Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda
Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda : With over 5000 chimpanzees in Uganda, the country has one of the highest numbers of chimpanzees on the continent. Chimpanzees share about 98.7% of their DNA with humans making them our closest relatives and extremely intelligent. They are very social beings that live in groups and communicate using various body language like hugging, kissing and patting just like us. In Uganda, chimpanzee trekking is done mainly at Kibale National Park, Kalinzu forest, Budongo forest, Kyambura gorge and Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary.
Kibale National Park
Harboring 1500 chimpanzees and over 120 habituated, Kibale National Park is commonly referred to as the primate capital of the world. The park, apart from chimpanzees, is also home to other 13 primate species including the red tail monkey, red colobus monkey, baboons, black and white colobus monkeys and pottos among others.
Due to the high concentration of chimpanzees in Kibale National Park, the success rate of finding the chimpanzees while trekking is up to 95%. There are about 3 habituated groups of about 50 individuals each that are available for trekking twice daily- the first session starts at 7 am and the second at 12pm. 6 groups each with 6 individuals get to trek daily, 3 groups per shift.
When trekking chimpanzees in Kibale, one has a chance to see a variety of wildlife habituated alongside the chimpanzees and other primates lie the buffaloes, elephants and antelopes. Spectacular views of the forest are also in stock in Kibale.
The second place to consider for chimpanzee trekking is the Kalinzu forest located just outside of Queen Elizabeth National Park. The forest has about 300 chimpanzees with about 40 habituated and the rate of sighting the chimpanzees at Kalinzu is 60%. In addition to chimpanzee trekking, you can do birding, forest hiking, nature walks as well as enjoy the beautiful scenery and flowing streams. Like at Kibale, chimpanzee trekking in Kalinzu is done in two phases daily starting at 8 am and 3pm- each session begins with a briefing about the rules and expectations.
Chimpanzee trekking in Budongo forest is done at the Kaniyo Pabidi section in Murchison falls national park. The forest boasts of over 800 chimpanzees but very few are habituated for tourism making it hard to spot them. Trekking at Budongo can be combined with a safari tour at Murchison falls national park.
Kyambura is in a valley found in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The gorge has few chimpanzees which are at times difficult to spot but comes with an amazing forest walk and a chance to come across wildlife like hippopotamuses and elephants. It is also home to other primate species which include baboons, vervet monkeys and red tail monkeys that can also be spotted during the trek.
Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary
Located about 2 hours from Entebbe on boat, this small island on Lake Victoria that was opened for rescued chimpanzees from all over the country holds over 40 of them. The sanctuary is however not exactly for chimpanzee trekking though tourists are allowed to see the chimpanzees when freed three times a day. This is a great option when you have limited time but really need to see the chimpanzees.
Trekking tips and requirements
You must have a chimpanzee trekking permit in order to go trekking. The different forests or parks have different prices for the permits because of the different managements. A permit at Kyambura for example costs $50 while it costs $35 and $85 at Kalinzu and Budongo respectively. Carry trousers and long-sleeved shirts, repellents, hiking shoes, a walking sticks, water bottle, snacks and binoculars for your comfort during the trek. Please note you must be 15 and above years to qualify for chimpanzee trekking.