Kibale Forest National Park

Best travel destinations in Uganda for chimpanzee tracking safaris and tours

Kibale Forest National Park Uganda

Kibale Forest National Park Uganda is one of the best travel destinations in Uganda for chimpanzee tracking safaris and tours. The park is located in the western region of the country, about 350km (6 hours’ drive) from Kampala city center and just 26km south east of Fort portal city. Kibale forest national park is a gateway to major safari destinations such as Queen Elizabeth national park, Ndali Kasenda, Rwenzori Mountains, Semuliki National Park and Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve.

Kibale forest is composed of different vegetation types ranging from moist evergreen along the Fort Portal plateau, dry tropical forest, woodlands and savanna along the rift valley floor. All these vegetation zones host a number of wildlife species.

The central part of Kibale Forest national park, around Kanyanchu is characterized by a mixture of evergreen trees and deciduous plants. Trees grow tall to a height of over 55 meters with semi-closed canopies and sparse undergrowth. Currently, the number of recorded tree species in Kibale forest is 351.

Kibale forest national park is the capital of primates with the highest number of primate species in Africa. It is well known for hosting the largest numbers of chimpanzees with over 1450 individuals hence making it the best destination for chimpanzee trekking tours and safaris in Uganda. More still, the forest is a home to rare L’Hoest’s monkeys, red colobus monkeys, the black & white colobus, red tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, olive baboons, grey cheeked mangabeys, bush babies, potto among many others.

The park is estimated to host over 60 mammal species such as leopards, Duikers, forest Buffaloes, forest Elephants, Golden cats, Warthogs, and Bush Pigs. Largely, animals found in Kibale forest national park are shy and more aggressive due to the nature of the vegetation and rare human-wildlife encounter if compared to animals in the most savannah parks of Uganda. On a lucky day, visitors may spot footprints of Elephants, Buffaloes or Bush Pigs and it is rare to physically meet them because they are shy and tend to run far away once they detect activity in the forest.

Kibale forest is among the major birding destinations in Uganda for bird watching activities with over 375 bird species including 6 endemics Albertine species. The dense vegetation act as habitat to a number of birds at the same time providing ample food to the birds hence attracting their bleeding eco systems. Bird watching tours and safaris normally happen in morning and evening hours for the case of nocturnal birds. Expect to see unique bird species such as Green breasted Pitta, Red-chested owlet, Crowned Eagle, little Greenbul, Black Bee eater, White-naped pigeon, Purple breasted sunbird, African Grey Parrot, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Western bronze-napped Pigeon, Scaly-breasted Illadopsis, Nahan’s Francolin, Yellow-throated Nicator, Yellow-spotted barbet , White-headed Wood-hoopoe, Red Headed malimbe , Dusky-blue Flycatcher etc.

The park is a perfect habitat to over 250 species of butterflies, several reptiles and amphibians. Visitors must be keen to spot reptiles and amphibians but butterflies are easily sighted due to their high numbers.

Activities and Safaris in Kibale National Park

Kibale Forest National Park has got different activities that take place to make tourism a more comforting and wonderful experience. Among these activities are; Chimp Tracking, Nature Walk, Chimp Habituation Experience, Forest Walk, Sebitoli Forest, Bird watching, Bigodi Swamp Walk, Bigodi Village Walk, Exploration of the Crater Lakes, Cultural Heritage and Nature Trail, Hike at the slopes of the Rwenzori Mountains and Visit to the tea estates.

It is so good that a visitor chooses the activity he/she wants to enjoy. One may decide to hike the foothills of Mountain Rwenzori and Bigodi Swamp watch in search for Great Blue Turaco. Others choose primate walks to encounter Chimpanzees hence a great experience.

Chimp Tracking & Chimp Habituation Experience

When in search for Chimpanzees in this park, you will experience the tropical rainforest and its good climate / weather. These forests give a good opportunity for Chimp tracking activity under guidance of a ranger guide who gives you detailed information about these primates and the flora species encountered on the way. Also, on the visit to this forest, you will spot mammals, Red-Colobus Monkeys and Mangabey, birds and many more primates.

During Chimp Habituation Experience, you will surrender the whole day enjoying and trying to understand how these beautiful creatures live their life. The project was initiated by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in conjunction with Jane Goodall Institute to arrange chimpanzee habituation experiences without disturbing their nature and ways of living. You will watch chimps search for food, rest in the trees, wake up, playing and going to sleep.

Forest Walk and Nocturnal Walk

Forest walk is much enjoyed by children who fear to participate in the Chimp tracking. However, it is more interesting for parents to walk with their children for a life time experience as a family. Forest walks involve understanding and learning of ecosystems, encompasses games and creative activities too. The ranger guide takes visitors through the walk in the tropical rainforest that harbors’ primates and good vegetation.

A nocturnal walk is exciting during the night. In the heart of the forest, at night a ranger guide will take the visitors into the forest to spot nocturnal animals like bush babies, pottos and many more.

Bird watching

Kibale has got a variety of bird species. There are about 325 bird species recorded in the National Park. The Blue-headed Sunbird, Purple-breasted Sunbird, Collared Apalis, Black-capped Apalis, faced Woodland Warbler and Red- Dusky Crimson wing are some of endemic Albertine bird species.

Bigodi Swamp Walk and Bigodi Village Walk

Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is located in the eastern side of Kibale forest national park. It is a protected area found in Magombe forest. The walk is initiated by the villagers of Bigodi. The walk is interesting since the local people are willing to share local knowledge and skills with visitors.  About 137 bird species can be encountered, several primates and butterflies during this walk.

Bigondi community-initiated village walk experiences. The senior citizens tell visitors stories about their history and culture. In the tour you will visit schools, Trading Centre, churches, traditional homesteads etc. You will learn about the crops grown in the village, life style and traditional customs of Bigodi Villagers.

Exploration of the Crater Lakes

Bunyarunguru Crater Lakes is met on a drive from Fort Portal to Kibale Forest. The Bunyaruguru Crater Lakes region has got a scenery that is beautiful and attracting with gentle hills, small lakes and a wonderful view. When you are at Mahoma falls you may interact with the local community who may brief you about Batoro tribe customs and lifestyle. Hiking at L.Nkuruba enables visitors to spot primates and birds of all kind.

Cultural Heritage and Nature Trail

He heritage of this area is exceptional. The area has got a flora and fauna that flourishes always. When it comes to cultural issues, you will explore Batoro and Bakiga culture something that will give clear identities of traditions and culture. In Villages of Nyaibanda, Nyakalongo and KIkoni, you will meet campsites that are run by the community and arrange travel overnight stays. The hiking takes to around 2-6 days for nature and culture understanding to visitors. You can start you trip either from Sebitoli Forest Camp or Kibale till you reach deep into the forest.

Hiking at the slopes of the Rwenzori Mountains

Kibale Forest is situated close to Rwenzori Mountain commonly known as mountain of the moon. On the “Mountains of the Moon”, you will view large banana plantations, green valleys and rolling hills. Traditional healers can be visited at their homes in this village.

Visit to the tea estates

Large green plantations surround Kibale Forest.  Once you stay in this region you can’t miss out the opportunity to touch and feel the fresh green tea leaves. The workers are spotted weeding, plucking and tipping in the ta gardens. If you wish you can befriend a farmer and you participate in these activities. On reaching the factory, you will witness how black tea is processed from the tea leaves.

Getting to Kibale forest National park

Kibale forest national park is destined in close proximity to several top safari destinations in Uganda and chimpanzee trekking trailhead at Kanyanchu is just 35km southeast of Fort Portal city- about 30-45 minutes’ drive and 360km (about six hours) from Kampala capital city.

You can get to Kibale Forest national park from Entebbe International airport by a scheduled or charter flight to Kasese Airstrip and later transfer to the park by your tour operator for chimpanzee tracking and habituation the following day. The whole journey may take a maximum of 2hours. Alternatively, you may drive from Kampala via Fort portal to Kibale forest (Highly recommended for short trips) or take Kampala – Mbarara – Kibale forest via Ibanda. This route is best for visitors who wish to explore Lake Mburo national park and Kibale or those with a pick up from Kigali international airport and finally from Queen Elizabeth national park – Kasese – Fortportal – Kibale forest

Best time to Visit Kibale Forest National park

Kibale Forest National Park can be visited throughout the year however, the Best time to visit the park is during the dry seasons of December to February and from June to September when trails are dry and passable. Kibale receives an average annual rainfall of approximately 1700mm during months of March to May and September to November. The average annual temperature range between 14C to 27C.

Quick facts

Visiting Kibale forest national park in December – February and June – July (Dry Seasons)

Expect dry trails during trekking and makes movement easier to track chimps

Great chance for a dry hour spent with the chimpanzees

Days are lovely and sunny

The views aren’t that great as the sky is blurred

Visiting Kibale forest national park in March – May and August- November (Wet Seasons)

Great time for bird watching activity

The views tend to be spectacular when the clouds lift

Rain makes forest movement challenging due to muddy and slippery trails

Rain might interfere with the experience during chimp watching and photography

Accommodation in Kibale Forest National Park

Are you looking for the best lodges in Kibale forest national park on your safari to Uganda? Kibale features top accommodation properties ranging from budget, Midrange and luxury. Check out some of the lodges listed below;

  • Isunga Lodge
  • Kyaninga Lodge
  • Turaco Treetops
  • Chimpanzee Guest house
  • Mountains of the moon Hotel
  • Rwenzori View Guest house
  • Nyinabulitwa Country Resort
  • The Dutchess
  • Papaya Safari Lodge
  • Chimps’ Nest
  • Kanyanchu River Camp
  • Ndali Lodge
  • Primate Lodge
  • Kibale forest camp
  • Kibale Forest Camp

Chimpanzee Trekking Rules and Regulations in kibale forest national park

Chimpanzee Trekking Rules and Regulations are set by Uganda wildlife authority to advise guests who visit Kibale forest national park Chimp tracking and chimpanzee habituation Experience.

The minimum age to go chimp trekking or habituation experience in Kibale forest national park is 15 years and this was set by UWA for safety reasons however, the minimum age for chimp tracking in Kalinzu forest reserve is 12 years.

Visitors should keep a distance of at least 8 meters away from chimpanzees.

Visitors should listen and follow instructions of their respective ranger guide during chimp trekking in Kibale forest national park.

Do not provoke chimpanzees for example throwing sticks, stones etc. at them is strictly prohibited.

Do not smoke before the chimpanzees and other primates.

Visitors with communicable diseases like cold, flu or any other illness are not allowed to track chimpanzees in Kibale forest national park

Avoid using flash cameras while taking photos because flash lights scare away chimpanzees.

You must be guided and headed by the ranger to get into the forest for chimp tracking

Visitors who wish to ease themselves, should do so off the trail and after bury their waste 30cm deep with tissue used.

Guest must keep their voices during trekking and before chimpanzees in order to enjoy chimps interacting with one another.

A maximum of 8 guests are allowed to track respective allocated chimpanzee group.

You are advised to stay in the group when you meet chimps in their nature habitats and avoid making noise.

Avoid drinking before the chimpanzees.

Chimpanzee tracking experience normally lasts for 2 to 8 hours depending on their location the previous day.

Once visitors encounter the chimps, they are allowed to observe them for only one hour

Cost of a Safari in Kibale Forest National Park

Are you looking for a cost of chimpanzee tracking safaris and  tours in Kibale forest national park in Uganda? A number of factors determine the price of the package these include; the mode of transport (could be domestic flights, private and public means), accommodation level and number of nights booked for your adventure.

Activities have fixed tariffs for a certain period of time and these rates are regulated and determined by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Currently Kibale National Park entrance fees is $40 for foreign non-resident adults and $20 for children, chimpanzee trekking goes for $200, birding at $30 and Bigodi Swamp Nature Walk at $30. Below are some of the popular primate and wildlife safaris in Uganda with their average costings;

5 Days Chimp And Gorilla Trekking Uganda Safari

Day 1: Arrival and transfer to Kibale

Day 2: Chimpanzee Trekking – Kibale Forest National Park

Day 3: Transfer to Bwindi via Ishasha sector for tree climbing encounter in Queen Elizabeth national park

Day 4: Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi impenetrable national park

Day 5: Departure

Cost: $1740 pp in budget Accommodation

7 Days Chimpanzee, Wildlife And Gorilla Trekking Safari

Day 1: Arrival and transfer to Kibale

Day 2: Chimpanzee Tracking and head to Queen Elizabeth national park

Day 3: Game drive and Boat cruise on Kazinga Channel

Day 4: Transfer to Bwindi via Ishasha sector for tree climbing encounter

Day 5: Gorilla trekking and transfer to Lake Bunyonyi for canoeing

Day 6: Transfer to Lake Mburo National park for night game drive

Day 7: Horse back riding and transfer to Entebbe international airport

Cost: $2370 pp in Mid-range Accommodation

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