Uganda’s Baboon Boulevard

On the road to Queen Elizabeth National Park's Ishasha sector

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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4 Comments

  1. Mark says

    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.
    Cheers,
    Mark

    1. Bob R says

      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. Madeline Scribes says

    Absolutely gorgeous!! Sharing on my Facebook page, Madeline Laughs. Thank you for this awesome content!! 🙂

    1. Bob R says

      Thanks SO much Madeline, VERY much appreciated! 🙂

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