We’ve spent the last few hours camped in the supernatural quiet of the forest, within sight of a huge fruiting Likoya tree. It’s really quite magical to stop and listen to the forest... to see what happens when it doesn’t know you’re there!
Without you breathing louder than a mouse, the forest becomes alive with the flapping and cawing of hornbills, and the trill of the beautifully colorful turacao.
No chimps have come to our stakeout tree yet, but we’ve seen and heard some red-tailed guenons.
Far off to our left, we hear crashing in the brush. Is it chimps!?
Your heart leaps up under your chin and you’re caught out of breath, holding everything in you still... and quiet.
Several motionless minutes pass before you finally exhale again, though your exhaled breath is laced with disappointment. The anticipation of the stakeout must continue.
All around you, your ears are full with the din of bees and other insects -- sometimes it annoys and obfuscates your ability to hear other noises. But it is comfortable, and the air is moist and rich with the scent of fresh earth.
We hear chimpanzee screams far, far to our right and hurry over to investigate!
The chimps have silenced, but we can’t seem to stop making noise. The brush is enveloping us and to even wade through it we are clattering and clacking terribly.
I am convinced that the chimps have already fled, hearing us and believing us to be clumsy, loud hunters.
We are rounding a tree, after examining what Cleve speculates might be a ground nest, when I see a very familiar shape, descending rapidly down a vine a ways ahead of us.
Forgetting my forest training, I exclaim in a squealed whisper,
“Cleve! Cleve! Cleve! Cleve!.... CHIMP!!”
He only has time to see the branches move, but there we had it -- his 99th chimpanzee contact... and my FIRST!!
I rode the high as we continued on, finding more nests, likoya trees, and wadges.
I still can’t believe that i saw a wild chimp! However brief it may have been, it just opens a window in my mind to the possibilities of what the chimps in this forest might be like -- (other than scared of people!)
We looked for shit too, but found none and eventually went home.
But what a good note to end the trip on!