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Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale Forest National Park is a lush rainforest jungle of about 776km2reputable for having the highest density and diversity of primates in all of Africa

This Uganda safaris park is most recommended for travelers seeking to see chimpanzees in their natural habitat. Kibale Forest National Park is Africa’s premier destination for chimpanzee trekking tours. It supports a population around 1,500 of these complex, intelligent great apes.

The chimpanzees of Kibale Forest have been tracked since 1993. And the chances of seeing them are around 95%, far greater than any other location which offers chimpanzee trekking in Uganda, Rwanda, Congo or Tanzania

Kibale National Park is also contiguous with the northern edge of Queen Elizabeth National Park (famous for its tree-climbing lions)

And safaris here are often combined with game viewing tours in this Uganda’s most popular park and/or mountain gorilla trekking adventures in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.

Location Of Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale National Park is located in the western Uganda. 

The national park is located close to the beautiful town of Fort Portal and the tranquil Bunyaruguru crater area, on an altitude of about 1,100 to 1,600 meters above sea level. 

Kibale Forest National Park is situated near Semuliki National Park and the Rwenzori Mountain National Parks On the fringes of the park, is the Bigodi Village and the famous community-run Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, which is also home to a variety of Uganda birds and primates.

How To Get To Kibale Forest National Park

By Car

The quickest route to Kibale Forest National Park from Kampala city is through the Kampala-Fort Portal highway. 

The national park can be reached over a fully-tarmacked road for a distance of 300 kilometers (approximately 6 hours). For tourists overnighting in Fort portal city, the park is only an hour’s drive away.

Kibale National Park can also be reached from the south via Lyantonde and Ibanda (392km), Mbarara and Ibanda (405km), and Mbarara, Kasese, and Fort Portal (525km) taking around 6-7 hours.  All of these routes allow a break in Lake Mburo National Park while the long Kasese route also encourages a night in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

By Plane

You can also access Kibale National Park from the Kasese airstrip, a 68km (2 hours) drive on surfaced and dirt roads. This airstrip can be reached using chartered aircraft from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield near Kampala.

READ MORE: Uganda fly-in safaris

Attractions In Kibale National Park

Kibale Forest National Park is indeed a paradise for nature- and animals-lovers. It has an astonishing array of birds, butterflies, primates, and other mammals. 

Here are the top things to see in Kibale National Park, and we think that if you read till the end, you’ll fall in love with it too! It also offers excellent nature trails. And it’s close to many other must-see Uganda safari attractions.

1. Kibale Forest National Park Vegetation

Most of the Kibale National Park is covered in evergreen rainforest.

The floral composition transitions from typical high-altitude Afro-montane to lowland forest. Among 300 tree species, rare hardwoods like the brown mahoganies and tiama tower above the forest floor from huge buttress roots.

Interspersed between them, fruit-laden fig trees keep the forest’s impressive primate densities well satisfied.

Underneath the thick canopy, the zigzagging forest tracks are widely recognized as some of the most picturesque in Africa, lined with a thick layer of shrubby undergrowth.

The vast tract of forest is also dotted with patches of grassland and swamp.

2. Chimpanzees In Kibale Forest

Chimpanzees in Kibale Forest National Park

Chimpanzees may get less hype in the travel media than majestic gorillas.

But these Great Apes have the honour (perhaps a dubious one, depending upon your perspective) of being our closest living relatives and time spent in their company is a unique wildlife experience.

Chimpanzees live in communities of about 20 to 200 individuals. Like humans, they have strong personalities, complex social intelligence, communication skills, and ability to fashion and use tools.

In Kibale Forest National Park, they live in 13 communities. Of these 4 communities have been successfully habituated. Some have been habituated for scientific study and others for chimpanzee trekking tours.

3. More Primates In Kibale National Park

Aside from chimps, Kibale Forest National Park is home to other 12 primate species.

The Red-tailed monkeys are ubiquitous, and their white-patched cheeks and noses are adorable. The park’s monkey checklist also includes mangabeys, baboons, colobus, Vervet, blue, and L’Hoest’s Monkeys. There are also the shy and elusive nocturnal primates including the East African potto and several galago (bushbaby) species.

Chimpanzees in Kibale Forest are also drawn to the colobus monkeys, though for entirely different reasons: food.

They hunt these smaller monkeys and a chance to witness chimpanzee hunting on your Uganda wildlife safaris in Kibale is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, as the forest explodes into shrieks of terror and the excited howls of the hunting chimps.

4. Birdlife In Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale Forest National Park

Uganda ranks high on the list of best destinations for birding in Africa. No birding tours in Uganda would be complete without dedicating some time to scanning the thickets and canopies of verdant Kibale Forest National Park.

With habitats ranging from wet to dry forest, woodland, savanna and swamp, the Kibale has a total of 375 bird species, including 6 species that are endemic to the Albertine Rift.

The most sought after bird species in Kibale is the Green-breasted Pitta. This enigmatic little bird is only found deep in the tropical forests of Central Africa.

And despite their spectacular medley of colours, are surprisingly elusive. Few birders have had the good chance of seeing the green-breasted pitta. Other avian specials in Kibale National Park include;

  • African grey parrot
  • African pitta
  • Afep pigeon
  • Abyssinian Ground Thrush
  • Black-eared ground-thrush
  • Olive long-tailed cuckoo
  • Western tinkerbird
  • Black-bellied seedcracker
  • Blue-breasted kingfisher
  • Black bee-eater
  • Black-capped apalis
  • Blue-headed sunbird
  • Brown illadopsis
  • Brown-chested alethe
  • Red-chested owlet
  • Great blue turaco
  • Cassin’s spinetail
  • Dusky crimsonwing
  • Little greenbul
  • Masked apalis
  • Nahan’s francolin
  • Purple-breasted sunbird
  • Red-faced woodland warbler
  • Ruwenzori apalis
  • Scaly-breasted illadopsis
  • Western nicator
  • White-naped pigeon
  • Yellow-rumped tinkerbird

READ MORE: Best Places To See Birds Of Uganda

5. Other Wildlife In Kibale Forest

Elephant In Kibale Forest National Park

Though chimpanzees, monkeys, and birds are certainly the more conspicuous (and noisy) inhabitants, the wildlife diversity of Kibale Forest National Park include over 70 species of mammal, 250 species of butterflies, plus a variety of reptiles, and amphibian families.

On the larger side of the animal spectrum, buffalos and elephants often wander into the forest from nearby Queen Elizabeth National Park. These are rarely seen and dutifully avoided by the guides leading walks through the forest.

Blue and Red duikers, giant forest hogs and bush pigs also occupy the undergrowth in the company of rare African golden cats and civets. There are also two species of otters in Kibale Forest National Park waterways and swamps: the Congo clawless otter and the spotted-necked otter.

Activities In Kibale Forest National Park

Although chimpanzee trekking is by far the most popular activity in Kibale, there are many other possibilities for exploring this biodiverse park.

If you only have time to do one other activity, a recommended option is the Bigodi Swamp Walk. Guided forest walks and birding in Kibale Forest are also available.

Other recommended options include guided night walks into the park to look for nocturnal creatures. Here are the details of the top things to do in Kibale National Park.

1. Chimpanzee Trekking In Kibale Forest

Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest National Park, though less iconic, perhaps, than mountain gorilla trekking adventure, is one of the most thrilling wildlife experiences in Africa.

True, it can be challenging to locate chimps in a forest jungle, but that is part of the adventure. And it’s difficult to think of any sound more spine-tingling than the explosive pant-hoot call with which chimps announce their presence.

On the Chimpanzee trekking adventure in Kibale, expert rangers guide will lead through the forest to find the habituated chimps. There are 2 chimpanzee trekking sessions; one starting at 8.00 am and another at 2.00 pm.

The trek can take between 2 to 5 hours, but once the chimps are located, time spent with them is strictly limited to one hour. These animals are entirely comfortable with the presence of their bipedal cousins and will feed, gambol and play without concern.

Kibale Forest Chimpanzee Trekking Fees

  • Foreign Non-resident Visitor: US$ 200
  • Foreign Resident Visitor: 150
  • East African Citizen: 150,000

READ MORE: Kibale Forest Budget Chimpanzee Trekking Tours

2. Chimpanzee Habituation Experience

Alternatively, a second option is the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX). This is a half- or full-day adventure that begins at 6.00 am and led by the researchers of the Kibale Forest National Park’s habituation team.

The goal is to gradually introduce unhabituated chimps to the presence of humans, a painstaking process that can take many years to accomplish.

It is slightly more expensive and needs much more patience than conventional chimpanzee trekking. It often involves venturing further into the depths of the rainforest jungle.

However, the reward is an unrivaled insight into the world of chimps with no time limits.

Kibale Forest Chimpanzee Habituation Experience Fees

  • Foreign Non-resident Visitor: US$ 250
  • Foreign Resident Visitor: 200
  • East African Citizen: 200,000

3. Birding In Kibale Forest National Park

On account of it’s over 375 bird species Kibale National Park is among the top best places for Uganda bird watching tours.

Bird watching in Kibale Forest is predominately in different types of forest (evergreen & deciduous) as well as swamps and grassland.

The rare Green-breasted Pitta is Kibale’s the most sought-after bird. A pre-dawn start and a good deal of luck and perseverance will be needed to locate this mythical low-density understory bird.

4. Nature Walks In Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale Forest National Park has well established hiking trails that you can walk and see a variety of forest inhabitants and plant life.

You can easily spot several species of monkeys and birds through the forest. And by chance you may encounter the Chimpanzees.

Things You Can Do Near Kibale Forest National Park

1. Bigodi Swamp Walk

On your Uganda safari tours to Kibale Forest National Park you are encouraged to visit Bigodi wetland Sanctuary which is located about 6km from the park.

The sanctuary is an award-winning local community initiative operated by the Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development (KAFRED).

It is aimed at protecting the local environment while advancing health, education, and economic growth in the wider local community.

Here you can take a 3 hour guided nature walk with a knowledgeable local guide.

On your swamp nature walk, you will likely see several kinds of monkeys, including Black and White Colobus, Red Colobus, Red Tailed, Grey Cheeked Mangabey, Olive Baboon, L’Hoest’s, Vervet, and Blue Monkeys.

The area also boasts over 200 bird species, including the colorful Great Blue Turacos.

2. Bigodi Cultural Village Walk

Aside from guided Bigodi swamp walk, KAFRED offers as well exciting walking cultural tours of 3 to 4 hours through Bigodi Village (“home of two tribes”).

You discover the Uganda rural village accompanied by a professional English-speaking local guide.

You can visit traditional healer who happily shares his knowledge about herbs, plants and local medicines.

You can also visit the homes of elderly men and women who tell interesting stories about birth, marriage, ceremonies, clans and traditional rural life. En route, you are given the chance to experience the Ugandan school system and tour Bigodi’s trading centre.

Are you interested in trying traditional Kitooro food? Watch local dancers? Buy local handicrafts? Stay overnight in a community home?

*With advance booking, KAFRED walks can be punctuated with a number of add-ons, including:

  • Traditional meals experience. You can indulge in a traditional Kitooro lunch of fresh, organic food under a thatched roof, with warm company to the background melodies of song birds.
  • Dance and drama. You can also sit back and watch local dancers and dramatists give traditional and educational performances.
  • Handicrafts demonstration. A local women’s group will demonstrate their meticulous crafts skills, using environmentally sustainable materials like agricultural residue and recycled paper to make baskets, and other crafts items. Baskets come in many shapes, sizes, and patterns and are available for onsite sale as well as export.
  • Homestead Tourism. Spend a night living the Kitooro way, in a community members’ home. Rooms and traditional meals provided. Food is organic and stories and dancers as complements.

3. Crater Lakes Exploration

Because Kibale National Park is within the Albertine Rift, there are many crater lakes around the park that mesmerize visitors on Uganda safari tours with their natural beauty.

Some of these lakes have Uganda safari lodges built on their crater rim boundaries. The lakeside areas are magnets for a wide variety of birds and other Uganda wildlife that you may have the chance to spot on your nature walks, hikes, or cycling excursions.

The most popular lake in the west of Kibale Forest National Park is Lake Nyinambuga, which has been featured on the Uganda 20,000 currency note.

Lake Nkuruba has possibly the most scenic views and is known by visitors as a great place to spot red colobus and black and white colobus monkeys.

4. Explore Amabere Ga Nyinamwiru Caves

Amabere Ga Nyinamwiru means “Breasts of Nyinamwiru”. The breast-like features in the cave are in fact live stalactite formations made of calcium carbonate.

The white-coloured water that drips off thus called breast milk by local Toro people. These people believe that breasts in the cave belonged to Nyinamwiru, the daughter of Bukuku who was a self-enthroned King of the Bachwezi.

Nyinamwiru’s father cut off her breasts to deny her the opportunity to breast feed her baby Ndahura as the father had been alerted that the child will take over his throne.

The cave is a good place to learn about the culture in this region of Uganda. From this site, you can also take a scenic hike to the top of the Nyakasura hill which offers spectacular views of three beautiful crater lakes.

You can as well visit the marking of a large foot in the area believed to belong to one of the last Batembuzi dynasty people who were giants.

6. Cycling Tour In Mpanga Tea Estate

This green tea plantation is spread over a beautiful undulating landscape with endless scenic views which makes it ideal to encounter on a mountain bikes.

On a cycling tour, you encounter the estate staff plucking tea and you are free to participate in the exercise to gain the exact touch.

7. Game viewing In Queen Elizabeth Park

Naturally, a safari game drive or two in the nearby Queen Elizabeth NP is a must. The park is home to over 600 bird and 95 mammal species, including the famous tree-climbing lions.

Here, you can enjoy relaxing boat cruise on Kazinga Channel is home to some of Africa’s densest concentration of hippos and waterbirds.

You can also explore the park’s beautiful savannah plains on morning, afternoon, evening and night game drives to see lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos, warthogs, crocodiles, a variety of antelopes, and more.

Accommodation In Kibale National Park

Pool At Crater Safari Lodge At Kibale Forest National Park

There is only one lodge inside the Kibale Forest National Park itself, but there are countless lodges, guest houses and tented camps on the periphery.

They include budget, mid-range, and luxury Uganda safari lodges and tented camps. Here are the best places to stay at Kibale:

  • Primate Lodge Kibale – Luxury
  • Crater Safari Lodge – Luxury
  • Kyaninga Lodge Kibale – Luxury
  • Ndali Lodge – Luxury
  • Papaya Lake Lodge – Luxury
  • Turaco Treetops – Midrange
  • Mountains of the Moon Hotel – Midrange
  • Chimpanzee Forest Guest House – Midrange/Budget
  • Kibale Forest Camp – Midrange/Budget

Kibale National Park Weather

The weather in Kibale National Park is moist and temperate. Temperatures stay almost the same year-round. Daytime temperatures are about 27°C/81°F, cooling off nightly to about 15°C/59°F.

Kibale lacks a real Dry season; rain is possible anytime. However, December through February are typically drier and so are June and July.

Two Wet seasons exist: March to May and August through November. It is recommended to bring waterproof clothing.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is Kibale the best place in Uganda to track chimps?

Yes, Kibale Forest National Park is statistically the best place to track chimpanzees in Uganda.

The habituated chimpanzee communities here are very used to people. so, your chances of locating them is over 95% and the quality of sightings is usually excellent.

However, Kibale Forest National Park is not the most affordable place to track chimpanzees in Uganda.

That distinction belongs to Budongo Forest Reserve near Murchison Falls National Park and Kalinzu Forest Reserve on the border of Queen Elizabeth National Park, which charges US$50 per person for a permit as compared to US$200 in Kibale.

Although Kalinzu Forest Reserve is not as reliable for sightings as Kibale, it has a very decent success rate of around 90%.

If you are on a really tight budget, it is certainly worth thinking about as a cheaper alternative.

2. How many days are recommended for Kibale Forest?

It is possible to visit Kibale Forest on a stand-alone 2-day Kibale National Park budget safari out of the capital Kampala or nearby Entebbe City. This is quite a rushed option, as the driving time is around 6 hours in either direction.

But it still leaves time to do the Bigodi Swamp Walk on the afternoon you arrive and a chimp trek the next morning.

An advantage of a 2-day safari tour is that you only pay for 1 night’s accommodation, which helps keep costs down.

Budget and time permitting, however, we would recommend at least 3 days for a stand-alone visit to Kibale, and 4 days or longer if you also want to visit other nearby national parks like Semuliki, Rwenzori Mountains, Queen Elizabeth and Bwindi.

3. Can I combine chimp trekking in Kibale with gorilla trekking?

Yes, plenty Uganda safari trips combine chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National Park with gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.

The two national parks are about 240 kilometers apart, a distance that can be covered in approximately 6 hours. If you don’t mind things being a little rushed you can squeeze both trekking activities into a 4-day Uganda safari.

However, if possible, we would recommend 5 to 6 days for a combined gorilla and chimpanzee trekking tour.

This will make for a far more relaxed safari adventure. And it allows you time along the way to visit Queen Elizabeth National Game Park and look for lion, elephant, buffalo, hippos, antelopes, and other plains Uganda wildlife.

4. How does Kibale compare with other chimp trekking places in Uganda?

In most respects, Kibale Forest National Park is the best place in Uganda for chimpanzee viewing. It offers the highest hit rate of any of the country’s chimpanzee trekking destinations.

Also, because the chimp community visited here has been habituated since the 1993, the chimpanzees are now very relaxed in the presence of people.

This means that when they do settle down, you will often enjoy extended close-up encounters of grooming and other interaction.

Two ways in which Kibale National Park compares unfavorably to other Uganda chimpanzee trekking destinations is that it is relatively expensive. For a more affordable chimp encounter, you can try Kalinzu Forest Reserve.

Another good off-the-beaten-track option is Budongo Forest, which is easily visited on the way to Murchison Falls National Park.

Both Kalinzu and Budongo Forests have a high success rate, though they are not quite as reliable as Kibale Forest.

5. Is a chimpanzee trekking trip in Kibale Forest National Park safe?

Chimpanzee tracking in Kibale Forest National Park is widely regarded to be safe. We have never heard of a visitor being injured by a chimpanzee.

Having said that, a large chimp is comparable in size to a human adult, and far stronger, so it is important to follow your guide’s instructions to ensure your safety.

Children under the age of 12, being smaller and more vulnerable than adults, are not allowed to go chimp trekking in Kibale.

For reasons of both safety and comfort, it is a good idea to wear good walking or hiking shoes, long-sleeved shirt and long trousers.

Tucking your trouser legs into your socks minimizes the risk of being attacked by safari ants (which are harmless but quite common and have a nasty bite) and other creepy-crawlies.

Neutral colors that blend into the bush (khaki, green, gray) are recommended, and a walking stick might be useful for navigating through tricky areas.

6. When To Visit Kibale Forest National Park?

The best time to visit this forest park is during the dry season when the trails are dry and passable. This runs from December to February and then from June to September.

Kibale is, however, a tropical rainforest, so every step should be taken in a comfortable pair of solid boots and long trousers, lest the mud, biting ants or stinging nettles detract from the adventure.

All electronics and other precious belongings should also be thoroughly waterproofed.

Rain is possible at any time of year, though April, May and November tend to experience higher rainfall levels.

The trails are well-maintained and suitable for most fitness levels, though those trekking chimpanzees should be prepared to walk for several hours if necessary.

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