Kibale National Park is a beautiful slice of nature, quite literally a modern-day Garden of Eden. Preserved as Uganda’s premier chimpanzee tracking destination, Kibale National Park protects 766km² of predominantly forested habitat that extends more than 50 km (31 mi) south from the main Fort Portal–Kampala Road to the northeast border of Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Originally gazetted as a forest reserve in 1932, Kibale forest was later upgraded to national park status and extended southward to form a contiguous block with the Queen Elizabeth National Park in 1993. This bond creates a spectacular 180 km corridor for wildlife migration. It connects Ishasha in the South and Sebitoli in the North. This vast expanse of parkland allows you to view a vast plethora of wild animals.
The trailhead for chimpanzee tracking and the main center for tourist activity within the park is the Kanyanchu Visitors’ Centre, which lies 35 km (22 mi) south of Fort Portal town along a newly tarmac paved road that continues south to Kamwenge and Ibanda.
Kibale National Park is dominated by rainforest, but this is interspersed with tracts of grassland and swamp. Spanning altitudes of 1,100– 1,590m, Kibale boasts a floral composition transitional to typical eastern Afromontane and western lowland forest with more than 200 tree species recorded in total.
Unlike Budongo Forest to its north, Kibale wasn’t logged commercially until the 1950s, when it became an important timber source for the Kilembe Copper Mine near Kasese logging was discontinued during the civil war. As a result, mature forest areas are still liberally endowed with large-buttressed mahoganies, tall fruiting figs, and other hardwood trees whose canopy is up to 60m above the ground.
It also supports a dense tangle of lianas and epiphytes, while the thick undergrowth includes wild Robusta coffee.
Kibale National Park boasts the highest density of primates in Africa, including the most extensive Eastern chimpanzees population – nearly 1,500. This pristine rainforest is also home to the last viable population of the Ugandan red colobus and the exquisite L’Hoest’s monkey.
One of nature’s true gems, Kibale, deserves its national park status and protection for these three species alone. However, the forest’s value runs much more profound with other primate species, including the black-and-white colobus, red-tailed monkey, blue monkey, grey-cheeked mangabey, olive baboon, vervet, potto, and two species of bushbabies.
Besides primates, at least 60 mammal species are present in the park. An estimated 500 elephants, along with buffalos, golden cats, five antelope species, three species of wild hogs, and myriad other creatures, can be found here.
With 250 butterfly species, 70 reptiles & amphibians, and a conservative estimate of 335 species of birds, every inch of this forest teems with life.
Within its 300 square miles lies the last remaining significant tract of pre-montane forest on the African continent, with over 351 tree species. Yet, remarkably 23% of this park, famed for its forests, is open savannah where even lions and other plains animals can be specified. Two sister parks to the West, Semliki-Tooro Reserve & Semuliki National Park, and one to the East, the Katonga Reserve, complete the Kibale Conservation Area.
More than 370 bird species have been recorded in Kibale National park, and many are forest specials, including the sought-after African pitta. Out of these, four are endemic to this region, including the Cassin’s spinetail, blue-headed bee-eater, Nahan’s francolin, and Masked Apalis.
Birding tourists can spot these beautiful birds during guided walks in the forest. On a lazy forest walk through Kibale, you could catch sight of the African Pitta, Green-breasted Pitta, Crowned eagle, Abyssinian ground thrush, Collared Apalis, and the Dusky Crimsonwing. You can also spot birds such as the Yellow-spotted Nicator, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Brown-chested alethe, the Black-eared groundthrush, and the Black bee-eater.
These gorgeous birds make frequent appearances during guided tours on the boardwalk trail, especially in Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary. In this community project, experienced guides take you on a four-hour trail.
The birdlife in Kibale is good year-round but at its best from March to May and from September to November. June to September is the main fruiting season, so food is abundant, and many birds are in breeding plumage. Though not a major factor in the forests, Migratory birds can be found here from November to April.
One of the unique locations to explore in Uganda is the Kibale National Park. Here, there are many great activities which you can enjoy.
Chimpanzee Trekking is an excellent activity that many people enjoy within Kibale National Park. The trailhead for chimpanzee tracking and the main center for tourist activity within the park is the Kanyanchu Visitors’ Centre, which lies 35 km (22 mi) south of Fort Portal town along a newly tarmac paved road that continues south to Kamwenge and Ibanda.
Most prominent among Kibale’s primates is a chimpanzee population of up to 1,500 individuals, divided into at least a dozen different communities, four of which are habituated to humans. The Kanyantale Community has been the subject of daily chimp tracking excursions out of Kanyanchu since 1993. The other three are all reserved for researchers and include Ngogo, the world’s largest chimp community, numbering more than 200 individuals. Another community called Buraiga, whose territory lies close to Kanyanchu is currently being habituated for tourism.
UWA rangers and guides escort travelers into the rainforest jungle from Kanyanchu to find a habituated chimpanzee family. They have to do that hard work of keeping up with the foraging band for at least one hour for a US$200 chimps tracking permit or US$250 for a Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX) permit that allows you more than 6 hours with a semi-habituated chimpanzee band.
With CHEX, you can accompany professional researchers as they seek out chimpanzees in their natural habitats. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that enables you to get up, close and candid with these beautiful animals. During the chimpanzee habituation experience, you can view these magnificent primates leaving their nests between 5.30 am and 6.3a0am. You can then spend time with them throughout the day until they begin to create new nests at around 7.00 pm.
The best time to go on a chimpanzee trek is in the low season of March, April, May and November.
Primate walking is another excellent Africa safari activity that you can participate in within Kibale National Park. The Primate Walk’s first session begins at the Kanyanchu Visitor Center at 8.00 am, and the second one starts at 3.00 pm. Each walk lasts for between 2 and 3 hours.
During the Primate Walk, you can spot primates such as Chimpanzees, the Black & White Colobus Monkey, the Red-Tailed Monkey, and the Grey-cheeked Mangabey. You can also spot Pittas and a wide variety of bird species as well. Each Primate Walk requires a group of 6 people. During the peak season, you should make an early booking.
Two major tribes, the Batooro and Bakiga, inhabit the area around the park. They use the park for food, fuel, medicine, and other resources. In the last century, the population around the park has increased sevenfold. It was only in 1993 that Kibale forest became a national park, and while drawing lines on a map can change the law of the land, the needs and generational traditions of a people and their culture do not change overnight. Therefore, a trip to the park is not complete without interacting with these amazing people.
The park is situated in the Western part of the country. You can access it from the north through Mubende town. On this route, you can travel along a 300 km tarmac road to Fort Portal. From there, you can traverse a 36 km Murram road to Kanyanchu River Camp. It is a prime tourist spot in Kibale National Park. You can also access it from the south using Kamwenge or Mbarara roads. However, the northern route is shorter.
Kibale National Park is a top attraction for tourists seeking to experience the primates’ drama. This pristine rainforest is a great alternative to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which is a little harder to access. The chimpanzee tracking experience is not as physically demanding as gorilla trekking.
Nkuringo Safaris usually combines this destination with the nearby Queen Elizabeth National Park to feel the savannah big game in Uganda’s most popular park and then reduce the distance to the mountain gorillas Bwindi.
There’s superb accommodation around the park and one nearly 5 minutes walk from the trailhead at Kanyachu, Primates Lodge. Nkuringo Safaris will help you tailor-make a chimpanzee safari trip that suits your travel style, including processing the chimpanzee permits for you, accommodation in your style, meals, transportation, and all the activities that can give you the correct dose of the authentic African safari.
Talk to our consultants to help you get started.