Kibale Forest National Park is one of the most attractive national parks in Uganda with varied tracts of tropical rain forest and a multiplicity of animals. It is located in western Uganda slightly off the Equator but yet a rain forest. The annual temperature ranges between 14-27C and is generally cool unless you visit the south where the altitude is lower tending to the hot rift valley bed.
It is the “primate capital of East Africa” with 13 different primate species. It is home to more than 1,450 chimpanzee protected within its borders of 795km2. It is by far the best place to see Chimps in East Africa. The chimpanzees have been habituated for over 16 years giving you a chance to see the great apes in their natural environment. Children have to be 15 years and above to track the Chimpanzees. If younger they can opt to see chimpanzees at Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary.
The forest’s varied altitude supports different habitats from woodland, Savannah, to wet tropical forest and semi-deciduous dry tropical forest which make the park to be a great habitat for numerous wildlife.
Wildlife in Kibale National Park
Animals in Kibale national park
The mammal species in Kibale forest are estimated at 60 and include leopards, duikers, antelopes, forest elephants, forest buffaloes, golden cats, warthogs, and bush pigs. These are rare to see unlike the ones in the Savannah grasslands because they are shy and have limited human interactions. On a given day you might sight a few elephants or only find footprints as you move in the forest and on rare occasion’s sight them.
However the main attraction are the 13 species of primates that reside in Kibale forest with chimpanzees being the prime attraction. The primates include bush babies, L’Hoest’s monkey, red colobus monkey, red-tailed monkey, black-and-white colobus monkey, grey-cheeked mangabey, olive baboon, blue monkey, Vervet monkeys, Potto and Chimpanzees.
Birds in Kibale National Park
Kibale forest is a prime birding spot and is home to over 375 bird species including six endemic to the Albertine Rift area. It is an excellent birding spot because of its varied habitat and dense vegetation that give birds a safe haven and plenty of food to feed on. Birding usually happens early in the morning and late evenings for the nocturnal birds.
Green breasted Pitta is one of the main attraction for birders visiting the park. Other bird species to look out for include; Red-chested owlet, Purple breasted sunbird, African Grey Parrot, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Crowned Eagle, little Greenbul, Black Bee eater, White-naped pigeon, andScaly-breasted Illadopsis,Western bronze-napped Pigeon, Nahan’s Francolin, Yellow-throated Nicator, White-headed Wood-hoopoe, Red Headed malimbe , Yellow-spotted barbet , Dusky-blue Flycatcher etc.
Amphibians and Butterflies in Kibale National Park
The park is home to over 250 species of butterflies, several reptiles, and amphibians. You need to be keen to spot the reptiles and amphibians but the butterflies will be ‘all over the place’. So as you hike through the forest in search of chimpanzees and other primates, enjoy the sighting the different colorful butterflies.
Safaris and Activities in Kibale National Park
Chimpanzee Trekking in Kibale National Park
Chimpanzees are the prime attraction for many visiting Kibale national park. The Chimpanzees here in Kibale forest have been tracked since 1993. Chimpanzee trekking is done twice a day i.e. early morning at 8am and afternoon at 2pm, therefore you have an opportunity to choose which time is conducive for you but morning is highly recommended. You will meet for briefing from the ranger guide way before the trek taking you through the expectations while in the forest and share more about the wildlife in the park. They are early trackers who go before you and will communicate information on where chimps nested the previous night and where they are located – but remember they keep moving. You need to be ready to walk long distances and carry along rain poncho because in a tropical forest it rains anytime. Other items include long sleeved shirt and pants, comfortable waterproof boots, binoculars, camera, insect repellant.
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience in Kibale National Park
Chimpanzee are habituated over a period of 2 years before they get used to humans and then chimp tracking can begin. The CHEX (Chimpanzee habituation experience) happens every morning, a visitor goes along with the rangers and research staff and watch chimps leaving their overnight nests before they start their daily activities, feeding, hunting, copulating, breastfeeding, patrolling and resting until they break off for the night by building new nests at about 7pm. When this process is repeated over time, the Chimps get used to humans and that family is included on those that can be tracked.
Bird watching in Kibale National Park
Birding in Kibale forest is a rewarding experience, bird walks start at 7am every morning but you need to book early so the rangers are expecting you. The park is home to a variety of birds including the Albertine rift endemics. Morning focus for any birder in Kibale forest is to search for the Green breasted pitta. Other species includeGrey-throated FlycatcherGrey-winged Robin, Crested Flycatcher,Blue shouldered Robin Chat, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Black-billed Turaco, White-naped Pigeon, Red-chested Fluff tail, White-collared Olive-backWhite-bellied, Masked Apalis, Nahan’s Francolin, Tiny Sunbird, and many more.
Nature and Hiking walks
The forest is rich in variety and the chimpanzee trekking may not give you enough time to take in all that the forest offers because you are focused on location the chimps. There is an option of a 12km hike through the forest. Here you are able to spot more variety of birds and animals. On a lucky day, you may encounter bush pigs, duikers, and or elephants. This is available in the dry season (December – February and June – September) because the wet season most of the trail is impassable. There is also an option of night walks to see the nocturnal when the other forest inhabitants rest. The rangers use powerful torches to seek nocturnal such as bush baby, hyrax, potto and occasionally serval cat and civet. These walks last 2.5hours and leave at 7pm.
Community walks and Cultural experiences
There are several community initiatives and cultural experiences to engage in once you visit Kibale forest. Bigodi Wetland sanctuary is a community initiative to preserve the rich eco system along the wetland. The wetland is a birders haven with about 138 species. Magombe swamp which hosts eight species of primates. All these are under the management of the community. Visit a women’s project, where you can purchase handmade crafts to support them. Prepare, and or enjoy a traditional meal at Tinka’s place. Visit a local school.
Routes to Kibale National Park
You can access the park from Entebbe International airport for scheduled/charter flights to Kasese Airstrip which is an hour from Kibale national park or drive from Kampala via Fortportal to Kibale forest ( recommended direct route). Alternatively, Kampala – Mbarara – Kibale forest via Ibanda (in case you have a stopover there for an activity) and finally from Queen Elizabeth national park – Kasese – Fortportal – Kibale forest or Queen Elizabeth national park – Kasese – Kasekende craters – Kibale national park.
Kibale national park Safari Lodges and Camps
- Kyaninga Lodge
- Mountains of the moon Hotel
- Rwenzori View Guest house
- The Dutchess
- Papaya Safari Lodge
- Ndali Lodge
- Crater Safari Lodge
- Crater Valley Kibale (CVK) Lakeside Resort
- Lake Nkuruba nature reserve
In the park
- Primate Lodge
- Kanyanchu River Camp
- Sebitoli Camping Ground (northern sector)
- Southern sector
- Chimps nest
- Chimpanzee Guest house
- Kibale forest camp
- Kibale Forest Lodge