Kibale forest is also known as the primate capital of the world located in western Uganda approximately 320 kilometers from the capital Kampala which is about a 4 hours drive using a standard car. The forest has about 13 primate species including the Uganda mango bay, red colobus, L’Hoest monkeys and the chimpanzees being the major attractions. The park has area coverage of 795 kilometers with vast equatorial rain forests that harbor the closet human being primate- the chimpanzee which shares about 98.4% DNA with humans.
Just like humans, chimpanzees are intelligent, can communicate amongst each other and have good food gathering skills for survival.
The life expectancy of these amazing primates is roughly 40 years. A well grown chimpanzee grows at height of about 2-4 feet with a weight ranging from 35 to 70 kilograms.
Chimpanzees in Kibale forest move and stay in groups ranging from 10-50 searching for food; they mainly feed on leaves, flowers, forest fruits, seeds and many other edibles the forest provides. Chimpanzee females have some typical characteristics of human beings of taking care of their young ones tenderly, being very protective, and baby sitting their close friends young ones. The chimpanzee mothers take care of their young ones up to the age of four.
Chimpanzee Tracking Day
On this day, tourists are expected to be at the Kanyanchu visitor center early for briefing before heading to the jungle. The forest expedition then starts at 8:00 am for the morning session and 3:00 pm for the after noon sessions lasting for 2 to 3 hours depending on how near the chimpanzees are. Trekking can take a long time because chimpanzees are very mobile and therefore jump from one tree to another in search for food or while playing.
After getting a chimpanzee group, tourists are given time to watch and interact with them while taking photos and this may take about an hour. Flash photography and a lot of noise-making are however not allowed because it may distract the chimpanzees and even irritate them forcing them to attack you all which are very dangerous.
While in the forest, all tourists are required to avoid eating near chimpanzees, attempt to attack them and at least keep a distance of about 8 meters mainly because chimpanzees are wild animals and are very aggressive and unsociable incase provoked.
Important to note is that chimpanzees in Kibale forest national park are tracked in groups of six to minimize disease spread and minimize chances of behavioral changes. Earlier bookings are therefore highly recommended in order not to miss out on the unforgettable experience.
For safety and security purposes, Kibale forest national park has rules and regulations that all tourists must follow for example accessing the forest with the help of a guide, not allowing children below 12 years because the chimpanzee experience may traumatize them, avoiding flash photography, strictly following the guides instructions and keeping the tracking tourist groups.
Apart from tracking, tourists can also be allowed to take part in the chimpanzee habituation process. This is where tourists are allowed to be with chimpanzee researchers and habituates following the chimpanzee’s daily activities of feeding, hunting, de-nesting until they rest. This is a full day activity intended to make chimpanzees get used to human beings presence in their habitats without altering their normal characteristics.
Tracking chimpanzees in Kibale forest is an advantage because it gives one a chance to view many other forest dwellers especially the impressive bird species (the forest has over 370 species), other primates like monkeys, beautiful butterflies and the evergreen plants and flowers.
The major essentials one should have while going for chimpanzee tracking in Kibale forest include a water proof gear since rains are unpredictable and can occur at any time of the day, strong shoes with a good grip or boots to enable easy movement through the muddy areas in the forest plus a walking stick, enough drinking water and snacks because the chimpanzees may be got after long hours of trekking; and binoculars or a good camera for taking photographs.
Chimpanzees can be tracked at any time of the year but the best experiences can be got during the dry season because of limited rain fall disturbances.
The forest can be accessed by road and air transport; by road from Kampala via Kasese or Kampala via Mubende and fort portal or from Kampala via Mbarara and Kamwenge. This can be using a 4×4 or a local bus. Using air transport, charter planes fly from Kampala or Entebbe to Kasese airstrip 75 kilometers from Fort portal, or to the airstrip in Semuliki wild life reserve which is 86 kilometers from Kanyanchu (Kibale forest visitor’s center) or to the Nyakisharara in Mbarara 98 kilometers from Kanyanchu.
Those who would love to spend more days in the forested national park to learn more about the forest has in stock should not worry about accommodation and meals because the park has various lodges that offer standard meals and accommodation facilities. They include; primate lodge Kibale, Kanyanchu river camp and Sebitoli camping ground; these are within the parks proximity. Accommodation facilities outside the park include; Kibale safari lodge, chimp’s nest, Kibale forest camp, crater valley Kibale lake side resort and many others.
Would you like to enjoy chimpanzee tracking? Most Uganda safaris include chimpanzee tracking or habituation as one of the major highlights. Kibale National Park is the third most popular national park and many tour operators offer fully inclusive tours including watching these primates in their natural home.