Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary

Top choice wildlife reserve in Freetown Peninsula

In the dense rainforest of Western Area National Park, Sri Lankan founder Bala created Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, a leafy, waterfall-framed hideaway set up with the purpose of rescuing and rehabilitating endangered primates, and in the process educating humans about one of our closest relatives. The passionate and committed staff offer twice-daily tours of the sanctuary, during which you'll watch rescued chimps frolic in enclosures and spot those who have been released to a larger area in the mountains beyond.

For those with more time to spare, there are a number of walking trails to follow, as well as four atmospheric lodges if you fancy staying the night. There's also a small gift shop, where you can arrange sponsorship of a chimp (US$80 per year) or pick up relevant documentaries and books, including King Bruno, a children's book telling the tale a chimp who escaped from the sanctuary in 2006, with tragic results.

A 30-minute drive from Freetown, Tacugama is signposted off the Regent/Bathurst road. The second half of the route, a rough, unpaved path through the rainforest, is just about doable in a standard car, but you'll need to cover the final section, a steep 100-metre climb, by 4WD or on foot (5 minutes). By public transport, take a poda poda from Freetown, changing at Hillcot Junction to get to Regent. From there you could walk (40 minutes) or take an okada up the hill. A private taxi should charge around Le30,000 for the journey from Freetown, but it's worth paying them to wait for you for the return journey.

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