Chimpanzee trekking is one of the amazing Uganda safari activities and Kibale Forest National Park offers a unique experience. Kibale National Park is located southwest of Uganda within a tropical rainforest that harbors several wildlife species, chimpanzees being the popular primates in the park.
Kibale forest is comprised of varied tracts of tropical forest cover interspersed with patches of grasslands. The swamps dominate the northern and central parts of the park. The park covers about 795 square kilometers.
Chimpanzees are primates that share about 98.7% of their DNA with humans. About 1500 chimpanzees live in Kibale Forest National Park and have been habituated for chimpanzee trekking.
Chimpanzees live in family groups of about 15-20 individuals though some are very large to even 100. They are highly sociable, communicative, and intelligent animals with complex social relationships and hierarchies usually led by a male chimpanzee.
Chimpanzees communicate largely through body language and hoots, pants, and barks. They are also one of the only primate species known to create and use tools. Some of the acts that display chimpanzee intelligence include digging insects out of tight space, opening hard nuts or fruit with rocks.
Their capability to do this contributes to the variety of the chimpanzee diet ranging from fruits to insects and much more.
Kibale Forest hosts the highest total population of chimpanzees in Uganda. The park has over a thousand chimpanzees and is still home to over 13 primate species, that’s why it’s dubbed the primate capital of the world. Kibale Forest National Park is very accessible for chimpanzee trekking and a 3 days chimpanzee trekking safari is a good itinerary.
Kibale Forest is known for the best chimpanzee safari experiences in Uganda since it guarantees great views of these apes. The forest is ranked as the best destination to see wild chimpanzees in East Africa.
Before any chimpanzee groups are opened up to tourists for trekking, they undergo a process of habituation such that they get familiar with people.
The chimpanzee habituation process is done by the park authorities for several years on a daily basis for a number of hours. They usually take about two years for the chimpanzees to become fully habituated. Today, chimpanzee trekking offers 99% chances of seeing the chimps.
The chimpanzee trekking experience starts with a briefing at 8:00 am by the park rangers. After the briefing, you then be guided by park rangers to the forest. Usually about 2 armed rangers will go along with you to search for the chimps. You follow the trails and with the ranger guides expertise, they will be able to identify where the family is and lead you there.
To have a chimpanzee trekking experience, be ready to go walking through the forest in search of the chimps for about 2-5 hours depending on where the chimps are spending their day at.
Other than Kibale Forest, there are also other destinations where tourists on Uganda tours can see and trek chimpanzees. These include Kalinzu forest and Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Budongo forest near Murchison Falls National Park. Tourists can also see chimpanzees at Ngamba Island on Lake Victoria where orphaned chimpanzees and those that are rescued are kept.
The best time of the year to go chimpanzee trekking is during the months of April to May. This is, however, the rainy season and not a good time for other Uganda safari activities but then referred to as the best time for chimpanzee trekking.
June to October is the best time of the year to visit Uganda and do any kinds of activity, you can also go chimpanzee trekking during this time.
When it comes to trekking in Uganda, chimpanzee trekking is the second popular after Uganda gorilla safaris in Bwindi forest National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
You can also tailor along the trip with a visit to other parks like Murchison Falls National Park or Queen Elizabeth National Park.