Kibale National Park – The Primate Capital of East Africa – Top Destination for Chimpanzee Trekking & Habituation Experience
The 795km² Kibale National Park contains one of the loveliest and most varied tracts of tropical forest in Uganda. This is home to a host of forest wildlife, most famously 13 species of primate including chimpanzees. Forest cover predominates in the northern and central parts of the park on the elevated Fort Portal plateau. Kibale is highest at the park’s northern tip which stands 1590m above sea level. Northern Kibale is the wettest area, receiving a mean annual rainfall of up to 1700mm, mostly during March-May and September-November. This pristine environment has pleasant with a mean annual temperature range of 14-27°c. Temperatures are highest (and rainfall lower) in the south where the terrain drops down onto the hot rift valley floor and forest gives way to open grassland.
Southern Kibale adjoins Queen Elizabeth National Park and together these protected areas maintain a 180km-long migration corridor for wildlife which extends from Ishasha, the remote southern sector of Queen Elizabeth NP, to the Sebitoli forest in the north of Kibale. The Kibale-Fort Portal area is one of Uganda’s most rewarding areas to explore. The park lies close to the tranquil Ndali crater area and within a half day’s drive of the Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori Mountains and Semuliki National Parks and the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve.
Kibale Forest is home to 13 primate species, chimpanzees being the chief attraction here. Most visitors come for Chimpanzee Tracking (Trekking) and you can actually spend some days here with chimpanzee habituation experience of one, two days or three days. The perfect treat for the chimpanzee enthusiast.
The primate species found here include of course Chimpanzees which are closely related to human beings (find information on the Uganda Chimpanzee Page), but also such as Red Colobus Monkey, Kibale Forest is the last place in Uganda where a large concentration of the Red Colobus Monkey can be found. You can also find L'Hoest's Monkeys, Black and White Colobus, Vervet Monkeys, Olive Baboon, Grey Cheeked Mangabey Monkeys, the nocturnal primates such as bushbaby and potto, and others. You can do a nocturnal walk here with spotlights that is fabulous.
There is about 335 species of birds here and of course there is nearby Bigodi Wetlands where you can find more monkeys, more birds and take a 4 hour birding walk, you can extend it if you are a serious birder. At Kibale Forest, you can find Turacos, Red-winged Francolin, Green-breasted Pitta, Joyful Greenbul, White-bellied Crested Flycatcher, Woodland Warbler and Orange-tufted Sunbirds, Prirogrine's ground thrush and countless other birds. Many wetland species can be seen alongside most of the same forest species living in the national park. There are also an incredible 250 species of butterfly that live here.
There are many mammals found here at Kibale forest including the hairier and a bit smaller forest elephants, bushbuck, duiker, bush pig, buffalo and others that you might encounter along the way.
Kibale Forest Park is primarily known for chimpanzee trekking. After Bwindi Gorilla Park, it is the favorite Primate Park to visit in Uganda certainly one of the highlights for many visiting Uganda.
Chimpanzee Trekking is where you track the Chimps and get to spend just one hour with them. You choose to either do it in the morning starting at 8am or the afternoon program staring at 2pm. The rangers take you in to the group of 6 - max and you trek inside the forest after finding the chimps you are allowed to spend one hour viewing them – if you are lucky to find them on ground, you walk around watching them eat, nursing each other, relaxing and taking care of the babies. It’s an amazing experience and feels like a family visit.
Over 1500 chimps found here making Kibale Forest Park the best place for tracking chimpanzees in the East Africa. Comparing Chimpanzee Trekking elsewhere in Africa with the experience in Kibale can mistakenly cause you to think that all the chimps here are habituated. Kibale Forest is the best Chimpanzee Trekking spot in East Africa and at least none of our Clients have missed out on seeing the Chimpanzees on their Trek.
Chimp Habituation Experience works in a similar fashion as chimp trekking EXCEPT it's limited to a small group of 4 participants plus of course the rangers, starts at the crack of dawn and runs for 4 hours. It used to be an all-day experience but was cut down to 4 hours in effective July 2020. Chimp Habituation is a 2-year process of getting the chimpanzees oriented to human presence while in their natural habitat – your visit is an essential part of the process. With the standard chimp trekking, the chimps you visit have already gone through the habituation process.
Chimp Habituation Experience is one of the several guided activities offered by the Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers in Kibale National Park. This park offers the best opportunities for Chimpanzee Trekking or the Chimpanzee Habituation in East Africa.
Like the Gorilla and the Golden Monkey Habituation Experience, this is a hands-on learning experience where you learn from the Researchers and the Chimpanzees as you observe them.
Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary is community sustainable Tourism project where visitors have the opportunity to see a Jungle Swamp. Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary is unknown to most visitors to Uganda. Many travellers would probably just accept visiting this place because it’s suggested by a tour operator as part of their time at Kibale Park. Those who have been there realize that it is one of Uganda Must-Visit Places.
A visit to Kibale National Park is primarily for the Chimpanzee Tracking. On the Chimpanzee tracking, the focus is entirely on tracking the chimps – NO attempt to pause, track or identify other inhabitants of the forest. Going on a leisurely Bigodi Swamp walk offers you the opportunity to spot other primates and lots of birds! This is a long and scenic tour and you learn a lot about the wildlife and the local people. – Its simply an excellent sanctuary for bird lovers, primate lovers, entomology lovers and plant life.
When chimps and other forest residents rest up at dusk, a nighttime shift of rarely seen creatures becomes active. This is a 1½ to 2-hour hikenight in Forest where you explore the forest and the creatures of the night, the nocturnal creatures, the birds of the night such as Owls, - Wood Owl, Scops and Pearl-spotted Owlet can often be seen in trees sitting very still - these and all the things that move at night. Bush Babies (Galagos) are fairly routinely seen in most places at night. Even in the trees above your cabin or tent if your lodge is in the forest. Other creature include - the potto, nightjar, cricket and tree hyrax, with its chilling shriek, as well as the occasional civet or serval cat.
Nocturnal Forest Walks in Kibale Forest takes place after you have dinner at your lodge (7:30pm). You walk through the dark forest - using battery powered torches/flashlights to illuminate the trail and spot animals, birds and other creatures of the night that you encounter. Each walk is different. That is what is so special.
Also consider buying a "Trail Camera", learn how to use it and position it somewhere where people passing won't set it off. Leave it out overnight and you will be surprised what may wander by when you are sleeping. Other things we suggest include one liter of water, boots, long trousers, tuck them into the heavy sock which gives protection against insect bites and scratches, long-sleeved shirt, a light rain jacket and wear a hat. Use an insect repellent.
Kibale forest activities are mostly built around Hikes and Nature walks. The forest offers a number of walking and hiking safaris experiences that ranged from the traditional guided walks inside the forest to more sophisticated seasonal forest walk up to 12 kilometers. This 12-km journey is restricted to only the dry season months of mid-November to February and June to September. It highlights the diverse habitats of the national park including tropical rainforests, riverine forest, swamp and grassland. Visitors can you can see the varied habitats found in the forest, rivers, swamp, grassland, and the tropical rainforest, all making up Kibale Forest.
The walk start at 8.00am and ends at the elephant wallow around 2pm. Picnic lunch while on this 12km walk is a must and just don’t forget to ask for one if travelling on a self organized tour. There is even a hike that traverses the length of the park.
Amabere ga Nyina Mwiru simply means “the breasts of Nyina Mwiru". With the help of a local guide, the place can be described using local legends or geographical formations (stalactites). Its a combination of legends and nature. You will hear the stories of old and see nature at work as you are guided on the hike to the caves and the waterfall.
Historically, this is where the leader of the Chwezi dynasty stayed and it explains how the 'Mabere' were formed. Here you learn about King Bukkukku, his daughter Nyina Mwiru and Nyina Mwiru's son Ndahura. Geographically, these are stalactites and are made up of calcium carbonate. It is a short visit that takes less than 2 hours. There is a waterfall and a picnic and camping site.
Mubende is home to the Nakayima Shrine, said to hold the spirit of Ndahura, a former Bacwezi king. The site, is about 4 kilometres outside of the central business district – marked by the Nakayima tree. Large root buttresses, which form nooks and fissures, lie at the base of the tree.
from Kibale to Kampala. Nakayima tree - A tree of Mysteries Amazing things happen here. Its believed that a beautiful spiritual Princess called Nakayima who disappeared in the tree which is to date believed to be possessing supernatural powers for healing, giving fertility in women, wealth, solves problems and gives good health to people that go and worship it.
The shrine is located on top of Mubende Hill, rising 213 metres (699 ft) above the surrounding terrain to a peak of 1,533 metres (5,030 ft) above sea level. The hill has a flat top where an ancient palace once stood. The shrine is visited by people paying homage to the matriarch Nakayima of the Bachwezi, believed to be semi-gods, whose dynasty ruled this region in the period prior to 1,300 AD.
A tour guide will give you insight into the site, the current cultural practices, and the oral history of this ancient tree and the reason it became an artistic site many years ago. Break your drive-time from or to Kampala or Entebbe with a visit to the Nakayima Cultural site.
Kibale National Park is located in western Uganda, 26km south-east of Fort Portal town. Kanyanchu River Camp, the primary centre for tourism activities, can be reached from Kampala either from the north, via Mubende and Fort Portal, or the south through Mbarara and Kamwenge. The northern approach is shorter and quicker, with a 300km paved roadway running to Fort Portal followed by 36km on graded road to Kanyanchu. Sebitoli Forest Camp, a secondary tourism centre, is even easier to reach. This stands directly on the Kampala road, 16km before Fort Portal. Public transport runs throughout the day between Kampala and Fort Portal (passing Sebitoli) and Fort Portal and Kamwenge (passing Kanyanchu).
Kibale Primate Lodge provides mid range accommodation at Kanyanchu including stone cottages, tree houses and tented camps. Simple cottages are found at Sebitoli. Both sites provide campsites and canteens that provide basic meals to order.
Basic and mid range accommodation is available in the nearby villages of Bigodi and Nkingo while a wider choice is to be found in the Ndali Crater Area. This ranges from the up-market Ndali Lodge and Primate Lodge Kibale to good budget options at Chimpanzee Guesthouse and Lake Nkuruba. Accommodation can also be found in Fort Portal town. Explore Kibale National Park accommodations here»
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