This 795sqkm national park just outside Fort Portal is made up of dense tropical rain forest, within which dwell enormous numbers of primates the park is known to be the primate capital, Kibale forest national park has 13 different primates. If you can’t afford the lavish cost of mountain gorilla trekking, then visiting one of the five habituated groups of chimpanzees here is a very worthy substitute, not to mention a far less financially draining one. Also regularly seen here are the rare red colobus and L’Hoest’s monkeys, the grey checked mangabey etc. The Kibale- Fort Portal area is one of the country’s utmost rewarding destinations to explore, the park lies close to the tranquil Ndali-Kasenda crater area and within a half a day’s drive of the Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori Mountains and Semuliki National parks, as well as the Toro-Semuliki Wildlife Reserve.
Kibale Forest National Park is an extensive National Park that protects a large block of rain forest that offers some excellent forest for bird watching. It harbours the greatest variety and concentration of primates found anywhere in East Africa. Superb birds and primates combined with easy access, a good infrastructure and a variety of interesting activities make this forest a worthwhile Uganda safari top tourist destination. Many of the facilities are community based, thus it provides the local community with the necessary revenue to keep their interest focused on the long-term protection of the area.
This area is particularly occupied by two local tribes the Batooro and Bakiga traditionally both tribes utilized the forest for food, fuel, building materials and medicine from the leaves, barks of the trees, roots and so on.
Kibale forest National Park is located in the Western part of Uganda in the district of Kamwenge about 450km from the capital city Kampala and can be driven in just about 5-6 hours. It is one the newly created parks having been a forest reserve and it has been a national park since 1995 when it was gazetted. Kibale Forest national park is situated on approximately 785sqkm and it borders Queen Elizabeth national park in the northern end, most of the park’s southwestern part is a mixture of grassland and wetlands with quiet a lot of interesting plant life and then the north and southeastern part is majorly tropical forest with about 345 tree species as recorded in the area and this is approximately 27% of the country’s total.
Kibale Forest National Park is one of Africa’s foremost research sites. While many researchers focus on the Chimpanzees and other primates found in the park, others are investigating Kibale’s ecosystems, wild pigs and fish species, among other topics. Kibale Forest National Park contains one of the loveliest and most varied tracts of the tropical forest in the pearl of Africa. The forest cover interspersed with patches of grassland and swamp, dominates the northern and central parts of the park on an elevated plateau.
Kibale is famously known for chimpanzee tracking, the park is home to approximately 70 mammal species, most famously 13 primate species including the chimpanzee. It also contains about 375 bird species.
ACTIVITIES IN KIBALE FOREST NATIONAL PARK
On reaching the park, tourists are engaged in various activities which make their safari worth it. Some of the activities that tourists engage in when they are in Kibale Forest National Park are;
Chimpanzees are the prime attractions for many visiting Kibale Forest National Park. Chimpanzee trekking has been happening in the park since the year 1993, the activity is done twice a day that is to say early in the morning around 8am and then in the afternoon at about 2pm, and there you will have an opportunity to choose which time is better for you, usually morning hours are highly recommended and are better than afternoon. After your breakfast you usually go to the park headquarters for briefing from the park ranger guide before you set out in search of the chimpanzees. In most cases trackers go before you and search for where the chimpanzees nested the previous night and where they are located, they then relay this information to the ranger guide to the lead you towards their location. While doing chimpanzee trekking you need to be ready to walk long distances and carry along rain poncho because in the tropical forest it can rain anytime. And so doing this activity you need to have long sleeved shirt and pants, comfortable waterproof boots, binoculars, camera, insect repellent.
Kibale is known for being the best destination for chimpanzee tracking safaris. While on your Uganda safari, Kibale forest guarantees the best views of the endangered primates, the forest has been ranked as the best destination in East Africa where tourists can easily find the wild chimpanzees. These primates are the second exciting and most popular primates in Uganda after the Mountain Gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. Apart from Kibale Forest National Park being the best destination for chimpanzee trekking safari in Uganda, there are other destinations where tourists can do chimpanzee tracking and these include; Budongo Forest in Murchison Falls National Park, Kalinzu forest and Kyambura gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience in Kibale Forest National Park
Chimpanzees are habituated over a period of 2 years before they get used to humans and then chimp tracking can begin. The Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX) 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, like feeding, hunting, copulating, breastfeeding, patrolling and resting. 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 Forest National Park
Kibale is home to over 325 bird species, including 6 that are native to the Albertine Rift are like the dusky crimsonwing, black-capped apalis, blue-headed sunbird, collared apalis,red-faced woodland warbler and purple-breasted sunbird. Other Kibale specials are the breasted pitta, African pitta, black bee-eater,Abyssinian ground thrush,yellow spotted nicator, little green bul,blacleared ground thrush, brown chested alethe, yellow rumped tinker bird, blue-breasted kingfisher,along with the crowned eagle. The Bigodi nature walk offers the best bird watching opportunities in the park as the swamp alone has approximately 138 bird species, it’s also famous for wildlife such as Chimpanzees, red colobus, black and white colobus,red tailed monkey, bushbuck as well as mongoose etc.
Kibale Forest Hikes/Walk Trail
Kibale 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. While on this walk you are able to spot more variety of birds an also animals. On a lucky day, you may even have an encounter with the bush pigs, Duikers, and Elephants. This is available in the dry season and this is between (December-February and June-September) because during the wet season most trails are impassable. The park also has an option of night walks to see nocturnal creatures when the other forest inhabitants rest, the rangers use the powerful torches to seek nocturnals such as the bush babies, hyrax, potto, and occasionally serval cat and the civet. These walks usually last for about 2-3 hours.
Community walks and cultural experience
The park has several community initiatives and cultural experiences to engage in once you visit Kibale forest. Bigodi Wetlands sanctuary is a community initiative to preserve the rich eco system along the wetland. The wetland is a birders haven with over 138 bird species. Magombe swamp which hosts 8 species of primates. All these are under the management of the community, visit a women’s project where you can buy handmade crafts to support the women. Then you can also visit a local school while there.
HOW TO GET THERE
Kibale forest national part can be accessed from Entebbe international airport to kasese airstrip which is an hour from Kibale national park or for an interesting journey would be to drive from Kampala through Fort Portal to Kibale forest and this is a recommended direct route and there are lots of beautiful sceneries that one should not miss. You can also use another alternative route Kampla-Mbarara-kibale forest via Ibanda, and then finally from Queen Elizabeth National Park-Kasese-Fort Portal-kibale forest or Queen Elizabeth National Pak-Kasese-Kasekende craters-kibale forest national park.
ACCOMMODATION FACILITIES IN KIBALE FOREST NATIONAL PARK
The park has a variety of accommodation that range from luxurious to budget accommodations and they include lodges, hotels, camp sites and guest houses and these are as follows;
In the park
In Fort Portal