Complete guide for Chimpanzee trekking – Ultimate guide for chimpanzee trekking in Africa

Chimpanzee trekking is a unique experience that offers an up-close encounter with these social primates. Witnessing these primates as they mimic human behavior will leave you in awe! – we share 98% of our DNA with them. Watching them interact with each other, carry their infants, and goof around is both fascinating and amusing. Chimpanzee trekking is a major highlight of African Safaris. Chimpanzees are highly intelligent primates and are our closest living relatives, sharing about 98% of our DNA. Chimpanzee tracking/ chimpanzee trekking can be done in different countries in Africa and if you are planning to go chimp trekking, this Complete guide for Chimpanzee trekking is what you need.

Chimpanzees are found in the forests and savannas of tropical Africa. Chimpanzees are known for their complex social behaviors, including forming tight-knit communities, using tools, and engaging in sophisticated communication. They are also capable of problem-solving and learning from each other. Chimps are primarily herbivores and feed on fruits, leaves, and sometimes insects. Chimps are also known to hunt small mammals. Chimpanzees are a critically endangered species due to habitat loss, hunting, and disease. Research estimate that there are only 100,000 to 250,000 individuals left in Central and West Africa. If you are planning to go chimpanzee trekking/Chimpanzee tracking in Africa, here’s what you need to know, from where to see them to permits and what to pack – a Complete guide for Chimpanzee trekking.

 

What exactly is Chimpanzee trekking or Chimpanzee Tracking? – Complete guide for Chimpanzee trekking

Chimpanzee trekking or Chimpanzee tracking is a thrilling primate safari which involves hiking and trekking to see the endangered chimpanzees in their natural habitats. During the chimpanzee trekking experience, you follow designated trekking trails in African tropical forest while searching for chimpanzees. The chimpanzee tracking/ chimpanzee trekking is a major highlight of African safaris – a must include for primate lovers.

After following the designated trails and finally locating a chimp community, visitors are allowed up to one hour to watch the habituated chimps. Trekking chimpanzees is regulated and usually trekkers are grouped into groups of about six persons. To trek chips, one has to be 16 and older in all chimp trekking destinations in Africa. Tracking chimpanzee is a daily activity and has two with two sessions—in the morning and the afternoon. The duration of a chimp trek may last anywhere from two to six hours. For those that wish to spend more time with the chimps might consider a day-long chimpanzee habituation experience, which allows for about 4 hours to full day with chimpanzees. Read this Complete guide for Chimpanzee trekking to better prepare for your African safari.

 

What exactly happens on the exact day of Chimpanzee trekking?

If you are wondering what happens on the exact day of Chimpanzee trekking/Chimpanzee tracking, then here is what you should anticipate. Before heading for your chimp tracking safari, you will start with a daily breakfast, have your lunch packed, and meet the guide, who will take you to the forest. Chimpanzee trekking in most destinations has two trekking sessions – morning and evening. The most preferred is the morning session which starts early at around 8: 00 am when the chimpanzees are just preparing to start their daily activities. The trek usually begins with a briefing at the visitors center, where visitors are guided on how to behave during the trek.

During the briefing, you will be given all the necessary information that will keep both you and the chimpanzee safe during the trek. You will also be divided into groups of six individual, before being located to different Chimpanzee communities.

For each chimpanzee community, only a maximum of 6 individuals are allowed per session. The team however is accompanied by researchers and guides. You will follow the trails to where the primates constructed their nests the night before. If lucky enough, you will find them still in their nests however in some cases, you might encounter them as the roam in the forest.

After locating the chimps, you will advance slowly with the guidance from your ranger guides, you will then be able to observe these primates in their natural habitat. Asyou watch these primates, remember to take some photos and videos for memories. You will spend the whole hour with these primates and if they start moving before your time collapses, you will follow them slowly at a considerable distance. After your time collapses, you will return to the starting point where you will meet your guide, ready to transfer you either back to your lodge or to your next destination.

For the chimpanzee habituation, the process is more alike however, the team of only 4 trekkers is accompanied by researchers and ranger guides. The habituation experience allows you to spend anywhere between 4 hours to a full day with chimpanzees in the wild. The habituation experience will allow you to discover them from the time they wake up – if you’re fortunate and woken early to the time they construct their nests.

 

 

Chimpanzee trekking destinations in Africa – Where to go Chimp Trekking – Complete guide for Chimpanzee trekking

Wild chimpanzees are endangered primate species that are found the dense forests of Central and West Africa. There are about 21 countries known to have chimpanzees in however, central and East Africa are the primary destinations for chimpanzee trekking safari tours. Contrary to the wildlife you’ll encounter on plains safaris, chimpanzees live in thick tropical rainforests, and seeing them will necessitate trekking and hiking. This Complete guide for Chimpanzee trekking in Africa offers all the necessary information about where to go chimpanzee trekking. Here are the best places to go for chimpanzee trekking;

 

Uganda – Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda

Uganda is a popular safari destination for especially for gorilla trekking safaris. Although Uganda is popular for gorillas, this charming country is home to an estimated chimpanzee population of 5,000 individuals that dwell in the country’s tropical rainforest, National Parks, and Sanctuaries. Uganda is also one of the few African countries where you can go for chimpanzee habituation experiences.

The silver lining of visiting Uganda for chimpanzee trekking is the opportunity of combining two of the top primate experiences – mountain gorilla trekking and Chimpanzee trekking. Globally, Kibale National Park in Uganda is recognized as one of the best primate trekking destinations in Africa ‘‘ Primate Capital’’. Kibale alone is home to about 1,500 chimpanzees making it a heaven for primate adventures with high guarantee of primate sighting. The chimpanzee population in Kibale is divided into at least a dozen communities, four of which are habituated and ready for trekking. Kibale has been a primate trekking destination since the early 1993.

Although this safari park in Uganda is famous for chimpanzees, visitors will encounter an abundance of diversity: some 120 mammals (including baboons, red-tailed monkeys, black and white colobus, antelope and elephants) and 370 species of birds.

other primates

Besides Kibale, there are other top chimpanzee trekking destinations in Uganda. One of these destinations is the Budongo Forest within Murchison Falls National Park where 16 permits are issued each day for two small groups of eight persons. Budongo Forest is home to an estimated 600 – 700 chimps making it a great destination to encounter these amazing primates.

Alternatively, you can trek chimpanzees in the Kyambura Gorge which is home to an isolated family of habituated chimpanzees. The Kyambura Gorge is a steep-sloped, tree-carpeted ravine that dramatically severs the plains of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Although most safaris to Queen Elizabeth are famous for savannah wildlife viewing, you can also explore this charming section of the park that has chimps.

For those who can not visit the far chimp trekking destinations in the southwestern Uganda, observing chimpanzees is still possible at Ngamba Island Sanctuary. The Nganba island Sanctuary was established as a rehabilitation center for rescued chimps that can not survive in the wild. It is 100 acre island located on lake Victoria.

Note:

  1. To trek chimpanzees in Uganda, you need a chimp trekking permit.
  2. Only persons of 15 years and above are allowed to trek chimpanzees in Uganda

 

Tanzania – Chimpanzee Trekking in Tanzania   – Complete guide for Chimpanzee trekking

Tanzania is one of the other chimp trekking destinations in Africa.  There are only two chimpanzee-protected areas in Tanzania, Gombe National Park and Mahale Mountains National Park. where trekking is possible. A walk in the footsteps of Jane Goodall —the chimpanzees dearest ally and fiercest advocate will make a memorable adventure in Tanzania. Jane Goodall was an English primatologist and anthropologist, considered the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees. She studied the social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees at Gombe Stream National Park.

Gombe is however inaccessible by road and the only way to access the park is by boat. Gombe National Park is just 13 square miles – a fragile strip of chimpanzee habitat that skirts the steep slopes and river valleys that hem the sandy northern shore of Lake Tanganyika. The Park is home to approximately 95 chimps, with different habituated communities that can be trekked on safaris.

To the South of Gombe, but still on Lake Tanganyika, is the Mahale Mountains National Park, one of the chimpanzee trekking destinations in Tanzania. Chimpanzee trekking IN the Mahale Mountains is also done by boat. Chimp trekking is offered by just a few lodgings like Greystoke Mahale. A better primate destination in Tanzania since it boasts some 800 primates, about 60 individuals from Mimikere or “M” group are habituated.

 

Rwanda – Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda

Rwanda is another popular chimpanzee trekking destination just like her neighbor, Uganda. Although Rwanda is generally known for gorilla trekking, the country is also home to habituated chimpanzees it its tropical rain forests. Nyungwe National Park is a popular chimpanzee trekking destination in Rwanda.

Rwanda is one of the few destinations where travelers can nab both primate experiences: gorilla tracking in Volcanoes National Park (northern Rwanda) and chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park (southern Rwanda).

 

Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe

Nyungwe National Park is a high altitude and mountainous protected area in Southern Rwanda. This National Park is home to an estimated population of 500 wild chimpanzees that can be seen raucously ply the tightly woven closed canopy of the tropical rain forest. There are two habituated chimpanzee troops in Nyungwe which are ready for tracking.

Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda is a major highlight of safaris in the country and a must include for primate lovers. Just like many other chimp trekking destinations in Africa, Rwanda restricts the number of people who can visit to see chimpanzees. Only 8 members are allowed to trek a chimpanzee troop per day.

Unlike other destinations, Nyungwe sit at a high altitude, and completing a chimp trekking is strenuous.

 

D.R Congo – Chimpanzee trekking in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – Complete guide for Chimpanzee trekking

Despite the instability in the D.R Congo, safaris are still possible in the country. The Virunga National Park, located on the eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to chimpanzees. The Virunga National Park was also the first ever National Park to be established on the African continent in 1925. This National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an important conservation Area in Africa. Although Virunga is popular for gorilla trekking, the National Park is also home to a considerable number of chimpanzees.

Chimpanzee habituation in Virunga started in 1987 but decades of civil unrest closed Virunga to tourism until 2014 when the park officially reopened. The Habituation efforts are supported by the Frankfurt Zoological Society endure. The National Park has habituated chimpanzee communities that you can enjoy trekking during your tour. Only 4 people are allowed to trek a chimpanzee community, the four are always accompanied by a team of researchers and ranger guides.

 

About Chimpanzees – What is unique about chimpanzees – Chimp Facts

Chimpanzees share more than 98 per cent of our DNA, making them our closest relatives.  Chimpanzees live in groups/troops/communities ranging from 15 to 20 members (though some may be much larger—up to 100). These large communities are led by dominant male known as the alpha. The Group life is crucial in chimpanzees since they are highly sociable, intelligent and communicative animals.

Chimpanzees communicate largely through body language and hoots, pants and barks, and are one of the only species to create and use tools as discovered by Jane Goodall. Chimpanzees are known for prying insects out of tight spaces or cracking hard nuts or fruits with rocks – some of the creative activities by wildlife.

 

When should I go for chimpanzee trekking in Africa – Best time for chimpanzee trekking in Africa

Although some specific periods of the year are favorable for chimpanzee trekking, this adventure can be enjoyed all year round. Since Chimps largely live near the equator, understanding the best time to go trekking means  understanding the wet and dry seasons in different trekking destinations. East Africa in general experiences a dry season between June to October. This is considered the best time to go for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and the D. R Congo.

Although the during the dry season, chimpanzee communities are more mobile, traveling deeper into the jungle in pursuit of sustenance. The trails are less slippery and sightings are much easier compared to when it is wet and rainy. This provides the best chimpanzee trekking conditions in Africa. If you are planning to travel during these months, it is important to remember that the Dry season also tends to align with peak tourist season when the demand for permits increases. We recommend booking your permits well in advance months before your trekking dates

For travelers who wish to avoid crowds, between April through May is the best time although this season is associate with wet and rainy weather. The rainy season is a low season and it usually attracts discounts on both permits and accommodation in different trekking destinations.

What should you bring on a chimp trekking safari? – Complete guide for Chimpanzee trekking

A small daypack (or backpack)

Water Snacks A camera (with a flash that can be turned off)

dependable hiking boots with gripping soles that are lightweight and water resistant. (In the event of muddy slopes, you’ll want adequate traction.)

a jacket that is vented but repels water

Layered clothing (to stay cool when hiking uphill as well as for a variety of weather conditions)

You should wear long sleeves and long pants because you may have to go through prickly foliage.

Repellent for insects

Optional: To keep off safari ants, tuck your jeans into your boots or bring boots if you have them.

Using gardening gloves is optional, but it can help prevent stinging nettles.

How to prepare for chimpanzee trekking

When planning a chimpanzee trekking safari to Africa, Permits must be booked well in advance.

People with flue and other health concerns are not allowed to trek chimps in Many chimpanzee trekking destinations in Africa. This is done to prevent transmitting human-borne diseases to the chimps since they share up to 98% DNA with humans and are susceptible to human diseases. anyone who is ill or demonstrating signs of illness is not allowed into the park.

Note: The minimum age for trekking chimpanzees is 15 years. Below this is considered minors and their behavior is not predictable

We recommend adhering to all the chimpanzee trekking guidelines that are provided to you by the ranger guide such as; maintaining at least seven meters (23 feet) distance from the animals, not feeding animals, and not littering the Park among others.

To avoid negative attention, do not eat or snack near the chimpanzees

Chimpanzee trekking versus gorilla trekking

Both gorilla trekking and chimpanzee trekking are remarkable primate activities that will allow to have life-changing encounters. Although gorilla trekking is the most popular among the two, chimpanzee trekking is equally an extraordinary safari activity. The greatest comparison between chimpanzee trekking and gorilla trekking distils to size of these different species, their ways ( characteristics), and how they socialize. It is also important to know that chimps spend more time on trees than gorillas.

Mountain gorillas eat and move through the forest floor( primary ground dwellers), while chimps spend a lot of their day moving through the canopy. Watching chimps swing from branch-to-branch or build nests is fascinating. Although gorillas build nests too, chimps are more playful and interesting to watch. When it comes to the ease of trekking and spotting, gorillas are more easy to spot and to trek compared to  chimps. This is simply because gorillas are heavy and move slowly, unlike the chimps that are light and can actually move very faster in the forest.

 

Chimpanzee trekking versus a chimpanzee habituation experience – Complete guide for Chimpanzee trekking

Besides the normal chimpanzee trekking, some parks (like Kibale in Uganda) and reserves offer also chimpanzee habituation experiences. The major difference between the two is the time you spend with the primates in the wild.

It is also important to know that, chimpanzee habituation involves the process of introducing chimpanzee communities to the presence of humans. This means during the habituation experience you will visit a troop that is not yet fully accustomed to human presence. The silver lining of chimpanzee habituation is the opportunity to spend between 4 hours to a full day with the chimpanzees in the wild.

This extended time allows you to better understand these primates as you identify the different characters and their habits while better grasping group dynamics and hierarchy.

 

Is chimpanzee trekking safe?

If your worry is about your safety and you are wondering Is chimpanzee trekking safe? Chimpanzee trekking is generally safe. Although we are talking about wild animals with unpredictable nature, it is important to know that chimpanzees are first introduced to human presence through the habituation process before the troop is opened for trekking.

The Habituated communities are always familiar with the park personnel who visit twice daily, so parades of human observers are not totally alien to the animals. On to of chimps being accustomed to human presence, during the trek you are advised to keep a minimum distance of about 7 meters that will keep you safe from any kind of attack.

Listening to your guide during the trek is paramount for a successful and safe chimpanzee trekking experience in Africa. Besides maintaining a safe distance, there are other set guidelines to keep you safe during your chimp trekking safari such as; never eat, snack or smoke while in the company of chimpanzees. Flash photography is prohibited, speak quietly and move about calmly. Your safety is further heightened by the armed ranger guides who will protect you at all costs.

 

Uganda Chimpanzee Trekking Permit – Complete guide for Chimpanzee trekking

To trek chimpanzees in Uganda or any other destination, you are required  to first acquire a chimpanzee trekking permit. This permit is a legal document that grants you access to the chimpanzee trekking premises. In Uganda, Chimp trekking permits are processed and issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority(UWA).

Through issuing permits, the government generates some income which is used for conservation purposes of both chimps and their habitats.  It is important to note that permits are usually of high demand and can sell out quickly. If you are planning to go for a chimp trekking adventure, we recommend early booking.

You can book your chimp permit through a trusted tour operator like Acacia Safaris or directly from the Uganda Wildlife Authority. With our unmatched experience and knowledge in the tour business for over 2 decades, we can easily help you to get your chimpanzee trekking permit.

 

Chimpanzee Trekking Permit prices – How much is a trekking permit for chips in Uganda?

The cost of a chimpanzee trekking permit in Uganda varies depending on the season and the destination you are interested to do your trek from. For seasons, there are two seasons: the peak season (dry season) and the low season (wet season). Chimpanzee trekking is possible during both both seasons. During the peak/high season, the cost of a chimpanzee trek permit is $150 per person per day. While the low season sees these prices fall and you can acquire a permit at as low as $100 per person per day in Kibaale Forest National Park. In Budongo, the cost of a chimpanzee permit is $90 during both peak and low seasons. In the Kyambura Gorge, the permit goes for $ 50 during both peak and low seasons.

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