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Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale Forest NP is a primatologist's dream that supports one of the highest primate densities in the world including man's closest relative, the chimpanzee.

The most accessible of Uganda's major rainforests, Kibale NP is also the largest hardwood forests in sub-Saharan Africa. The park contains pristine lowland tropical rain forest, montane forest, and mixed tropical deciduous forest. With ancient trees up to 55 metres in height it is a wonderful place to experience the extraordinary diversity of life in a tropical rainforest.

About Kibale Forest National Park

Located in the west of Uganda, 20 km south of Fort Portal and covering an area of 795 sq km, Kibale NP is a relatively new park and was not gazetted until as late as 1993, even though the southern end of the park provides a major wildlife corridor with Queen Elizabeth NP. The terrain of this part of western Uganda includes one of the highest concentrations of crater lakes in the world and the forest is an important catchment area, protecting river waters that feed the Lake George Basin.

The Kibale-Fort Portal area is one of Uganda’s most rewarding areas to explore. The park lies close to the tranquil Ndali-Kasenda crater area and within a half day’s drive of the Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori Mountains and Semuliki National Parks and the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve.

L'Hoest's Monkey Chimpanzee Black & White Colobus monkey

Biodiversity

Kibale NP has one of the richest ecosystems in the whole of Africa and supports at least 60 different species of mammal including 13 species of primates.

The most famous of its 13 species is the chimpanzee and Kibale’s 1450 residents represent Uganda’s largest population of this endangered primate. Kibale is also home to the rare I’Hoest’s monkey and East Africa’s largest population of the threatened red colobus monkey. Other primates include the black and white colobus, blue monkey, grey cheeked mangabey, red tailed monkey, olive baboon, bush baby and potto. Several communities of chimps have been habituated to human contact and the park is the centre of chimpanzee research.

Kibale Forest National Park is also home to the largest concentration of forest elephants in Uganda, although they live deep in the forest along with buffaloes and giant forest hogs and are seldom seen. More commonly encountered mammals include bushbucks, duikers and montane sun squirrels and giant forest squirrels.More difficult to spot are leopard, waterbuck, hippo and warthog.

The birdlife is prolific, with over 325 different species recorded in the area, four of which are endemic to this park. Highlights include the crested guinea fowl, great blue turraco, grey parrot, green-breasted and African pitas, African crowned eagles and black bee-eaters. Bird life is very difficult to observe in the forest but on the fringes in open areas their abundance is apparent.

Butterflies are also in abundance with some 144 species bringing the park alive with movement. Kibale NP also contains 14 species of snakes, 27 species of frogs and toads and at least 20 species of other reptiles.

Kibale’s varied altitude supports different types of habitat. Over 350 tree species recorded (28% of the country’s total) have been recorded in the park. Diverse botanical resources include a number of plant species among which are important medicinal plants as well as ancestral varieties of commercial crops like banana and coffee.

Around the Park

  • Kanyanchu is the hub for tourism activities in the central part of the park. The main attraction is the opportunity to track chimpanzee in their rainforest home. Of the 20 forests in Africa inhabited by chimpanzees, ten of these are in Uganda and Kibale Forest National Park is one of the five protected areas that currently have chimpanzee habituation projects operating. The Jane Goodall Foundation began habituation projects in Kibale about ten years ago. A community of chimpanzee has been habituated since 1991 and the chances of locating them are very good indeed (over 90%). Note that the park is only accessible on foot; there are no motor able tracks open to tourists.

  • The Chimpanzee Habituation Experience allows you to accompany Kibale’s researchers and habituators as they follow chimpanzee during their daily activities, thereby getting them used to human presence without altering their natural behaviour. You can expect to see the chimps de-nesting (coming out of their nocturnal nests) between 05.30-06.30, before following them during the day until they create new nests and retire for the night around 19.00. The Habituation Experience runs during tourist low season months (March, April, May and November).

  • Primate walk (Chimpanzee tracking) Kibale's major attraction, however, is the opportunity to track habituated chimps - these delightful apes, more closely related to humans than to any other living creature, are tremendous fun to watch as they squabble and play in fruiting trees. Chimpanzees are the primate most sought after by visitors, but you should also look out for the black and white colobus, red tailed monkey and grey cheeked mangabey. Your guides will point out sunbirds, pittas and other bird species and will explain the traditional uses of plant species within the forest. Advance booking is essential during peak seasons

  • Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is situated just outside the park in Magombe Swamp. This is known for a wide range of wildlife that includes primates, such as chimpanzee, red colobus, black and white colobus, red tailed monkey and other mammals such as sitatunga, bushbuck, otter and mongoose. The wetland is also home to 138 bird species. These can be seen during guided walks from viewing platforms and a boardwalk trail. Established in 1992, the sanctuary is a community-run initiative aimed at conserving the unique biodiversity and environmental values of the wetland. Approximately 20 families benefit directly from tourism activities in this area. This project is part of UCOTA, the Uganda Community Tourism Association

  • Forest Hike. This seasonal 12km hike is restricted to the dry seasons of mid November-February and June-September. It explores the park’s diverse habitats including tropical rainforest, river line forest, swamp and grassland. You will have the chance to see a wide variety of birds and primates and perhaps also duiker and bushbuck. Take drinks and snacks. Pre-booking is recommended.

  • Cultural Heritage and Nature Trail (Former Long Distance Walk). The adventurous visitor can follow a 2-6 days trail through the forest. The full walk starts or finishes at either Kanyanchu or Sebitoli. The route explores the forest during the day, emerging in the evening to sleep in community-run campsites near the villages of Kikoni, Nyaibanda and Nyakalongo. These provide the opportunity to meet local people and gain insights into their Batoro and Bakiga cultures. Porters can be hired at the trailheads to carry equipment. Groups of up to 6 people can undertake the walk. Pre-booking is essential.

When to go

Anytime! At the park’s northern tip,Kibale is highest and stands 1590m above sea level.  Additionally the wettest area is Northern Kibale , receiving an average annual rainfall of equal to 1700mm, mainly during March-May and September-November. The climate is usually pleasant with an average annual temperature range of 14 to 27ºC. However it is recommended to carry warm clothing and rain gear as the mornings and evenings can be cold and wet, especially during the peak rainy seasons. Temperatures are at maximum (& rainfall lower) in the south where the terrain drops onto the blistering rift valley floor and forest provides way to open grassland.