Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale Forest National Park

March 28, 2022
News Journeys Uganda

Kibale Forest National Park is popularly known as the primate’s capital of Africa and perhaps the entire world, and well famous for chimpanzees and has the highest concentration of primates. The park covers an area of 795-sq-km of lush tropical rainforest.  Kibale Forest National park is well renown for the chimpanzee trekking safaris and was gazetted in 1993 and is one of the most accessible National Parks in Ugandan with very beautiful sceneries I guess that’s why its popular to naturalists.

Kibale forest National known to naturalists of all walks mostly because of its rich biodiversity with 50 mammal species which include a record breaking 13 species of primates recorded in this forest, a number not recorded in any other African forest or nature reserve.  The incomparable bird life, plants and insects in the forests including a variety of butterflies are a major draw for naturalists. Interspersed with patches of grassland and mashes, the dominant vegetation type is a tropical rain forest lying between an altitude of 1,100-1,590 meters above sea level.

Although Kibale Forest offers spectacular primate viewing, it is not an easy place to see large mammals– despite an impressive checklist which includes Lion, Leopard, African Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Hippo, Warthog, Giant Forest Hog, Bush pig, Bushbuck, Sitatunga, and Peter’s, Red and Blue Duiker which are dwarf Antelopes. The Elephants found in Kibale Forest National Park are classified as belonging to the forest race, which is smaller and hairier than the more familiar savannah Elephant. Elephants frequently move into the Kanyanchu area during the wet season, but they are not often seen by tourists except by the lucky ones and on a few occasions. Science is still taking course to affirm whether these are forest Elephants or not, as this was a migration corridor where elephants from the giant savannahs of Queen Elizabeth National Park could migrate for longer years and found bare land occupied by humans thus affecting the movement of this largest land mammal.

What to see /attractions in Kibale forest National Park

Chimpanzees: There are five habituated groups for human presence and there are a number of other groups that are being habituated for human presence. Chimpanzees are very sociable creatures and live in communities of up to 150 members, which are divided into smaller subgroups and led by an alpha male. They spend the most part of their day sleeping, grooming, eating and swinging in the tree branches, they are always in small family ties – say mum, sister and daughter in the early hours and once they have had enough food, they join or call on the rest of the community.

Wildlife: Although Kibale forest National Park is most popular for the chimpanzees, other park residents include bushbucks, sitatungas, buffaloes, leopards and some few forest elephants these may be rare but they are also residents of this park.

Primates: The park has a recorded number of 50 mammal species with a blessing of primates totalling to 13 species, nine of which are diurnal primates and to mention they are L’Hoest’s, Red colobus, Vervet, Red-tailed, and Black-and-white Colobus Monkey, olive baboon, grey-cheeked mongabey, and chimpanzee. The Kibale forest area is the last Ugandan stronghold of the Red Colobus, although small numbers still survive in Semliki Valley National park. Visitors who do both the forest and swamp walks can typically expect to see at least five or six primate species.

Birds: Kibale forest National Park has recorded, an incredible bird list with 372 species including four species that have not been recorded in any other park. Did I mention that Kibale forest is the best place to see the forest interior restricted Green-breasted Pitta, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed as threatened Nahan’s Partridge, Cassin’s spine tail, the near threatened White-naped Pigeon, Black Bee-eater, and Masked Apalis among the very localized special species. Many of the other birds listed in Kibale forest are quite similar to those recorded in Semuliki National Park except for the 40 -odd Semliki `specials and the inclusion of a greater variety of water and grassland species. A recent sighting of a Green-breasted Pitta in Semliki by Paul Tamwenya caused some excitement in Ugandan ornithological circles, while the truly optimistic might want to look out for pregogine’s Ground Thrush, a presumably endemic species or race collected once in the 1960s and yet to be seen again! The best bird watching spot adjust to the forest is the Bigodi wetland sanctuary, where a four-hour trail has been laid out, and experienced guides will be able to show some localized species like the White-spotted Fulfftail, Joyful Greenbul, White-tiled Ant-Thrush which you might otherwise overlook.

Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary a community annex of the park provides a chance for nature walks giving access to view other primate species like the Red Colobus, Blue monkey, L’Hoest’s , Black and white colobus monkey, grey cheeked mongabey

What to do in Kibale forest National Park

Chimpanzee trekking: There are approximately 300,000 chimpanzees left in the African forests. It is therefore a real treat to trek down chimpanzees and spend some time with them in the wilderness. Kibale Forest National park presents you a perfect opportunity for a chimpanzee trekking safari as the chimpanzees are within reachable walking distance. They may not be as popular as the Gorillas but they are definitely worth trekking. The trek starts early morning at the head office with a briefing before heading out to the forest accompanied by an experienced ranger guide in search for the chimps. The search usually starts from where the chimps were last seen the day before, or by finding news nests which they make every day in a few seconds, also by looking at fresh droppings, following the knuckle walks and them being very loud, they are also traced by their calls. Once they are found, you will be allowed one hour with them, the experience is unforgettable. The one hour quickly passes by and once it’s passed you will make your way back to the park headquarters or where you guide dropped you off to start the chimpanzee tracking exercise.

Chimpanzee habituation experience: Before chimpanzees are accessible for trekking, they go through a process of habituation by experienced researchers who prepare the chimpanzees for human presence and interaction. For tourists who would like to spend more time with the chimpanzees. The tourists will go along with the researcher or habituating team as you follow the chimpanzees all day long as they go about their daily business acquainting them with human presence.  The activity will take you the whole day from when they wake up to the time of nest building for their day knaps, eating playing and then nesting again to build their night sleep nests.

Nature walks: The predominantly forest covered Kibale National Park, is a perfect place for a nature walk to reconnect with Nature. The 2-3 hour walk through the forest may provide some proof as to why it is the primate’s capital of the world. Like most activities the walk starts at the visitor centre in Kanyanchu where you will be briefed and start your walk through the ever-green forest with a chance to catch some of the 250 species of butterflies, some of the 50 mammal’s species and 13 primate’s species recorded here while you enjoy the melodious sounds of some of the 350 bird species recorded in the park. Another interesting nature walk is in the Bigodi wetland sanctuary a great place to catch a number of birds and primates too.

Bird watching and night nature walks: Kibale Forest National Park is rich in birds making it one of the most visited places by birders. With a whopping 372 bird species. The park offers great sights of the rare Green-breasted Pitta, skulking Illadopis, Ground Thrushes, Nahan’s Francolin, Sabine’s and Cassin’s spine tail, Black Bee-eater, and Masked and Black-faced Apalis among other forest birds.

Cultural experience: Through the beautiful tropical forest of Kibale National Park will give you an insight on the lives and culture of the local people dominated by the Bakiga and Batoro, the best experience is the Tinker’s homestay which will expose you the way of lives of the people around here and how they eat. Later on in the evening, a performance from the local community can be arranged with lovely music, dance and drama.

Children activities: In as much as we would all love to go with our adorable children on this expedition, only children 12 years and above are allowed to go chimpanzees trekking. However, there are other activities that the children can take part in and around the forest including but not limited to educational walks through the forest that enlighten the youngsters on the eco surrounding eco system and the creatures that inhabit it. The walk can last anywhere from 1-2hours. Other activities include fun adventures like pond dipping, cyanotype photography and batik-making. So parents relax and come along with your child you can trek the chimpanzees wholeheartedly without being worried about your child.

How to get to Kibale forest National Park

Kibale forest National Park can be reached by road, from Kampala or Entebbe via Mubende, Fortportal. Alternatively, the Park can be accessed via the well surfaced road in Kasese via Queen Elizabeth National Park or through Lake Mburo national park via Mbarara and Kamwenge. The drive is approximately 5 hours and it is 411km from the capital city Kampala. The Park can also be accessed by air by either chartering a flight or scheduled flights from Entebbe international airport and Kajjansi airstrip to Tooro/Semuliki wildlife reserve 86 km from Kanyanchu or land at the Kasese Airstrip a 1-2 hours’ drive from the park headquarters

When to visit Kibale forest National Park?

The Park is open to chimpanzee trekking all year round however December to February are dry months. June and July are the most dry months but also the busiest season. The dry season though makes the hike less work as it is not that slippery however remember to keep hydrated and a hut with sunscreen would be a good idea too.  No matter the time of the year you choose to have your Chimpanzee or primate’s safari, the experience will still be worth it.

Where to stay in Kibale forest National Park?

Kibale is one of the most accessible Forest Parks in Uganda and a wide array of accommodation facilities ranging from Luxury to budget camping right from the City of Fortportal to the outskirts of the Park in Bigodi tourism town among which we have the Ndali lodge located in the Kasende crater area, The Crater Safari luxury Lodge along lake Nyinabulitwa, The Primate Lodge, the Kyaninga Lodge, Papyrus Lake Lodge, Kibale Guest Cottages, Chimpanzee Forest Guest House and Campsite, Kibale Forest Lodge, Kibale Forest Camp, the newly constructed Chimpundu Lodge, Mountains Of The Moon, Ataco Country Resort, Rwenzori View Guest House among the many.