Kibale Forest National Park boasts a huge concentration of primates including over 1500 chimpanzees that make it exceptionally the best chimpanzee trekking destination in Africa. A total of 13 primate species live in Kibale rainforest making it a true primate capital of the world. This beautiful primate safari park was gazetted in 1993 and covers the land area of about 795sq.kms. It is largely comprised of a lush tropical forest and lies between altitude 1100 and 1590m.
To the southern side, Kibale Forest National Park is contingent with Queen Elizabeth National Park. This particular part consists of the Dura and Mpanga Rivers that empty their water into Lake George. About half of Kibale National Park consists of forest vegetation zones, mostly medium-altitude moist evergreen forest to the North and to the lower altitude area (the South) consists of moist semi-deciduous forest.
Kibale National Park is a tropical forest and primate park located in Western Uganda, approximately 6 hours’ drive and from Fort Portal city, it is 26km away. It is one of the charming places worth visiting in Uganda.
It is strategically lying at proximity to the scenic Ndali-Kasenda Crater region and from Queen Elizabeth National Park, about 3 hours’ drive. It is also bordered by other spectacular protected areas in western Uganda including Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve, Semuliki National Park and Rwenzori Mountains National Park.
Tourist Attractions in Kibale National Park.
The Primates & Wildlife
Kibale Forest National Park is a significant natural habitat to a range of unique attractions. The park is largely comprised of 13 species of primates, these include a total of over 1500 chimpanzees, majority of which have undergone habituation and they can be visited for chimpanzee tracking adventures.
Other primates in Kibale are: the endangered red colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, vervet monkeys, olive baboons, blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, pottos, bush babies, l’hoest monkeys, mangabeys and more.
Other wildlife living in Kibale Forest: duikers, bush pigs, leopards, elephants, buffaloes, reptiles, amphibians and more than 200 butterfly species. A total of about 351 species of trees have also been recorded in Kibale National Park alone and most of them are of research purposes.
Kibale National Park is also a valuable habitat to a range of birdlife. Over 375 bird species have been registered in Kibale alone and they include 4 native species of birds: the masked apalis, blue headed bee-eaters, Cassin’s spinetail and Nahan’s francolins.
Other Kibale bird species check-list include the African green breasted pitta, blue breasted kingfishers, collared apalis, black capped apalis, crowned eagles, Abyssinian ground thrush, little greenbul, yellow rumped tinkerbird, black eared ground thrush, yellow spotted nicator, purple breasted sunbird, dusky crimson wings, Cameroon sombre greenbul, black billed turacos, African wood owl, African black headed oriole, African green pigeon, papyrus canary, brown eared woodpecker, ash flycatcher, African emerald cuckoo and more.
Kibale Forest National Park is situated in an area with several Crater Lakes in the surrounding. They include Lake Nyinabulitwa, Lake Nyinabuga, Lake Nyabikere, Lake Nkuruba and others.
History of Kibale Forest National Park.
In 1932, Kibale was gazetted as a logged forest area by the British. It was a source of timber for the British especially when there was demand for hardwood timber to construct the Kilembe copper mines.
It was later established as a forest reserve in 1948 under the British management, but they continued cutting down trees and planted exotic species. In 1993, Kibale was officially gazetted as a National Park in Uganda. In 1994, it was managed by Uganda National Parks and in 1996, the Uganda National Parks were merged forming the present Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
Top Activities in Kibale Forest National Park.
Chimpanzee trekking/tracking is the main highlight of all visits to Kibale National Park, Uganda. The park protects a large primate population with chimpanzee record of about 1500. There are several chimpanzee communities already undergone through habituation, making the park the best for chimpanzee tracking. The chimpanzee treks are conducted starting from Kanyanchu where briefing about chimpanzee tracking rules is done.
Tracking chimpanzees at Kibale National Park is for tourists with valid permits. Each chimpanzee permit Kibale costs USD200. You can book Kibale chimpanzee tracking permits via a reliable local tour operator or directly with Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Chimpanzee habituation experience – CHEX is an extra-ordinary primate adventure Kibale National Park is known for. Unlike the usual 2-4 hours of tracking chimpanzees, CHEX takes full day or half day of visitors following semi/unhabituated chimpanzee community.
The idea is all about making these apes get used to human presence prior being visited by tourists on actual chimpanzee tracking.
Birding in Kibale forest.
Birding in Kibale is possible anywhere, as soon as you enter the park, birds can be spotted. There are 375 species of birds living in Kibale Forest including superb sunbird, yellow spotted barbet, white spotted fluff tail, white collared olive back, white winged warblers, papyrus gonoleks, little greenbul, black capped apalis, brown chested alethe, Abyssinian ground thrush, African green breasted pitta, masked apalis, blue headed sunbird, red faced woodland warblers and more.
In the adjacent to Kibale forest National Park, Bigodi Wetland is another significant birding spot. The wetland supports at least 138 bird species and it is the best location to find the Great blue turaco.
Forest / Nature walks
Nature walks in Kibale introduce you into the park’s verdant rainforest. This is rich with primates, birds, colorful butterflies and floral species. There are different rewarding trails to start your walk including 12kms long walk trail taking about 5-6 hours.
Bushcraft is an ideal activity for children, they engage in it while adults go for chimpanzee tracking. They get to learn a number of things including plants and other tree species, etc.
After your primate walk in Kibale National Park, don’t forget to visit the Batooro community. These have unique cultures, dances, traditions, etc worth exploring. At the adjacent to Kibale, there are native Batooro and Bakiga immigrants.
Best time to visit Kibale Forest National Park.
Kibale Forest National Park open for tourism all year-round. But the dry season is the best because the trails are drier and it makes it easier walking through the forest while searching for chimpanzees. The dry months in Kibale start from June to September, December to February.
Accommodation in Kibale Forest National Park.
Places to stay in and around Kibale National Park include: Kyaninga Lodge, Ndali Lodge, Papaya Lake Lodge, Primate Lodge, Turaco Treetops, Crater Safari Lodge, Isunga Lodge, Kibale forest Lodge, Chimpanzee Forest Guesthouse and more.
Getting to the park.
Kibale National Park is a long distance from Kampala capital city, about 6-7 hours’ drive. Enroute, you drive through towns of Mityana, Mubende, Kyegegwa, Kyenjojo and Fort Portal.