Kibale Forest National Park covers an area of 795 square kilometres over varied altitudes. Kibale is highest at the park’s northern tip, which stands 1,590m above sea level. The lowest point is 1,100m on the floor of the Albertine Rift Valley to the south.
351 tree species have been recorded in the park, some rise to over 5 meters and are over 200 years old.
The park’s unique location – on the edge of the wet forests of West Africa and the savannah plains of East Africa means it can support a variety of flora and fauna.
The park is home to the largest of Uganda’s chimpanzee populations, which stand at more than 1,500 members and is the best place to trek to see wild habituated chimpanzees in Africa. Despite its many attractions, it is the chimpanzees that draw visitors to track/go on a trek to see and encounter man’s closest relative – the chimpanzees.
There are a total of 13 species to be found here, which, aside from the chimpanzees include the grey-cheeked mangabey, endangered red colobus, black and white colobus, blue monkey, olive baboon, potto, bush baby, red-tailed monkey and the rarely seen L’Hoest’s monkey.
Kibale is also prolific for birds with over 375 species recorded such as the endemic Kibale Forest thrush, great blue turacos and the African grey parrot. Kibale adjoins Queen Elizabeth National Park to the south to create a 180km long corridor for wildlife between Ishasha, the remote southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, and Sebitoli in the north of Kibale National Park.
The Kibale-Fort Portal area is one of Uganda’s most rewarding destinations to explore. The park lies close to the tranquil Ndali-Kasenda crater area and within half a day’s drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park, Rwenzori Mountains and Semuliki National Parks, as well as the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve.
Getting to Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale Forest National Park can be easily reached from Kampala either from the north via Mubende and Fort Portal, OR from Mbarara and Kamwenge in the south.
Accommodation in Kibale Forest National Park
Visitors to Kibale Forest National Park can choose from levels of comfort including budget lodge, mid-range lodge and luxury lodge. Some of these lodges include; Primate Lodge Kibale, Kyaninga Lodge, Chimpanzee Forest Guest House, Isunga Lodge, Crater Safari Lodge, Kibale Forest Camp among others.
Things to do and see in Kibale Forest National Park
Chimpanzee Trekking & Habituation
Visitors to Kibale Forest National Park can take on one of two major activities – either to track chimpanzees or go on a chimpanzee habituation experience.
A chimpanzee trek provides visitors the chance to observe chimpanzees in their natural habitat – either on the forest floor or high in the canopies of the fig trees that are dominant in Kibale forest. Once encountered, visitors stay in the chimpanzees’ presence for 1 hour.
A chimpanzee habituation experience is similar to the trek but different as visitors locate the chimpanzees and spend 4 hours in their presence as they go about their day. It is a much more active activity as you have got to keep up with the agile chimpanzees especially when they are on the move.
The chimpanzees in Kibale have been tracked since 1993 and the chances of locating them are excellent. Guided walks start at 8.00am and 2.00pm and last an average of three hours other factors remaining constant.
The chimps in Kibale are accustomed to human presence as some of these groups have been observed for over 25 years. The chances of locating them is over 90% – way better than anywhere in East Africa.
A chimpanzee habituation experience enables visitors to accompany researchers, rangers and guides into the forest for an experience that lasts more than 1-hour. The chimpanzee groups involved in the habituation exercise are less accustomed to the presence of humans.
The habituation experience is available on a full or half day basis. Early visitors can watch chimps leave their overnight nests between 6.00am-6.30am before feeding copulating, hunting, breastfeeding, resting, patrolling and displaying until it is time to build new nests around 7pm.
Please note that the habituation experience can be very strenuous as the chimpanzees are highly mobile – moving fast across the forest floor in search for food throughout the forest. Also, chimpanzees are wild animals and as such, sightings cannot be guaranteed. However, viewing success rates are over 70%.
Birding in Kibale
Kibale Forest National Park is a prime birding spot with about 375 bird species, including six Albertine Rift endemics. It is an excellent birding spot with habitats ranging from wet and dry tropical forests to woodland and savannah.
Kibale is prolific for forest robins, scores of brown and scaly-breasted illadopses, brown-chested alethe, green-breasted pitta, phantom-like black-eared and Abyssinian ground-thrushes, crowned eagle, red-chested owlet, African grey parrot, African fin-foot, hulking great blue turaco and a lot more.
Visit Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary
Located just outside the park itself, the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is a highlight of the area, a community-run reserve that provides a great example of how tourism and local communities can work hand-in-hand to benefit the environment. The sanctuary has over 138 bird species and at least five primate species. We usually recommend a visit in the afternoon for those guests that are active and energetic. A visit to the wetland should not be missed by birders as its prolific for birds.
Visitors can choose a number of hikes including a nocturnal walk, a forest hike through Kibale Forest itself, a hike via 3 crater lakes referred to as the ‘top of the world hike’ and more.
The 12kilometre hike within Kibale forest (best during the dry season) lasts about half the day and takes visitors through rainforest jungle, swamplands and more. As you hike through different terrain, you see lots of birds, butterflies and lots of other primates beside chimpanzees. Within Kibale forest are also forest elephants, which you might see on the trail.
Visitors can also go on a Nocturnal Forest Walk in Kibale Forest. It is a 2-hour leisurely walk accompanied by Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers who carry powerful spotlights to enable you see the animals and birds of the night. Listening to the sounds of the night you will sport birds of the night such as owls and nightjars. Mammals you will spot on hear include pottos, bush babies and the tree hyrax, with its chilling shriek.
Visitors can also take on the so-called ‘Top of the World Hike’. The 3-hour hike takes you through villages, close to people’s gardens and tea plantations. This hike offers you the opportunity to meet the people, children will wave at you. There are 3 crater lakes along the way that you will see. The hike takes moderate effort and can be attempted by everyone. You marvel at the beauty of the crater lakes and other beautiful scenery including the Rwenzori Mountains on the horizon and the plains of Queen Elizabeth National Park in the distance.