A Guide to Seeing Chimpanzees in Kibale National Park, Uganda

A Guide to Seeing Chimpanzees in Kibale National Park : Kibale National park also called Kibale Forest National park is one of the best safari destinations in Africa for chimpanzee tracking, the park is famously known for being a home to the highest population of chimpanzees   and diversity of primates in East Africa. Kibale National park is a home to 13species of primates including chimpanzees, L’Hoest’s monkey. Red-tailed monkey, Grey-cheeked mangabey, blue monkey, red colobuses, olive baboon, potto and vervet monkeys.

Kibale national park covers an area of 795 square kilometers protecting the most beautiful and most diversified tracts of tropical forest in the whole Uganda, the forest covers predominates in the central and northern part of the park on the raised Fort Portal Plateau.

Location of Kibale National Park

Kibale National park is located in the western part of Uganda about 348 kilometers (5 hours drive) from Kampala the capital of Uganda, the park is about 26 kilometers south-East of Fort Portal Town – a major tourist town in the western region. Kibale national park is situated close to the Serene- Ndali Kasenda Crater Area and in about 3-4 hours drive from Queen Elizabeth national park. The park is also close to Rwenzori Mountains, Semuliki National Parks and the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve.

Chimpanzee tracking experience

Before setting off into the forests of Kibale on a chimpanzee tracking experience, you have a briefing session conducted by a ranger guide of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). In the briefing you will be explained what to expect from the chimpanzee tracking, the chimpanzee’s behavior and ground rules to follow. Some of these rules include

A Guide to Seeing Chimpanzees in Kibale National Park
Chimpanzee Trekking in Kibale

·         Keep a safe distance

·         Never touch the animals

·         Be careful not to antagonize the primates by mimicking their calls and noises.

 After the briefing you will be put into groups of 6-7 people including a ranger, then you will head into the forests in search for the chimpanzees. As you hike through dense forest with tangled trees and dangling vines, the ranger will lead the group to a section of the forest where to find the chimpanzees (more probably where they were last spotted).

 During the hike you will hear the deafening calls echo around the treetops from miles, part blood curding scream and part whoop which are exhilarating indicator that the chimpanzees are somewhere very close. Chimpanzee live in troops of about 100 members and they spend most of the day in smaller groups of 8 – 15, the most part of the day the chimpanzees are up trees, eating figs and young leaves, sleeping and grooming each other playfully.

Once you find the troops of chimpanzees you will have an hour of observing chimpanzees , in some occasions the chimpanzees do not even come down from the tree meaning you have to observe them from the trees.  You will be thrilled to be the presence of the chimps  who share up to 98 of their DNA  with the primates.

Booking for a chimpanzee tracking permit

For Conservation purposes of the chimpanzees, chimpanzee tracking is strictly enforced the Uganda Wildlife Authority, to do chimpanzee tracking in Kibale national park you have to obtain a valid permit which qualifies as entry into the park and for a guided tracking experience.

Chimpanzee tracking permits are usually arranged as part of your chimpanzee tracking package offered by your tour operator or a travel agency prior to your travel, some of the most trusted travel companies to use in Uganda is Focus East Africa Tours. However, it is possible to book a permit directly from the Uganda Wildlife Authority head office in Kampala for tourists on a self arranged safari.  If you are planning your own trip, you need to proof of travel dates which are required to obtain a permit, note that these dates cannot be amended once booked.

A chimpanzee tracking permit costs 200 USD.

What to wear for chimpanzee tracking

Chimpanzee tracking is a thrilling safari experience however seeing chimpanzee is unpredictable, chimpanzee tracking involves walking for around 20 minutes to 3 hours in attempts to locate for the chimpanzees which is spearheaded by a ranger. The trails in Kibale national park are largely flat, the paths can be uneven, overgrown and can be slippery when it had rained previous. This calls for a need to carry decent walking shoes or boots.

A Guide to Seeing Chimpanzees in Kibale National Park
Packing List for Chimp Tracking in Kibale

The weather in Uganda and Kibale National park is generally favorable to travelers from all over the world however the weather can change at any moment and this is due to the dense rainforest environments. While it might be blazing sunshine at the start of the day and torrential downpour can happen anytime to the day, because of the ever changing weather, it is very essential to carry a rain jacket or poncho, long trousers and long sleeved shirts and t-shirts.

Paths in forest are cut with Machetes often leaving sharp edges, so as you walk along the trails expect to come up against thorns, stinging plants and various biting insects.

When is the best time to visit?

Kibale National Park can be visited all year round, however the best time to visit the park is from June to July and December to February, these periods experiences good weather and the tails running through the park are drier and easier to walk.

These periods coincides with the peak travel times, Kibale national park is an affordable destination and quieter. Lots of rain is expected on a daily which makes hiking difficult , the rain drastically reduces visibility in the forest. 

How to get to Kibale National Park

Kibale National park is located in the western region of Uganda and about 30 kilometers (19 miles) away from Fort Portal which is the nearest major Town, most travelers on a chimpanzee tracking in Kibale spend most of the time in Fort Portal and they use the town as a base to track chimpanzees and also visit crater lakes nearby thus A Guide to Seeing Chimpanzees in Kibale National Park.

To get to Kibale National park’s headquarters – Kanyanchu Visitors’ Center using a private vehicle offered by your safari operator or arranged through any major hotel.

Kibale National Park is located about 300 kilometers from Kampala the capital of Uganda about a 6-hour drive, to get to the park you can use a private vehicle which is included in your chimpanzee tracking package. You can also use public buses which run regularly from Kampala on a 8 hour journey to Fort Portal, some of the buses offering daily trips to Fort Portal include Post Bus and Link Bus.

Where to stay

Kibale national park has several accommodation establishments ranging from budget, midrange and luxury. These accommodations are situated inside the park and outside of the park and they include

·         Aramaga Rift Valley Lodge

·         Ataco Country Resort

·         Chimp Nest Lodge

·         Chimpanzee Forest Guest House

·         Crater Safari Lodge

·         Duchess Hotel and Restaurant

·         Fort Motel

·         Isunga Lodge

·         Kibale Forest Camp

·         Kibale Guest Cottages

·         Kibale Sfari Lodge

·         Kyaninga Lodge among others.

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