Kibale National Park is nestled in west-central Uganda and it is predominantly covered by evergreen rain forests. Kibale Forest is one of the last remaining expanses to contain both lowland and montane forests and forms a continuous forest with the epic Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Kibale could easily be referred to as the primate capital of the world as it boasts 13 primate species, some of which include; common chimpanzees, red-tailed monkeys, the black and white Colobus monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys, blue monkeys, Nocturnal Potto, bush babies, Olive baboons, and L’Hoest’s monkeys, among others.
The Park lies close to the tranquil Ndali – Kasenda crater area and it is within a close proximity to Queen Elizabeth National Park, Rwenzori mountains National Park, and Semliki National Park and the Toro-Semliki National Reserve.
Chimpanzees are the major attraction in Kibale but one should not forget that the Park is also a haven to 12 other primate species and though rarely seen, there are other mammals living in the park, such as; forest elephants, buffaloes, leopards, bush pigs, and duikers.
A traveler to the Park can also catch a sight of reptiles and amphibians and a colorful array of butterflies. Chimpanzee tracking is not as challenging as gorilla tracking, and still, unlike gorilla tracking, where the activity is done in groups of eight individuals, for the case of chimpanzee tracking is done in groups of six individuals per each group tracking. Trackers will spend strictly one hour with the chimpanzees but the experience got from that one hour is arguably of a lifetime.
You will need a Kibale chimpanzee tracking permit, which costs US$ 150, to go for the tracking of chimpanzees in Kibale. This permit can easily be got for you by any of Uganda’s best local tour companies that you will have chosen to use, such as Eco Tours Uganda, however advance booking is highly recommended and emphasized for every traveler wishing to go for the activity.
Chimpanzees enjoy spending most of their time in tall trees since they eat fruits. Chimpanzee tracking is conducted in the early morning and for that reason tourists are expected to prepare in advance of their journey. Those interested in chimpanzee tracking are recommended to make their booking earlier enough particularly during the peak tourist season to avoid any disappointment of failing to get a chance. Tracking experiences in Kibale are excellent thanks to several well-maintained walking trails and a large number of resident chimpanzee families in the forest.
More so in the Park, travelers can enjoy the chimpanzee habituation experience which offers you an opportunity to accompany Kibale’s researchers and habituators as they follow chimpanzees throughout their daily activities. Most travelers do not realize that they have a choice between chimpanzee tracking and the all-day chimpanzee habituation experience encounter. The process entails getting the chimpanzees used to the presence of humans (to remove the fear of humans from the group) without interrupting their daily activities. Visitors get the opportunity to follow a chimpanzee’s day from about 6:00am in the morning till 7:00pm in the evening.
Tracking chimpanzees in Kibale is definitely an experience all on its own and one of the best things to do on your safari tour in Uganda. The chimpanzee habituation experience costs US$ 200 for full day and it is most ideal in the months of March, April, May and November, when there is less tourist congestion in the Park. In a small group (a ranger plus a maximum of four people), you get much closer to the chimps than during chimpanzee tracking in larger groups.
Most visitors visit the chimpanzees much like the Mountain Gorillas for one hour – there is however another option that allows you to be with chimpanzees all day long in the forests of Kibale. During the habituation process, you will learn more about the chimpanzee behaviors and ways than you would on a normal chimpanzee tracking. One can also enjoy the chimpanzee habituation experience for half day, and for this case you will have to pay only US$ 100.