Kibale National park stretches over an expanse of approximately 795 kilometers and its known to hold one of most stunning tropical forests in the whole of Uganda. the Forest is most prominent due to its resident chimpanzees which live here together with a variety of other forest wildlife including several primates.
The Kibale forest covers the northern and the central section of Kibale National park. The northern section of the Kibale National park is elevated with a peak of approximately 1590 meters above sea level. This northern section in addition is the wettest area receiving an annual rainfall of close to 1700mm.The months that receive most rain are from March to May and then September to November. Temperatures here range from 14 to 27°c, whereas the south receives higher temperatures since its terrain drops onto the floor of the Great Rift Valley.
This lowland is characterized by a Montane Forest, tropical rain-forest and a damp deciduous forest that serve as habitat to a wide variety of wildlife among which are the chimpanzees. The Chimpanzee frequently called a Chimp is known to be the existing animal closest in nature to human and is believed to share 98% of their DNA with humans.
Things to See in Kibale Forest
The chimpanzees are more closely related to humans than any other species and are delightful to watch.
The weight of a mature well grown male chimpanzee is approximated to be between 35 – 70 kilograms and close to three meters tall whereas the female grow up to 26 – 50 kilograms and height of 2 – 4 feet.
Chimpanzees’ life expectancy is at 40 years although some can live up to 60 years.
Several efforts have been acknowledges, put in place and supported to conserve the chimpanzees with a total population of more than 1400 chimps living in this forest. The Jane Goodall Foundation has played a significant role in conserving not only mountain Gorillas but the Chimpanzees as well in Uganda. Unique about Kibale Forest is that it is not only habitat to the chimpanzee but to 12 other primate species among which are: the blue monkeys, pottos monkey, vervet monkeys, olive baboons, red colobus, grey-cheeked mangabeys, bush babies, L’Hoest’s monkey, red-tailed monkeys and the black and white colobus monkeys.
Guided Chimpanzee tracking of the habituated chimpanzee families in done in this forest and this has been the main reason as to why several people set out to visit this national park. The Guided walks within the forest are conducted daily and guests are allowed to take part in the habituation process of chimpanzees starting early in the morning when the chimps are de-nesting and in the evening when they lay their nests for the overnight Chimp tracking is very exciting since you get the chance to marvel at the human-like activities of these apes. The tracking requires less walking as compared to gorilla tracking and it is very rewarding as you see chimps jumping from one tree brunch to another searching for fruits while others spend some time on the ground.
The chimpanzees are recognized as the most prominent habitats in this verdant forest with a great number of them taking shelter here. The Kanyanchu River-Camp group or family of chimpanzees was back in 1991 habituated and is open for tourism activity.
Kibale National Park is home to 13 primates and is the most accessible rain forest in Uganda. Apart from the chimpanzees, the park has 12 other primates which include: Guereza Colobus, Olive Baboon, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, L’Hoest’s Gentle (Blue) and Red-tailed Monkeys is more likely to be found in open areas adjacent to the forest.
Other things of interest in the Kibale Forest National Park are the golden monkeys. This park boasts of some five or six species of golden monkeys and is one of the most densely populated areas for golden monkeys. Kibale forest National Park is one of the best places to enjoy chimpanzee tracking in Africa. Located in western Uganda, Kibale is known to host the highest population density of chimpanzees in the whole world. Kibale forest is one of the tropical- evergreen forest and most famous for chimpanzees some of the great apes that live on the African continent. Alongside chimpanzee trekking, the forest also offers excellent bird watching, nature walks and other primates watching.
Other wildlife found here are:
You may find evidence of Elephant, Bush Pig and Bufallo along the trails, whilst Bushbuck, Blue, Harvey’s and Peter’s Duickers are other shy inhabitants of the forest interior. The guided night walks are also rewarding: Potto, Spectacled Demidoff’s and Thomas’s Galagos, Lord Derby’s Anomalure, African Civet and Common Genet, Ichneumon, Banded and Marsh Mongooses, Alexander’s Cusimanse, Swamp Otter, Ratel ( Honey Badger ) and African Palm Civet. Although Golden Cat, Serval, Lion, Leopard, Warthog, Giant Hog and Hippopotamus are recorded from the park, they are unlikely to be encountered in the Kanyanchu area. Sitatungas are known from Bigodi Swamp but are infrequently seen. The spectacular and beautiful Rhinoceros Viper is fairly common here but is, unfortunately, less often found alive than as a road-kill.
Bird species found in Kibale forest:
Migrants and indigenous birds are found in Kibale forest and they include Red-winged Francolin, Red-chested Flufftail, White-naped Pigeon, Green-brested Pitta, African Pitta, Joyful Greenbul, Grey-winged Robin, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, Grey-throated Flycatcher, White-bellied Crested Flycather, Masked and Black-capped Apalises, Uganda Woodland Warbler, Chestnut-winged Starling, Orange-tufted and Tiny Sunbirds, Grey-headed Olive-back.
Things to Do
Chimpanzee Tracking in Kibale Forest
While gorilla tracking is one of the most sought after activities in Uganda , chimp tracking is equally interesting and it is done at a few national parks in Uganda.Similar to gorilla trekking, chances of seeing the chimpanzee is estimated to 90%.
The gentle landscape of Kibale Forest characterized with rolling hills plus trails traverse through the verdant forest at regular distance make walking in the forest somewhat easy. Every morning plus afternoon 4 groups each with 8 people are permitted to track these chimpanzees. Chimpanzees are generally more active compared to mountain gorillas and live in larger families with 30 and more members.
Chimp tracking can be done as tourist groups or even as part of a habituation group, which studies chimps to learn its behavior in order to benefit humans.
A permit is required to go on chimpanzee tracking. The Permits go at a price of $90 per individual per day, and it is advised that persons interested book earlier.
Other Wildlife living in Kibale Forest include over 325 species of birds among which are the African-grey parrot, African pitta, noisy hornbills, black-bee eater, yellow-spotted nectar, crowned eagle, yellow-romped tinker bird and the little greenbul.
In addition, Kibale Forest National Park is habitat to the largest population of forest elephants in the whole of Uganda. These bashful, smaller yet more hairy compared to their savannah equals, live deep within the verdant forest together with buffaloes plus the huge forest hogs and for that reason, these are hardly seen although they leave evident traces behind to expose their presence within the forest. The most commonly sighted at mammals are the bushbucks, large forest squirrels and the duikers.
<strong>People & Culture</strong>
The park is neighbored by two tribes: Batooro and Bakiga traditionally both tribes utilized the forest for food, fuel, building materials and medicines.
How to get There
Take the road from Fort Portal to Kamwenge, which commences near the bridge over the Mpanga River in Fort Portal and is well signposted. Turn left at the junction 12 km from Fort Portal and follow signpost for a further 24 km to Kanyanchu Tourist Centre.
Safari Lodges in Kibale forest national park:
For those looking to staying in the Kibale National Park, there are several lodges both within the park and outside the park that offers accommodation at very reasonable prices. Top Lodges in the park include
- Primate Lodge Kibale,
- Kyaninga Lodge,
- Ndali Lodge,
- Chimpanzee Guest House,
- Chimp Nest Lodge
Distant accommodation from the park:
Some travelers also stay in Fort Portal town and wake up early to go for chimpanzee tracking. Top lodges in Fortportal include.
- Rwenzori View Guesthouse,
- Mountains of the moon Hotel
Tourist activities and prices:
- Chimpanzee trekking 5-6 hours experience at US$ 150 per person.
- Nocturnal walk to see leopards, cats and other primates on at US$ 20 per person.
- Chimpanzee habituation – full day view of chimps at US$ 200 per person.
- 3-4 hours at birding pace
- Cultural safari at US$ 10 per person
- Birding at US$ 30 per person
- Forest rules and regulations:
Chimpanzee Tracking in Kibale Forest
Please note that this is not a Zoo so it is a tropical rainforest and sightings depend on factors such as time of the day fruit availability, weather and how quite the primate group is. The maximum number of people in a group is 4 visitors per guided walk.The maximum time allowed with the chimps is one hour; however, the time might be shortened under the guides discretion to eliminate stressful situations for the chimps.
Guidelines to chimpanzee Watching
- When trekking you are advised to remain in a tight group and follow the guides directions at all times.
- Please remain at a distance of 8 meters from the chimps or the distance that your guide recommends
- Under no circumstance shall you chase while they descend or to or walk on higher ground.
- You are advised not to enter the forest if you are sick as this can put the animals at serious risk
- Please refrain from eating near the chimps and other primates
- Please do not shout in the forest
- It’s advisable to wear long boots that cover your toes and long trousers as there are red ants and slippery trails, also carry along water proof clothing in the rainy season.
- Children under 15 years are not allowed to view the chimps for safety reasons.
- If you would like to ease yourself, urinate off the trail system.
- All wastes should be buried in a hole.