Best Places to See Wild Chimpanzees In Uganda
Discover the best places to see wild Chimpanzees in Uganda in our expert guide.
Chimpanzees are closest living relative, sharing 98% of our DNA.
But, humans have been very cruel to them. As of 2023, around 170,000 and 300,000 chimps are believed to exist in the wild, a decrease from over 1,000,000 chimpanzees in the early 1900s!
Habitat loss, hunting for bushmeat, and the exotic pet trade are among the greatest threats facing chimps. With over 5000 chimpanzees, Uganda is the best country in Africa to track and see these awe-inspiring primates in their natural habitats.
This is not only because the country has a high population of chimpanzees, but also several places where you can find them in their pristine rainforest homes.
Here is a selection of the best places to see Chimpanzees in Uganda:
1. Kibale Forest National Park
Situated about 326km (5-hour drive) west of Uganda’s capital city, Kampala, Kibale Forest National Park is best place to see wild chimpanzees in Uganda.
This 776 km2 rainforest jungle is home to around 1,500 chimpanzees. It offers around 95% chances of seeing these great apes in their natural habitat, far greater than any other places that offer chimpanzee trekking in Africa.
This national park is home to 5 habituated chimpanzee communities that you can track for 2-4 hours either in the morning or afternoon. And after finding them; you spend an hour watching them.
But, if you want a more in-depth, personal immersion (group size is strictly limited), you can arrive at the park’s visitor centre in the pre-dawn gloom to set out on the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience.
This guarantees a full or half day with the chimps; tracking them as they crash through the undergrowth or swing through the tree tops, dozing as they doze and, if you’re very lucky, feeling your heart race in excitement as the apparently playful chimps turn determined killers on the hunt for monkeys.
What else is there to see In Kibale Forest?
In addition to chimpanzees, you’ll be able to see a variety of other primates while trekking, like the Black and white colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, red colobus monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkeys, blue monkeys, Vervet monkeys, olive baboons, and Mangabeys. Plus you will encounter a diversity of birds, butterflies and unique plant species.
Kibale Forest Chimp Trekking Cost
Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest National Park costs:
- 200 USD for a foreign non-resident
- 150 USD for a foreign resident
- 150,000 UGX an East African citizen
Kibale chimpanzee habituation experience Price
- 250 USD for a foreign non-resident
- 200 USD for a foreign resident
- 200,000 UGX an East African citizen
2. Kalinzu Forest Reserve
Kalinzu Forest in southwest of Uganda, is often overlooked by tourists, yet its dark and dense forests are considered one of the best places to see wild chimpanzees in Uganda for budget-conscious travellers
This highly accessible Eco-Tourism Project is set alongside the Kasese–Ishaka Road 35km south of Katunguru. It is located near Queen Elizabeth National Park and habours at least 300 chimpanzees, including a strong community habituated for tourist visits.
Chimp trekking in Kalinzu Forest now comes with a 90% success rate, making the site almost as reliable as Kibale Forest, and the quality of sightings is usually very good.
But unlike in the Kibale forest, there is no chimpanzee habituation experience in this one. And besides that, there is no formal accommodation for tourists here, but since this forest is situated near Queen Elizabeth national park on your way from Kibale, it’s easier to find accommodation in QENP.
There is no fixed departure time, chimp tracking in Kalinzu can start from 07.30 until around 14.00, but an early start offers the best chance of a good sighting.
What else is there to see?
In addition to chimpanzees, Kalinzu Forest is home to other primates like Baboons, Vervet monkeys, Blue monkeys, Black and White Colobus monkeys as well as different birds.
Kalinzu Forest is also situated close to Queen Elizabeth NP which is home to hippos, crocodiles, leopards, elephants, buffaloes, warthogs, and tree-climbing lions.
How much is chimpanzee trekking in Kalinzu?
- 50 USD
3. Budongo Forest Reserve
Located in northwestern Uganda near Lake Albert and deep within the Murchison Falls Conservation Area, this superb forest reserve has over 800 chimps and a rustic eco-lodge with links to a research station.
Budongo Forest offers around 80% chances of seeing chimpanzees and known for its well-organized chimp tracking experiences and huge mahogany trees.
Two- to four-hour chimp-tracking trips (you only get one hour in their company) run daily between October and June.
But just like in Kibale, it’s possible to also enjoy the chimpanzee habituation experience. It’s an excellent experience, even though the canopy is denser than Kibale, making photography more challenging.
What else is there to see?
Aside from chimpanzees, red-tailed monkey, blue monkey, black-and-white colobus and olive baboon can be seen. Nocturnal creatures include potto and several galago species. Also of interest are the high numbers of birds and butterflies recorded.
Moreover, you can match up the experience with a game park drive through the Murchison falls national park to see 4 of the Big Five — elephants, lions, buffalo, and hippos as well as take a boat cruise to the bottom of the breathtaking Murchison Falls – the world’s strongest waterfall.
It’s a great add-on to your Murchison Falls National Park visit, with your park permit allowing you entry to Budongo too.
How much is chimpanzee trekking in Budongo Forest?
- 130 USD for a foreign non-resident
- 120 USD for a foreign resident
- 85 USD for an East African citizen
4. Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kyambura Gorge
Surrounded by the rift valley escarpment, the Rwenzori Mountains, and Congo’s Blue Mountains, the diverse Semliki Wildlife Reserve in western Uganda offers quieter, and less certain, chimp encounters than all other chimp trekking destinations.
However, the lighter forest cover means that sightings tend to be clearer and the chimps here also frequently venture out into open savannah, where they are more likely to walk upright. If you’re lucky enough to witness this then you’ll really feel as if you’re watching animal evolving into man.
What else is there to see?
In addition to chimps, other primates you can encounter include black and white colobus monkeys, Vervet monkeys, and baboons. Besides that, you can go on a game drive in Toro-Semuliki and enjoy sightings of the Uganda kob, warthogs, elephants, and buffalo.
Also, you can enjoy traditional dances at the Karugutu Community Conservation Association and take a boat cruise along Lake Albert, seeing birds like the shoebills and the African Pygmy Goose.
How much is chimpanzee trekking in Semuliki?
- 30 USD for a foreign non-resident
- 20 USD for a foreign resident
- 20,000 UGX for an East African citizen
6. Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary
Okay, so it is hardly a genuine wilderness encounter, but if time is limited and you are confined to the Kampala then this Lake Victoria island, a short way south of the capital, is home to around 50 orphaned or rescued chimpanzees.
Ngamba is also the best place to view chimps in Uganda if you have children below 12 years of age that would love to see chimpanzees. Because there are no age limitations to accessing the reserve and you can tour it within half a day or enjoy a day-long stay.
And other great things about opting for this tour are getting the opportunity to help the caretakers prepare food for the chimps and taking a boat cruise across the equator to and fro from the island.
Other Places in See to Chimpanzees in Africa
Chimpanzee trekking in Africa can be done in several countries.
Chimps occur naturally in West and Central Africa, and their range includes some East African countries such as Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda.
The East African countries are the most popular countries for chimpanzee trekking safaris as they are more developed for tourism than Central and West Africa.
Chimpanzee trekking in Tanzania is available in Mahale Mountains and Gombe Stream, two very remote parks on the shore of Lake Tanganyika.
Gombe National Park is famous as the place where Dr. Jane Goodall did her chimpanzee research.
In these remote destinations, it’s very special, but getting here is either very expensive or time-consuming. This makes chimp trekking a less popular part of a standard Tanzania safari.
As Rwanda is still an emerging destination, chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park is not as well-known at this stage and sightings are possibly more hit and miss.
However, this high-altitude rainforest is remarkably accessible and is home to 13 primate species.
The park is worth visiting for its natural beauty, forest hikes and biodiversity alone, and the opportunity to track chimps is a bonus.
Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) offers chimpanzee trekking too, and the park is usually visited as an add-on trip from Rwanda. Due to low visitor numbers, the chimps are less habituated here.
Final Thoughts On The Best Places to See Wild Chimpanzees In Uganda
When planning your chimpanzee trekking safari in Uganda, consider factors like location, accessibility, accommodation options, and your specific interests.
Keep in mind that chimpanzee trekking permits are required in most of these locations and should be booked in advance through Uganda Wildlife Authority or authorized Uganda tour operators.
Trekking guidelines prioritize the well-being of the chimpanzees and their natural habitat, so it’s essential to follow responsible tourism practices.