Kibale National Park: Chimpanzees along with other 12 primate species are proud to call Kibale National Park their home. The best of Africa’s chimpanzee trekking destinations; Kibale forest is home to about 1,500 chimps, a population that makes trekking very rewarding while on safari. The 795 national park is a dense tropical rainforest that records 351 tree species with some rising to over 55m and being estimated to be about 200 years old. Kibale national park has a varied altitude which supports different types of vegetation including wet tropical forest, woodland and savannah. The habitats offer suitable conditions for chimpanzees, monkeys, other large mammals and numerous species of birds. The park is a highlight destination for primate safaris in Uganda and this article is a whole guide for your safari including the activities to do and where to stay during your safari.


Historical Background

In 1932, Kibale was gazetted as a logged forest area after which hardwood was extracted. It was gazetted as forest reserve in 1948 still under the British control. They often cut down trees and planted exotic ones to replace the earlier on cleared hardwood trees. In 1993, the forest reserve was established to Kibale national park and then in 1994 the Uganda National Parks took over its responsibility.

Wildlife in Kibale National park

Kibale forest comes among the best places on the African continent to watch a variety of primates. Apart from chimpanzees, the forest is a beautiful natural habitat for vervet monkeys, l’Hoest’s monkey, red-tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, black-and-white colobus monkeys, the Uganda mangabey, Ugandan red colobus and olive baboon among others.

Kibale national park also hosts about 70 mammal species including the giant forest hog, forest buffaloes, forest elephants, bush pigs and warthogs along with 250 butterflies and more than 375 birdlife. Some of the park’s birds are the White winged Warbler, Papyrus Canary, Black bishop, papyrus Gonolek, Western nicator, Collared Apalis, White Naped Pigeon and many more.

Attractions in Kibale forest national park

  • Chimpanzees
  • Other primates, mammals and birds
  • Bigodi wetland Sanctuary
  • Sebitoli Forest Camp
  • Kihingami wetland

Activities to do in Kibale National Park

Chimpanzee tracking

Kibale national park is the most reliable destination for chimpanzee trekking in Africa. An exciting moment to get into the forest with a park ranger in search of your closest known relatives- the chimps. This is one of the highly sought out experiences in Uganda today and the best place to enjoy it is Kibale. Your guide is not certain about the duration of the activity since it depends on how far the chimpanzees have moved. But when you come across the chimpanzees, you are allowed to stay with them for a maximum of an hour; observing them, being entertaining by their good day mood pauses and taking photos. Amidst the trek, other primates and animals such as example black and white colobus monkeys, vervet monkey, blue monkey are expected to be seen.

There are two sessions for chimpanzee trekking in Kibale; Morning session at 8am and afternoon session at 12pm, you can go for the most convenient. A Chimpanzee tracking permit in Kibale national park costs US$200 for foreign nonresidents, US$150 for foreign residents and UGX 150,000 for East African citizens.

Bird watching in Kibale national park

Kibale Forest is an amazing birding destination harboring over 375 birdlife species. The best time for bird watching here is March to May and September to November. This is the breeding season for the birds meanwhile, the flowering and fruiting plant trees offer plenty of food for them. During the season, you can spot a lot of bird species including migratory birds in just a relatively short coverage of the area. This makes bird watching more rewarding and enjoyable.

Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHE)

Primate lovers who wish to be part of the team that prepares chimpanzees for tourism can go for the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience and get an insight of this process. Visitors move with researchers early morning into the forest to start the day with the chimps; getting an opportunity to see them from the time they leave their nests, get on the move in search for food, play and rest. Unlike chimp trekking which allows you to observe the chimps for only one hour, the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience gives more time to stay with the primates. It starts at 6am to 6pm.

Only 4 visitors are allowed to join the habituation team for the experience for each session. The CHE permit costs US$250 for foreign nonresidents and foreign residents and UGX 200,000 for East African citizens.

Guided Nature Walks / Forest walk

A maximum of 6 people are guided by a game ranger through the trails of the forest for an insightful study of the flora and fauna. Several bird species are inevitably seen, and then always expect to come across some primates and other mammals like forest elephant, buffaloes or forest hog although they are rarely seen.

There is an option of night nature walks done to look out for nocturnal animals such as the Civet, Nightjar, Pottos, bushbaby, tree hyrax and Serval cats among others.

A visit to the nearby Bigodi swamp

The locals adjacent to Kibale national park in Bigodi started a project to protect Bigodi swamp and promote tourism which would in turn help to improve their standards of living. The swamp is a great bird watching destination well known for hosting interesting bird species. The walk of about 4 hours through the swamp can also surprise you with sightings of primates.

Community walk

This activity is commonly done after a nature walk in Bigodi swamp. It involves visiting the Bigodi Women Group which was triggered by the community project. It is made up of local women who work together to fulfil the objectives of the group. They make different kinds of handmade crafts perfect to grab for a souvenir.

You can also visit some of the facilities that have been an achievement of Kibale Association for Rural Environment Development (KAFRED) such as the schools, church and health centre.

Accommodation in Kibale National Park

Chimpundu Lodge, image courtesy of Chimpundu Lodge

Kibale national park is one of the most visited safari destinations in the Pearl of Africa and therefore has a somewhat high number of lodges to cater for visitors’ accommodation. Some of them include;

  • Chimpundu Lodge
  • Primate lodge Kibale
  • Kibale Forest Camp
  • Chimpanzee Forest Guesthouse
  • Ndali Lodge
  • Kyaninga Lodge
  • Chimps Nest Lodge
  • Kluge’s Guest Farm among others.

Accessing Kibale National Park

The park lies in western Uganda and can be accessed by road from Kampala. The two major routes to the park are; Kampala-Mubende-Fort Portal route which is the shorter and mostly used route and the Kampala-Mbarara-Kasese-Fort Portal route which is convenient if you are visiting other parks like Lake Mburo national park, Queen Elizabeth national park or Bwindi impenetrable national park. The first route via Mubende is about 290km to Fort Portal and extra 36km to the park while the second one covers up to 500km to the park.

Kibale Forest National Park is located about 3 hour’s drive from the popular Queen Elizabeth national park which is well known for its magnificent tree climbing lions. On a gorilla and chimp trekking safari, a transfer from Kibale to Bwindi Impenetrable national park by road takes about 6 hours via Ishasha.

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