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Uganda Chimpanzee Trekking Safaris & Tours to Kibale Forest National Park

Welcome to Kibale National National Park in Uganda. This portal provides updated important, reliable, expert, and trustable information about Kibale Forest.

Find out where Kibale Forest National Park is located, how to get to the park,  safari activities and attractions, important Uganda safari information/advice, accommodations where to stay, the best time to visit Uganda for safari, what to wear, etc.

We have organized important information on how to choose a trustable and professional Uganda tour operator OR safari company to book your Uganda safaris.

Check out our regular travel updates about this park and Uganda to keep updated!

A. Brief About Kibale National Park

Kibale National Park Uganda, the premier chimpanzee tracking destination in the country, is indeed a primates’ paradise, hosting almost 1500 Chimpanzees; the cheeky and intelligent tailless apes with 98% human DNA, human-like limbs, and behaviors. Kibale National Park is the best place in the world to track and see chimpanzees in Africa and the world at large in their wild natural habitat.

While most of us might have seen these Chimpanzees in cages at zoos across the world, that is hardly the place to observe the natural behavior of the Great Apes.

Chimps aside, 12 other species of primates including black-and-white colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, red colobus monkeys, Olive baboons, and blue monkeys populate this magnificent tropical rain forest where trees of over 351 species rise to form a canopy in some places over 180 feet (55m) high.

Though Kibale is well known for offering exciting primate tours in Uganda that is not all this park has got to offer travelers on Uganda wildlife safaris. Sheltered in this tropical rainforest are over 500 elephants, buffaloes, leopards, warthogs, bush pigs, golden cats, giant forest hogs, and duikers.

Aside from mammals, Kibale offers travelers on Uganda safaris some superb forest birding. Avian gems here include the Great blue turaco, African pitta, Green-breasted Pitta, black bee-eater, Eastern Nicator, Yellow Spotted Nicator, Yellow-rumped tinkerbird, African Grey Parrot, Abyssinian Ground-thrush, Dusky Crimsonwing, Crowned Eagle.

Altogether 70 different species of mammals, 375 species of birds, 351 species of trees, and 250 kinds of butterflies inhabit this 795km2 lush jungle near gorgeous Crater lakes in western Uganda.

Park location

Kibale Forest National Park is found in western Uganda about 308km west of Kampala; the capital and largest city of Uganda. Kibale is situated about 25km southeast of Fort Portal town.

Southern Kibale National Park borders Queen Elizabeth National Park and collectively these conservation areas protect a 180 km long migration corridor for Uganda wildlife that stretches from the remote southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park in “Ishasha”, to “Sebitoli” in northern Kibale. Kibale is located between 1,100 metres (3,600 ft) to 1,600 metres (5,200 ft) in elevation.

What to do in Kibale Forest

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Travel information about Kibale Forest National Park

Map of Kibale

When was Kibale National Park established?

The history of Kibale National Park goes back to the 1940s when the area was first gazetted as a forest reserve.  In 1993, the Kibale Forest Reserve was transferred to Uganda National Parks and was amalgamated with the nearby Forest Corridor Game Reserve to form the present Kibale National Park.

Weather & climate

Kibale Forest National Park’s climate is moist and temperate. Temperatures remain almost constant year-round. The temperatures are around 27°C/81°F during day time but drop to about 15°C/59°F during the night.

There is no real dry season in Kibale, rain is possible anytime. However, December through February is typically drier and so are June and July.

Two Wet seasons exist; March to May and August through November. It is recommended to bring waterproof clothing.

Kibale Vegetation

Kibale National Park is dominated by rainforest, but this is interspersed with tracts of grassland and swamp. Spanning an altitude of 1,100 to 1,600 meters, Kibale boasts a flora composition transitional to typical eastern Afro-montane and western lowland forests with more than 351 tree species recorded in total.

Unlike the Budongo forest to its north, Kibale wasn’t logged commercially until the 1950s, when it became an important source of timber for the Kilembe Copper mine near Kasese, and logging was discontinued during the civil war.

As a result, areas of mature forest are still liberally endowed with large-buttressed mahoganies tall fruiting figs, and other hardwood trees whose canopy is up to 60 meters above the ground.

It also supports a dense tangle of lianas and epiphytes, while the thick undergrowth includes wild Robusta coffee.

Tourist Attractions/What things to See

There are a variety of attractions to see while on your Uganda wildlife tour and safaris in Kibale National Park, these include;

  • Common Chimpanzees
  • Over 70 other mammal/animal species
  • Uganda red colobus monkeys
  • Black and white colobus
  • Blue monkeys
  • Red-tailed monkeys
  • L’Hoest’s monkeys
  • Uganda mangabeys
  • Olive baboons
  • Vervet monkeys
  • Bushbabies
  • Pottos
  • 375 bird species
  • 250 kind butterflies
  • Sebitoli sector

Tourist Attractions near Kibale

  • Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary
  • Birds in Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary
  • Primates in Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary
  • Kihingami Wetland

People and culture

  • Bigodi Village
  • Bigodi Women’s Group
  • Bigodi Cultural Centre
  • Amabere Caves
  • Toro King’s Palace

Tourist Activities/What to do

  • Chimpanzee tracking in Kibale National Park
  • Bird watching in Kibale Forest National Park
  • Nature walks in Kibale National Park
  • Day nature walks in Kibale Forest National Park
  • Night walks in Kibale Forest National Park
  • Guided Nature Walk in Bigodi wetland Sanctuary
  • Cultural visits at Kibale Forest National Park

How is chimpanzee tracking in Kibale done?

The adventure leaves two times a day from Kanyanchu Visitor Centre, at 8:00 am and 2:00 pm. You should arrive at Kanyanchu very early for registration and briefing.

While at Kanyanchu, you will be briefed about the great apes you are about to see, as well as be given some dos and don’ts such as avoiding getting too close to chimpanzees.

After the briefing, trackers leave in a group of 6 people, each accompanied by a guide, who is armed in case of emergencies. And then it’s time to head into the forest.

Chimpanzee sighting chances on these walks are 95%.

As you move through the tangled undergrowth, ducking under low branches and watching your step for twisted roots, you will hike in the direction of where the apes were last seen, all the time listening for their cries in the trees above. During your chimpanzee trekking, you will encounter other primates, birds, scenery, butterflies, etc

Standard chimpanzee tracking usually takes up to 3 hours, including the maximum period of 1 hour with the chimps. Most likely, you will hear them before you see them. An excited hoot from somewhere deep in the forest; just one voice at first, then several, rising in volume and tempo and pitch to a frenzied unified crescendo, before it stops abruptly or fades away.

Chimpanzee Tracking Rules & Regulations

For the safety of the visitors and the protection of chimpanzees, trackers should follow a few rules along the forest trails.

  1. At the briefing points, visitors and staff must wash their hands or sanitize and have their body temperature taken.
  2. A maximum of six (6) tourists are allowed to track a chimpanzee group at a time.
  3. All the visitors, staff, and trackers must wear masks.
  4. The group size for chimpanzee tracking is limited to six visitors
  5. If you feel sick don’t enter the forest because Chimpanzees can catch your diseases
  6. 12 years is the minimum age for tracking chimpanzee
  7. Don’t throw away garbage in the forest. If you have a backpack, please put all the garbage in it and you can empty it at a designated point when you return to the briefing point; the delicate ecosystem of Kibale National Park needs to be kept free of any form of litter.
  8. If it is necessary to urinate or defecate, do so off the trail. Bury your waste 30 cm deep along with any toilet paper.
  9. Please speak in a low voice while in the forest, you will see more.
  10. Maintain at least 10 meters (33 feet) from the chimpanzees at all times. This is not only for your own safety but also for theirs as our colds; viruses and diseases can easily spread to them due to shared DNA.
  11. You are advised not to mimic Chimpanzees’ vocalization (you do not know what you might be saying!) It might seem fun to mimic them, but if you’re not careful you might accidentally end up recreating a battle cry and bring 120 angry chimpanzees down upon you.
  12. Do not eat, drink or smoke near the Chimpanzees.
  13. Chimpanzees are known to be very quick when moving, please do not chase the Chimpanzees
  14. Flash photography is strictly prohibited
  15. Contact time with chimpanzees is limited to one hour

Do I need a permit to track chimpanzees in Kibale?

Like Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, chimpanzee tracking in Kibale National Park also requires one to have a chimpanzee tracking permit.

A chimpanzee tracking permit in Kibale National Park is a document that allows a traveler to access the national park for this activity.

Up to 36 tracking permits are available every morning, and another 36 every afternoon, and these should be booked as far in advance as possible.

How much is a chimpanzee trekking permit?

Below are the chimpanzee tracking fees in Uganda’s Kibale National Park

Visitor category Fees (per person)
·         Foreign non-resident ·         US$200
·         Foreign resident ·         US$150
·         East African citizen ·         UGX150,000

How to get a chimpanzee trekking permit

Uganda chimpanzee trekking permits are offered by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). UWA issues permit from their office in Kampala City to different Uganda tour operators. The visitors are advised to book their chimpanzee permits in advance through a reputable Uganda tour operator.

What to carry for for your chimpanzee tracking safari

  • Waterproof hiking boots/shoes.
  • A lightweight raincoat is recommended.
  • Warm sweater/fleece for cool mornings
  • Headband & Hat
  • Long trousers
  • Long-sleeved shirts/t-shirts
  • Strong gardening gloves
  • Insect repellent/bug spray
  • Sunglasses
  • Cameras and extra batteries
  • Pair of binocular
  • Enough drinking water and snacks
  • A waterproof day pack

Note: Brightly colored clothes should be avoided while carrying out safari activities in the Kibale forest, but these can be used while enjoying dinner back at the lodge. It is strongly advised that during your chimpanzee tracking in Uganda, you wear neutral colors such as green, Khaki, and light brown. It is not good to wear blue and black shirts while in the jungle since they attract insects.

When to visit Uganda for chimpanzee trekking safaris?

The best time for a chimpanzee trekking tour to Uganda is during the dry season; June to September and December to February.

The wet season; March to April and May to November is very challenging to track chimpanzees but is ideal for visitors who are interested in a bird-watching trip to Uganda.

The chimpanzee habituation experience

For visitors on Uganda chimpanzee tracking safaris who want to spend more than 1 hour with the chimpanzees or avoid potential crowding, a good alternative to the chimpanzee tracking experience is chimpanzee habituation experiences or “CHEX.

The habituation experience takes a full day following the chimpanzee communities currently undergoing the two-year habituation process. You’ll need to be prepared for a fair bit of brisk walking – chimps can move fast – but it will be worth it for the rewards of a more intimate encounter.

During this activity, the visitors accompany researchers into the forest. While on their chimpanzee habituation experience, visitors on a primate tour of Uganda will learn about chimpanzee behaviors for the whole day.

Bird watching in Kibale

A bird list of 375 forests, grassland, and swamp species, including local endemics and Central Africa ‘specials’ makes Kibale National Park one of the top destination birding safaris in Uganda.

Forest birds of Uganda in Kibale can be sought, with the help of experienced UWA guides, on the forest trails at Kanyanchu and Sebitoli tourism sites.

This experience should be combined with a visit to Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary to add forest edge and swamp specials to the list. Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is home to over 200 bird species which may be seen during guided walks along the boardwalk trail and viewing platforms.

Birding tours in Uganda’s Kibale National Park usually start at around 7 am and you are advised to book in advance.

Nature walks & Forest hikes

Kibale National Park offers both day and night nature walks/hikes to visitors on Uganda wildlife tours.  Unguided nature walks are no longer permitted in Kibale National Park, except within the immediate vicinity of Kanyanchu Visitor’s Center, where dedicated birders should look out for the localized red-chested paradise flycatcher, a stunning bird that can easily be located by a call; and several robin chats, greenbuls, and weavers.

Day nature walks

Day nature walks are available out of Kanyanchu Visitor Center. This is a great opportunity to deeply explore this east Africa’s most beautiful and diverse forest without pressure to spot various monkeys such as black and white colobus, Uganda red colobus, red-tailed monkeys, olive baboons, blue monkeys, and  L’Hoest’s monkeys or tick off a dozen ‘Kibale specials’ on the bird list.  You’ll be very lucky to see chimps on a nature walk.

Night walks/Nocturnal walks

The night walks in Kibale National Park also offer an opportunity to explore other secrets of the forest when chimpanzees and other residents rest up and a nighttime shift of rarely seen creatures becomes active.

Night walks through the darkened forest use powerful torches to seek nocturnal creatures such as the Potto, bushbaby, nightjar, cricket, and tree hyrax, with its chilling shriek, as well as the occasional civet or serval cat.

Bigodi wetland swamp guided nature walk 

Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is located outside Kibale National Park about 5 kilometers from the park’s Kanyanchu Visitor Centre.

Offering some of the finest birding and primate watching in Uganda, the swamp walk through Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is an admirable example of conservation and tourism having a direct mutual benefit at the grassroots level.

Cultural visits at Kibale

For visitors on safaris in Uganda, Kibale National is surrounded by Batoro and Bakiga people with unique and diverse cultural practices which form the ground for cultural encounters.

The Batoro people take pride in the cultural heritage of their Toro kingdom, a scion of the ancient kingdoms of Africa’s Great Lakes region.

The Omukama (the Toro king) and the kingdom embodies the traditional and cultural values of Batoro while the Bakiga immigrants still preserve their tradition and culture through folklore, dance, and language.

You visit the King’s Palace in Fort Portal city to learn about the history of the Toro Kingdom and the culture of Batooro.

KAFRED offers guided 3-4 hours community tours in the village of Bigodi to visitors accompanied by one of our professional English-speaking guides.

These include visits to a traditional healer who will happily share his knowledge about spirits, herbs, plants, and local medicines.

Visitors will visit the homes of elderly men and women who tell interesting stories about birth, marriage, ceremonies, clans, and their traditional life. You will learn more about the history and issues that they face as a developing community in rural Uganda.

Along the way, you will also be given the chance to experience the Ugandan school system, and visit a local church and Bigodi’s trading center, a hub of rural life and activity.

Where to stay

Luxury Uganda safari lodges

  • Primate Lodge Kabale
  • Crater Safari Lodge
  • Kyaninga lodge
  • Kibale Ndali Lodge
  • Papaya Lake lodge

Mid-range accommodation

  • Kibale Forest Camp
  • Kibale Safari Lodge
  • Turaco Treetops
  • Mountains of the moon hotel
  • Isunga Lodge
  • Chimpanzee Forest Guest House

Budget Uganda safari lodges

  • Crater Valley Kibale (CVK) Lakeside Resort
  • Lake Nkuruba Nature Reserve & Community Campsite
  • Rweteera Safari Park
  • Ruwenzori View Guesthouse

What to pack for your safari?

  • Casual light clothing
  • Warm sweater for the cooler mornings and evenings
  • Comfortable hiking shoes
  • Raincoat
  • Sun hat
  • Sun lotion
  • Sunglasses
  • Insect repellent
  • Torch
  • Binoculars
  • Camera
  • Rain jacket –
  • Long trousers, a long shirt/top, and waterproof hiking shoes for trekking
  • Hiking socks (fire ants are not pleasant)
  • Gaiters and garden gloves
  • Small day backpack
  • Hat, sunblock, and buff
  • Waterproof bags for your gear

When to visit Kibale

Kibale is open for chimpanzee trekking safaris throughout the year. December to February and the months of June and July are the driest months and are therefore the best times for this activity. Walking the trails is easier at this time and the overall experience tends to be more enjoyable.

How to get to there

Entebbe International Airport (EBB) is your entrance point into Uganda. It is located about 40km from the capital, Kampala. In most cases, your local Uganda safari operator will pick you up from the airport and will also provide any additional transportation as part of your Uganda tour package. Kibale National Park can be accessed by road and air.

Uganda road trip to Kibale National Park

Kibale National Park’s chimp trekking trailhead at Kanyanchu is 35km/20mi southeast of the town of Fort Portal; a 30-45 minute drive on what is now a well-surfaced road, and 360km/224mi (about 6 hours) from Kampala.

Uganda domestic flights to Kibale National Park

Booking domestic flights between parks are usually done by your Uganda tour operator and are generally included as part of your Uganda safari tours where applicable.

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