This tranquil tropical forest provides an ultimate chimp encounter thanks to its status as a fully fledged primate capital, boasting of 13 species of both old world and new world monkeys. These range from black-and-white colobus, blue monkey, red-tailed monkey, vervets, L’Hoest’s monkey, the bonus being bush babies.
Situated in the shadows of Mountain Rwenzori, this 795km2 lush jungle is surrounded by scenic tea plantations on one side, and Uganda’s most beautiful crater lakes on the other side. On its third side, you will find a contiguous wildlife corridor linking Queen Elizabeth National Park. This means you should brace yourself for random elephant turns up, or other mammal species like duikers, forest hogs, bushbuck and even bush pigs.
The chimp trekking excursion here is a very smooth and well-managed, with strict rules that are purposed to ensure chimps are not adversely affected by visitors. These include keeping a space of 7m from the chimps so as to avoid exposing them to the possibility of contracting human-airbone diseases. The other rule is never touching the animals as they are wild and always quick to throw fatal kicks and punches.
There are no big hills to climb here, this makes the adventure doable even by people with weak knees. And the hour that you are allowed to stay with our closest living relatives is incredible. Even better, the vast majority of visitors only do this one hour trek. As such, you and your guide have a good chance of spending most of the day with the chimps alone – an utterly magical experience. This is partly why Kibale is rated by travellers as the best destination in the world to track chimpanzees.
Most people prefer Kibale to Rwanda’s Nyungwe forest for chimp tracking primarily for three reasons; it’s habituated chimps are not timid. On the contrary, they are relaxed with people, so very close up encounters are almost a given. What’s more, the forest has a rich biodiversity and is easily accessible(less than three hours drive from Uganda’s capital). Compared to Tanzania’s Gombe National Park and Mahale, it is spacious and not expensive.
If you wish to experience something more challenging than the trek, you can head out for a chimp habituation experience. The day-long activity is guided by expert rangers. It entails witnessing what happens behind the scenes as chimps are prepared to be more tolerant to tourists regardless of their physical features like skin colour.
If birdwatching is your cup of coffee, Kibale National Park is neighbored by Bigodi wetland, a 4-sq-km community owned nature marshland that boasts of 200 bird species. The most sought include great blue turaco and white-winged warbler.
Thanks to the availability of well maintained boardwalks, it is fun to explore. You don’t have to get dirty to have fun with the 8 primate species that love to dwell here, the most common being grey-cheeked mangabey.
The 2-4 hours guided walk in this papyrus jungle doubles your chances of spotting 40 forest and swamp-related species inclusive of psychedelic great blue turacos flap-flopping between the trees. You also stand considerable luck with frugivores like the stupendous yellow-billed and double-toothed barbets. The latter loves dwelling on a laden fig tree.
The cherry on the cake here is the wide variety of excellent value accommodation in all price ranges.