Uganda’s Baboon Boulevard

At first, it appeared as one of the few relatively nondescript stretches of road that I encountered in Queen Elizabeth National Park in western Uganda, referred to, depending on which specific portion of the stretch you’re driving on, as the Ishasha road, or the Rwenshana road. It’ll forever be etched in my mind as Uganda’s Baboon Boulevard.

From a distance they first appear as small bobbing dots on the macadam horizon that multiply exponentially as you draw nearer. By the time you realize that you’re staring at and driving head on into an extended family of Olive Baboons, they take on the look of a group out of Occupy Uganda, fanning out in protest to block your way.

That gradually melds into the scene below, one that could have been lifted from the Planet of the Apes franchise. It becomes very clear that this is their territory, their home. Even as they scamper down through narrow openings in the brush along even narrower paths as you approach, the momentary eye contact of a final wayward glance lets you know that you’re the visitor, the interloper. They’re in charge.

I think I saw this in a film once. Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda.
I think I saw this in a film once. Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda.

This is the first of at least four posts I’m planning to piece together on my three-day visit to Queen Elizabeth National Park in late March. In many ways this wildlife encounter along this otherwise largely deserted stretch of road heading towards the southernmost Ishasha sector of the park was my favorite; the baboons were plentiful, curious, and close. I won’t forget this stare any time soon.

Olive Baboon with baby Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

Named for their green-gray coats, Olive baboons (Papio anubis) are among the most wide-ranging of the Old World monkeys, found in a strip of 25 African countries that stretch along or near the equator, nearly coast to coast. They can live in groups of 15 to 150, and are made up mostly of females and their young. Over a half mile stretch of road we probably encountered at least 80 or so; most didn’t seem as excited to see us as we were to see them, but quite a few played along, posing for photos before disappearing into the forest or, at the very least, like this trio, sitting and moping in the slight but steady rain.

Baboons in the rain.
Baboons in the rain.

The most animated was this juvenile who for whatever reason seemed to think I was eyeing his dinner. I wasn’t.

Afternoon snack time.
Afternoon snack time.
Olive baboon in Uganda's Queen Elizabeth National Park
Not in a berry-sharing mood. Olive baboon in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Six more images below.
Olive Baboon in Uganda's Queen Elizabeth National Park

Baby Olive Baboon on mother's back Queen Elizabeth National Park Uganda

Olive Baboon

Olive Baboon Uganda

Olive Baboon portrait, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

Olive Baboon portrait



Queen Elizabeth National Park
Fort Portal-Mpondwe Road, Uganda
Phone:+256 41 4355000
Website (via the Uganda Wildlife Authority)

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  1. Hey Bob,
    Thanks for this post. I went to East Africa a couple of years ago and really wanted to check out Uganda mainly for the gorilla trekking. I think I expected this to be about that even thought it’s clearly titled as Baboon Boulevard. When you go into different primates’ territories it’s interesting to see how they command the area. Their authority is quite clear especially when there’s hundreds of them and their strut of confidence shows as well. Queen Elizabeth National Park looks like it might be on my list for parks to visit once I’m back! Thanks for this post.

    1. Hi Mark — I considered a Gorilla trekking trip but it was too much for my budget this time. The costs associated with the gorilla treks are necessarily and justifiably high, making them, in the truest sense, once in a lifetime experiences. I hope I’ll have the opportunity one day.

      This experience was on an entirely different plane. Perhaps not as rare as a mountain gorilla encounter, but definitely not an every day kind of experience, either.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. It really does look like a scene from out of planet of the apes. I’d be a little freaked out, waiting for them to start talking to me; asking for my credentials, passport, what business do I have here etc…
    All that aside these are beautiful pictures and it must of been amazing being amongst them

  3. OMG! This must have been an amazing experience to see all the baboons on one road. I would be going hyper if I saw a sight like this (and getting snap happy with the camera). Amazing post and totally loving the awesome photography 🙂

  4. You have no idea how much I want to do this! As a huge animal lover, I’ve always wanted to visit Uganda. Your photos are beautiful and make me want to start planning a trip.

  5. Wow that photo with all of them on the road, it’s actually scary when you are not used to see that! These baboons are so big! Would love to experience this and take photos as well!

  6. Ha! Dangerous beast those baboons… Though, the ones in your photos — maybe because of their youth — seem to be lacking the menacing teeth I’ve seen in Baboons in the South and along the east coast.

    Happy continued travels!

  7. Baby baboons!! You can post pictures like these every day for a year and I’ll be one happy camper. I think it also goes to show just how smart our ape relatives are when we know and they know who is really in charge here!

  8. Thanks for sharing this. The pictures are just amazing. I can’t imagine what it felt like when you stood there surrounded by these beautiful animals. A memory you can treasure.

  9. I have to show this to one of my friends. He would be there in a moments notice. Such amazing photos you were able to capture too.

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