Chimpanzee tracking in Uganda provides a rare chance to see chimpanzees, our nearest living relatives, in their natural environment

Chimpanzee Tracking in Uganda

Chimpanzee tracking in Uganda provides a rare chance to see chimpanzees, our nearest living relatives, in their natural environment, which is an exciting and personal wildlife encounter. Tracking chimpanzees entails following these perceptive primates across the jungle with the assistance of knowledgeable rangers and guides. The exercise usually begins with a safety and tracking etiquette briefing early in the morning. Then, to determine where the chimpanzees are spending their days, trackers head into the jungle and navigate through thick undergrowth and occasionally difficult terrain.

There are multiple places in Uganda where chimpanzee tracking is possible: Kibale National Park is recognised as the global centre for primates, with the largest concentration of primates in Africa and a substantial chimpanzee population. Hidden within the Murchison Falls Conservation Area, Budongo Forest Reserve is home to a considerable population of chimpanzees and is one of the biggest mahogany woods in East Africa. The Forest Reserve of Kalinzu is a lesser-known jewel close to Queen Elizabeth National Park and provides superb chimpanzee tracking possibilities at a lower cost. Kyambura Gorge: Located in Queen Elizabeth National Park, this “Valley of Apes” offers a distinctive location for tracking chimpanzees in a striking rift valley setting.

You may hear the chimpanzees during tracking before you see them. They can be heard calling loudly throughout the forest to one another. You will have a short window of time (typically one hour) to watch the chimpanzees as they go about their regular lives, which may involve eating, playing, grooming, or sleeping.
The Chimpanzee Habituation Experience allows guests to spend a full day with the chimps, witnessing them from the time they wake up until they construct new nests for the night, for those seeking a more in-depth encounter. In addition to being a wonderful experience, following chimpanzees helps save these vulnerable creatures. Tracking permit revenues helps local communities and finances conservation initiatives to save chimpanzees and their natural environment.

Although tracking is possible year-round, it is often better during the dry seasons, which are December to February and June to July. It is advised to have a modest level of fitness, as tracking can be strenuous.
To reduce the stress on the chimpanzees, only a certain number of visitors are permitted each day; therefore, you’ll need to obtain a tracking permit in advance. Observe the rules that the rangers have given you, such as staying a safe distance away from the chimpanzees and refraining from eating or drinking in their presence.

Best Places for Chimpanzee Tracking in Uganda

  • Kibale National Park: The Primate Capital

Uganda’s Kibale National Park—pronounced “chibaleh”—is the ideal location for chimpanzee trekking. It is located on the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s border, beneath the majestic Rwenzori Mountains. Given its high chimpanzee population density, Kibale is considered the primate capital of the world. Because of the vast, protected tropical rainforest, sightings are frequent.
Over 13 species of primates, 370 species of birds, and over 350 types of trees may be found in the park. Since 1993, the Kanyanchu chimpanzee community—which is comprised of about 100 members—has become acclimated. Using local advice, visitors can locate this group.

The Chimpanzee Tracking Experience in Uganda normally begins at Kibale National Park’s Kanyanchu starting point at 7:30 am. Park guards with guns point out tracking etiquette to trackers. Depending on where the tracked family is, the tracking experience may take one to six hours. It is a privilege for visitors to watch the chimpanzees in their natural environment and see how they interact and behave.
The Chimpanzee Habituation Experience and ordinary chimp trekking are also available at Kibale National Park. You can spend more time with the chimpanzees during the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience because it includes tracking and observing their behaviour for the entire day. A more in-depth look into the chimpanzees’ daily activities can be had with the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience, which lasts for three to four hours during regular chimp trekking.

Kibale National Park is approximately 350 kilometres from Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. The road leading into the park offers scenic views and a glimpse of the lush forest. Prepare for an extraordinary experience as you explore the primate-rich environment of Kibale National Park

  • Kalinzu Forest Reserve

Kalinzu Forest Reserve is also a rewarding place for chimpanzee tracking in Uganda and is located in southwestern Uganda in the district of Bushenyi. Maramagambo Forest and Queen Elizabeth National Park are both nearby. The reserve is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including six kinds of primates, over 379 species of birds, and other animals, including bush babies, pottos, and galgos.
Kalinzu Forest Reserve has 414 types of trees and 98 species of insects, flowers, and reptiles. It is a hotspot for biodiversity. Due to its proximity to Queen Elizabeth National Park, the forest is home to huge creatures such as buffaloes, lions, wild pigs, antelopes, and leopards.

Chimpanzees are the key attraction in Kalinzu Forest. They share 98% of their DNA with humans, making them intriguing creatures. Chimps give birth approximately every 5 years and care for their young until they reach about 12 years old. These intelligent primates live in large communities, each with its own culture. They use tools and tricks to hunt insects, smaller primates, and antelopes.

Unfortunately, chimpanzees face threats due to habitat loss from deforestation. They are also hunted for meat and sometimes sold as pets. The Ugandan government has declared killing chimpanzees illegal and collaborates with wildlife conservation agencies to protect them.

The primary activity that draws tourists to Kalinzu Forest Reserve is chimpanzee trekking. With over 320 chimpanzees, the forest is home to one of Uganda’s largest chimpanzee colonies. Almost fifty of them have been habituated.
Participation in the activity requires visitors to be 12 years of age or older. There are two trekking times: in the morning (8 am) and in the afternoon (2 pm). Depending on where the chimps are, a session may run anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours. It is important to maintain a low voice and abstain from eating, smoking, and drinking when among these magnificent primates.

Similar to Kibale Forest, Kalinzu offers the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience. This activity allows you to spend more time with the chimps, immersing yourself in their lives throughout the day. Consider your preferences when choosing between regular chimpanzee trekking and the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience.

Kalinzu Forest Reserve is accessible via the Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Bushenyi route, covering approximately 375 kilometres and taking around 5 hours. Whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast or simply curious about our primate relatives, Kalinzu Forest Reserve promises an unforgettable experience.

  • Kyambura Gorge

Known as the “Valley of Apes,” Kyambura Gorge is an underground tropical forest found in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park and is a rewarding place for chimpanzee tracking in Uganda. The gorge spans around one km and is about 100 metres deep. The Kyambura Game Reserve, which is currently a part of the larger Queen Elizabeth National Park, is extended by it. The thick tropical rainforest that covers the gorge is home to many different kinds of birds, monkeys, and mammals, including hippopotamuses and elephants.
The large trees that shade the gorge from direct sunlight help it stay relatively cool even if the neighbouring savannah receives an abundance of sunlight.
The Kyambura River flows through the centre of the forest, giving year-round access to water for both plants and animals. The gorge’s surrounding rocks and the rainy season are the main sources of water for the river.

According to a local tradition, individuals and their belongings were once washed away by strong rains and floods that swept over the area. The residents looked for their missing loved ones and possessions after the floods passed, but they were unsuccessful. They came back, weeping and calling it “Kyambura,” which translates to “got lost” or “I couldn’t find it.”
Diverse scientific ideas exist regarding the formation of the gorge. Some people think that the gorge was formed by the Kyambura River’s constant erosion. There once was a valley left behind by the river’s powerful, swift currents that receded. An alternative idea links the gorge’s formation to the East African Rift Valley’s formation. A wide valley was formed as tension on the earth’s crust lifted some areas.

The only place in Queen Elizabeth National Park where visitors can view and hear habituated chimpanzees is Kyambura Gorge. Chimpanzees must go through a two-year habituation period before they can tolerate human presence. There are two tracking sessions offered every day at 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. In Kyambura Gorge, tracking chimpanzees requires obtaining licences from the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The Mweya Park offices are the source of these permits.
There are about 80 chimpanzees living in Kyambura Gorge. You may see these clever primates’ relationships, habits, and social structures by tracking them. As you enjoy this amazing experience with the chimpanzees, keep in mind to be respectful of the forest and its residents.

  • Budongo Forest Reserve

Budongo Forest Reserve is located in Masindi District, Uganda, and is part of the Murchison Falls National Park. It covers an area of approximately 826 square kilometres, with half of it being undisturbed forest. The forest is divided into three major tourist sites, which include Kaniyo Pabidi, Busingiro and Sonso

During World War II, Polish refugees sought shelter in this massive forest, and a Catholic church remains as evidence of their brief stay. Four rivers flow through Budongo Forest: Kamirambwa, Waisoke, Siba, and Sonso.

Budongo is well known for its mahogany trees and high chimpanzee population. This woodland is home to over 600 chimpanzees, including a smaller group that has become accustomed to visitors. Olive baboons, Blue Monkeys, Black-and-White Colobus Monkeys, Red-tailed Monkeys, Grey-cheeked Mangabeys, and Blue Monkeys are among the other primates that can be seen here.
As part of the larger conservation area of Murchison Falls National Park, tourists can see huge creatures moving between the plains and the forest, such as lions, leopards, and buffaloes.
With over 355 bird species, including the African Emerald Cuckoo, Black-headed Paradise Flycatcher, Crested Malimbe, and Yellow-crested Woodpecker, Budongo Forest Reserve is a birdwatcher’s paradise.

In Budongo, trekking with chimpanzees is the most popular activity. A lengthy walk (more than 114 km) through the forest allows visitors to see birds, other primates, and chimpanzees. To ensure a responsible and enjoyable chimpanzee tracking experience, keep in mind to respect the species and adhere to the recommendations. An hour is the most that can be spent with Budongo chimpanzees.

Budongo Forest experiences two rainy seasons (March to May and September to November) and a main dry season (December to February).

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