Chimpanzee Trekking in Uganda
Watching wild chimpanzess in Kibale, Kyambura, Kalinzu, and Budongo Forests
Chimpanzee Trekking in Uganda
Watching wild chimpanzess in Kibale, Kyambura, Kalinzu, and Budongo Forests
Chimpanzee trekking is one of Uganda’s top safari destination activities, promising dramatic primate encounters on chimps tracking safaris.
With a good number of troops among the estimated 5,000 chimps habituated for tourism within their natural habitat, Uganda offers a unique ability to combine a good selection of wildlife viewing experiences with watching wild chimps in a single itinerary.
Tracking chimpanzees through the tall, tangled scrubs and ancient trees that carpet western Uganda’s rainforest demands you carry a bucketload of patience and a wild sense of humor. A local guide typically leads the way armed with a machete and a walkie-talkie. You, on the other hand, will have your best foot forward wrapped in light hiking boots, wearing appropriate jungle clothing and a ridiculous hat to keep the thorns out of your head. Encounters are dramatic and exceptionally thrilling, even on a slow day.
THE CHIMPANZEE TREKKING EXPERIENCE
Small groups of selected trekkers set off daily across the forest floor at 7:30 am and reach a noisy chimpanzee community habituated for human visits about half an hour later. Local trackers who lead the chimpanzee trekking excursions track the chimps by following a trail of knuckle prints, dung, and half-digested fruit.
Very soon, you're in the center of lawless primates acting like a bunch of six-year-olds on a sugar high. You, then, spend the next hour watching the chimps feed, play, laugh, hug, kiss, and fornicate. The drama unfolds as male chimps hold fight bouts, slap hollow buttress roots, and chase each other, jostling for a seat at the top of the hierarchy.
The guides allow tourists to observe them from a 7-meter distance, avoiding loud noise, sudden movement, standing, shaking branches, and staring directly into their eyes. Still and all, tempting to gaze into the eyes of a wild creature that shares 98.4 percent of our DNA will change your deepest thoughts and feelings about the great Apes of Africa.
Chimp Safari Idea: Walking with the great apes of Uganda
PLANNING AN ALL-INCLUSIVE CHIMPANZEE SAFARI
Nkuringo Safaris offers tailor-made chimpanzee trekking safaris in Uganda, customizing every detail of the private experience to suit guest's choice of travel style and budget.
Most of our chimp tour packages combine the chimpanzee trekking experience with seeing the mountain gorillas in the far-flung Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. They also blend well with wildlife game drives in Queen Elizabeth National Park or the far northern Murchison Falls National Park.
Uganda offers great inland-safari experiences to moderately match our neighboring destinations if you want to avoid the border-crossing bureaucracy. You can see the primates, fly across the country, take a game drive, a boat safari, and relax a serene holiday spot on a private all-inclusive Uganda safari.
WALK WITH CHIMPS ON THESE TAILORED TRIPS
The chimpanzee trekking tours below showcase what can be possible when planning a trip. You can use them as inspiration. Otherwise, our trips are mostly private and tailor-made to suite your preferences. Send our expert local consultants an email (or call) to help craft the perfect itinerary for you.
WHERE TO SEE CHIMPANZEES IN UGANDA
Kibale National Park
The best place for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is Kibale Forest National Park, home to five Habituated chimpanzee troops within easy walking distance from the Kanyanchu trailhead. Kibale's chimp troops are pretty dramatic and very calm around tourists, and observing them here is a rare treat.
Kibale Forest is home to around 1,500 chimpanzees living in 13 communities. Of these, a couple of groups have been successfully habituated to human presence. Some are reserved for scientific study, and others, such as the Kanyanchu group, are used for trekking experiences. Chimpanzee trekking excursions in Kibale occur twice daily, in the mornings and afternoons, and typically last 3-4 hours with up to one hour spent with the chimps.
It's not just the chimps that would bring you here; the park's diversity of primates is one of the highest in Africa. With 13 species jumping in the canopy, you can't miss catching a few on a chimpanzee trekking excursion. Hikers regularly bump into the black-and-white colobus, red-tailed, and blue monkeys. Several nocturnal species are also regularly spotted on night nature walks, including the potto and the eastern needle-clawed bush baby.
You'll need a chimpanzee permit from Uganda Wildlife Authority to see chimpanzees in Uganda, and a chimp permit for Kibale costs USD 200 per person per day. UWA discounts the chimp permit for Foreign residents (with work permits) at $150 per person and East African Nationals at 150,000 Uganda Shillings (UGX).
Kyambura Gorge, located in the far eastern part of Queen Elizabeth National Park in southwestern Uganda, is another protected reserve that offers excellent chimpanzee trekking in Uganda.
The 1-km-long and 300-ft-deep "Valley of The Apes" gorge is surrounded by the stunningly vast savannah plains, rift valley craters, and the Rwenzori Mountains as a brooding backdrop to the incredible scenery.
While the chances of seeing chimps here are lower than in Kibale, the incredible scenery is just as much part of the attraction. Trekking down the ravine's steep slopes, through the vines and giant fig trees (less conventional than tiring), will make you feel like you're in an underground forest.
You'll be opping over streams and traversing rivers as you seek out the chimpanzee troop; once you find them, you can spend a superb hour watching them feed, interact, play, and go about their daily primitive chores. It's like looking into a time mirror and watching the Homo sapiens two million years ago.
Chimpanzee permits for Kyambura cost USD 50 per person and are discounted at $40/UGX 30,000 for Foreign Residents/EA Nationals. There are two guided chimpanzee excursions per day, one in the morning and another in the afternoon.
Budongo Forest, just outside Murchison Falls National Park's main entrance, is not quite as interesting for a multi-day safari in Uganda as Kibale Forest; unless you're heading to the northern safari circuit. Although it is a perfect match with Murchison Falls and Kidepo Valley National Park, you'll have to drive across the country to reach the mountain gorillas. The most popular safari activity that most probably attracted you to look at destination Uganda.
Budongo Forest is run by the National Forestry Authority and a private concession, and they charge USD 90 per person for a chimpanzee permit.
Although chances of spotting the chimps are slim, chimpanzee trekking in Budongo is unique and more immersive than in Kibale. And, there are very few visitors, which means a private experience for the price of 6 movie tickets. You could literally be on the trail with just you, your guide, and a bunch of happy-hooting primates in the middle of an evolutionary jungle.
In Budongo, it is authentic chimpanzee tracking with hands in the dirt, looking for dung, working out what the chimps have been eating, and listening for distinct sounds to identify the chimps. Ragers here were trained by Kenyan wildlife guides and offer interactive experiences during the treks. They'll build up excitement from the beginning to your chimp sighting.
Semiliki National Park
In the shows of Rwenzori Mountains sits Semliki Valley, home to a small population of chimpanzees.
Here, the chimps population is of particular scientific interest because it occupies a drier habitat than those in Kibale, Budongo, or Kyambura. Which, for scientists, means that chimps range further to forage; observations are more authentic. On occasion, scientists have observed chimps in Semiliki walking on their hind legs for short distances.
The research program in Semilki is cutting edge as scientists work out the relationship between peculiar behavior and the evolution of Homo sapiens.
As immersive as it sounds, gorilla trekking in Semiliki does not guarantee chimp sightings. The dry and sparse woods means the chimps have very little to go by in the same place, so they swing in far and wide canopies to forage enough for food.
There is a long-term Chimpanzee Habituation project; you may join the researchers on a primate walk, but don't go with high hopes of seeing chimpanzees. Instead, relax and discover more about a fascinating species while exploring a beautiful environment. Rather, pay the 30 bucks for a nature walk and maybe you'll get lucky with the chimps.
THE CHIMPANZEE HABITUATION EXPERIENCE
A primate experience that rivals chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience, a full-day experience tracking a wild chimpanzee troop from dusk till dawn. The adventure is heavily immersive for primate lovers.The single hour travelers spend with the habituated chimps on a regular chimpanzee trekking excursion is never enough for some jungle nerds. The chimpanzee habituation experience offers more time to observe and connect with the primitive ape. It is also perfect for primate lovers and passionate photographers that hope to capture apes-in-the-jungle-action shots.
What does habituation mean?
When they sense your intrusion, non habituated chimps would have disappeared into the forest jungle long before you could see them. The habituation process, which takes at least six years, carefully reassures the chimps that humans do not pose a threat. So you will be helping out the researchers in habituating the chimps to accept humans as friends, not foes.
Prepare for a fair bit of brisk walking; chimps move fast. Occasionally they get to stop for 30 mins - to an hour to catch a breath, take a nap, groom, and social network. Such moments will be the rewards of the active encounters.
How much is the permit?
The Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX), considerably a much entertaining excursion, occurs in Kibale National Park for a permit cost of USD 250. Ugandans & East Africans pay a discounted pass of 250,000 Uganda Shillings, and Budongo Forest offers the same experience at USD 230 per person.
Usually, about eight trekkers will join the scientists and guides from the Visitor center at dawn and head into the rainforest. They have to reach the night's nests before the chimps are up and about. Then, the hikers will try to keep up with the hyper-active bunch all day until the chimps retire for the night.
Wild chimps are more skittish, and sighting chances are not guaranteed. It's a long day, too – some people bail out in the afternoon for a cold Ugandan brew.
The Chimpanzee Habituation Experience in Uganda is recommended for primate nuts. If you want to see chimps on an easier escapade, choose the chimpanzee trekking excursion that takes half a day.
BEST TIME TO GO
Although chimpanzee safaris are available year-round, the best time for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is during the region’s two dry seasons: January and February and June to September. There are fewer rains during the dry season, the trails are dry and more comfortable to navigate, and sporadic downpours.
However, note that the dry season is the peak (high) travel period for the region; availability of good accommodation could be scarce and expensive.
The wet seasons from September to November and March to May usually pull fewer crowds. Accommodation is cheaper, and it’s easier to process both a chimp and gorilla trekking permit. However, chimpanzee trekking in Uganda during the wet season would mean you endure the unfriendly experience of torrential rains, impassable trails, and difficult photography. Some travelers choose the wet season for the attractive countrywide discounts on safaris.
Gorilla trekking and game viewing in Uganda’s savannah parks are best at the end of the dry seasons – February and March and September/early October – when wildlife is concentrated around water sources. Bird watching is fantastic all year round but is a peak between November and April when migrant species are present.
Although considered the rainy season months, April and May are great times to visit Uganda and the Gorillas. The views are stunning, and it rains mainly in the afternoon for 1 hr and not tempering with activities.
WHERE TO STAY
Accommodation for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is widely available catering to all types of travelers. Backpackers and budget trekkers will be spoilt for choice, especilly outside Kibale Forest. Midrange to upmarket lodges are thinly spread at the chimp destinations, you might require assistance from a local operator to book you into a good one. Fortunately, they're not that hard to find. Take a look our list of partner lodges below for chimpanzee safaris in Uganda.
Turaco Treetops is a lush semi-luxury lodge on the edge of Kibale National Park. For romance & family getaway, Turaco is well priced for a semi-luxury lodge.
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Would you mind making sure you have your facemask when you go chimpanzee trekking in Uganda and avoid direct contact with animals, especially the endangered creatures? Without a negative PCR Covid Test, you’ll not be allowed into the country irrespective of the vaccine. You’ll spend most of your time in open spaces away from human crowds; with that, there are minimal to no infections of the COVID virus in the wilderness.
Flexible booking terms
Your chimpanzee trekking safari experience booking can be extended up to 12 months ahead with no extra fees in case of any emergency (based on accommodation availability). Reservations are accepted after receiving a 30% deposit on the chimp safari trip, and the full payment for gorilla trekking and chimp tracking permits for each tour participant. For more details on our booking terms, please read our Terms and Conditions.