Chimpanzees in East Africa
Chimpanzees are one of the most visited primates in East Africa. The chimpanzee trekking experience is a popular amazing experience that takes you through rainforests and encountering other animal and bird species.
The chimpanzees can be encountered in different destinations in East Africa and these include; Kibale Forest National Park, Budongo forest and Kyambura gorge in Uganda . Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda . Gombe National Park and Mahale Mountains National Park in Tanzania
Top Chimpanzees trekking destinations in East Africa
Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale National Park is Africa’s top primate habitat also referred to as the world’s primate capital. Kibale national park is located outside the town of FortPortal and is the best chimpanzee tracking destination in Uganda with a diversity of primates like L’hoest’s monkey, red-tailed monkeys, re colobus monkey and blue monkeys.
Kibale forest is also occupied by a variety of forest birds. The main center/trail head for chimp tracking is Kanyanchu visitor’s center. Chimp tracking in Kibale is done twice at 08:00AM and 02:00PM. The activity can take 3hours to a whole day including the 1 hour that allows you to spend time with chimps. For those who wish to spend more time with the chimps, they can opt for the habituation experience. Please note that children of 15 years and below are not allowed to participate in any chimpanzee experience.
Budongo Forest is the second popular destination in Uganda for chimpanzee tracking safaris after the popular Kibale National Park. Budongo Forest Reserve covers about 825 square kilometers in a natural forest reserve. Budongo forest is located northwest of Kampala city-Uganda’s capital adjacent to Murchison Falls National Park.
Budongo forest is a tropical rainforest located in Masindi district in Murchison Falls National Park hosting a large population of chimpanzees. The terrain in Budongo is flatter and easier and the chances of seeing chimps is at 80%. There are trails in the forest that allow visitors to catch sight of the chimpanzees. After locating them, you spend about 1 hour with them. You can also take part in chimpanzee habituation allowing you more time with the chimpanzees.
Chimpanzee trekking in Budongo forest is done in the Kaniyo Pabidi sector. Chimpanzee trekking starts from the visitor’s information center at Budongo Eco Lodge.
Trekking chimpanzees in Budongo forest is very suitable for tourists interested in short trips from Kampala because it is the closest chimpanzee trekking habitat in Uganda from the capital.
Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park is a magical valley with a few chimpanzees that can be trekked during Uganda safaris.
The Kyambura gorge is situated in the Eastern part of the park in the Kyambura Wildlife Reserve. You will take a walk through the forest in groups of four and you will easily locate the chimps by their sounds before you see them. Once you locate them, you closely approach them and watch them groom and play. While in the forest, you may also come across other primates like Black & White colobus, Vervet monkey, olive baboons and others. The activity starts at 08:00AM or 13:00 PM and it takes about 3 hours depending on the speed of the group and location of the chimpanzees.
Kibale National Park, Budongo Forest and Kyambura Gorge are the top three chimpanzee trekking in Uganda destinations. However, chimpanzees in Uganda can also be seen in the Kalinzu forest and Toro Semuliki wildlife reserve though not recommended for trekking. All the above are natural habitats for the chimps, however, chimpanzees can be seen at the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary and the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC) formerly known as the zoo.
Gombe National Park
Gombe National Park is located in western Kigoma Region in Tanzania at the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Gombe National Park is the smallest park in Tanzania covering an area of 35 square kilometres. The park was established in 1968 and is famously known for its main attraction Chimpanzee and the primatologist Jane Goodall who spent years studying the behaviour of the chimpanzees. Scientifically chimpanzees share 98% of their gees with human beings
The Chimpanzees are well habituated and chimp tracking is only allowed for people from the age of 15 years and above with a professional guide.
Gombe National Park has a diversity of tourist attractions aside from the chimpanzees. Other primates within the park include; olive baboons, red colobus, red tailed monkeys, vervet monkeys, blue monkeys. Animals like leopards, forest pigs, hippopotami, small antelopes can be seen.
Mahale Mountain National Park
Mahale Mountain National Park is located on the Eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika in Kigoma region Tanzania. Mahale Mountain National Park was established in 1979 and named after the Mahale Mountains. The park covers an area of 1600 square kilometres.
Mahale Mountain National Park is home to the largest habituated chimpanzee population. The park is one of the two chimpanzee protected areas and it protects about 1000 chimpanzees that co-exist with lions.
The chances of seeing chimpanzees are very high as you take a walk through the park in the designated paths with an experienced guide. An hour is spent watching the chimpanzees play, groom and interact with each other.
Nyungwe National Park
Rwanda has positioned herself as a great primate tracking destination in Africa. Chimpanzee trekking is one of the popular activities in Rwanda besides gorilla trekking. Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda is done at Nyungwe National Park (Nyungwe and Cyamudongo forests) and one of the most attractive Rwanda tour activities. Nyungwe forest is found in the Southern part of Rwanda and it is the largest protected mountain forest in Africa. It is home to several flora and fauna species including chimpanzees and other primate species like vervet monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys.
For the purposes of chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe, two chimpanzee groups have been habituated. These two groups live in both Nyungwe and Cyamudongo forests. The group in Nyungwe is hard to see since the landscape is rugged. The smaller group in Cyamudongo offers the most successful sightings.
Nyungwe Chimpanzee trekking starts very early in the morning and visitors are expected to be at the centers as early as 5:00 AM to start the trek. The experience starts with briefing at one of the starting points which are Uwinka (the main center), Gisakura or Kitabi. Trekkers have to go out early so that they watch the chimps before they leave their sleeping nests and head out for the day. It is always easy for the tourists to find the chimps because a group of trackers go ahead to identify the exact location of the chimps in the forest then communicate to the guides.
Please note that Nyungwe forest is larger and chimpanzees tend to move deep into the forest which makes trekking harder unlike Cyamudongo forest which is smaller and easy to cover in a short time on foot.