Trekking Chimpanzee/ tracking is one of the most exciting activity done in Uganda after mountain gorillas. These two are the most popular among the primates of Africa that tourist wish to see on Safari. Chimpanzee tracking in Uganda happens in many forest and national parks including Budongo Central forest reserve, Kyambura gorge in Queen Elizabeth national park, Kalinzu forest reserve and Kibale forest national park. If you are planning to travel around Uganda and looking for the best Place where to see Chimpanzee, Kibale forest national park should be your best choice you could ever make.
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.
A Female Chimp with Baby in kibale forest
Unlike other chimpanzee tracking forests in East Africa where you hang around and see few in high canopy, Kibale forest national park is the best destination for chimpanzee tracking in Uganda and visitors are guaranteed 90% chance of seeing the chimps. Tracking chimps here is easier than in other places around the country and definitely trekking chimps in Kibale forest is easier compared to gorilla tracking. Visiting chimpanzee can be of different arrangements, you can choose to do chimpanzee tracking or chimpanzee habituation Experience (CHEX). Both activities are available in Kibale forest.
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 Continent. Chimpanzee are the closest relatives of humans, sharing 98% of their DNA. They live in Communities ranging from 20 to more than 150 individuals with each one community having its own way of doing things and culture. A mature Chimpanzee weigh at least 35kg to 70kg for males and 20 to 50kg for females. Females take care of the young ones for at least 4years and each community is led by a dominant male. These chimpanzees sleep in nests and each day they make new nests in trees.
Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda has different sessions, there is a morning chimp tracking and an afternoon trekking which is very different from gorilla trekking that has one morning departure in a day. In Kibale forest national park, chimp tracking takes place three times a day, 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 chimp tracking, Visitors are briefed on the Do’s and Don’ts of tracking, how to behave while with the chimps and other wildlife 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 Chimp safari are allowed one hour with the chimpanzees and each group of chimpanzees in a community is visited by only 6 people at a time. 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.
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.
Budongo forest reserve is located in western part of Uganda in Masindi district approximately 4 hours drive from Kampala city as you head to Murchison falls national park. Chimpanzee tracking 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. Trekking starts with the visitors coming to Kaniyo Pabidi eco site for briefing about chimp tracking and then heading into the forest through the tracking trails with a tour guide. The chimpanzee tour guide will give you all the necessary information about the forest and chimp behaviors. You will need to pay for a chimpanzee tracking permit in order to undertake this activity.
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.
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.