Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale national park is one of the biggest game activities that are done in Uganda’s tourism industry as many tourists come to Uganda to engage in this activity.
Kibale National Park is an evergreen moist forest filled national park located in the western region of Uganda covering the area of 776 kilometers, Kibale national park is of one the remaining ecological areas in Africa containing both montane and low land forest trees. Kibale national park’s canopy influences the life of the rare primate chimpanzees making the park a very prominent destination for chimpanzee tracking. Kibale national park is a marvelous spot for both flora and fauna and it was declared a national park in 1993 primarily to protect various species of flora and fauna from poaching and deforestation which was practiced by neighboring communities of Batooro and Bakiga. Kibale national park is found in almost in the center of Toro kingdom with a fort portal as the nearest town neighboring Queen Elizabeth National Park, Rwenzori Mountains and Semiliki national park. The park is gifted with over 325 bird species including dusky crimson wing, black-capped apalis, blue-headed sunbird, collared apalis, red-faced woodland warbler and purple-breasted sunbird, primates including red colobus monkey, black and white colobus, Red tailed monkey, Blue monkey, Olive baboon, bush baby, potto, Chimpanzees and numerous animals including elephants with colourful butterflies.
Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale is the tracking down of chimpanzees in their natural habitat that is amidst the forest in their habituated form. Chimpanzees in Kibale national park are habituated which basically means, a process of getting the primates comfortable with human presence making them less rebellious to human beings and their presence. Chimpanzees are close relatives to human beings sharing up to 98% of DNA composition which makes them variable to human diseases. They are omnivorous creatures feeding on leaves, fruits, roots, and insects. Adult chimpanzees’ weight ranges from 34-70 kilograms for males and 20 to 50 kilograms for females, they have a height of 3 meters to males, 2-4 feet for females and their life span is 40 years for free chimpanzees and 60 years for chimpanzees living in cages. Female chimpanzees are tasked with taking care of the young chimpanzees for a period of 4 years and all chimpanzees make new nests every day.
Kibale National Park creates a 180-kilometer wildlife corridor with Ishasha, the southern sector of Queen Elizabeth national park and sebitoli in the north of Kibale. This national park is a home to approximately 1,450 individuals of chimpanzees with four Chimpanzee families that is Sebitoli community, Kanyawara group of 50-60 individuals. Kanyanchu group which the easiest group to track and has been tracked since 1993, another Chimpanzee group is found in the middle of the park with about 200 Chimpanzee individuals. Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale is approximately a 12 kilometers trek and it starts at about 8 am from the Kanyanchu visitors center where a professional guide is assigned to trackers and it lasts about 2 to 5 hours depending on their location of the previous day.
Chimpanzees are trekked throughout the year even during the low season in the months of March, April, May, and November. For tourists going for chimpanzee tracking experience, only 6 people are allowed in a group on a chimpanzee tracking adventure and to be authorized to participate in it, you need to have a chimpanzee tracking permit. A chimpanzee permit is purchased at the Uganda wildlife authority at different costs according to your citizenship standards. A single chimpanzee tracking permit for foreign non-residents is priced at US$ 150, US$ 100 for foreign residents with valid work permits and for all East African citizens the permit goes for 100,000 Uganda shillings (Ugandans, Kenyans, Tanzanians, Rwandese, and Burundians) and with this permit you will be allowed to only spend an hour with the chimpanzees. Given that chimpanzee permits are very competitive, It is advisable to book chimpanzee tracking permit 5 months before your actual day of tracking especially if you are trekking in a peak season when the demand for permits is high.
For a wonderful chimpanzee trekking in Kibale, there are a couple of rules and regulations which were designed by the Uganda wildlife authority which are advisable to be followed for purposes of conservations and animal behavior. Some of these rules include;
- Ill/sick tourists are not allowed to participate in trekking as they may infect the chimpanzees
- Tourists below the age of 15 are not allowed to go for tracking
- Minimize your noise and movement while in the park
- Do not eat in front of the chimpanzees as they might attack you to take what you are eating
- Only 6 people are allowed in a group for tracking
- Restrain from provoking or mimicking chimpanzee actions
- Use of flashlight cameras is strongly prohibited as the flashes irritate the chimpanzees
- Always stay at a distance of 8 meters from the chimpanzees
- Always stay in a group, avoid leaving your group mates behind or them leaving you.
These are some of the trekking gear necessary for the chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National Park
- A pair of binoculars
- A rain jacket and a sweater in case the weather changes
- Long-sleeved shirts
- Tough fabric pants
- Strong hiking shoes to help you to walk through the slippery trails
- A camera for taking pictures
- Insect repellents
- Sunscreen and sunglasses to prevent you from too much sunshine and from falling insects into your eyes
- Drinking water and energizers
- Packed launch as you might return late from the expedition
Kibale national park is approximately 4 hours’ drive from Kampala the capital city of Uganda and it can be accessed by both air and road. Kibale national park is 22 kilometers southwest of Fort portal town and on-road, you can use Kampala route via Mubende and Fort portal to get into the park from the north, from the south, it can be accessed using Kampala route via Mbarara and Kamwenge. By air, the park can be accessed via Kasese airstrip and drive 150 kilometers to Fort portal where you connect to the park and Toro airstrip which 86 kilometers from Kanyanchu.
Kibale national park accommodations vary depending on the visitor’s budget. Lodges vary in the budget, mid-range, luxury and up-market. Some of the Up-market lodges include; Kyaninga lodge and Ndali lodge, Luxury lodges include Primate lodges and Crater safari lodge, Mid-range accommodations include Chimpanzee guesthouse, Isunga lodge, and Kibale forest Camp, budget lodges include; Rweteera safari park, Kanyanchu river camp, Sebitoli camping ground to mention but a few.