Chimpanzee Tracking Safaris

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Kibale National Park

Kibale National Park is situated in the northern foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains covering an area of 794 sq km and extending southwards to form a contiguous block with Queen Elizabeth National Park.   It covers Kamwenge, Kasese, Kyenjojo, and Kabarole districts.

Kibale Forest National Park is known as the Capital Primate of the World. It has the highest number of primates in East Africa totaling 13 primate species.

These include the highest concentration of over 1400 chimpanzees, the red colobus monkey, the rare L’Hoest’s monkey, the black and white colobus, the blue monkey and grey-cheeked mangabey, the red-tailed monkey, vervet monkey, bush babies, galagos, and pottos.

Kibale Forest is a great alternative to Bwindi Impenetrable forest with its special chimpanzee tracking tours and habituation experiences where tourists are given a chance to hang with the chimps all day while they’re being habituated for tourism.

Furthermore, Kibale Forest National Park hosts over 372 species of birds including 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 which makes it a bird-watching haven.

There are a number of impressive mammals including forest elephants, buffaloes, bush pigs, duikers, and bats. A keen observer may see some of the reptiles and amphibians as well as a colorful variety of butterflies.

Furthermore, over 250 tree species are recorded in the park. Kibale Forest is managed and operated by Uganda Wildlife Authority.

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

The habituation experience varies from 1-3 days, with a researcher, a group will locate a chimpanzee family early in the morning at their nest site and follow them throughout the day until the family chooses a new resting place for the night. This activity is recommended during the low season months of March, April, May, and November. 

Bird watching

There are over 372 bird species including 6 endemics to the Albertine Rift area found in Kibale National Park. You can take 3-hour sessions within the park and around the Bigodi wetlands with experienced local guides. Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary has an 8 km trail and has about 200 bird species including Great Blue Turaco, red-chested paradise flycatcher, black-white casqued hornbill, Black-capped Apalis, Blue-headed Sunbird, Collared Apalis, Dusky Crimsonwing, Purple-breasted Sunbird, and Red-faced Woodland Warbler.  

Day Hikes / Nature walks

These walks start at 8:00 am, 10.00 am, and 2:00 pm from Kanyanchu Tourist Centre and take 2-3 hours. While walking or hiking, you will be able to see other primates and wildlife like the red-tailed monkeys, and black and white colobus monkeys.  The Bigodi nature walks take 3 hours. 

Mpanga Falls Trail

Mpanga  Falls is situated 55 km south of Bidogi and the Mpanga River forms this impressive waterfall as it tumbles over the rim of the 1,200m Mount Karubaguma some 15km before emptying into Lake George. The waterfall is 50m high and is enclosed by a steep gorge, and supports a lush cover of spray forest. You can easily reach Mpanga Falls on a day trip from Kibale National Park and Bigodi.  There is also the Cycad Trail that has recently been created to help visitors discover the cycads and their environment.  

Sebitoli and the Kihingami Wetlands

Sebitoli and Kihingami wetland is an eco-tourism site that lies 15kms East of Fort portal.  Guided nature walks in Sebitoli provide an excellent chance to see red and black-and-white colobus, blue and vervet monkeys, and many bird species.  The wetlands have a remarkable 384 bird species that have been spotted here, including white-spotted fluff-tail, red-bellied paradise flycatcher, and Jameson’s wattle-eye. There’s also a good chance of seeing chimpanzees, red colobus monkeys, and spotted-necked otters.

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 wetland is located 6 km south of the park lies Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, 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.

This 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.

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 is 55 minutes from the Kibale Forest and overlooks Lake Kyaninga and the mountains of the moon.

It features 9 en-suite Cottages that have private balconies or patios. Other facilities include an outdoor pool, a terrace, a tennis court, a sauna, a wellness center, a private garden, a lounge area, and a restaurant.

Chimpundu Lodge

The lodge features 18 luxury cottages with the perfect view of the surrounding landscape and wildlife right from your own private deck.  All cottages are equipped with en-suite bathrooms and private sundecks.

Other facilities include a restaurant /dining area, a swimming pool, a gazebo, a comfortable lounge, conference facilities, and a spa.

Crater Safari Lodge

Crater Safari Lodge is located on the shores of Lake Nyabikere in Fortpotal and is 35km from Kibale Forest.  The Lodge features 14 deluxe thatched chalets with expansive wooden balconies or pool-facing with 3 chalets having hammocks.

There are also 10 standard cottages that are pool-facing with partial crate views.  Other facilities include a central area with an expansive wooden area housing an open-plan lounge with a balcony, a dining area, and an intimate bar area.

There is also an outdoor swimming pool and a kid’s pool, and a terrace.

Ndali Lodge

The lodge is situated on the rim of an extinct volcano and features 8 cottages built in African style with wood, airy stone, and grass thatched roofs. The rooms are en-suite with a bathroom that includes a flush toilet, basin, shower, and stand-alone bath.

The rooms have private balconies to enjoy spectacular views of the crater, Rwenzori Mountains, and surrounding areas.  Other facilities include the main lodge that leads to a reception, lounge, dining area, bar, and veranda.

Papaya Lake Lodge.

The lodge is set between two extinct volcanoes, nestled against the turquoise waters of the Lyantonde and Kifuruka lakes and with exhilarating views over the majestic Ruwenzori Mountain Range.

It features 8 cottages with two beds (one king-size and one single), local stone-decorated bathrooms with shower units, and verandas equipped with deckchairs.

The ninth cottage – Family Cottage – is a two-level villa boasting three bedrooms, a living room with a fireplace, a spacious bathroom, and a large terrace. Other facilities include a restaurant and bar, a beautiful swimming pool with a scenic terrace, and a craft shop.

Turaco Tree Top

Turaco Treetops has 8 luxury cottages situated at secluded locations in the jungle. The cottages are spacious, with large windows and outside wooden decks, providing splendid views over Kibale Forest.

The cottages are designed to ‘bring the outdoors inside’ and mix modernity with an ‘African feel’ by using clean lines in combination with wood and other natural materials.

Turaco Treetops also features 8 standard rooms located in 4 duplex buildings that are located on 2 sites in the forest and provide excellent value for money.

Other facilities include a main lodge a restaurant, a lounge area with a cozy fireplace, a bar, an outside terrace, a swimming pool, and a first-floor lounge with spectacular views over the forest and the snow-capped Rwenzori mountains.

The best time to visit Kibale National Park

The dry season: June to September, and December to February.

These are the driest and hottest months and are ideal for forest activities. The forest is less dense and primates like chimpanzees and monkeys are much easier to see and feed closer to the ground. There is less rain and the trails are much easier to navigate since they are not slippery. 

The Wet season: March to May, September to November.

This green season is ideal for migratory birds in the park, making this the best time to go bird-watching. However, for forest activities like primate trekking, the nature trails are usually harder to navigate since the trails are slippery and challenging to traverse during this period. 

How to get to Kibale National Park

Kibale National Park can be accessed from Kampala or Entebbe via Mubende- Kyegegwa-Kyenjojo and the drive time is approximately 6-7 hours. Daily scheduled domestic flights operated by Aerolink Uganda from Entebbe to Kasese Airstrip for 1hr and 15 minutes. The airstrip is 75 km from Fortportal which is about a 1 hr and 30 mins drive to the park.  

Best Time to Visit Kibale Forest

Best time to go: December to February and June to July (Trails are dry, so it makes tracking chimps less challenging)
High Season: June to September (The park is more busy as it is the most favorable time for gorilla tracking)
Low Season: March, April, May, October & November (Some camps and lodges are closed)
Best Weather: June to July and December to February (Least rain)
Worst Weather: April, May and September to November (Most rain, forest trails are slick and travel becomes difficult)

Other Top Experiences in Uganda

Uganda is a Land Gifted By Nature. It’s home Mountains of the Moon (Rwenzori Mountains), Africa’s third highest peak (Mount Margherita: 5,109 m). The source that feeds the world’s longest river and the continent’s largest lake. With half the world’s remaining mountain gorillas residing here, as well as the Big Five to be ticked off, wildlife watching is huge.
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