Kibale National Park


7 Days Uganda Safari, Gorillas, Chimp, Wildlife, Community, & Lake Bunyonyi

Kibale National Park

The 776 km2 Kibale National Park is a lush tropical rainforest in western Uganda. The forest is reputable for having the highest density and diversity of primates in Africa.

Kibale Forest is most recommended for travelers seeking to see chimpanzees on their Uganda safaris. It is home to over 1500 wild chimpanzees and the forest is the best place to visit in Africa if you want to get close to man’s closest living relatives in the wild.

The chimpanzees of Kibale National Park have been tracked since 1993. The park offers a successful tracking rate of about 95%. This is far greater than any other location which offers chimpanzee trekking in Uganda, Rwanda, Congo or Tanzania.

Kibale Forest National Park is also home to 12 other primate species, with the rare red colobus and L’Hoest’s monkeys the other highlights.

Larger and rarely seen residents/Uganda animals include bushbucks, blue duikers, sitatunga, giant forest hogs, bush pigs, buffaloes, leopards, and about 500 elephants.

On the smaller side, Kibale National Park has a great bird list of about 375 species, including 6 endemics, among them the gorgeous Green Breasted Pitta. There are also an incredible 250 butterfly species that live here.

Where Is Kibale Forest Located?

Kibale Forest National Park is located in the western Uganda. The park is about 326km (5 hour drive) from Uganda’s capital city, Kampala. It is positioned about 26 km (1-hour drive) south-east of the beautiful Fort Portal City.

Kibale National Park situated close to the tranquil Ndali-Kasenda crater area. It is also located near Semuliki National Park and the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains or the “Mountains of the Moon”.

To the southwest, Kibale National Park forms a continuous forest with Queen Elizabeth National Park (famous for its tree-climbing lions).

This adjoining of the two nation parks creates a 180 kilometer wildlife corridor, in which African bush elephants move freely.

Kibale National Park’s varied altitude of 1,100 m to 1,600 m results in different diversities of habitat. These ranges from moist evergreen forest along the Fort Portal plateau. Then through the dry tropical forest. And then to the woodland and savanna along Africa’s Great Rift Valley floor.

Top Kibale National Park Attractions

1. Chimpanzees In Kibale Forest

Chimpanzee in Kibale National Park, Uganda
Chimpanzee In Kibale National Park, Uganda

Chimpanzees in Kibale Forest may get less hype in the travel media than majestic mountain gorillas of Uganda. But seeing our closest living relatives in the rainforest jungle of Kibale is one of the most thrilling Africa safari wildlife experiences.

About 300,000 chimpanzees left on Earth in Africa’s equatorial forests. And Kibale National Park is the best place to do so as its home to over 1500 wild chimps. These Great Apes 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 safaris in Uganda.

2. Twelve Other Primate Species To See In Kibale

Chimpanzees aside, a Uganda safari to Kibale National Park also offers you a great opportunity to see 12 other primate species.

Kibale is home to large troop of colobus monkeys, as well as olive baboon, red-colobus, and red-tailed monkeys. 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 safari 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.

Here Is A List The 12 Other Primate Species In Kibale:

Black-and-White Colobus Monkey in a tree in Kibale National Park
Black-and-White Colobus Monkey in a tree in Kibale National Park
  • Olive Baboon
  • Bush baby
  • Potto
  • Black-and-white colobus monkey
  • Vervet monkey
  • Blue monkey
  • Grey Cheeked mangabey
  • Ugandan red colobus
  • L’Hoest’s monkey
  • Red tailed monkey
  • Uganda mangabey
  • De Brazza’s monkey

3. 375 Species Of Birds In Kibale Forest

Kibale National Park is a prime spot for bird watching tours in Uganda. The park has 375 species, including 6 Albertine Rift endemics. The most sought after bird species in Kibale is the rare and gorgeous Green-breasted Pitta.

Kibale Forest is also home to various forest robins, Afep and the rare and globally threatened White-naped Pigeon, brown and scaly-breasted illadopses, joyful and Toro olive greenbuls, grey-throated, and yellow-spotted and yellow-billed barbets.

Other Kibale Forest specials include:

  • Dusky crimsonwing
  • African Pitta
  • Narina Trogon
  • African Grey Parrot
  • Black bee-eater
  • Brown-chested alethe,
  • Great blue Turaco
  • Crowned eagle
  • Black-capped Apalis
  • Collared apalis
  • Blue-throated roller
  • Red-chested owlet,
  • Blue-headed Sunbird
  • Red-faced Woodland Warbler
  • Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo
  • Crowned Eagle
  • Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird
  • Western Nicator
  • Abyssinian Thrush
  • Blue-breasted Kingfisher

4. Other Animals In Kibale

While the primates and birds tend to take center stage on a Uganda tour in Kibale National Park, there are in fact 70 species of mammals present in Kibale’s lush flora, though they are not easy to see. If you are lucky you might see:

  • Blue Duiker
  • Bushbuck
  • Common Warthog
  • Sitatunga
  • Giant Forest Hog
  • Bushpig
  • African Buffalo
  • Leopard
  • African Elephant
  • Mongoose

5. Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary

Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is an ecotourism site situated in Bigodi Village at the edge of Kibale Forest National Park.

It is an award-winning local community tourism 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.

The wetland has become known as the “bird paradise”, with over 200 bird species. It also hosts 8 primate species, including:

  • Olive baboons
  • Grey-cheeked mangabey
  • Black and white colobus monkey
  • Blue monkey
  • Vervet monkey,
  • L’Hoest’s monkey.
  • Red-tailed monkey

Amabere (Breasts) Caves

Amabere Caves near Kibale Forest are a historic site that is believed to be the birthplace of the founding King of the Bachwezi.

The main cave is small and supported by pillar like formations of stalagmites and stalactites. The Amabere means Breasts were named after the live stalactites that form in the caves. The stalactites were believed to be resemble the breasts of a woman.

Here you can learn a lot about culture in this region of Ugandan.

The Beautiful Crater Lakes

Crater Lake Near Kibale National Park in Uganda
Crater Lake Near Kibale National Park in Uganda

Kibale National Park is surrounded by several crater lakes that captivate visitors on Uganda safaris with their natural beauty.

Some lakes have safari lodges built on their crater rim boundaries, which you can choose to book for your stay.

The lakeside areas are magnets for birds and other wildlife that you may have the chance to spot on your nature walks, hikes, or cycling excursions.

Best Activities To Do In & Around Kibale Forest

1. Chimpanzee Trekking

Because of the big population of Chimps, Kibale National Park is the prime destination for Chimpanzee trekking tours in Uganda. Chimp treks takes place in the morning at 8.00 am and afternoon at 2 pm.

The trek usually last 2 – 6 hours with up to one hour spent with the chimps. Kibale has a 95% success rate of seeing wild chimpanzee.

The Kibale Forest chimp trek is not difficult like the Uganda gorilla trekking adventure in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This due to the relatively easier terrain of Kibale Forest National Park. And the territories of the habituated Chimps are not far off from the starting points. Basic fitness is enough.

Chimpanzee Tracking Permit Fees

  • Foreign Non-Resident – USD 200
  • Foreign Resident – USD 150
  • East African Citizen – UGX 15,000

2. Chimpanzee Habituation Experience

If an hour with the chimps isn’t enough for you, then Kibale National Park also offers a Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX).

On this Uganda safari adventure, you spend a full day following the chimpanzee community currently undergoing the 2-year habituation process.

You track them s as they crash through the forest undergrowth or swing through the tree tops. If you’re lucky, you will feel your heart race in excitement as the apparently playful chimps turn killers on the hunt for colobus monkeys. This is also a good activity for observing so much of what Kibale Forest National Park offers.

However, you need to be prepared for a fair bit of brisk hiking. Chimpanzees can move fast. But it will be worth it for the rewards of a more intimate chimpanzee encounter.

Chimpanzee Habituation Experience Permit Fees

  • Foreign Non-Resident – USD 250
  • Foreign Resident – USD 200
  • East African Citizen – UGX 20,000

3. Bird Watching In Kibale Forest

On account of it’s over 375 bird species Kibale National Park is among the top 10 Uganda birding spots.

Birding 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. Kibale Forest Nature Walks

Kibale 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.

Nature Walk Fees

  • Foreign Non-Resident – USD 30
  • Foreign Resident – USD 15
  • East African Citizen – UGX 10,000

5. Bigodi Swamp Walk

On your Uganda wildlife tour to Kibale Forest you are encouraged to visit Bigodi wetland. Here you can take a 3 hour guided nature walk offered by KAFRED.

You will not only observe the abundant birdlife and primates but also contribute to its conservation. Income from this activity is invested in education, health, sanitation, and improving the livelihood of local residents.

Bigodi Swamp Walk Fees

  • Foreign Non-Resident – USD 23
  • Foreign Resident – USD 20
  • East African Citizen – UGX 10,000

6. Bigodi Cultural Village Walk

Aside from guided Bigodi swamp walk, KAFRED offers as well an exciting cultural walking tour of 3 to 4 hours. You discover the Uganda rural village of Bigodi accompanied by a professional English-speaking local guide.

You visit a traditional healer who happily shares his knowledge about herbs, plants and local medicines. You 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 you will visit Bigodi’s trading centre, a hub of rural life and activity.

Bigodi Village Walk Fees

  • Foreign Non-Resident – USD 20
  • Foreign Resident – USD 15
  • East African Citizen – UGX 10,000

7. Traditional Meals Experience

If you would like to learn about or taste a real traditional Kitooro lunch on your Kibale Forest safari in Uganda, then you can visit Tinka family in Bigodi.

You’ll be immersed in authentic African traditions as you are enjoying fresh, organic food underneath a thatched roof. During your meal, you’ll learn more about food traditions in Uganda, ways a preparation and local stories.

Accommodation Choices For Kibale National Park

There is a range of accommodation options where you can stay during your Kibale National Park wildlife safari in Uganda. They include budget, midrange, and luxury Uganda safari lodges and tented camps.

  • 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

How To Get To Kibale National Park

By Car

Kibale National Park’s chimp trekking trailhead at Kanyanchu is about 26km (1-hour drive) southeast of the town of Fort Portal.

Fort Portal is about 320 (5-6 hours) drive from Kampala. The 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 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.

When To Visit Kibale National Park

Kibale National Park is accessible throughout the year, but 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.

Our Popular Uganda Safari Itineraries Featuring Kibale Forest

These Uganda safari tour packages will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Kibale National Park. Treat them as inspiration, because your Uganda trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.

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