Kibale Forest National Park is the best primate park in Africa. It has two notable distinctions that make it a superb safari destination in Uganda. First, the park has one of the highest diversity and concentration of primates in any habitat in Africa – a record 13 species. Second, it is home to a prolific 320 bird species including four that have not been recorded in any other park in Uganda. Not surprisingly, the two key activities that are done in Kibale Forest National Park are Chimpanzee Trekking and Bird Watching.
Kibale Forest National Park was gazetted as a forest reserve in 1932 and acquired National Park status in 1993. Today, it ranks among Africa’s foremost research sites. Kibale Forest National Park t is located in Southwestern Uganda stretches over 795sq. km of magnificent tropical rainforest interspersed with patches of grassland and swamp. Kibale Forest National Park is Uganda’s most accessible rainforest with good internal infrastructure managed by the local communities. It adjoins Queen Elizabeth National Park to the south to create a 180km-long migration corridor for wildlife between Ishasha in the remote southern corner of Queen Elizabeth National Park and Sebitoli in the north of Kibale.
Kibale Forest National Park
No park in Uganda can match the frequency and quality of chimpanzee encounters that one can experience in Kibale Forest. Of the 5000 estimated chimpanzees in Uganda, 1500 of them can be found in Kibale so naturally Chimpanzee Trekking is the park’s principal attraction. There are two daily trek departures from the main Park HQ at Kanyanchu River Camp to visit over 120 habituated chimps, but permits are on very high demand all year round and must be booked well in advance.
Visitors to the park can now take part in the full-day Chimpanzee Habituation Experince that focuses on desensitising the chimpanzees to the presence of human beings in their habitat as they go about their usual daily activities – the experience provides spectacular sightings and insight to the chimpanzees daily life. On a typical habituation, visitors watch the chimpanzees as they rise from their nests at sunrise and follow them throughout the day until they build nests for the night, at sunset.
Birders will have their binoculars glued to their faces as they try to keep up with the over 375 recorded species of birds in the park. On the western edge of the forest, the Bigodi swamp is home to the great Blue Turaco and 200 other species. Other popular sightings include: Nahan’s Francolin, Blue-headed bee-eater, Masked Apalis, Cassin’s Spinetail, Red-winged Francolin, White-naped Pigeon, Green-breasted Pitta, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, White-bellied Fly-catcher, Red-chested Flufftail, Uganda Woodland Warbler, Chestnut-winged Starling, Grey-winged Robin, and Grey-headed Olive-back.
The Forest is home to over 351 species of trees, many of which are well over 55m tall and over 200 years old. The trees provide a dense canopy that shelters diverse wildlife that can be explored on nature walks. 13 remarkable primate species including chimpanzee, L’Hoest’s monkey, red colobus monkey, red tailed monkey, vervet monkey, grey-cheeked Uganda Mangabay, blue monkey, olive baboon and black-and-white colobus monkey live in sizeable communities in the park. The Kibale Forest area is Uganda’s last stronghold of the red colobus, although small numbers still survive in Semiliki National Park. 70 mammal species have been registered including leopard, buffalo, bush pig, duiker, antelope and giant forest hog. Seasonal sightings have been reported of the elusive forest elephant that is smaller and hairier than its savannah counterpart. On nocturnal nature walks, visitors can watch bush babies, pottos and tree pangolins. Nature walks start from Kanyanchu or Sebitoli and can take 2-6 days, traversing the forest, crater lakes and local communities.
The park is located at the heart of the Tooro Kingdom and is a source of food fuel and medicine for local communities. Locals are predominantly Batooro, but also the Bakiga who have emigrated from the densely populated Southwest of Uganda. They use the forest as a source of food, fuel and medicine. A popular activity is the Top of the World Hike, a 3hr guided walk that takes in three neighbouring crater lakes, tea plantations and the local villages where guides explain the peoples way of life, their legends surrounding the crater lakes and their traditional roles in the vanilla and tea plantations
Kibale Forest National Park - What you need to know
Location And Getting There
Kibale Forest National Park is 1,100 – 1,590m above sea level and occupies an area of 795sq. km in the western districts of Kabarole and Kamwenge. You can get there by driving 6hours over 320kms from Kampala by road via Mubende and Fort Portal. It is also accessible by chartered flight from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airstrip in Kampala via Kasese airstrip. Close by is Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Climate And When To Visit
Kibale’s climate is generally pleasant with an average annual temperature range of 14 to 27C. The grasslands in the southern half of the park sit on the rift valley floor and experience higher temperatures and less rainfall while Northern Kibale is significantly wetter, receiving annual rainfall of 1700mm. The best time to track chimpanzees is usually during the dry seasons, but many visitors prefer the thrill of the experience during the rainy seasons in March – May and October – Mid December.