Kibale Forest National Park

Overview

Kibale Forest National Park is a total venue with its open savannah connecting into woodland, and both tropical and evergreen rainforests, creating one of the last expanses of land in Uganda boasting both lowland and montane forest. Every trek into Kibale Forest is an amazing adventure where you can take part in a Chimpanzee Trekking adventure in the marvelous forest with the highest diversity and concentration of primates found on the entire continent; ranging from the chimpanzees, L’Hoest monkeys, red colobus monkeys, and other endangered primates. It is located in the Eastern part of Uganda’s snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains, and offers a scenic forest habitat. The area is home to 13 species of primates, including chimpanzees, some families of which have been habituated.

There is a large wildlife corridor linking Kibale Forest National park to Queen Elizabeth National Park, with African elephants roaming freely between both sanctuaries. The park is located close to the calm Ndali Kasenda crater area, Rwenzori Mountains and Semuliki National Parks along with the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve.

Wildlife in Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale Forest National Park boasts the greatest density and diversity of primates in the whole of Africa with 13 species of primates. These include 1450 chimpanzees, the L’Hoest monkey (which is a very rare primate, the endangered Red Colobus monkey, the Black & White Colobus, Red-tailed Monkey, Blue Monkey, Olive Baboon, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, Bush Baby and Potto. Other mammals consist of buffalo, leopard, bush pig, elephant and duiker alongside amphibians, reptiles and a colorful variety of butterflies.

The park consists of 325 bird species, including 6 Albertine Endemics, Dusky Crimsonwing, Black-capped Apalis, Blue-headed Sunbird, Collared Apalis, Red-faced Woodland Warbler and the Purple-breasted Sunbird. Other marvelous creatures in Kibale Forest Park are the Green-breasted Pitta, African Pitta, Black Bee-eater, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, Yellow spotted Nicator, Little Greenbul, Black-eared Ground Thrush, Brown-chested Alethe, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, and the crowned eagle.

Vegetation in Kibale Forest National Park

The forest has a varied altitude hosting different varieties of habitat, ranging from moist evergreen forest (wet tropical forest) along the Fort Portal plateau, dry tropical forest (moist semi deciduous), and woodland & savanna along the rift valley floor.

In the central part of the park, the high forest consists of a mixture of evergreen and deciduous trees with the evergreen species being dominant. The vegetation here rises to over 55m and establishes a semi-closed canopy of massive stratified tree crowns with shades of  tolerant herbs, a variety of ferns, shrubs and broad leaved forest grasses, with a sparse undergrowth.

The people

The people living around Kibale National Park are mostly Batoro and Bakiga with the Batoro as the natives to the region and the Bakiga as immigrants from the thickly populated southwestern part of the country. The king and the kingdom personify the traditional along with cultural values of the Batoro with the Bakiga still holding their culture and tradition as expressed in their dance, folklore, as well as language.

Top things to do in Kibale Forest National Park

After Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Kibale Forest is one of the most frequented parks as it is the primate capital with plentiful wildlife, primates and birds to view.

  • Chimpanzee Trekking

This experience provides you with the opportunity to venture into the natural jungle and spend a number of hours tracking these gorgeous Chimpanzees. When you encounter the primates, you will be allowed an hour to observe them swinging from one tree to another, feeding, playing about or progressing speedily on the ground right in front of you.

Chimpanzees are the prime attraction for many visiting Kibale National Park. Before setting out on your trek, you will receive a briefing from the ranger guide, which covers the expectations while in the forest and information about the wildlife in the park.

  • Chimpanzee Habituation Experience

Chimpanzees are habituated for a period over 2 years before they become accustomed to humans. Once this happens, chimpanzee trekking can begin for these groups. Here along with the rangers and research staff, you watch chimpanzees leaving their overnight nests before they start their daily activities of feeding, hunting, copulating, breastfeeding, patrolling and resting until they break off for the night by building new nests at about 7pm.

  • Bird watching

Bird watching in Kibale Forest is a rewarding experience and is home to a variety of birds including the Albertine Rift endemics including the Green breasted Pitta, Grey-throated Flycatcher, Grey-winged Robin, Crested Flycatcher, Blue shouldered Robin Chat, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Black-billed Turaco, White-napped Pigeon, Red-chested Fluff tail, White-collared Olive back, White-bellied, Masked Apalis, Nahan’s Francolin, Tiny Sunbird and many more.

  • Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary

This sanctuary is home to around 200 species of birds, many butterflies and eight different species of primates, including Grey-cheeked Mangabey. Two- to three-hour swamp walks will take you through grassland, small communities and some beautiful scenery.

  • Nature and Hiking walks

The forest is rich in variety and the chimpanzee trekking may not give you enough time to take in all that the forest offers because you are focused on locating the chimpanzees. Here you are able to spot a wide variety of birds and animals, bush pigs, duikers, and or elephants.

  • Nocturnal Walks

You can opt for night walks to see the nocturnal animals. When the other forest inhabitants rest, they are on the move searching for food. The rangers use powerful torches to seek nocturnal species such as the Bush Baby, Hyrax, Potto and occasionally Serval cat and Civet. The walk lasts 2.5hours beginning at 7 pm.

Where to stay in Kibale Forest National Park

The park has excellent accommodations ranging from budget to mid-range to luxurious. These include:

  • Ndali Lodge
  • Crater Safari Lodge
  • Primate Lodge
  • Chimpanzee Forest Guest House
  • Kibale Forest Camp
  • Isunga Safari Lodge
  • Rweteera Safari Park

Best time to visit Kibale Forest National Park

The park is open year-round and can be visited anytime of the year with the best time to visit being during the hot/ dry months of January and February as well as June, July and August when animals will stay near the water.

However, during the rainy season, which runs from September to December and March to May, roads are difficult to use with the trails in the park likely to be muddy, slippery and impassible. But it will be still be possible to see the chimpanzees because the landscape is not mountainous.

How to get to Kibale Forest National Park

  • By Road

It is around 320kms from Kampala to Fortpotal and then approximately an hour to the forest on Kamwenge road.

This route is regarded as the main and direct route which is paved all the way from Kampala.

  • By Air

Those who prefer not to take long tiresome drives can opt for scheduled flights from Entebbe Airport to Kasese Airstrip and then drive to their respective lodges or to the park.

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