Chimpanzee Tracking Safaris

Kibale National Park

Kibale National Park

The Park sprawls across the northern foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains, covering a vast expanse of 794 square kilometers. Its territory extends southward, forming a seamless connection with Queen Elizabeth National Park, enveloping regions within Kamwenge, Kasese, Kyenjojo, and Kabarole districts.

Distinguished as the “Capital Primate of the World,” Kibale Forest National Park boasts an impressive array of primate species, totaling 13 in East Africa.

Among its inhabitants are over 1400 chimpanzees, making it the highest concentration found in the region. Other primate species include the red colobus monkey and the rare L’Hoest’s monkey.

In addition to these, look out for the black and white colobus, the blue monkey, the grey-cheeked mangabey, the red-tailed monkey, vervet monkey, bush babies, galagos, and pottos.

For nature enthusiasts seeking a unique experience, Kibale Forest offers specialized chimpanzee tracking tours and habituation experiences.

Visitors have the rare opportunity to spend an entire day observing and interacting with chimpanzees as they undergo habituation for tourism.

Beyond its primate inhabitants, Kibale Forest National Park is a paradise for bird watchers, harboring over 372 species of birds. Notable sightings include the great blue turaco, the great white heron, the yellow spotted nicator, the green-breasted pitta, the African pitta, crowned eagle, and the black bee-eater.

The park is also home to a diverse range of mammals, including forest elephants, buffaloes, bush pigs, duikers, and bats. Keen observers may spot reptiles, amphibians, and a vibrant assortment of butterflies.

With a rich botanical diversity, Kibale Forest boasts over 250 recorded tree species. Managed and operated by the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

The park offers a captivating blend of biodiversity and natural wonders for visitors to explore and appreciate.

Top things to do in Kibale Forest National Park

Chimpanzee tracking

This is the park’s main tourist attraction. There are over 1500 chimpanzees living in the Kibale rainforest.  Chimpanzee tracking Safari is done in two shifts including the morning at 8 AM and the afternoon at 2 PM. This primate walk is 6 people in a group.

The number of visitors is tightly controlled to prevent degradation of the habitat and risks to the chimpanzee. There are strict rules for tourists to minimize the risk of diseases passing from them to the chimpanzees as well as maintain their habitat.

Chimpanzee habituation Experience

During the habituation process, lasting anywhere from one to three days, researchers accompany a chimpanzee family from their nest site in the early morning, observing their activities until the family selects a new resting spot for the night.

This endeavor is best pursued during the quieter months of March, April, May, and November.

Bird watching

Explore the vibrant avian world of Kibale National Park! With over 372 bird species, including 6 exclusive to the Albertine Rift, your adventure awaits. Join knowledgeable local guides for enriching 3-hour excursions through the park and the enchanting Bigodi wetlands.

Embark on an 8 km trail at Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, where nature reveals its treasures. Encounter approximately 200 bird species, from the majestic Great Blue Turaco to the captivating Red-chested Paradise Flycatcher.

Witness the grace of the Black-white Casqued Hornbill and the charm of the Blue-headed Sunbird.

Delight in sightings of the Collared Apalis, Dusky Crimsonwing, Purple-breasted Sunbird, and Red-faced Woodland Warbler, as they grace this sanctuary with their presence.

Day Hikes / Nature walks

Embark on adventure at Kanyanchu Tourist Centre with walks kicking off at 8:00 am, 10:00 am, and 2:00 pm, each lasting 2-3 hours. Encounter primates like red-tailed monkeys and black and white colobus monkeys amidst the lush wilderness.

For a deeper immersion, delve into the wonders of Bigodi with a 3-hour nature walk.

Mpanga Falls Trail

Check out the captivating Mpanga Falls! Just 55 km south of Bigodi, this stunning waterfall is formed by the majestic Mpanga River cascading over the edge of Mount Karubaguma.

Standing at 50m tall, it’s nestled within a steep gorge, surrounded by lush spray forest.

Easily accessible from Kibale National Park and Bigodi, it’s perfect for a day trip. Plus, don’t miss the newly crafted Cycad Trail, offering an immersive experience into the world of cycads and their habitat.

Sebitoli and the Kihingami Wetlands

Explore the captivating Sebitoli and Kihingami wetland, nestled just 15 kilometers to the east of Fort Portal. Embark on guided nature walks through Sebitoli, offering enchanting encounters with red and black-and-white colobus monkeys, vibrant blue and vervet monkeys, and a plethora of avian wonders.

This sanctuary boasts an impressive roster of 384 bird species, including rarities like the white-spotted fluff-tail, the red-bellied paradise flycatcher, and the charismatic Jameson’s wattle-eye.

Look out for sightings of chimpanzees, red colobus monkeys, and the elusive spotted-necked otters, adding an element of adventure to your wetland exploration.

Nocturnal Walks

An exciting hike in the heart of the forest at night! A guide will take you on a 2-hour nature walk into the  African jungle forest to look for bush babies, pottos, and other nocturnal animals.

Crater Lakes Tour.

Explore the Ndali Kasenda Crater Lakes. These are situated close to the park and visitors can take a tour around the lakes after or before the chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National Park.

These lakes include Lake Nyabikere, lake Nkuruba, lake Nyinambuga, lake Kifuraka, Lake Nyinabulitwa, lake Nyamasangari, and Lake Lyantonde. Visitors can engage in canoeing, sports fishing, and swimming on some of these crater lakes. 

Cultural Heritage led by Kibale Association for Rural Environment Development (KAFRED)

These walks give an insightful cultural heritage of the Batooro and their way of life by experiencing the village walks leading to the primary school, church, and traditional healer. The Magombe swamp wetlands expose you to about 200 species of birds, 8 primates, and numerous butterflies.

Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary

The Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is located 6 km south of the park and is a community-run initiative, that protects the 4 sq km Magombe Swamp. The Magombe swamp is one of the best birding spots close to the park with about 200 bird species and as well as primates such as monkeys and chimpanzees.

More so, the local community initiative generates funds for local development and has provided hundreds of birdwatchers with sightings of papyrus gonoleks, great blue turacos, and a decent number of Congo biome birds. 

Places to stay in Kibale National Park

Primate Lodge

Primate Lodge Kibale is located deep in the forest and right next door to the starting point for Chimpanzee Tracking Briefing Point. The lodge features Nine 9 spacious and en-suite Luxury Cottages, 7 mid-level/standard cottages, a Family Cottage, a Honeymoon Cottage, and a campsite.

Furthermore, all cottages are secluded deep in the forest with great views of the forest surroundings. Other facilities a massage parlor, a spacious dining terrace, a well-stocked bar, a secluded lounge area with a small library, and a campfire place.

Kyaninga Lodge

The Lodge sits just 55 minutes away from the captivating Kibale Forest, boasting stunning views of Lake Kyaninga and the majestic Mountains of the Moon.

Accommodation comprises nine charming en-suite Cottages, each offering private balconies or patios for a serene retreat. Guests can indulge in various amenities, including an inviting outdoor pool, a relaxing terrace, a tennis court for recreation, a rejuvenating sauna, and a comprehensive wellness center.

Further enhancing the experience is a tranquil private garden, a cozy lounge area perfect for unwinding, and a restaurant serving delicious meals amidst the picturesque surroundings.

Chimpundu Lodge

The lodge boasts 18 luxurious cottages, each offering a breathtaking vista of the surrounding landscape and wildlife directly from your own secluded deck. Every cottage is furnished with en-suite bathrooms and personal sundecks for your comfort.

Additionally, guests can enjoy a range of amenities such as a restaurant/dining area, a refreshing swimming pool, a charming gazebo, a cozy lounge, conference facilities, and a rejuvenating spa.

Crater Safari Lodge

Crater Safari Lodge sits on the shores of Lake Nyabikere near Fort Portal, approximately 35km from Kibale Forest. The lodge offers accommodation in 14 deluxe thatched chalets, each featuring spacious wooden balconies overlooking either the pool or the serene surroundings. Three of these chalets come with hammocks for added relaxation.

Additionally, there are 10 standard cottages, all facing the pool and offering partial views of the crater. The lodge’s central area includes a large wooden structure comprising an open-plan lounge area with a balcony, a dining space, and a cozy bar area for intimate gatherings.

Guests can enjoy outdoor amenities such as a swimming pool, a separate pool for children, and a terrace for soaking in the natural beauty of the area.

Ndali Lodge

The lodge rests atop the rim of a dormant volcano, boasting 8 cottages crafted in the traditional African architectural style, adorned with wood, airy stone, and roofs thatched with grass. Each cottage is equipped with en-suite facilities, comprising a bathroom furnished with a flush toilet, basin, shower, and a standalone bath.

Moreover, guests are treated to private balconies attached to the rooms, offering breathtaking vistas of the crater, the Rwenzori Mountains, and the encompassing landscapes.

Additional amenities encompass the main lodge, which hosts a reception, lounge, dining area, bar, and a spacious veranda for guests to relish the serene surroundings.

Papaya Lake Lodge.

The lodge is situated amidst the serene landscape, nestled snugly between two dormant volcanoes, bordered by the tranquil waters of Lyantonde and Kifuruka lakes, offering breathtaking vistas of the majestic Ruwenzori Mountain Range.

Comprising of 8 cottages, each furnished with a combination of one king-size and one single bed, adorned with locally sourced stone-decorated bathrooms featuring shower units, and complemented by verandas furnished with comfortable deckchairs.

The ninth cottage, known as the Family Cottage, stands out as a two-level villa, boasting three bedrooms, a cozy living room complete with a fireplace, a generously sized bathroom, and an expansive terrace perfect for soaking in the surrounding beauty.

Among its amenities, guests can enjoy the offerings of a restaurant and bar, unwind by the picturesque swimming pool accompanied by a scenic terrace, and explore the craft shop showcasing local artisanal creations.

Turaco Tree Top

Turaco Treetops boasts 8 lavish cottages nestled in secluded spots within the jungle. These cottages offer ample space, boasting expansive windows and wooden decks outdoors, offering breathtaking vistas of Kibale Forest.

Crafted to seamlessly blend modernity with an authentic ‘African feel’, the cottages incorporate clean lines alongside natural elements such as wood, creating an immersive indoor-outdoor experience.

In addition to the cottages, Turaco Treetops provides 8 standard rooms housed in 4 duplex buildings situated across 2 forest sites, offering exceptional affordability without compromising on quality.

Complementing the accommodations is a range of facilities, including a central lodge, a refined restaurant, a cozy lounge area with a crackling fireplace, a well-stocked bar, an outdoor terrace, and a refreshing swimming pool.

Additionally, guests can relish panoramic views of the forest and the snow-capped Rwenzori mountains from the first-floor lounge.

The best time to visit Kibale National Park

The dry season spans from June to September, and December to February, characterized by its aridity and heat. These months are optimal for forest exploration, as the foliage thins out, facilitating better visibility of primates such as chimpanzees and monkeys, which tend to forage closer to the ground. With reduced rainfall, trails become more manageable to traverse, devoid of slipperiness.

Contrarily, the wet season extends from March to May, and September to November. During this period, lush greenery dominates, attracting migratory birds to the park, rendering it a prime time for bird-watching enthusiasts.

However, for activities like primate trekking, navigating nature trails becomes more challenging due to increased slipperiness, making them less favorable for exploration.

How to get to Kibale National Park

Kibale National Park can be accessed from Kampala or Entebbe via the Mubende-Kyegegwa-Kyenjojo route, with a travel time of about 6-7 hours by road.

Alternatively, Aerolink Uganda provides daily domestic flights from Entebbe to Kasese Airstrip, lasting approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.

From Kasese Airstrip, it’s a 75 km drive to Fort Portal, typically taking around 1 hour and 30 minutes by road to reach the park.

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