WHERE CAN I SEE CHIMPANZEES IN UGANDA
Uganda is a unique country with the ability to put together a huge diversity of wildlife species and safari experiences alongside a single, fully stocked itinerary. Chimp trekking in Uganda is considered among the most remarkable wildlife adventures available on the African continent. Uganda has four major chimpanzee trekking destinations. Uganda’s top chimpanzee destinations include Kibale Forest National Park, Kalinzu Forest Reserve, Murchison Falls National Park within Budongo Forest, and Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Kibale Forest National Park is the best chimpanzee hub for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda because the forest has the highest chimpanzee population in Uganda and sightings are easy compared to other destinations.
What is chimpanzee trekking?
Chimpanzee trekking is one of Uganda’s most popular wildlife adventures. Chimpanzee trekking allows travelers to step into the wild while searching for chimpanzees. Uganda Wildlife Authority interpretive park rangers lead a small group of travelers (maximum of 8 individuals) into the realm of the chimpanzees. Chimpanzee treks last for about three hours depending on the location of these chimpanzees, including a maximum of one hour with the chimpanzees in the forest, where travelers can expect to spot them from a safe but intimate estimated distance of 8–10 meters. Travelers get up close and personal with these chimpanzees and discover the chimp’s beauty, human kind of intelligence, and all the social structures.
Chimpanzee habituation is a fully immersive adventure where travelers are joined by the researchers of the habituation team for a half-day or full-day chimpanzee excursion deep into the thick forest. These chimpanzees are less used to human presence, so their experience is more exceptional. While it can be so challenging to follow the lead of these agile primates, the chimpanzee experience is so rewarding in nature. The only main difference between standard chimpanzee trekking and the chimpanzee habituation experience is how long a traveler spends with the chimpanzees. The chimpanzee habituation experience allows a traveler to spend much longer time with the chimpanzees compared to standard treks.
Uganda is home to around 1,500 chimpanzee individuals, and Kibale Forest National Park is Uganda’s main chimpanzee trekking hub. Kibale Forest National Park is situated in south-western Uganda. The tropical rainforest can easily be accessed from Entebbe or Kampala.
Kibale Forest National Park, situated in the tropical rain forest, offers an excellent chimpanzee population, and Kibale Forest National Park has become synonymous with chimps. The chances of travelers sighting chimpanzees here are at 99% or more, and Kibale Forest National Park is located along the south-western safari circuit, where it can be easy to combine with other safari experiences. Kibale Forest National Park tracking excursions depart twice a day at 07:00 and 14:00, and the morning excursions are busier since most of the itineraries combine them with an afternoon tour to the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary.
Kibale forest chimpanzee tracking permits are required, and travelers can book their permits through the Uganda Wildlife Authority or a trusted tour operator in Uganda. Chimpanzee habituation experiences are only done at Kibale Forest National Park. For travelers doing a full day of chimpanzee habituation, you will start the chimp trekking from when chimps break their nests at about 06:30 until when chimps nest again for another night at about 19:00.
Chimpanzee trekking in Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda's best safari adventure destination. There is a sheer amount of diversity and experiences to offer here, which is incredible. A single visit to Murchison Falls National Park can combine unlimited game drives, exceptional boat cruises, memorable chimpanzee trekking, hikes to the magical epic waterfalls and landscapes, and sundowners at boutique lodges that overlook the savannah. In the wooded southern part of the beautiful park, there is the Budongo Forest Reserve protecting chimpanzees, which is an excellent spot for chimpanzee tracking in Murchison Falls National Park.
Budongo Forest Reserve's contact rate for seeing chimpanzees is about 80%, which is higher than the chance of spotting chimpanzees in Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park. While chimpanzee sighting chances are higher at Kibale Forest National Park, the lower number of visitors makes the experience more personal with the chimpanzees. Tracking permits for chimpanzees at Kyambura Gorge can be booked through the National Forestry Authority or a Ugandan tour operator.
A classic chimpanzee tracking excursion lasts from three hours and above, depending on the contact of the chimpanzees. A Kyambura Gorge chimpanzee sighting takes only an hour of walking. A full-day chimpanzee habituation experience is also available for whoever wants an extended encounter with the chimpanzees. Kyambura Gorge is a delightfully secret cleft in the surface of the flat savannah bordering Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park, which is the third popular chimpanzee trekking destination in Uganda.
Kyambura Gorge is perched in the eastern part of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Kyambura Gorge is given a nickname called ‘the valley of the apes. Kyambura Gorge is the product of centuries of erosion caused by the Kyambura River. A dense forest covers the gorge sides, which is a prime habitat for chimpanzees. Trackers at Kyambura Gorge are always accompanied by an experienced Ugandan Wildlife Authority park ranger guide who leads you into this secret forest, where most travelers feel like they have entered another world.
Kyambura Gorge protects only 17 chimpanzees in the gorge, and the chances of travelers seeing chimpanzees are about 60%. The sights and sounds within Kyambura Gorge Forest generate suspense, which is so rewarding. Chimpanzee tracking permits for Kyambura Gorge can be booked directly with the Uganda Wildlife Authority or a tour operator in Uganda.
Chimpanzee tracking at Kyambura Gorge is usually combined with an existing safari at Queen Elizabeth National Park. The park offers excellent bio-diversity, such as unlimited game drives, boat cruises, and tree-climbing lion tracking in the Isasha sector of the park, and in the western corner of Uganda, there is Semliki Valley, which offers a small population of chimpanzees as well.