Kibale National Park chimpanzee trekking & Habituation
About Kibale National Park – World’s primate capital
Kibale National Park popular as a primate habitat (world’s primate capital) especially chimpanzees is located in western Uganda within a moist ever green rain forest. The park covers about 766 square kilometres with a diverse array of landscapes in one of the remaining expanses to contain both lowland and montane forests. Gazetted in 1932, the park was established in 1993 to protect a large area of forest. Today, it is an important eco-tourism and Uganda safari destination popular for its population of habituated chimpanzees and twelve other primate species. The park has some of the highest abundances of primate species in the area.
Getting to Kibale National Park: Kibale National Park is about 314.4 km from Entebbe on the fastest route. There are several routes that can be used to reach the park and these can be either from Entebbe International Airport, Kampala-Uganda’s capital or from within the areas of western Uganda.
However, the northern route is shorter and faster with a distance of about 300 km on a tarmac road through Fort Portal then 36 km from Fort Portal to Kanyanchu in the park. The different routes to the park include, Kampala via Mubende and Fort Portal through Mbarara and Kamwenge and the other route is Kampala via Ibanda to Kamwenge. With the fact that the road to the park is majorly tarmac, it is comfortable to access the park by road.
Kibale National Park can also be accessed by air for tourists who would want to use charter flights. There are airstrips that can be used for landing from Entebbe or Kajjansi airstrip then after connect to the park by road. The two airstrips are Nyakisharara Airstrip in Mbarara (a road drive of 98km to the park) and Kasese airstrip (75km to Fort Portal). There isn’t an airstrip very close to the park which makes reaching the park by air very expensive than by road only.
Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National Park
The most popular activity in Kibale forest is chimpanzee trekking and the Kanyanchu primate walk. Chimpanzees in Kibale’s Kanyanchu have been trekked ever since 1993 and the chances of seeing them is always assured. Guided chimpanzee trekking walks happen on a daily starting with two sessions one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. The morning chimpanzee trekking activity starts at 8 am and the afternoon session starts at 2 pm. Each chimpanzee trekking session in Kibale lasts about 3 hours depending on the different factors.
The primate walk offers an opportunity to see the largest number of chimpanzees in their natural habitat. The chimpanzee groups are accustomed to human presence (habituated) and therefore very safe to trek. Each trek starts from the Kanyanchu visitor centre where briefing and registration is done.
The contact time with chimpanzees is limited to a maximum of 1 hour. This one hour excludes the trek time to and from. Each group includes only 6 individuals. The minimum age for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is 16 years. Jewel safaris plans both short chimpanzee trekking trips to Kibale Forest and tailor made tours including other tour destinations.
Best time: Chimpanzee trekking is good all year round, however, it is during the months of June – July and December to February that are drier and make chimpanzee trekking easier. Walking the trails is easier during these times and the experience tends to be enjoyable. However, note that during the dry season, chimpanzees move for longer distances in search of scarce food unlike in the rainy season where chimpanzees can easily be seen since there is abundance of food in the forest.
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience
The chimpanzee habituation experience is the process of getting chimps accustomed to human presence and this is done in Kibale forest. Visitors who would want to have a chimpanzee habituation experience accompany researchers and habituators into the forest to spend time with wild chimpanzees and get them familiar to human presence. These chimpanzees are not accustomed to human presence as those seen during chimpanzee trekking.
Chimpanzee habituation is available in the park for visitors interested in a full day or half day habituation experience. For the morning experience, visitors get the chance to see chimps leaving their overnight nests between 6:00 – 6:30 am before they start feeding and going about their day. During the chimpanzee habituation period, visitors watch chimpanzees feeding, copulating, hunting, breastfeeding, resting, patrolling and displaying their characteristics. A typical chimpanzee day ends by around 7 pm when they build nests to spend the rest of their night.
Chimpanzee habituation permits are usually few and therefore ensure to book through your Uganda tour operator early to avoid disappointments at the interested time.
Kibale National Park is dubbed the world’s primate capital because of the various primates in the park and to experience a life in the primate habitat, chimpanzee trekking or habituation is a great option. Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda can also be added onto other primate tracking tours like Uganda gorilla safaris or golden monkey trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Surrounded with other wildlife parks, chimp tracking can also be undertaken on the same tour with Uganda wildlife safaris, adventure trips, bird watching tours or any other activity. For the perfect primate tracking experiences, Uganda is the best option followed by Rwanda which is also home to mountain gorillas and chimpanzees. However, for Africa safari trips that include viewing thousands of animals migrate, then a Tanzania safari or Kenya safari to see the wildebeest or visit other national parks comes in handy.