Kibale national park is a 4 hour and 58 minutes drive at a distance of 314.1 km from Kampala capital city of Uganda. It is one of the most important eco-tourism and safari destinations and it is located in western Uganda. Kibale National Park harbors a moist evergreen tropical rain forest in Africa. Kibale national park is one of the remaining spots in Africa where you can find both low land and montane forest covering an area of 795 kilometers with a varying altitude between 1100 meters – 1600 meters. The point at 1100 meters is the lowest point on the floor of the Albertine valley in the southern region of the park. Kibale national park is adjacent to Bigodi wetland sanctuary near to fort portal as the nearest city experiencing average temperature range of 14°C – 20°C heavy rainfalls with northern region of the park as the wettest place receiving average rainfalls of 1700 mm.
Kibale national park’s vegetation varies at different altitudes with a moist evergreen forest along the fort portal plateau, dry tropical forest, savanna vegetation, and woodlands along the rift valley floor, grassland and swamp vegetation dominates the north and central region of the park. Kibale national park has the highest rate of diversity and it is used as a site for research on chimpanzees and other primates, wild pigs among other species. Makerere University uses the park as a base for its biological field station. The vegetation cover in Kibale National Park is dominated with evergreen species mostly around Kanyanchu and consists of approximately 351 species of trees which create a massive canopy that is tree crowns, herbs, variety of ferns, shrubs and broad-leaved forest grasses. These trees rise to about 55 meters and are over 200 years old.
Kibale national park is 26 kilometers southeast of Fort Portal and is among the best safari destinations famous for chimpanzees tracking in Uganda. It is a home to 13 primates which are over an estimated 1,450 habituated individuals of the threatened chimpanzees. There are rare L’hoest monkeys, big population of endangered red colobus monkey, black and white colobus, red-tailed monkeys, blue monkey, olive baboon, grey checked mangabey, and bush baby. It also harbors mammals which include buffalos, leopards, duikers, bush pigs, and elephants, with amphibians, reptiles, colorful butterflies and approximately 375 species of birds, of which 6 are Albertine Endemic species which are seen in the forests.
Kibale national park was first gazetted as a forest reserve in 1932, during the colonial era when Uganda was under the administration of the British colonial administration. It was gazetted to primarily conserve the forest from cutting of trees which was done by the local people for firewood and building materials. In 1993 under the management of Uganda wild life authority (UWA), it was declared a national park to conserve the ecosystem it harbors. Kibale national park is adjacent to Queen Elizabeth national park in the south thus creating a wildlife immigration corridor of 180 cm between Ishasha (a remote southern sector of Queen Elizabeth national park) and Sebitoli in the north of Kibale National Park. Kibale lies close to the serene Ndali-Kasenda crater areas which are half day’s drive of Queen Elizabeth National Park, Rwenzori Mountains, Semiliki National Parks and Toro-Semiliki wildlife reserve.
Kibale National Park borders communities of both batooro and bakiga, batooro are the earlier occupants of this area while the bakiga are immigrants from the southwestern region of Uganda.
Kibale national park is blessed with a number of many tourist attractions which make it one of the major tourist attractions in East Africa, these include
- Primates: Kibale National Park is a home for the endangered 13 primates and famous for chimpanzee tracking, because of the thick vegetation cover. The forest is a better place for the life of these primates which include chimpanzees with approximately 1,450 individuals, Ugandan mangabey monkeys, l’hoests monkeys, Ugandan red colobus monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys, olive baboons, blue monkey, grey-checked mangabeys, pottos, and busy baby. These primates attract a large population of tourists to this destination.
- Birds: Kibale national park is a spot for bird watching lovers with over 372 bird species including the six Albertine endemic that include the dusky crimson wing, blue-headed sunbird, collared-Apalis, black-capped apalis, red-faced woodland warbler, and the purple breasted sun-bird. Other bird species spotted in the thick forests of Kibale National Park include green-breasted Pitta, Black Bee-eater, Yellow-spotted Nicator, Yellow-rumped tinker bird, little greenbul, black-eared ground thrush, brown-chested athlete, blue-breasted Kingfisher, Abyssinian ground-thrush, the Crowned Eagle and African Pitta.
- Wildlife: Kibale national park is not only home to primates but also home to mammals which is an ideal spot for animal lovers. Wildlife in this park is in diverse numbers including forest elephants, hyenas, hippopotamus, bush pigs, duikers, leopards, antelopes, buffalos. It is also home to reptiles like snakes, amphibians and colorful butterflies which make trips in the forest interesting and fun.
- Tropical Equatorial Trees: Kibale National Park is full of thick vegetation canopy including trees aging up to 200 years with a height of 55 meters providing an extraordinary view. These trees of over 351 species including funtu-mia, Entandrophragma, gate trees, naked Adam tree, and ptyregota are being used for research purposes. The forest is suitable for nature walks and hikes.
Kibale national park is the best option among safari destinations offering the following activities for the fun of tourists including:
Chimpanzee tracking: Chimpanzee tracking is the most prominent activity and kibale national park is the best place in East Africa, tracking through the habituated zones is one of something never to miss. Tracking experience for the chimpanzees is a full day activity that begins in the morning taking a whole day in search of the chimpanzees and 1 hour in the presence of habituated chimpanzees. A chimpanzee safari permit costs $150 per person for foreign non-residents, $100 for foreign residents, SHS. 100,000 for East African residents (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi). For a successful tracking experience, you need to get a porter, long-sleeved shirts and hard jean trousers, strong tracking shoes and walking sticks and also follow regulations as drafted by the Uganda wildlife authority for both your safety and for the chimpanzees. These regulations include only tourists above 15 years are allowed to rack, a group of 6 people is allowed per trip, do not eat near the chimpanzees and many more.
Monkey tracking: Kibale national park is also a home to various types of monkey including golden monkeys, black and white colobus Monkeys, Blue Monkeys, De Brazza’s Monkeys, the rare L’ Hoest’s Monkeys, the Grey Cheeked Mangabey Monkey offering a good opportunity for the fun-filled monkey tracking activity. Golden monkeys are the most tracked monkeys.
Hiking /Nature walks: nature walks are great deals for nature lovers. Nature walks begin from either Kanyanchu visitors center or Sebitoli and takes about 2-6 days on a 12-kilometer trail through the savanna grassland, riverine forest, tropical jungle, and swampland. On this trail, you get to see various birds, animals, primates. Nature walks/hikes begin at 8 am under the guidance of a trained guide. To go for hiking/nature walks, tourists are recommended to carry long trousers, long-sleeved shirts, a light rain jacket, and insect repellent to protect them from biting insects including mosquitoes. Because of the slippery terrain, hiking and nature walks are best done in the dry season in the months of November, February, June, and September.
Nocturnal Forest Walk: These are forest walks done at night, in Kibale National Park. These nocturnal walks take place after dinner with the help of a trained tour guide and spotlights. During the nocturnal walks which take 120 minutes, you get to see Bush Babies, Pottos, Tree Pangolins and at times birds resting on trees. Note that the nocturnal walks cost more than hikes.
To add on your safari package you can choose to also tour the bigodi wetland sanctuary, crater lakes, Amabere Caves, Nakayima Witch’s Tree.
After these hectic activities, tourists usually rest at community-run campsites close to Kikoni, Nyakalongo and Nyaibanda villages.