Kibale National Park
Meet The Chimpanzees!
Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale Forest National Park covers an area of 795 km², it is highest at the park’s northern tip, which stands 1,590 meter above sea level. The lowest point is 1,100 meter on the floor of the Albertine Rift Valley to the south. The park is one of the best safari destinations in Africa for chimpanzee tracking and one of Africa’s foremost research sites. While many researchers focus on the chimpanzees and other primates found in the park, others are investigating Kibale’s ecosystems, wild pigs and fish species.
The landscape east of the Rwenzori mountain is dotted with volcanic crater lakes and carpeted with tea plantations and tropical forest. The largest tract of forest is protected within the 795 km2 Kibale National Park. Established as a forest reserve in the 1940s, Kibale was upgraded to national park status in recognition of a biodiversity that includes 350 tree species, 71 species of mammal and 370 bird species. The park is best known for its primates which include chimpanzee, the localised red colobus and L’Hoest monkeys.
The northern and central part of Kibale lies on the Fort Portal plateau, 1590 meter above sea level, and is mostly forested. The park extends south through bushy vegetation on the rift valley escarpment before dropping down to the grasslands of the rift valley floor, 500 meter below. There are two tourism sites in Kibale NP. The main hub is at Kanyanchu, 35 km southeast of Fort Portal on a newly tarmacked road leading to Kamwenge and Ibanda. A secondary site is at Sebitoli, 16 km east of Fort Portal on the Kampala road.
An impressive list of 13 primate species include Uganda’s largest population of chimpanzees – an estimated 1450. Other notable primates are the nocturnal bush baby and potto, the L’Hoest’s monkey (which is endemic to the Albertine Rift region), East Africa’s largest population of the threatened red colobus monkey and Uganda’s only endemic monkey, the Uganda mangabey (Lophocebus Ugandae). Long mistaken for the common grey-cheeked mangabey (L. albigena), this unique inhabitant of Kibale was identified as a distinct species in 2007.
Other large mammals, such as elephant, buffalo and giant forest hog are present but are rarely seen. The park boasts 372 species of birds including six that are endemic to the Albertine Rift region. These are the black capped apalis, collared apalis, blue-headed sunbird, dusky crimsonwing, purple-breasted sunbird and redfaced woodland warbler. Other ‘Kibale specials’ include the African pitta, green breasted pitta, black bee eater, eastern nicator, yellow rumped tinkerbird, Kibale ground thrush, brown-breasted alethe, blue breasted kingfisher, Abyssinian ground-thrush and the crowned eagle.
More Info On The Activities
Primate Walk (Chimpanzee Tracking)
The perennially popular primate walk provides the chance to observe chimpanzees in their natural habitat. Kanyanchu’s groups are accustomed to human presence – some have been observed for over 25 years – and the chance of locating them is over 90%. Walks leave Kanyanchu Visitor Centre at 08.00, 11.00 and 14.00 and last between 2-5 hours. Contact time with chimpanzees is limited to one hour, the group size is limited to six visitors & participants must be aged 16 or over.
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience
The Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX) enables visitors to accompany researchers and habituators into the forest. The chimpanzee groups involved are less accustomed to human presence than those visited on the Primate Walk and following and viewing them is both exciting and challenging. The CHEX sessions is available on a full or half day basis starting at 06.30.
A Nature Walk is an opportunity to enjoy one of East Africa’s most beautiful and varied forests without pressure to locate chimpanzees or tick off a dozen ‘Kibale specials’ on the bird-list. This is also an ideal activity for young visitors unable to accompany relatives on the Primate Walk. Two hour Nature Walks start at 08.00, 10.00 and 14.00 from Kanyanchu Tourist Centre.
Enter the forest after dark to search for nocturnal creatures such as galagos, pottos and bushbabies. Night walks are conducted from 19.30 – 22.00 daily.
A bird-list of 372 forest, grassland and swamp species, including local endemics and Central Africa ‘specials’ makes Kibale a popular destination for birders. Forest birds can be sought, with the help of experienced UWA guides, on the forest trails at Kanyanchu and Sebitoli tourism sites. This experience should be combined with a visit to Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary to add forest edge and swamp specials to the list. This popular, community-run attraction lies just outside the park, 5km south of Kanyanchu.
Around The Park
Kibale is surrounded by a wealth of additional attractions. Visitors should take time to explore the scenic crater lakes along the western margin of the park, tour a tea factory, drive down onto the rift valley floor to the hot springs in Semuliki N.P., hike on the Rwenzori mountain and view big game on the grasslands of Queen Elizabeth N.P.