Uganda is renowned as the ultimate primate destination, offering incredible opportunities to observe chimpanzees up-close in their natural environment. With significant numbers of habituated chimpanzee troops, encountering these fascinating forest dwellers will leave you awe-struck by the striking similarities they share with humans.
Kibale Forest National Park is a primate haven, boasting the highest concentration of primate species in Africa. Thirteen primate species, including the mangabey, red colobus, L’Hoest’s monkey, black-and-white colobus, olive baboon, vervet monkey, blue monkey, and the common chimpanzee, call the Kibale Forest canopy their home. However, it is the habituated troops of chimpanzees that make Kibale the premier destination for chimpanzee tracking and Chimpanzee habituation experiences in Uganda and the entire East Africa region.
Expert trackers lead small groups of tourists from the Kanyanchu Visitor’s Center into the rainforest twice a day, at 8:00 AM and 2:00 PM, in search of the habituated chimpanzee troops. While sightings cannot be guaranteed due to the chimpanzees’ free-roaming nature within the 296 square miles forest park, the chances of encountering them are extremely high (around 98%). Spending at least an hour observing their captivating social interactions and behavior is an extraordinary experience.
A chimpanzee tracking permit in Kibale costs $200 for foreign non-residents, $150 for foreign residents, and 150,000 Ugandan Shillings for East African nationals. Permits can be obtained directly from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in Kampala, or you can opt for a licensed local operator like Trek Africa Tours to assist in securing the permits for you. Additionally, Kibale offers exclusive full-day chimpanzee habituation experiences, allowing guests to spend extended periods with the wild primates. The permit for this unique experience costs $250 for all visitors.
Kibale Forest National Park is easily accessible from Entebbe International Airport and other popular safari destinations in Uganda. It is situated approximately 334 kilometers west of Kampala, a six-hour drive via the Mubende-Fort Portal road. If approaching from Fort Portal Town, it is a 45-minute drive (32 kilometers) on the Fort Portal-Kamwenge-Mbarara road. Coming from Mbarara City, the newly paved Ibanda-Fort Portal Road offers a three-hour journey of 154 kilometers to reach Kibale Forest. Visitors can also access Kibale from Queen Elizabeth National Park via the Kasese-Fort Portal Road or take a shortcut through Rwimi via Kasenda-Isunga.
There is a wide range of accommodation options available in the Kibale area, catering to various budgets and preferences. From budget camps to luxury suites, visitors heading to see chimpanzees in Kibale Forest National Park can choose from the following options:
Nestled within Queen Elizabeth National Park, the captivating Kyambura Gorge offers an opportunity to observe chimpanzees deep within its ravine and embark on nature hikes through a sunken forest amidst the vast savannah plains. Along the 11-kilometer stretch along the northern border of Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kyambura Gorge is home to a habituated troop of chimpanzees and other primates such as red-tailed monkeys, black-and-white colobus monkeys, baboons, and vervet monkeys. Bird enthusiasts will also be delighted by the diverse bird species residing in the gorge, including falcons, blue-headed bee-eaters, and African finfoots.
Guided chimpanzee trekking excursions are conducted twice daily, at 8:00 AM and 2:00 PM, and cost $60 per person, which includes the park entrance fee of $10. The duration of treks can vary from 30 minutes to four or five hours within the forested gorge. While sightings cannot be guaranteed, the chances of encountering the chimpanzees are quite high.
Kyambura Gorge is easily accessible via the main Mbarara-Kasese road leading to Queen Elizabeth National Park. It is approximately 396 kilometers from Entebbe International Airport via the Mbarara-Kasese road, and 438 kilometers via the Fort Portal-Kasese road. The journey takes approximately six to seven hours. The nearest airports are Kasese Airport, which is about a 40-minute drive away, and Mweya Airport, located near Lake Edward, approximately an hour’s drive west of Kyambura.
Situated in the southern part of Murchison Falls National Park, Budongo Forest is a major attraction encompassing the Budongo and Kanyiyo Pabidi Forest Reserves. This biodiverse forest is not only renowned for its rich fauna but also provides an affordable opportunity to witness chimpanzees in Uganda.
Located near Murchison Falls National Park within the Budongo Forest Reserve, Kanyiyo Pabidi Forest offers visitors a chance to see chimpanzees. This forest block is home to a considerable number of chimpanzees, as well as other primates like black-and-white colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkeys, and olive baboons. A three-hour chimpanzee walk in Kanyiyo Pabidi Forest costs $40, which is more affordable than similar experiences in other parks. For a more exclusive encounter, the chimpanzee habituation experience allows you and a companion to spend a full day (minimum six hours) with the chimpanzees. The cost for this experience is $100 per person per day, with a maximum of two people.
Kalinzu Forest Reserve, located southwest of Queen Elizabeth National Park along the Kasese-Mbarara road, offers excellent opportunities to see chimpanzees. It is an eastern extension of the renowned Maramagambo Forest within Queen Elizabeth National Park. Kalinzu Forest is home to over 240 chimpanzees, making sightings highly likely. The reserve also protects other primate species such as olive baboons, black-and-white colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkeys, and rare pygmy antelopes. Kalinzu offers guided night walks, allowing visitors to witness the forest’s nocturnal creatures such as potto, galago, and hyrax.
A chimpanzee tracking permit in Kalinzu costs $50 and can be obtained at the Kalinzu Visitor’s Center.
The Kalinzu Visitor’s Center and campsite are located at Nkombe Forest Station, approximately 20 kilometers north of Ishaka, adjacent to the main Mbarara-Kasese road.
For an unforgettable experience with chimpanzees in their natural habitat, Uganda is the ultimate destination. With its robust chimpanzee tracking infrastructure and prominent primate research institutions like the Jane Goodall Institute, Uganda offers unparalleled encounters. If you’re eager to embark on a chimpanzee tracking safari, let the knowledgeable consultants at Trek Africa Tours assist you in planning your journey. They can help with accommodations, meals, permits, transportation, and all other logistics. Simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and a consultant will be ready to provide personalized assistance right away!