Kibale National Park
Chimpanzee-tracking in Kibale National Park
Kibale National Park is not just one of the most beautiful parks in Uganda, dotted with beautiful crater lakes against a backdrop of the Rwenzori Mountains, but it is also the best destination in Uganda for some thrilling chimpanzee trekking adventures. With over 330 species recorded in the park, along with the dazzling colors from the clouds of butterflies that follow you around, for bird watching lover, this is a haven.
Kibale Forest Highlights
- Stand in awe as a troop of 60 plus chimps scramble through the treetops
- Visit the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary for several localised bird species
- Explore a number of the spectacular crater lakes in the area
- Take a butterfly walk through the park – Uganda has over 1000 species.
It’s not just the chimpanzees that make Kibale National Park so appealing – it is home to a remarkable 13 primate species, including the much localised red colobus and L’Hoest’s monkey. Many of the self-guided trails offer a network of shady paths, filled with butterflies of all shapes and sizes. The elusive forest elephant also moves seasonally through the park, but more regularly seen species include the giant forest hog and a number of smaller antelope species.
Ask us about a unique all day chimpanzee trek, joining rangers at first light to search for chimps before they wake and follow them all day – only for the fit!
With around a 90% chance of finding chimpanzees on any particular day, Kibale National Park is undoubtedly the most popular place to track them in Uganda. There’s a morning (8am) and afternoon (2pm) departure, and while there are plenty of hills along the trails, the walking isn’t difficult if you’re in shape. Children aged 12 and under aren’t permitted.
While you’ve a good chance of being issued a chimp permit (US$150) at the park, it occasionally gets booked out during holiday season, so reservations at the UWA office in Kampala are a good idea. Regular trackers get just one hour with the playful primates, but those on the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience can spend the whole day with them.
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX)
The Chimpanzee Habituation Experience is a chance for travellers to tag along all day with animal researchers as the follow, habituate and record the chimpanzee’s behaviors preparing them for human presence. See the spectacular scene of chimps de-nesting, feeding, copulating, hunting, breast feeding, resting, patrolling and displaying until they build new nests and retire for the night around 7.00pm. You may need to book your permit for this activity way in advance.
Your driver guide will drive you to the Kibale National park by 6am for a briefing before heading to the park, and you there after head to the forest to meet these giants while they are still in their nest so as to observe them de- nesting. A packed lunch and enough water will be arranged with your hotel that you may have booked with as you will need to take along. You will then observe the entire social life of the chimps as you will keep following them along the trails or even some times move along the thickets so as to keep them on truck. Habituation is a full day activity with the chimps, but however you may decide to get a relief and return before the end of the day basing on the entire group decision and satisfaction. You may also be able to see the chimps nest and some other group doing their day tracking may come along in case they land to the chimp group you are habituating. After chimps nesting for their late evening nap, there after you can say bye bye to the chimpanzee as you will be led by the guide out of the forest and later you head to your booked accommodation.
You’ll be very lucky to see chimps on a nature walk (US$30 per person) but as nearly 1500 dwell here, you never know your luck, and there’s a good chance you’ll hear some scamper off through the treetops. With frequent sightings of owls, civets and the 12cm-long Demidoff’s dwarf galago, night walks (US$40) can be very rewarding. A birdwatching tour with a guide costs US$30. Do be aware that you’ll also need to pay the park entrance fee (US$40) to do one or more of these walks.
Best time to go
Kibale National Park is open for chimpanzee trekking throughout the year. December to February and the months of June and July are the driest months and are therefore the best times for this activity. Walking the trails is easier at this time and the overall experience tends to be more enjoyable.