Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is one of the most remarkable Uganda wildlife experiences.
There are 4 major destinations for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda: Kibale Forest, Kalinzu, Budongo Forest, and Kyambura Gorge. Kibale is the best place for chimp trekking safaris in Uganda, as the forest has high population densities and offers 95% chances of seeing them.
Imagine the adventure of tracking these great apes on foot through a dense rainforest jungle. Although it doesn’t get the same attention as gorilla trekking tours, observing chimps at a close proximity on foot is an amazing encounter, almost on a par with a gorilla trek.
As we share 98.8% of our DNA with them, they’re our closest living relatives. Chimpanzees live in communities of 20 to 250 individuals. Like humans, they tend to have strong personalities, and their expressive faces make their identities very recognizable to us.
Their intelligence and social behavior are endlessly fascinating to observe. And if you are lucky, you may hear their chorus of vocalizations, called pant-hooting – a spine-tingling experience you’ll never forget. Few fortunate tourists get to witness chimps hunting colobus monkeys.
Is Chimpanzee Trekking In Uganda Good for Conservation?
Chimpanzees are highly endangered. As of 2023, around 170,000 chimps are believed to exist in the wild, a decrease from over 1,000,000 chimpanzees in the early 1900s! Their populations are rapidly declining due to habitat loss, poaching, and disease.
In Uganda, conservation efforts play a vital role in protecting these magnificent creatures and their habitat. National parks and reserves are established to provide a safe space for chimps to thrive, while local communities are involved in sustainable tourism initiatives that benefit both people and wildlife.
By choosing to go chimpanzee trekking in Uganda, you actively support these conservation efforts. The revenue generated from chimpanzee trekking tourism helps fund research, anti-poaching patrols, and community development projects. It is a golden opportunity to make a positive impact and contribute to the long-term survival of chimpanzees and their ecosystems.
What to expect during a chimpanzee trekking experience
Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is an immersive and active adventure that takes you on a hike deep into the heart of the rainforest. It is totally different from the typical Africa safari experiences and it offers people a welcome break from savannah game drives. Here’s all you can expect during your trek:
- Pre-trek briefing: Before setting off, you’ll receive a briefing from your guides, who will provide essential information about safety, conservation, and the behavior of chimpanzees.
- Trekking through the forest: Led by experienced local guides, you’ll embark on an exhilarating hike of 2 to 5 hours through dense vegetation. The trails can be challenging at times, but the anticipation of spotting chimpanzees keeps you motivated.
- Close encounters with chimpanzees: Once you locate a chimpanzee group, you’ll spend a precious hour observing and photographing these incredible creatures. Keep a respectful distance and follow your guide’s instructions to avoid disturbing their natural behavior.
- Learning about chimpanzee behavior: During the trek, your guides will share insights into chimpanzee behavior, social structures, and conservation efforts. This educational aspect adds depth to the experience and fosters a greater appreciation for these intelligent beings.
- Embracing the natural beauty: Chimpanzee trekking not only allows you to witness these primates up close but also immerses you in the breathtaking beauty of Uganda’s rainforests. You’ll see other Uganda primates, a variety of birds, and take the time to appreciate the sights and sounds of the wilderness around you.
Please Note: The minimum age for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is 12 year. There is no maximum age.
Uganda Chimpanzee Trekking Tours
We offer complete chimpanzee trekking in Uganda tours. Some of our Uganda tour packages features sole chimpanzee destination. But chimp trekking in Uganda is mostly done as part of long Uganda safaris. So, the tour can include other activities such as wildlife viewing in savannah parks, birding, gorilla trekking, white-water rafting, mountain hiking, cycling tours, and community cultural encounters.
Where To Go For Chimpanzee Trekking In Uganda?
1. Kibale National Park
In most respects, Kibale National Park which is home to over 1500 chimpanzees is the best location in Uganda (in fact, the best in the whole world) for viewing wild chimpanzees.
It gives the highest chances of seeing chimpanzees. In addition, since the community visited by tourists has been habituated since the 1990s, the chimpanzees in Kibale Forest are now very relaxed in the presence of human guests. This implies that when they do settle down, you will often enjoy extended close-up encounters of grooming and other interaction.
2. Kalinzu Forest Reserve
3. Kyambura Gorge
Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park also offers chimpanzee trekking in Uganda. Although the chances of encountering chimpanzees here are lower than in Kibale and Kalinzu, the incredible scenery is just as much part of the attraction.
Also known as ‘the valley of the apes’, this gorge is around 100m deep and 1km across. Your hike down into it feel like you’re in an underground forest.
4. Budongo Forest Reserve
Another great off-the-beaten-track option is for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is Budongo Forest Reserve. This verdant rainforest is easily visited on the way to Murchison Falls National Park. Murchison Falls NP is home to the world’s strongest waterfalls and over 76 mammal species including, 4 of the Big Five animals. Read more about chimpanzee trekking in Budongo Forest.
5. Semuliki Wildlife Reserve
Encircled by the Great rift valley escarpment, the Rwenzori Mountains National Park, and DR Congo’s Blue Mountains, Semliki Wildlife Reserve offers quieter, and less certain, chimpanzee encounters than all other destinations for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda.
But it has lighter forest cover and chimp sightings tend to be clearer. Also here, chimpanzees here also often venture out into open savannah, where they are more likely to walk upright. If you’re lucky to witness this then you’ll really feel as if you’re watching animal evolving into man.
Planning Your Trip For Chimpanzee Trekking In Uganda
Planning a chimpanzee trekking trip requires careful consideration and preparation to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. Here are a few key steps to help you plan your adventure:
- Choose the right tour operator: Select a reputable tour operator that specializes in chimpanzee trekking and has a strong commitment to sustainable tourism practices. They will provide expert guides, arrange permits, and ensure your safety throughout the trip.
- Obtain necessary permits: Chimpanzee trekking permits are required to access the national parks. These permits have limited availability and are best secured in advance through your tour operator.
- Research the destination: Familiarize yourself with the specific national park or reserve you’ll be visiting. Learn about the terrain, climate, and any additional activities or attractions you might be interested in.
- Pack appropriate gear: Apart from waterproof clothing and sturdy shoes, consider packing insect repellent, sunscreen, a hat, and a good camera to capture the incredible moments.
- Get informed on health precautions: Consult with your healthcare provider regarding necessary vaccinations and medications for your trip. Malaria prophylaxis is recommended for most regions in Uganda.
- Respect the wildlife and their habitat: Always follow the guidelines and instructions given by your guides to ensure the safety and well-being of both yourself and the chimpanzees.
Best time to go chimpanzee trekking in Uganda
The best time for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is during the dry seasons, which typically occur from December to February and from June to September. During these months, the weather is more predictable, and the trails are less muddy, making it easier to navigate through the forests.
But, Uganda’s climate is generally mild throughout the year, so even if you visit during the rainy season, you can still enjoy a rewarding chimpanzee trekking experience.
It’s important to note that the rainforest jungles can be humid and receive occasional showers even during the dry season. So packing appropriate gear is essential.
Fitness Level Required For Chimpanzee Trekking in Uganda
You’ll need to be relatively fit to go chimpanzee trekking in Uganda, though every day is different. Some days, the trek is more difficult than other days.
Chimps have big territories. And you might be lucky to find them after one or it might take 6 hours. You get to spend a maximum of one hour with them.
They might be stationary, feeding or resting or they might be on the move. Contrary to gorillas, chimpanzees move very fast through the forest undergrowth.
And trying to keep up with them can be a great challenge. The unpredictability adds to the adventure. Most people walk away with an amazing experience.
Whatever your fitness, you will need pack proper gear for chimpanzee trekking. These include good hiking shoes, a lightweight rain jacket, long trousers, etc.
How Close Can I Get To Chimps?
Chimpanzees are humankind’s closest relatives. They share 98.8% of our DNA. That implies that they can catch our illnesses easily. For this reason, as well as your own safety, you are advised to keep a reasonable distance of about 7 to 10 meters when observing chimps.
You’ll track chimpanzees in a small group of up to 6 people. Your trekking guide will give you very specific instructions on where to stay when you get close to the chimps.
Despite this, chimps themselves are much habituated and they do not follow the rules. On top of that, it might occasionally be challenging to back off due to the dense forest growth. Therefore, it is very likely that a chimpanzee will approach you within a meter.
How much is chimpanzee trekking in Uganda?
Chimp trekking in Kibale Forest costs USD 200, Kyambura Gorge (USD 50), Kalinzu Forest (USD 50) and Budongo Forest USD 130.
When booking an organized Uganda safari tour, these fees are included in the overall safari price. A 3 days chimpanzee trekking safari in Kibale National Park costs approximately USD 800 per person.
And a 10 Days Uganda safari tour, including chimp and gorilla trekking, as well as savannah safaris in Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Parks, costs approximately USD 4,300 per person.
These prices are only guidelines because they vary depending on the level of accommodation on your Uganda tour. These include select budget, mid-range and luxury Uganda safari lodges/accommodation options. You may also like; how much does a safari in Uganda cost?
How Does Chimpanzee Trekking In Uganda Compare To Other Countries?
While there are several countries in Africa that offer chimp trekking, the activity is best done in Uganda. Many visitors go chimp trekking at least once on their wildlife safaris in Uganda.
There is great chimpanzee trekking in Tanzania in Gombe and Mahale Mountains National Parks, on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. Gombe is well-known for being the site of Dr. Jane Goodall’s chimpanzee research. Also in these remote areas, it is very special. But getting there is either very expensive or time-consuming. Because of this, chimp trekking is much less common on Tanzania safaris.
And it is home to 13 primate species. Nyungwe is worth visiting for its natural beauty, forest hikes, canopy walks, and biodiversity alone. And the opportunity to trek for chimps is a bonus. Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda is recommended, but sightings are more hit-and-miss than in Uganda.
Are Chimp Sightings Guaranteed In Uganda?
Your success rate of finding the Uganda Chimpanzees depends on where you go on a chimpanzee tour. Though habituated, the chimps are totally wild.
They move daily in search of food. Also, they make a new nest every night wherever they end up. All in all, these agile primates are less sedentary than gorillas. So, the sightings are altogether more variable.
In Kibale, sightings are almost guaranteed (95%). With a lot of visitor activity as well as research groups operating here, the guides usually have a good idea of where the chimps are at any time.
Kalinzu is the next best alternative with about 90% chances. Budongo forest offers around 70% chances and in Kyambura Gorge, the Chances are around 60%.
Is chimpanzee trekking safe?
Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is widely regarded to be safe. The chimps are habituated. They know that humans pose no threat to them. In fact, we have never heard of a guest being injured by a chimpanzee on a trekking tour. However, a large chimpanzee is comparable in size to adult human.
And chimps are far stronger than humans. Therefore, it is very important to follow the instructions of trekking guide to ensure your safety. Children below the age of 12, being smaller and more vulnerable than adults, are not permitted to go for Kibale Chimpanzee trekking tours in Uganda.
Also, for both your safety and comfort, we recommend that you wear good walking or hiking shoes/boots, long trousers/pant, and long-sleeved shirt.
By tucking your trouser legs into your long socks, you reduce the likelihood of getting bitten by safari ants (which are harmless but and have a nasty bite) and other creepy-insects.
Neutral colors that blend into the forest environment such as khaki, green, and gray are recommended on the Chimpanzee trekking tour. And a walking stick may be useful for maneuvering across difficult terrain.
Tips for a successful chimpanzee trekking adventure
To make the most of your chimpanzee trekking adventure in Uganda, consider the following tips:
- Be physically prepared: Chimpanzee trekking involves walking for several hours through challenging terrain. Engaging in some exercise and strengthening your fitness level beforehand will enhance your overall experience.
- Dress appropriately: Wear lightweight, breathable clothing in muted colors that blend with the surroundings. Choose long sleeves and pants to protect against insects and vegetation.
- Carry essential supplies: Bring a small backpack with water, snacks, a rain jacket, a hat, sunscreen, and insect repellent. It’s important to stay hydrated and nourished during the trek.
- Respect the wildlife and environment: Follow the “leave no trace” principle and avoid littering or disturbing the natural habitat. Keep noise to a minimum to avoid startling the chimpanzees and other animals.
- Practice patience and flexibility: Chimpanzee sightings are not guaranteed, as they are wild animals. Be prepared for the possibility of trekking for several hours before encountering them. Remember that the journey itself is part of the adventure.
Other wildlife Safaris experiences in Uganda
There is wealth of wildlife experiences beyond chimpanzee trekking in Uganda. Here are a few highlights that you might consider adding to your Uganda safari itinerary:
- Gorilla trekking: Uganda is one of the few places in the world where you can observe mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park are the main destinations for this incredible experience.
- Game drives: Explore the vast savannahs of Queen Elizabeth National Park or Murchison Falls National Park on a thrilling game drive. Spot elephants, lions, giraffes, and an abundance of other wildlife.
- Birdwatching: With over 1,090 bird species, Uganda is a bird lover’s paradise. Visit Kibale National Park, Bwindi National Park, Semuliki National Park, or Lake Mburo National Park for exceptional birdwatching opportunities.
- Boat safaris: Cruise along the Nile River in Murchison Falls National Park or explore the Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park. These boat safaris offer a unique perspective to observe hippos, crocodiles, and a variety of water birds.
How Do Chimpanzee and Gorilla Trekking Compare?
In comparison to trekking gorillas in Uganda, chimp trekking is vastly underrated. This might be a result of gorillas’ enormous size, which makes these gentle giants so overwhelming to be around.
But the experiences are almost similar. Before you set out with a small group of guests on either activity, your ranger will brief you. You’ll have an entire hour to observe the primates once you’ve located them.
The primary distinction is that gorillas are overall less active. The young ones may play, but the adults typically eat or sleep. Also gorillas live in families of up 20 individuals.
While gorilla families always stay together, chimp communities are more fluid. They often split into sub groups, which spend time apart to reunite later. There always seems to be something going on in a chimpanzee community. For example, you may see an alpha male trying to take over, a youngster chimp throwing a tantrum, males patrolling their territory and, occasionally, a hunt for colobus monkeys.
Although this makes chimpanzee trekking and watching very rewarding, it also makes it trickier than spending time with mountain gorillas. When on the move, chimps are difficult to follow.
Their nimble bodies move easily through thick vegetation while you may struggle to get through. Chimpanzees spend most of their time high up in trees compared to gorillas.
That can make watching more difficult too. Despite this, your guide will work really hard to ensure you get a good sighting and great photo opportunities. Last but not least is the price difference; chimp trekking costs $200 in Kibale and less in other parks, while gorilla trekking costs $700 per person.
Responsible tourism and ethical considerations in chimpanzee trekking
Responsible tourism is crucial when engaging in chimpanzee trekking in Uganda. Here are some ethical considerations to keep in mind:
- Follow guidelines and instructions: Respect the rules set by the national parks and your guides. Keep a safe distance from the chimpanzees, avoid direct eye contact, and do not touch or feed them.
- Minimize your impact: Stay on designated trails, avoid loud noises, and do not litter. By minimizing your impact, you help preserve the natural habitat and reduce disturbance to the chimpanzees.
- Be mindful of your presence: Remember that you are a guest in the chimpanzees’ home. Observe them quietly and appreciate their natural behavior without interfering or causing stress.
- Support local communities: Engage in community-based tourism initiatives that empower local communities and provide them with sustainable livelihoods. Purchase locally made crafts and products to directly support the people living in and around the national parks.