.

When to Go

The best time to visit the Ssese Islands is during the cooler dry seasons from late June to October.

There is a much smaller chance of rain curtailing planned activities during these months, and wildlife viewing opportunities around the island are better. 

Getting There

Entebbe to Ngamba Island is a 45-minute speed boat or 90-minutes by motorised canoe ride from Nakiwogo Dock, and the chimpanzee sanctuary organises the transfers. Prices range from $336 for one person to $73 per person if there are eight or more people.  

A cheaper alternative would be to take the ferry from Entebbe to Buggala,  the main island in the Ssese Islands, and then a lake taxi to Ngamba. 

If you are already staying in the Ssese Islands, lake taxis connect the islands and transport to Ngamba Island can be arranged by your accommodation. 

Lake Victoria is an integral part of any Ugandan adventure.

Lake Victoria is an integral part of any Ugandan adventure.

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