CHIMPANZEE TREKKING IN UGANDA, BEST PLACES TO SEE CHIMPANZEES IN THE WILD
Are you planning to go for Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda? If you are planning to travel around Uganda and looking for the best Place where to do your Chimpanzee trekking, Kibale forest national park should be your best choice you could ever make. Most of the tropical forest of Africa host chimpanzees but the best place to go Chimpanzee Safari Uganda is Kibale forest national park. Trekking Chimpanzee is one of the most exciting Wildlife Safari activity in Uganda that takes travellers attention after mountain gorillas. These two great apes are the most popular among the primates of Africa that tourist wish to see on Safari Uganda. Besides Kibale forest, other places to trek Chimpanzee in Uganda include; Budongo forest in Murchison falls national park, Kyambura gorge in Queen Elizabeth national park, Kalinzu forest.
Kibale forest national park is a tropical rainforest covering a surface area of 795 Square kilometers with about 357 tree species. The park is close to Queen Elizabeth National park, Rwenzori mountains and Semuliki National park. Its a home to number of wildlife species of which 13 species are primates which include chimpanzees, red colobus monkeys, Grey cheeked mangabey, red tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkey, Poto, and other animals like Mangoose, bush bucks, leopards, elephants, bush pigs and approximately 351 bird species. This makes it to be one of the best birding destinations in Uganda too.
A Female Chimp with Baby in Kibale forest
Unlike other tropical forest in East Africa where you hang around and see few chimpanzees in high canopy, Kibale forest national park is your top chimpanzee tracking destination in Africa. Visitors interested in trekking chimps in Kibale forest are guaranteed 90% chance of seeing the group of habituated chimps. Tracking chimps in Kibale national park is easier than in other places around Uganda and definitely viewing chimps both on ground and in trees is much better compared to gorilla trekking. If you are interest in chimpanzee activities, you can choose to visit habituated chimpanzee on normal Chimpanzee tracking which starts in the morning at 8:00 Am or go for Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX) which gives you more experience to learn how to train chimpanzee so that they get used to human presence. This tourist activity takes you on wild chimps that are still under habituation process and the experience wont be like those on already habituated group. Expect to walk so fast, hang up your eyes and binocular in trees, stop and listen and following your guide instructions. Start and report at ranger station early morning at 6:30 Am if you are interested in Chimp Habituation Experience (CHEX) for the briefing. Both activities are available in Kibale forest and visitors are required to report at Kanyanchu visitors Centre well prepared for their specific trekking arrangements.
The chimpanzee can be spotted by hearing their loud noise and following their droppings and footsteps. There are approximately 1500 chimpanzee in Kibale national park, making it the best place to go for chimpanzee tracking in Africa. Chimpanzee sociable animals which are closely related to humans, sharing 98% of their DNA. They live in Communities and the community is split into small groups ranging from 10 to more than 150 individuals with each one group having its own way of doing things and culture. A mature Chimpanzee weigh at least 35 kg to 70kg for males and 20 to 50kg for females. Females take care of the young ones for at least 4 years and each group is led by dominant males. Chimpanzees feed on fruits and leaves but like humans they supplement their diet with meat by hunting monkeys especially the colobus monkeys. These chimpanzee sleep in nests and each day in the evening they make new nests in trees.
Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda has different sessions, one can go for a morning chimp tracking or an afternoon trekking depending on availability of permits. This is very different from gorilla trekking that has one morning departure schedule in a day. In Kibale forest national park, chimp tracking takes place three times a day depending on the available booking, in the Morning at 8:00 am, Mid-morning at 11am and in the Afternoon at 2pm. The tracking activity takes about 2-3 hours while chimpanzee habituation experience currently takes 6 hours to full day.
Before heading into the forest for chimpanzee tour, you will be briefed on the Do’s and Don’ts of chimp tracking in the forest jungle, how to behave while with the chimps and what to expect along the trekking trails and off course the time the activity takes. The general briefing happens at Kanyanchu Visitor’s center and it’s the spot from where the visitors head to the forest with there forest guides in search of chimpanzees.
Briefing before the chimpanzee tracking
Visitors on a Chimpanzee trekking tour are allowed one hour with the chimpanzees and each group of chimpanzees in a community is visited by only 6 people at a time escorted by an armed ranger guide. Only people aged 12 years and above are allowed to do the chimp tracking. If you are interested to track chimpanzee on your safari in Uganda, contact your tour agency to add it on your itinerary. Your agency will help you to plan your day tour and purchase Chimp tracking permit issued by Uganda Wildlife Authority.
The price of these permits depends on the Nationality of the visitor. Foreign non-residents pay USD 200 per person, foreign residents pay USD 150 and East African residents pay UGX: 1500,000. Chimpanzee tracking can be done throughout the year but it’s more interesting during the dry season. Being a tropical rain forest rain should be expected at any time. In addition to chimpanzee tracking, Kibale national park is also a home to different bird species and the birding experience can also be good in Bigodi wetland sanctuary which is located near the park, so for bird lovers it can be added on your itinerary.
Chimpanzee tracking in Kyambura Gorge
Kyambura gorge also known as the valley of apes is one of the best places in Uganda where chimpanzee trekking is done. The gorge has an underground tropical forest located in the far eastern corner of the well-known Queen Elizabeth national park in south western Uganda. Chimpanzee tracking permits of Kyambura gorge can be got from your tour agency that deals with Uganda wildlife authority or can be purchased directly at the park headquarters or at (VIC) Visitors Information Center in Mweya peninsular. Chimpanzee trekking in Kyambura gorge has two sessions, the morning and afternoon sessions. Only 8 permits are available per session making it 16 permits per day.
Trekking Chimpanzee in Budongo Forest;
Budongo forest reserve is located in north western part of Uganda in Masindi district approximately 4 hours drive from Kampala city just after entrance of Murchison falls national park. Tracking chimpanzee in Budongo forest is done twice a day that’s in the morning and in the afternoon giving a visitor a choice for the appropriate time to do the trekking. Chimp trekking starts with the visitors coming to Kaniyo Pabidi eco site for briefing about tracking and then heading into the forest through the trekking trails with a ranger guide. The chimpanzee tour guide will give you all the necessary information about the forest and chimp behaviors and diet. You will need to pay for a chimpanzee tracking permit in order to undertake this activity.
Chimpanzee tracking in Kalinzu Forest;
Kalinzu forest is found in western Uganda in Bushenyi district. It is a home to couple of primates including chimpanzee, monkeys, and baboons. Kalinzu forest being so close to the main road heading to Queen Elizabeth national park, tourists interested in chimp tracking can make a stopover and do this activity or do other walking activities in the forest before proceeding for their journey. Kalinzu forest reserve offers the cheapest chimpanzees tracking permits of around $45 each.
Relaxing at the lodge after chimpanzee trekking in Kibale forest
A few chimpanzee tracking rules and regulations have been put in place for your own safety and protection of the chimpanzee, you are required to follow them along the forest trails.
- Chimpanzee share 98% of their DNA genes with human beings and therefore can catch your disease. You must not enter the forest to track them when you are sick.
- The minimum age for people interest to go chimp tracking is 12 years
- Sick tourists are not allowed to participate
- Do not litter in the forest. In other wards what you take there should be brought back with you at the end.
- Only 6 people are allowed in a group for tracking
- If you need to urinate or defecate, do so off the trail, bury your waste in the hole of 30 cm deep along with any toilet paper.
- Keep as quite as possible if you want to see more and enjoy all what the forest can offer to you.
- Stay at least 8 meters (25feet) from the chimpanzee at all times, always stay in a group and avoid leaving the group for safety.
- Do not mimic the chimpanzee vocalization, you may not do it the way their fellows does and it will not give you good experience.
- Make sure you do not eat near the chimpanzees
- Never chase the chimpanzee, you may get bad results as they remain wild though habituated.
- Do not use flush photography as this may scare away the chimpanzee.
- Listen to all what your guide has to say, you will enjoy a lot in the forest jungle.
On chimp trek, one is advised to carry strong hiking shoes, good quality camera to capture memories/ sunglasses and Sunscreen, packed lunch, rain jacket, drinking water, snacks and a pair of binoculars.